The purpose of AEPI support in strengthening parliaments is to promote democratic political processes through the empowering of key democratic institutions and accountability mechanisms. Parliaments are a pillar of democracy and ideally provide the principal forum for articulating public concern, influencing governmental policy and overseeing key governance processes. They also provide a potentially valuable partner in pursuing development objectives and the promotion of human rights strategies. An effective parliament is therefore vital in securing a stable political settlement and system of governance which is responsive to the people.
The role and function of parliaments vary substantially among different political and governmental systems. However, they all perform three main functions to a varying degree: Oversight, legislation and representation.
- Scrutiny and oversight: The extent to which Ministers are formally accountable to parliament for the formulation and implementation of policy depends on the political system. However, parliaments ideally perform an important oversight and scrutiny function – for example, in relation to budgets, accounts and audits. In this capacity, they are key to ensuring that resource allocations and expenditures are in the public interest, that they are free from corruption, and that services are efficiently delivered, providing value for money.
- Legislation: Legislation provides the main framework for the enactment of policy. Although the role and functions of parliaments in lawmaking differ between political systems, parliaments must ensure that laws will deliver on the agreed policy objectives and that they are coherent, consistent and workable.
- Representation: Parliaments provide the buckle that links government to the people. Parliament should provide a two-way channel for public concern so that issues of national importance are represented, discussed and debated. Members of parliament must be responsive to voters, and challenge government when it fails to reflect or protect the public interest.
We believe that the extent to which parliaments (are able to) carry out these functions will have a wide impact on the overall quality of governance. Therefore, AEPI’s Parliamentary support programmes take as their starting point the need to enhance the performance of the institution in delivering on its core tasks.
Parliamentary diplomacy is the means by which two or more parliaments conduct an ongoing dialogue with regard to key international issues. The main object of parliamentary diplomacy is to increase mutual understanding between countries, and/or regions, to improve scrutiny of government, to represent their people better, and to increase the democratic legitimacy of inter-governmental institutions.
The duties and actions of Parliaments in the foreign relations arena are condensed into what we call parliamentary diplomacy.
However, its interdisciplinary character makes it easier to approach via two levels of analysis. The first, related to its legal nature, deals with the examination of the “institutional competence of Parliaments in the area of international relations of the country”. The second level, related to its political nature, refers to the “broader political role of Parliaments in the implementation and formulation of a country’s foreign policy”. AEPI’s approach is to combine these two levels and introduce a description of parliamentary diplomacy as “the activities carried out by Parliaments in international relations, both within the limits of institutional competence and as a central factor of internal political scene.”
It is the organization’s firm belief that strong parliaments – in their role as arbiters of peace, stability and prosperity – lie at the heart of long-term development and the realization of human rights. Accordingly, AEPI engagement at this level is two-fold. First, keeping African issues high on political agenda in Europe and second, facilitate African-European and intra – Africa parliamentary dialogue.
AEPI’s objectives go beyond parliamentary capacity-building to also address contemporary human rights and economic challenges such as child marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting, youth unemployment, sustainable development and agriculture, all of which require dedicated interventions.
AEPI carries out thorough problem analyses to inform the planning process of potential interventions. To achieve this, AEPI collects, analyses and evaluates data and information on the background and context of a potential project which enables us to agree with the potential beneficiaries on a clear theory of change to guide the design of specific project interventions. We work with the relevant project beneficiaries and or/institutions to develop customized packages that align with overall needs of the beneficiary institutions.
The thematic programmes strive to inform and mobilize parliamentarians, empowering them to act on specific development issues in their country or region.
AEPI believes that investing in strong and equal partnership is a precondition to obtaining the trust that must also accompany the parliament and its leadership when it comes to handling sensitive reforms and putting thematic issues on the parliamentary agenda.
AEPI through its predecessor organization (AWEPA) worked with some 30 parliaments across Africa, including national parliaments, regional parliamentary institutions, and decentralized authorities. Together with members of these bodies, we undertook a number of institutional and thematic capacity-building programmes.
To demonstrate the confidence potential beneficiaries, have in AEPI to address their problems, the leaders of the following institutions have signed Memoranda of Understanding with AEPI for cooperation in a variety of areas.
- The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA)
- The County Assembly Forum (CAF) of Kenya
- The Society of Clerks at the Table (SOCATT) of Kenya, and
- The Kenya Women’s Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA).
- The Parliament of the self-declared independent state of Somaliland (both the House of Representatives and the House of Elders)
- The Federal Parliament of Somalia (comprising of the House of the People and the Upper House)
In addition, AEPI has received written requests for support from the Speakers of the House of Representatives of Somaliland and the South Sudan Legislative Assembly. Ethiopia federal parliament has also expressed interest to renew existing memorandum of understanding it had signed with AWEPA. AEPI has also re-established contact with the West Africa Women Caucus against Female Genital Mutilation and child marriage. A Memorandum of Understanding with this women’s body will soon be signed at a conference organised in line with the campaign against those malpractices.