The formal powers, organization and basic structure of a parliament are usually defined in its constitution and standing orders or rules of procedure. These powers, as well as the tools and methods that a parliament may use to employ its powers, will differ from one parliament to the next. However, it is how the parliament uses its available powers that will determine how effective it will be in exercising its lawmaking, representative and oversight functions.
Constitutional Review and Adaptation
In countries where there is a need to develop or review the constitution or other laws defining the legal framework, the Parliamentary Centre can offer institutional and knowledge based support to parliaments and constitutional review committees. The Centre can provide advice and practical examples in relation to good governance, decentralization, bicameralism and federalism, as well as during review of electoral systems, parliament’s role in the budget process, access to information, and many other specific issues affecting how parliaments function. The Centre can also assist during the adaptation and implementation of these changes, and increase the capacity of parliamentarians and other relevant support services during this process.
Parliamentary Relations with Executive and Judiciary
A constructive relationship between the three arms of government, i.e. parliament, the judiciary and the executive, is essential to effectively maintain the constitution and the rule of law. The Parliamentary Centre can assist in the development of proper legal frameworks that promotes parliamentary independence of the other political institutions, for example parliamentary control of its own budget and access to relevant information. The Centre can also help develop consultative mechanisms to make the relationships with the other political institutions more effective.
The daily activities of parliaments are dictated by its Internal Rules and Procedures. The Parliamentary Centre can help parliaments establish effective institutional frameworks, as well as help develop tools and procedures to carry out their functions. It can also provide capacity building for new Members of Parliament and staff on the parliamentary institution, its structure, organization and internal functioning, as well as on the functioning of the parliamentary administration, the internal rules and procedures and how these determine the rights and obligations of MPs. In addition, the Centre offers capacity building for new MPs on their roles and responsibilities and on how to become an effective member.
Parliamentary committees are key to the work of parliaments. They are smaller working groups in which much of the in-depth work of parliament is carried out and require highly qualified staff who are familiar with parliamentary procedures, law and legal drafting. How committees are established, their composition and mandate, as well as how chairpersons are to be selected will be determined by a parliament’s internal rules and procedures. They should reflect the composition of the entire parliament by including members from different political parties, regions, genders, and ethnic groups as much as possible. The Parliamentary Centre can help parliaments build strong and effective committee systems, as well as to provide capacity building to their members and staff to better perform their roles in the committees.
Strong parliaments rely on strong organizational structures and on effective administrational support and management. The Centre can assist in building and strengthening parliamentary Research and Support Services to increase their effectiveness vis-à-vis individual MPs, parliamentary committees, and parliament as an institution, as well as to build effective information management systems that can contribute to increased parliamentary transparency. The Centre can also help during the establishment of new support services, such as a budget office. Human Resource Management is another key area of support for the Centre, where assistance can be provided to develop and streamline human resource management systems and to develop training management frameworks and training material for parliaments.