The International Development Committee in the Commons is undertaking a brief inquiry into public funding of programmes to support legislatures in developing nations. I was invited to submit evidence and my submission has now been published. It can be read here. The material draws on my work on legislatures, but also my discussions with parliamentarians, not least at the biennial Workshop of Parliamentary Scholars and Parliamentarians.
Legislatures are often the poor relation of aid programmes and, where there is support from donors, it suffers from lack of co-ordination – some impose conditions which clash with those of other donors – and often a tick-box approach. There is also a tendency to view legislatures without reference to the political systems in which they exist. Focusing on structures is not sufficient to achieve the long-term goal of reducing or eliminating corruption and establishing a vibrant political culture. Creating a Public Accounts Committee, for example, is important – and is something than be ticked off as an achievement – but by itself will not generate a culture within and beyond the Parliament that sustains an effective legislature.
Legislatures are crucial to a democratic system, but there is the danger of neglecting them or, when recognising their significance, treating them as discrete and detached entities. They should be at the heart of any support programme.