Members of Parliament are at the core of parliaments. Rules and legal status for MPs can provide the means for member's efficient, free and independent actions within the parliamentary arena. An effective parliamentary institution depends on MPs performance, involvement, skills and capacities. It is of utmost importance to support MPs in their parliamentary work and in developing their capacity over time.
Parliamentary groups and standing committees are core aspects of parliamentary assemblies. An MP is unlikely to be able to influence a parliament’s legislative, budgetary and oversight decisions on his or her own, without the support of a group of colleagues. A lively amd effective parliament is commonly composed of organised groups that influence the course of political life. The capacity and maturity of political parties and caucuses may reflect on how capable a parliament is at managing conflict internal to the parliament.
Parliamentary groups play critical roles in legislative consensus building and can determine the pace of reforms and service delivery. If a parliament is to be productive and effective, it requires parliamentary groups that are well organised and key to any parliament is an opposition that cannot only oppose but present alternative policy options to those of the current government.
Therefore it is important that MPs are aware of the dynamics of cooperation in political competition through dialogue, negotiation and cooperation, which is of significant relevance and importance for sustainable democratic change. To address many of the challenges of national importance a political culture of accommodation needs to replace a political culture of winner takes all. Consequently MPs as one of the key political actors that have an important role and responsibility in terms of developing structures, procedures, mechanisms and skills for communication, consultation, building consensus and identifying compromise when necessary.
In order to be effective, MPs require certain rights and responsibilities to conduct their work. In some countries where rights of citizens may be curtailed, it is only the MP that may have the right to speak truth to the government without fear of prosecution. But with these rights come responsibilities that are not imposed on all citizens, in order to ensure MPs are above reproach and are transparent in their activities.
A growing trend in the past twenty years has been the development of unofficial multi-party caucuses, where MPs that have a similar interest in an issue form a group that is not endorsed by the parliament (like a standing committee) but works through informal sources to promote and advocate for change. There are several examples of where this has had a major impact on reforms of the parliament and in the legal framework of a country. Examples of these types of groups include multi-party caucuses on women and on anti-corruption.
For more information on this subject, please also see:
The Role and Status of MPs