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Standards for Democratic Parliaments

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Parliaments are increasingly assessing themselves against international norms and standards as they seek to become more independent, accountable, and responsive, and improve the way in which they carry out their representative, legislative and oversight functions. Major inter-parliamentary organisations and their partners are working to develop standards and assessment frameworks for democratic parliaments. Such standards can contribute to parliament's own evaluative and reform efforts to strengthen their performance, as well as guide parliamentary development practitioners and donors in designing more appropriate support programmes. Although some differences remain between the different available frameworks, there is a growing consensus on standards in areas such as procedural fairness, democratic legitimacy and representation, parliamentary organisation, and core legislative and oversight functions.

Parliaments are using these standards to self-evaluate as they pursue reforms to make the institutions more accountable and transparent. One or another version of the standards have been used by numerous parliaments as part of a Strategic Development Planning process in which the parliaments uses the evaluation to recognise the areas where reforms are required to make the parliament more effective.

Parallel to the work being done by networks of parliaments and international organisations, Parliamentary Monitoring Organisations (PMOs) have also initiated discussions to develop a set of standards by which those organisations can measure the effectiveness, openness and accountability of parliaments.
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Key Documents

Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)
Parliament and Democracy in the Twenty-First Century: A Guide to Good Practice (2006)(English/French/Spanish/Arabic)
Evaluating Parliament: A Self-Assessment Toolkit for Parliaments (2008) (English/French/Spanish/Arabic)

Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA)
Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures (2006)
Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures: A Study Group Report (2006)

National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI)
Toward the Development of International Standards for Democratic Legislatures (2007)

Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF)
Draft Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures in Southern Africa (2008)

Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie (APF)
La réalité démocratique des Parlements: Quels critères d'évaluation? (2009)

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Benchmarks and Self-Assessment Frameworks for Democratic Parliaments: A Background Publication prepared for the International Conference on Benchmarking and Self-Assessment for Democratic Parliaments (2010). (English/French)
(more documents)

International Conference on Benchmarking and Self-Assessment for Democratic Parliaments

(Paris, March 2-4, 2010)

WBI and UNDP, in partnership with the French MAEE, EP OPPD, IPU, CPA, APF and NDI, brought together over 100 MPs, parliamentary development practitioners, and donors to:

  • Identify areas of internationally agreed consensus among the current sets of standards and principles, and areas of potential further consensus.
  • Examine national case studies and draw a first set of lessons of experience. Broaden the research agenda and encourage future applications of the different frameworks at the national level.
  • Introduce regional parliamentary perspectives to the dialogue on standards for democratic parliaments. Invite additional regional inter-parliamentary organisations to join the process to ensure broad representation and ownership.

 

At the end of the conference participants adopted a statement with recommendations for parliaments, parliamentary strengthening organisations, donors and other actors. (read more)