Public hearings became a standard practice in the Serbian Parliament


National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia

The introduction of public hearings in the parliamentary procedure represents a significant development in parliamentary reform in recent years in Serbia. This mechanism is intended to support legislative and oversight roles of the Parliament. It leads to more effective legislative processes, questioning the new policy initiatives contained within it as well as any practical and technical issues which might arise from the proposed provisions. Once policies are adopted, public scrutiny hearings may be used to oversee their implementation and question those responsible for possibly not implementing them.

Public hearings give an opportunity to parliaments to use the widest possible source of information, from academia and experts to the interested and affected citizens, to improve policy making and implementation, on behalf of their electorate.

Highlights

  • The Law on the National Parliament (2010) and the new Rules of Procedure (Articles 83 and 84) set the legal framework for organizing public hearings
  • Article 83 of the Rules of Procedure: "Committees may organise public hearings for the purpose of obtaining information, or professional opinions on proposed acts which are in the parliamentary procedure, clarification of certain provisions from an existing or proposed act, clarification of issues of importance for preparing the proposals of acts or other issues within the competences of the committee, as well as for the purpose of monitoring the implementation and application of legislation, i.e., realisation of the oversight function of the National Assembly".
  • UNDP supports over 60 Parliaments globally

UNDP has been providing continued support for parliamentary development in Serbia since 2004. Initially, the focus of cooperation between UNDP and the Serbian Parliament was related to pursuing the social inclusion and poverty reduction agenda, which resulted in the creation of a group of MPs and staff, actively addressing these issues. A tool used for pursuing this agenda was civil society participation and its inclusion in decision making processes of the Parliament. Public hearings were first piloted at this time, as an informal mechanism, bringing the voice of civil society to Parliament.   Gradually, efforts extended to other areas and addressed the functioning of the Parliament as an institution, with emphasis on strengthening its oversight role. Under this initiative, UNDP supported the institutionalization of public hearings and their further use as a regular parliamentary mechanism. 

Following the efforts that resulted with introducing changes in the Serbian legal system and parliamentary procedure, UNDP is currently supporting the Serbian Parliament in strengthening its oversight role and transparency. This initiative seeks to provide MPs with easy access to information regarding public expenditure while conducting financial scrutiny. In addition, it will support advisory services of the Parliament in exercising scrutiny mechanisms such as public hearings. The initiative will also pilot outreach tools in order to promote access to the national and local assemblies and make their work more transparent.

UNDP's network of 166 Country Offices and its confirmed status as a non-partisan agency provide a strong framework for UNDP parliamentary programs. UNDP's global Strategic Plan 2008-2013, emphasizes the importance of representative institutions at national, regional and local levels and the need to strengthen mechanisms of responsiveness and accountability.  At any given time, UNDP supports over 60 national parliaments globally with a basic aim of pursuing public participation towards effective human development.