Development Effectiveness and the Sustainable Development Goals

(Above: Delegates attended the conference from across Asia, as well as North Africa – Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal, Laos, Timor Leste, Indonesia and Morocco were represented)

From alleviating extreme poverty to reducing the impact of climate change for future generations, the sustainable development goals (SDGs) – agreed by world leaders last September – comprise a broad and challenging set of commitments for all states.

Steps must now be taken to ensure that the goals are implemented by 2030.

But what role can parliamentarians play?

Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) supported the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption’s (GOPAC) regional conference in Jakarta on 30 and 31 August 2016.

Hosted by the Indonesian House of Representatives, the conference brought together parliamentarians from countries across Asia and North Africa to discuss the oversight role they can play to ensure successful implementation of the SDG framework.

(Above: The first panel session provided an overview of the 2030 agenda for development)

The conference had the dual purpose of raising awareness of the targets within the SDGs and also encouraging discussion on best practice for monitoring the progress made towards achieving the goals. It introduced a handbook developed by the IDB in partnership with GOPAC for parliamentarians on the oversight of development funds.

Parliamentarians from across the region expressed a desire to learn more about what the SDGs actually are and the steps they can take to tackle them. Parliamentarians noted this area was usually tackled by the executive, leaving parliament with a limited role in achieving successful implementation.

Encouraging south-south exchanges on implementation is crucial to the success of the goals. The first day of the conference saw representatives from different regions share their experience with sustainable development. MPs from Morocco spoke about the implementation of a new healthcare system that made services more accessible for the under-privileged. Representatives from Indonesia explained how a new taskforce had been introduced to tackle the SDGs, including the introduction of approximately 30 bills currently being passed by parliament. A delegate from Laos welcomed the help from WFD and GOPAC on this issue, noting that the best way to achieve the SDGs was through creating links between countries with different capacities and levels of technical support.

(Above: Moroccan delegation included representatives from both Houses and parliamentary staff )

Post Legislative Scrutiny and achieving sustainable development

Whilst passing legislation is often the first step towards reform and such efforts should be commended, it is not the only step to ensure real improvement to the lives of citizens.

It is not uncommon that the process of implementation of legislation is overlooked. In several countries, it is a hazardous phenomenon that laws are voted but not applied, that secondary legislation is not adopted or that there is no information on the actual state of implementation and effects of the law. All of which could have a fundamental impact on achieving the sustainable development goals by 2030.

WFD is well-placed to facilitate best practice exchanges with countries in Asia because of our expanding presence in the region. With the wealth of British experience on post-legislative scrutiny, WFD can draw not only on the Westminster example of departmental and parliamentary scrutiny but also on the different experience of the Scottish Parliament’s scrutiny through regular committee work. Our global presence means we can also provide insights into different systems and help individual parliaments as they seek to identify the model which best suits them.

(Above: Dina Melhem, WFD’s Regional Director for Asia and MENA)

Dina Melhem, WFD’s Regional Director for Asia and MENA, outlined WFD’s experience with post legislative scrutiny and its development of an assessment tool for parliaments. This will provide a comparative methodology for ensuring successful monitoring and evaluation of legislation.

WFD’s assessment tool and the handbook developed by GOPAC and UNDP will be extremely helpful in the years to 2030 to ensure parliaments play a key role in implementing legislation that achieves the sustainable development goals. Participants welcomed the introduction of the handbook and the development of the assessment tool, noting that regional examples would be extremely useful.

Continue Reading

The Cost of Politics: From selection to election

(Above: Rushanara Ali, MP and Vice-Chair of WFD’s Board of Governors, moderates the first panel of the day with the authors of the case studies in Macedonia (Gordan Georgiev) and Nigeria (Adebowale Olorunmola).)

On Monday July 18th WFD launched new research into the cost of parliamentary politics, exploring six case studies assessing the situation in Macedonia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria.

“How do we make politics more affordable?” was the central question being asked by George Kunnath, WFD’s Regional Director for Africa and Europe, at our conference exploring the increasing cost of politics.

Take Ghana. As George explained, “people have done the numbers and realised it is not worthwhile for them to get into politics” – especially when an MP is compelled to spend £750 a month supporting funerals in their communities. These associated costs mean political life is intrinsically linked to corrupt practice, whether through securing re-election through the exploitation of state resources or the increased power that comes with the role.

