Last week, close to 100 parliamentarians, parliamentary staff, civil society organizations, international organizations and other stakeholders attended an experts' webinar on ‘The Power of Parliamentarians: Opportunities and Challenges for Effective Development Co-operation’.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the voice of parliaments in the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC) Steering Committee, presented the recently launched guidelines for enhancing the engagement and contribution of parliaments to effective development co-operation. These aim to provide parliamentarians with an understanding of what development co-operation is and how it works, as well as ideas on how parliaments can promote more effective and accountable use of resources, both financial and non-financial.
The webinar highlighted the unique role of parliaments as valuable partners in accountable, inclusive, participatory, and transparent governance that is necessary to help ensure development co-operation is effectively delivered and utilized to maximize sustainable development impact. Speakers and discussants shared their experiences working in and with parliaments from a wide array of countries including Armenia, Austria, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Georgia, Serbia, and Trinidad and Tobago, highlighting challenges but also opportunities for more effective development co-operation.
While parliamentarians may not have a direct role to play in designing development co-operation policy, they do have a shared responsibility in influencing and shaping these policies and their implementation. Ms. Petra Bayr (MP Austria and Chair of the Subcommittee of Development Co-operation) explained how there are more than 40 committees within the Austrian Parliament, highlighting the importance of fostering co-operation amongst various parliamentary committees, for example, committees on budget, human rights and foreign affairs, to advance development co-operation, in the spirit of a whole-of-government approach. She explained how sensitizing MPs to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has helped them realize their responsibility in shaping development policy and raise awareness of the interconnectedness of their committees, especially during COVID-19.
Ms. Bridgid Annisette-George (Speaker of the House, MP Trinidad and Tobago) agreed stating that while parliaments have an oversight role to play, this is often lacking for development co-operation. “The government uses grants, funding, borrowing – they are there for us to interrogate.” She shed light on the opportunity that parliamentarians have to effectively use committees such as those related to financial affairs to look at the effectiveness of development co-operation and see if targets are being met. (In 2018, Trinidad and Tobago participated in the Global Partnership monitoring round with their ‘share of development co-operation recorded on budgets subject to parliamentary scrutiny’ (indicator 6) reported at 100%).
Discussants such as Mr. Alphonse Nombre (Former MP, Burkina Faso) also described challenges parliamentarians may face in exercising oversight and accountability on development co-operation budgets and spending, especially when funding comes from sources such as project aid. He emphasized the value of parliaments in national development co-operation to help ensure that resources mobilized through development co-operation directly benefit their constituents and improve living conditions.
Experts working with parliaments on parliamentary support programmes at the country level spoke specifically on building such parliamentary capacities. The examples included:
- A regional EU-UNDP South-South and Triangular Co-operation programme with Lusophone countries: Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe and Timor-Leste, and Brazil and Portugal, working with 14 different institutional actors including key executive and finance branches, to develop capacities of actors to engage with the entire budget cycle and countries’ own Public Finance Management Systems (Mr. Ricardo Godinho Gomes, UN Joint Office in Cape Verde);
- A project on building parliaments’ business continuity in Armenia through digital transformation where CSOs convene online with MPs to discuss citizens’ demand and facilitate peer-to-peer exchange (Ms. Biljana Ledenican, UNDP Armenia); and
- The ‘Consolidating Parliamentary Democracy’ programme in Georgia where parliamentarians were empowered to create a multi-strategic action plan and a national SDG council to nationalize and monitor the SDGs (Ms. Sophie Guruli, UNDP Georgia).
- [An additional example around the Pacific Island countries' experience was shared online here]
The webinar featured an interactive Q&A where participants had the opportunity to pose questions and provide remarks to the panelists. Topics included the importance of parliamentary scrutiny on development co-operation resources, the need to effectively ensure the participation of citizens in development co-operation, and strengthening the capacity of parliamentarians to engage with development co-operation, including through legislation.
Participants in the webinar and other interested stakeholders are encouraged to register on the Knowledge Platform, access parliamentary resources, and in turn learn more about the role of parliaments in effective development co-operation. If you have an interesting story or example to share on how you’ve used these guidelines in your work, please reach out to the Global Partnership at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The webinar was jointly hosted by the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, as part of the Global Webinar Series. Please sign up to our newsletter for information on upcoming webinars.