Caucuses are widely believed to be important forums for bringing parliamentarians together across political party lines – so that they may share information, discuss policy issues, channel common interests and concerns, and engage civil society. Some women’s caucuses have been noted for their unique approach towards fostering good governance. In some conflict contexts, caucuses have also proven useful in forging regional identities that cut across ideological and party lines.
There seems to be limited documentation on international experience with caucuses. However, the literature highlights some models of cross- and single-party caucuses in different countries. The lessons learned from these case studies include the following:
- Caucuses have to address tendencies of the majority-group leadership of the various political parties to inject partisan politics into caucus work.
- The very fact that parliamentarians have organised around a particular issue in the form of a caucus increases visibility and legitimacy.
- The caucus provides support to its group, informally and formally.
- Minority interests are rarely monolithic and even where priority interests are agreed, it is often difficult for caucus members to agree on the best way of addressing them.
- Minority representatives must often balance many competing interests as minority legislators inside majority institutions.
- In some contexts, attempts to create a multi-party forum, such as for women MPs in South Africa, have floundered.
- Caucuses facilitate communication within parties and within regions.
- Minority parliamentarians, and through them, their caucuses need technical support.