Our new research project explores the whole cycle faced by candidates – from getting nominated to fighting the campaign and maintaining a parliamentary seat – and what associated costs individuals face at each stage of this journey.

Getting nominated – how to get on the ballot?

Gordan Georgiev, former MP in Macedonia and author of the research into the cost of politics case study, explained the crucial role that political parties play in the selection process for candidates.

“Getting on the ballot has certain costs,” he explained. “Some are typical, some are pretty innovative and some are surprising” – like the 30,000-80,000 euro cost to change your party membership, or the ability to buy 100,000 votes for ten million euros. This climate, Gordan argued, is responsible for the lowest levels of trust in politicians across Europe to date.

Adebowale Olorunmola, author of the Nigerian case study, said trust is also an issue in Nigeria. He pointed to the “gulf between the parties and people” that currently exists. It’s a gulf created in part by the huge costs associated with selection, but also by the motivations of current politicians who “get into political office to serve personal interests, leaving well-intentioned citizens, with ideas to move society forward, without access”. In Nigeria, to simply get on the ballot paper you must pay an initial 25 million naira fee (approximately £64,000).

(Above, left to right: Lisa Klein, formerly of UK Electoral Commission, Jamie Hitchen, Africa Research Insitute and WFD’s Director of Research Graeme Ramshaw)

Fighting the campaign

With the initial costs of getting on the ballot being so high, it’s equally – if not more – damaging that the expected levels of spending associated with running a campaign are also excessive.

Campaigning costs in Britain remain relatively low. “The UK is quite blessed to have an affordable political system,” George Kunnath explained in the opening address. Elsewhere, however, running a campaign can be so costly that it creates a barrier to access, as our second panel of the day found.

Jamie Hitchin, from the Africa Research Institute, drew on the recent Ugandan elections as an example, where “money trumps ideology” as the success factor for political parties. One hundred and seventy-five million US dollars were spent in Uganda by all parties in the run-up to the most recent presidential elections. This, Jamie added, was almost double the health budget in Uganda for 2015/16.

These high costs associated with running for office undeniably shape citizens’ perceptions of their representatives and what is expected of them – generating money for election, not improving public services for all.

Jamie added that the cost of politics and associated corruption is driven not just by politicians giving out money, but also by “citizens who are expecting to be given money” during a campaign. Changing this attitude is key to changing the associated cost of politics and making it more accessible.
The costs of sitting in Parliament

The challenge of raising the funds to run a successful campaign places huge pressure on elected representatives to recover some of their expenses when in office, either financially or through their patronage and privileges.

The cultural context and perceptions of the role of an MP emerged as a recurrent theme throughout the day. Emma Crew, Professorial Research Associate at SOAS, argued that the relationship between politicians and constituents is key to decreasing the cost of politics and making it more accessible. “By deepening democracy beyond parliament and strengthening civil society, including the capacity for research and scrutiny,” Emma suggested, will be vital to changing attitudes on what the role of a sitting politician is.

This anthropological approach was supported by Kojo Asante, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Democratic Development in Ghana, who acknowledged that “if you don’t understand why people carry on doing what they are doing” then change will be difficult to achieve.

He pointed to Ghana’s “interesting cultural sanctions”. MPs are expected to pay for office space, textbooks and funerals. If they do not, they risk forfeiting the community’s support when it comes to re-election. This shifts the focus, Kojo said, from governing and providing adequate services for constituents to “always preparing for the next election”.

(Above: Emma Crewe, Professorial Research Associate at SOAS, delivers a presentation about the anthropological elements that contribute to the cost of politics.)

Steps towards reform?

Attitudes, cultural practice and expectation clearly play such a fundamental role in shaping citizens’ expectations of parliaments – so addressing them, particularly within broader global anti-corruption reform efforts, should not be ignored.

Enforcement and regulation of party finance was a key theme throughout the day, but as Peter Wardle, former CEO of the UK Electoral Commission explained, this is not always enough. “You introduce rules, and people find a way to get around them,” he said, referring to his experience of introducing party finance legislation in the UK. “You can have the best rules in the world, the UK rules look good – but if you can’t enforce them they do not work.”

