Working with Ghana’s Parliament: ‘Our democracy is about inclusiveness’

Democracy is about consensus-building, inclusiveness and participation.

They’re great principles that unite the British and Ghanaian views of what a Parliament should be – and a great starting point for renewed cooperation.

In 2015 WFD has returned to work with old friends in a West African country renowned for the stability of its democracy.

We had operated a targeted project providing support to Ghana’s Parliament in 2011, running training courses for its research team and new MPs. Now we are beginning to implement a much broader programme and deepen our work with the Parliament and its leadership.

“WFD has a longstanding relationship with the Ghana Parliament and we’re delighted to be working in Ghana once again,” Senior Programme Manager for Africa Majda El-Bied said.

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The Ghanaian Parliament in session. Photo: World Bank

Our new three-year programme links up our experience supporting parliaments’ officials with our political party colleagues’ links with sister-parties in Ghana. “We were really sad that you phased out, so your return is really welcome news,” the Hon. Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, Majority Leader, told us. “There are a lot of things we had to do which we thought were incomplete before you left. So your comeback is really exciting to us.”

The integrated nature of the programme was reflected in the cast list of the Ghanaian delegation which visited London in late November; its senior leadership journeyed to Britain for meetings with key UK counterparts in and around the Palace of Westminster.

ghana inward 4The Ghanaian delegation with Lord Speaker Baroness D’Souza, WFD Chief Executive Anthony Smith and Lords Reading Clerk Simon Burton

The Majority and Minority Leaders, together with the Majority and Minority Chief Whips, were able to hold meetings with their sister parties, with whom they have strong links. The Ghana Parliament’s Director of Research, as well as its Clerk and Principal Assistant Clerk, held similar meetings with their counterparts. And the Speaker of the unicameral Ghanaian Parliament, the Rt Hon. Edward Doe Adjaho, met with both the House of Commons’ Speaker John Bercow and the House of Lords’ Lord Speaker, Baroness D’Souza. “Any opportunity which offers itself to build a steady parliament and make it relevant to the aspiration of the people we represent is a good opportunity,” he said. “We are keen to see how we can strengthen parliament.”

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House of Commons Speaker John Bercow with Ghanaian Parliament Speaker Edward Adjaho

Visitors to Ghana are always struck by the consensual approach adopted by its politicians. Some countries might see Parliament as a place for bitter partisan warfare, but in Accra they pursue a different approach. As the Majority Leader, the Hon. Bagbin puts it, this is a very different institution from Africa’s other representative bodies. “We’re building on the principle that democracy is about consensus-building,” he says. “Democracy is about inclusiveness, it’s about participation. So the first thing you do is to build consensus, not to vote. And in reaching consensus, there have to be compromises.”

ghana inward 3Margaret Hodge met with the delegation to discuss her work with the Public Accounts Committee

One of the challenges facing the Parliament is finding ways to strengthen parties’ parliamentary groups. There will now be a concerted effort to strengthen relationships and do more to ensure party policies are understood by the party caucus. This is something the UK parties can help with; by having a space within Parliament, they can work closely with the party caucuses.
WFD hopes to contribute to the Parliament’s ongoing work more widely, too. The biggest single element of this side of our work will be in improving its Research Centre. We’re also keen to work with a parliamentary strengthening coordination group. And, in parallel with our efforts, the UK parties will continue to offer their support to their sister parties. Our goal is to enhance the capacity of the Parliament by linking its experienced officials with British expertise – and we’re delighted that the key players in Ghana are keen to work with us once again.

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