Several agencies have recently conducted stocktakes, retrospectives or reviews of their parliamentary strengthening programmes at agency-level. By far the most common lesson/recommendation relates to the necessity of understanding and adapting to the political context within which parliament is situated and undertaking good political analysis in the planning phase. Several other recommendations are common across the ‘lessons learned’ literature:
- The need for long-term interventions
- Interventions should be based on local demand and encourage broad-based local ownership
- Parliamentary strengthening has been seen as a political intrusion, or viewed as politically motivated
- Issue-based approaches are particularly successful
- Legislative assistance cannot be viewed in isolation from other areas of support.
Many reports also acknowledge the need to build South-South cooperation, the importance of the individuals who work on programme implementation being seen as politically savvy but politically neutral, the need for better donor coordination mechanisms, and the need for more evaluations at programme level. Others stress the importance of not imposing outside models and of using local and regional experts.
There are no internationally agreed standards for democratic parliaments, and no agreed guidelines for approaching parliamentary strengthening. A multi-donor consultation in 2007 concluded that there is a need to develop internationally recognised standards for democratic parliaments, and this work is ongoing, although some caution that these should be truly internationally recognised standards.