This is where parliaments can come in to help fight corruption at any level. “Parliaments are part of the solution rather than part of the problem,” Phil Mason, Senior Anti-Corruption Adviser at the Department for International Development, said. Something as simple as effective note-taking, like the UK’s Hansard, can go a long way to explaining “what those functions [of parliament] are, of educating people about the roles and functions of MPs and parliaments”.

Stephen Twigg, MP and Chair of the International Development Committee concluded that political parties – a major part of WFD’s work – are part of the solution too. “They can help get a range of people in to politics,” demonstrating how important WFD’s work with parliaments and political parties is in addressing corruption.

Following the UK anti-corruption summit in May, Britain is taking the lead on the global stage in addressing this issue. Now, thanks to this research project, the UK has opened up another avenue to explore change.

 

The six country case studies and synthesis report are available here. 

Continue Reading

How WFD helps fight corruption around the world

By working to increase the accountability of both parliaments and political parties, Westminster Foundation for Democracy is helping establish the conditions where corrupt politicians and officials find it hard to flourish.

Corruption, according to the Department for International Development, is “often a symptom of wider governance dynamics and is likely to thrive in conditions where accountability is weak”.

That makes WFD a part of the solution to the issues being grappled with in Prime Minister David Cameron’s Global Anti-Corruption Summit taking place this week. World leaders, business figures and civil society representatives are coming together to agree a package of practical steps to expose corruption, punish the perpetrators and drive out the culture of corruption. It’s by addressing the latter that WFD makes its contribution.

“Instead of being a source of the problem,” Chief Executive Anthony Smith says, “parliaments and political parties – both vital for a healthy, functioning democracy – can make the transition to being a source of momentum in tackling corruption, often with WFD’s support.”

Where there are parliaments and parliamentarians that want to make a difference, WFD shares practices from Britain and elsewhere which can work. Take Ukraine, where corruption often tops the list of public critiques facing the parliament. WFD, in partnership with GIZ, has helped launch a Financial and Economic Analysis Office with the Verkhovna Rada to ensure that MPs have better access to information and can make evidence-based decisions about public spending.

Parliaments and MPs face a reputational challenge of their own in countries around the world. The UK has learned a lot about the need for transparency and handling personal finances, as the 2009 expenses scandal showed. We also understand that in some countries, parties require payments for individuals to become candidates. In others, parliamentarians are often expected to support their constituents because public services are poor. We can work with reformers to help introduce better systems and tackle behaviours that shield corrupt behaviours. Our inductions for new MPs – like the induction we carried out in Kyrgyzstan last autumn – are examples of this.

WFD also helps build the ability and responsibility of parliaments and political parties to tackle these systemic issues effectively. In Iraq, we are encouraging cooperation between the Integrity Commissions based in Baghdad and Erbil.

Often this work involves brokering relationships. “Lack of skills in building good relationship with law enforcement agencies is preventing us from implementing our follow-up efforts appropriately,” Mr Bassim Jasim Hajwal, Director General of the National Integrity Commission in Iraq, says. “The Integrity Commission needs to strengthen our relationships with different organisations.” WFD offers assistance in this work.

Earlier this year Mr Hajwal and colleagues journeyed to Jakarta to learn about Indonesia’s reinvigorated anti-corruption efforts – an example of south-south learning facilitated by WFD. Later this month WFD will support the Indonesian Chapter of Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) to deliver a trial run of the best practice workbook they have developed to help parliaments tackle corruption. The regional event, organised with GOPAC, will allow parliamentarians from across South Asia, including Sri Lanka, Burma and Indonesia where WFD is developing country programmes, to test and refine the guidance.

More broadly, parliaments and political parties have an important role to play in championing an independent judiciary and enforcement of the rule of law. They perform a crucial task in supporting the main institutions that do anti-corruption work on the ground: the police forces, investigators, prosecutors and anti-corruption agencies. If there is evidence of state interference with independent probes, say, it is up to MPs and political parties to confront them.

Finally comes the responsibility of parliaments and political parties to listen to and honestly represent the views of citizens who overwhelmingly find corruption to be the source of many of their problems. In our programmes, we share with partners the importance of transparency – because even the best politicians working in a bad system will not be able to make a difference unless they can rely on public support. That only comes about if parliaments can provide an open understanding of the way in which the system is working.

Many of our programmes are taking positive steps in parliaments determined to respond to public opinion. Often public expectations can be met by setting up committees responsible for keeping an eye on where money is being spent. Our previous programme in Tunisia saw the establishment of a committee tasked with both financial scrutiny and anti-corruption work. Among its tasks was “recovery of the looted money, and the issues of managing the confiscated money and properties, as well as the auditing of public banks and public enterprises”. That set in stone MPs’ commitment to delivering more oversight and accountability to Tunisian citizens, which is taking place with WFD’s support.

‘No one can fight corruption alone’

WFD’s approach to programming aims to incorporate the very flexibility that is needed to develop effective approaches to combatting corruption. Context becomes essential when deciding how to combat corruption.

It’s clear that a one-size-fits-all approach will not end corrupt practice. As WFD’s University of Oxford post-doc Susan Dodsworth says: “Corruption is a product of the incentives people face. To eliminate corruption we need to change those incentives. We can only do this is if we understand the context that people are operating in, both at the micro and macro level.” That is why WFD’s country-specific context-analysis informs our programme design – and helps turn the UK’s goal of wiping out corruption around the world a reality.

Our aim is to deliver the multilateral approach called for by Senator Monsurat Sunmonu from Nigeria, who spoke passionately about how to eliminate corruption at our Westminster Community of Practice event back in March. Her key message was the need for a multilateral approach. “No one can fight corruption alone,” she said. “With technological advances and the development of a global economy the world has become a smaller place. No single country can legislate and succeed by itself.”

Continue Reading

Why should WFD care about devolution?

devolution - flickr - Ian Sane

By David Thirlby, WFD’s Senior Programme Manager for Asia

Devolution and democratisation often go hand-in-hand. In practice, though, the process of transferring power away from central government often produces disappointing results and is always a complex business. These difficulties make it all the more important that organisations like Westminster Foundation for Democracy offer their assistance.
Paradoxically, as the world has become more globalised, there have been further demands, and calls for, devolution. In discussing devolution the terminology itself can be confusing.  It is often associated with administrative decentralisation, de-concentration of power and federalism amongst others. For the purposes of this article, devolution refers to where the central government has passed on powers previously held to it to a sub-national unit. Devolution is often seen as a means to improve the provisions of public services, protect local rights, secure peace and reconciliation as well as consolidate multi-party democracy.

By their very nature authoritarian regimes tend to be unitary forms of government where power and decision-making are centralised. It is therefore not surprising that following periods of authoritarian rule, a democratisation process is often accompanied with devolution.  We saw this in Pakistan after Musharraf’s regime, where a return to parliamentary democracy at the national level was mirrored with provision of substantial powers to the constituent provinces, and recently, to elected government bodies. This logic applies elsewhere: post-Franco Spain’s 1978 constitution provided for strong autonomous regions whose power has extended as local democracy has been entrenched. However, it is difficult to determine how much power should be devolved before it brings into question the unity of the state itself. In the last couple of years, both in Spain and the UK, movements towards independence has called into question the nation state. Interestingly, neither are federal countries.

The principle of subsidiarity states that governments work best, so the logic goes, when they are close to citizens who benefit from better frontline services based on decisions which are more attuned to the local context.  When decisions are made closer to the people, people are also better able to oversee the execution of decisions thereby providing further pressure on accountability.  After Suharto’s New Order in Indonesia, basic services including the provision of health, primary and secondary education are the responsibility of the districts. However, when there are multiple layers of government, it can be difficult for the citizen to identify who is responsible for what – is it the local council/ municipality, region/ state or the national government?  Arguably, this is further complicated in supranational bodies such as the EU. A problem often witnessed is that although many central governments are keen to devolve powers, they are often unwilling or unable to provide the financial resources that go with them.

Protecting local rights is another key drive for devolution. In many cases these are often tied to issues concerning distribution of resources. In many resource-rich countries, local communities feel disempowered because they suffer disproportionately from the extraction of natural resources, which often are highly polluting. This was the case in the petroleum-rich Delta Region in Nigeria, which experienced especially severe conflict during Sani Abacha’s military regime.  Many countries, such as Peru, have regional governments that get a share of royalties from local developments which benefit local communities. However, often it is difficult to determine how the royalties of natural resources are shared, not just between the local region and the central government, but also between regions. This is especially the case in countries where human development index scoring is  low and money is scarce. The Democratic Republic of Congo’s vast natural resources are confined in a few states – such as Katanga– with the resource-poor states, such as Province Orientale, grumbling that the funds are not being fairly distributed. Likewise the 2010 constitution in Kenya created 52 counties with powers that sought to redress accusations that certain ethnic groups had not benefitted equally since independence. However, when resource allocation is tied to that of a region or ethnic group, it can lead to divisions. At independence in 1960 Nigeria consisted of three regions – tellingly now it consists of 36 states.

Most controversial is the role that devolution has played in conflict resolution and reconciliation. In the UK, the 1998 Good Friday Agreement provided for a system of power-sharing between both communities in Northern Ireland. In Indonesia, giving Aceh a degree of autonomy and allowing it to adopt a form of Sharia law were part of the main provisions that brought an end 30 years of conflict between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the national government. Questions of devolution are a factor in countries like Burma and Sri Lanka that are in the process of resolving long-standing violent secessionist movements by minorities.

Why WFD can help

The UK has a good story to tell about devolution – made all the more valuable by being as much about its pitfalls and challenge as its successes. Our asymmetric approach means the three devolved assemblies each have their own unique focus. In Wales there are interesting lessons on how to cope with the language issue; in Northern Ireland devolution comes in the context of conflict resolution and power-sharing; and in Scotland we see an example of devolution attempting to win the confidence of a small nation while remaining in a much larger one.

Westminster Foundation for Democracy draws on all this experience and expertise – not just from the Commons, but all the devolved assemblies. And not just from their hugely knowledgeable and insightful staff, either, but also from Westminster’s political parties. Our approach utilises the strong sister-party relationships between the UK’s parties and their overseas counterparts to encourage the growth of multiparty democracies in the countries where we operate.

In countries either going through the process of devolution, or getting used to the new system, we should be ready to work with new representative bodies at the sub-national level. It is not about being an advocate for devolution in itself. What matters is that it is often the devolved units which receive powers over the areas like education or health which can make the biggest difference to fighting poverty. The challenge is in making the devolved institutions more effective at connecting them up with their citizens and helping them understand where the responsibilities lie.

Where next?

As we look to the future there is room for both optimism and concern. We can expect many of the newly devolved units to establish themselves more effectively.For example, Lagos in Nigeria or Jakarta in Indonesia have shown how effective sub-national systems can be at improving and delivering front line services that make a real difference to citizens’ lives.

However, clear dangers lie ahead too. Critics of devolution rightly point to the perils of having multiple layers which unnecessarily absorb state resources and detract from directing those resources to where they are needed. There is a risk of creating hollowed-out institutions which do not have the manpower, or even the political will, to be effective.

WFD, and parliamentary strengthening organisations like it, have a critical role to play, but we have to be careful not to approach this with our own preconceived ideas in mind. The complex relationships between the different tiers of representation are all context-specific. All our work has to be driven by our partner parliaments. It is only where there is political will for reform that we should seek to operate. When that exists – and it’s clear that assisting regional bodies will help improve people’s lives – we should always be ready to offer our support.

Continue Reading

Seoul report: How to respond to the global ‘rollback’ of democracy

On his return from the World Movement for Democracy’s Eighth Global Assembly in Seoul, Anthony Smith has written an article published on devex.com reflecting on the shrinking space for civil society and the ramifications of a new anti-democratic conceptual framework.

“This framework interprets good governance as effective management, not democratic accountability,” he writes.

“It suggests open economies and a strong private sector do not have to be linked to open societies. It raises ‘traditional values’ to the same status as human rights. It fosters coalitions of authoritarian countries that use persistent blocking tactics to reset the United Nation’s agenda. And it creates norm-setting clubs to challenge the G-7, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which can be built around authoritarian regimes.”

Attendees at the summit in South Korea, which brought together hundreds of democracy and human rights activists from around the world, voiced concerns about this framework. And there are bigger questions at stake, too:

“What exactly are the democratic norms that are threatened by regulatory restrictions on NGOs? How exactly can traditional values, faiths or beliefs be reconciled with universal human rights?” To find out more about his thoughts on these issues, you can read the remainder of the article here. It’s been published on Democracy Matters – the new conversation from Devex.

Featured image – flickr – michaelswan
Continue Reading

Improving parliamentary performance in Pakistan

By WFD’s programme manager Ali Imran in Lahore

WFD’s programme ‘Deepening democratic engagement in the province of Punjab’ was designed to improve the effectiveness of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab – Pakistan’s largest province in terms of population and a major contributor to the national economy. By working with the Assembly’s members and secretariat staff the programme has contributed to a greater understanding of legislative, oversight and representative roles.  This has assisted the parliament to pass legislation after devolution – a highly significant development in Pakistan’s recent history when the constitution was amended to allow for greater distribution of powers to the provinces.

Delivering democratic reforms

The programme has delivered reform initiatives to improve governance, including the Assembly’s rules of procedure, making standing committees more effective, shaping policy and passing legislation that protects the rights of women and children.  There has also been progress in more cooperative relations between parliament and civil society.  In addition the programme benefited from ‘south on south’ engagement with parliamentarians gaining insights into how counterparts in other countries have made progress on issues of mutual interest such as greater representation of women in politics.

Ownership was an important consideration in designing the programme which required close consultation with the Speaker’s chamber and the Assembly’s secretariat.

Improving parliamentary performance

The timing of the programme was critical as it coincided with Pakistan’s first ever transition of power from one civilian government to another through the electoral process.  The greater devolution of power to the provinces created new opportunities for better governance of citizens in these provinces.  Welcome as these democratic developments were – they created clear need for support: a striking 55% of newly elected members had no previous parliamentary experience.  The programme succeeded in reaching more than 100 newly elected members through its training sessions which covered topics such as the Assembly’s rules of procedure and parliamentary techniques including questions, resolution and adjournment motions.  Once this understanding was developed the programme focused on other key areas such as budget analysis and developing a deeper understanding of devolution.

South-South engagement

In addition the Punjab Assembly members benefited from gaining insights into how other parliaments and politicians have made progress on issues such as the greater representation of women in politics and engagement with civil society.  WFD’s programmes in the Middle East enabled us to work with Iraqi politicians who shared their experience on forging stronger links between parliament and civil society organisations.  Similarly, a caucus of women members of the Punjab Assembly was able to benefit from the experiences of their counterparts in the Jordanian Parliament and explore how they have tackled adversarial debate to fight for greater legislation to protect women and children. This resulted in a particularly rewarding development when a member of the Punjab Assembly’s women caucus presented a resolution demanding stricter action against child marriage on her return from Jordan.  Earlier this month the government passed a bill to reform existing child marriage law.

                                                                 Britain’s democratic history and the ‘Westminster brand’

Members of the Punjab Assembly also benefited from Britain’s democratic history and were able to find out about parliamentary techniques deployed by their counterparts in the Scottish Parliament and the House of Commons.  The concept of institutional accountability through the scrutiny of departmental standing committees was not only appreciated but also resulted in discussions about how to best reform the Punjab Assembly’s standing committees.  The work of Britain’s regional assemblies proved informative in enabling Pakistani MPs observe at first hand the work of the select committees, parliamentary procedures and how powers had been devolved to the Scottish Parliament and regional assemblies.  Peer-to-peer dialogue was invaluable in advancing this understanding.

                                     Towards greater representation – from aspiration to reality 

Another key area of WFD’s work was in forging cooperative relationships between civil society and the Assembly which resulted in tripartite discussions between MPs, Assembly staff and civil society organisations.  This enabled a range of organisations to really develop their understanding of parliamentary work and seize opportunities for greater advocacy in political life.  In sum the programme resulted in reform initiatives and debates that demonstrate tangible evidence of improving parliamentary performance in Pakistan.  Although the programme is scheduled to close this month its work demonstrates a clear case for continuing to support Pakistan’s fragile democracy and turn more hopes into reality.

Continue Reading