Parliamentary development

 Women parliamentarians of the Afghan Lower House (Wolesi Jirga or “House of the People”) attend their inauguration ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo: Eric Kanalstein/UN

Effective political institutions such as parliaments and political parties are central to advancing strong systems of democratic governance.  Parliaments have crucial constitutional mandates in relation to lawmaking, oversight and representation and play a critical role in democratic governance and sustainable human development, including in relation to national actions to implement the MDGs and the post-2015 development framework. Parliaments can be powerful agents of change, particularly during and after times of crisis. They provide an important forum for diverse societal groups (including women and minority groups) to engage in national dialogue and policy making, express their views, voice concerns and demand accountability. Inclusive and accountable political parties are a key complement to effective parliaments, providing the human capital around which parliaments form. Political parties are intermediaries between people and their elected representatives, and serve as a channel for people’s political ideas, interests and grievances. Political parties can be crucial to peacebuilding or the source of division and social tension.

UNDP provides technical assistance and support for parliamentary development designed to build national capacities, and to more than 60 parliaments around the world in their efforts to:

  • Build the capacity of legislators and technical staff
  • Promote institutional reform
  • Strengthen parliaments' relationships with the executive and judiciary branches of government and with civil society
  • Enhance the equal participation and decision-making as well as the effectiveness of women members of parliament, including by supporting opportunities and capacities for them to caucus and learn from one another.

UNDP also has a growing programme in support of political parties to build the capacity of political parties to peacefully engage in electoral politics and parliamentary work. UNDP also supports political parties to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment, including by more actively recruiting, supporting and engaging women as candidates and voters.

Examples of UNDP’s sectoral and geographical parliamentary assistance programmes and platforms, often delivered with partners include:

-       AGORA, the Global Portal for Parliamentary Development
AGORA (a partnership of UNDP, World Bank, International IDEA and NDI) has become the leading portal for the parliamentary development community, connecting international organizations, parliamentary development experts and professionals, but also Members of Parliament (MPs), parliamentary staff, Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations active in the field of parliamentary development.

-       iKNOW Politics
The International Knowledge Network for Women in Politics (a partnership of UNDP, NDI, UN Women, International IDEA and IPU) is an online workspace designed to serve the needs of elected officials, candidates, political party leaders and members, researchers, students and other practitioners interested in advancing women in politics. 

-       UNDP-EU support Parliamentary Action on Renewable Energy (2012-2015)  
The Parliamentary Action on Renewable Energy (PARE) project aims to build the capacity of parliamentarians to strengthen their advocacy and monitoring of the development of renewable energy sources and to promote policy and regulatory reform to encourage investment in renewables. This 3-year initiative, which started in January 2012, has a budget of over EUR 3.1 million. The EU contribution to the project is of EUR 2.5 million.

-       Inclusive and Participative Political Institutions in the Arab States Region (2011-2013)
Regional programmes such as UNDP’s ‘Inclusive and Participative Political Institutions in the Arab States’ Project (2011-2013) are implemented to work with legislatures in a region (in this case, in the Arab States), including in countries undergoing transitions, to support structures, legal frameworks and capacities to engage civil society and all citizens - particularly youth and women - in inclusive processes.

UNDP’s parliamentary development and political party support work is often carried out through inter-parliamentary networking, seeking solutions tailored to each country and culture. UNDP works closely with the global parliamentary bodies, such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union and Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, as well as other UN agencies, think-tanks and technical assistance providers such as for instance, UNW, the French National Assembly, the European Parliament, the World Bank, Parliamentarians for Global Action, the National Democratic Institute, IDEA and International Republican Institute.  

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