I was on a panel on Wednesday evening to discuss the subject of legislative strengthening. Held in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) room in the Palace of Westminster, it was designed to bring together people interested in the subject in order to form a Westminster ‘community of practice’. Greg Power, of Global Partners Governance, opened with a presentation on best practice in parliamentary strengthening. Tim Kelsall, of ODI, then offered a sceptical view, challenging the emphasis by aid donors on legislatures, arguing there was not a clear connection between legislative strengthening and economic growth.
I followed and stressed the centrality of legislatures to political stability. I distinguished the desirability of legislative strengthening and its achievability. I made the point that you can have parliaments without parliamentarianism. You can create the structure, but it needs to be core to a vibrant civic culture. I reiterated points I made in evidence to the International Development Committee earlier this year. One needs to tailor aid to the needs of each recipient. There are problems in adopting a tick-box approach and expecting measurable and quick returns. In helping encourage a supportive political culture, one has to invest for the future. There has also been a problem in that different donors have sometimes imposed conditions which conflict.
As I said in my evidence to the committee, there needs to be greater discourse between donors and a targeting of resources where they may have most effect in contributing to a participant political culture. Parliaments are core to political stability and such stability is to the benefit of the global community. It is in our interests to help legislatures in developing nations.