Key findings: There are limited examples of sectoral programmes that explicitly integrate support to parliamentary or political party strengthening in pursuit of sectoral goals. The majority of donor activities in support of parliaments and political parties have the objective of strengthening parliaments for the broader purpose of improving democratic governance. Such programmes typically focus on generic training for individual parliamentarians, strengthening institutions and committees, or building administrative capacity in general, rather than addressing a specific issue or sectoral objective.
Although not widespread, there are some examples of parliamentary support programmes that aim to promote more specific policy goals, including poverty reduction, environmental protection, peace and reconciliation, human rights adherence, and HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment. These have been considered as an effective entry point to supporting parliaments and political parties. A previous GSDRC helpdesk report in this area (Mcloughlin 2008) found that parliamentary training programmes that focus on specific issues (e.g. gender budgeting), rather than on more procedural elements, have been well received by recipients.
Though evidence of the impact of sector-oriented parliamentary programmes is slim, such approaches are regarded in the literature as having the potential to improve sectoral outcomes in a number of ways. Narrowing the focus and scale of capacity building efforts around a single issue can help to build consensus around that issue. However, issue-related events or thematic programmes run the risk of being less effective where they are not linked to a parliamentary process. Training programmes that address substantive issues and provide parliamentarians with policy-specific information can in some instances help reduce political sensitivity, build trust and pave the way for more politically sensitive types of intervention.
In spite of the relatively slim rigorous evidence of the impact of sector-oriented parliamentary and political party support programmes, this report identifies a few examples that indicate their potential impact:
- Swedish-Norwegian Regional HIV/AIDS team in Southern Africa;
- The Westminster Consortium;
- Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA).