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Legislative strengthening meets party support in international assistance: a closer relationship?

By Peter J. Burnell


Recent reports recommend that international efforts to help strengthen legislatures in emerging democracies should work more closely with support for building stronger political parties and competitive party systems. This article locates the recommendations within international assistance more generally and reviews the arguments. It explores problems that must be addressed if the recommendations are to be implemented effectively. The article argues that an alternative, issue-based approach to strengthening legislatures and closer links with civil society could gain more traction. However, that is directed more centrally at promoting good governance for the purpose of furthering development than at democratisation goals sought by party aid and legislative strengtheners in the democracy assistance industry

Topics: JC, JZ
Publisher: Routledge
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:

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  1. (2007). 17) too note that ‘institutional repair’ packages are no longer considered sufficient.
  2. (2008). 18) says that in donor eyes ‘parliament is often seen more as a part of the problem than part of the solution’.
  3. (1999). Aiding Democracy Abroad. The Learning Curve doi
  4. an Australian government initiative in 1998 is funded by the Australian Agency for International Development.
  5. (2001). and 2004 DFID spent £4.4 million on promoting closer working between parliament and civil society and strengthening parliamentary committees in Malawi.
  6. (2007). and the exchange with Rick Stapenhurst of the World Bank Institute in
  7. (2005). Can civil society add value to budget decision-making? A description of civil society budget work (2005), available at 33
  8. (2006). Confronting the Weakest Link. Aiding Political Parties in doi
  9. (2007). Effective Party Assistance. Stronger Parties for Better Democracy (Stockholm: International IDEA Policy Paper).
  10. (2007). for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), an inter-governmental policy research organisation based in Stockholm, offers commentary on party support, as in Catón
  11. For example, AAPPG (2008: 27-8), citing evidence from Malawi and Kenya.
  12. (2007). for instance does not mention cooperation with legislative strengthening.
  13. (2007). For other development organisations like Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID),
  14. (2000). Handbook on Legislative Strengthening, available at USAID (2006) International Legislative Strengthening: Alternate Approaches (USAID and Financial Markets International), available at
  15. (2007). Hudson and Tsekpo (2009: 1): ‘there is little systematic research or analysis about the effectiveness of parliaments or about the effectiveness of parliamentary strengthening’ more generally. But on Africa see Barkan
  16. (2007). Improving Fiscal Scrutiny through Legislative Strengthening, available at
  17. (2006). In Africa for instance while support for social accountability is said to be in its infancy the demand is judged to be high (McNeil and Mumvuma
  18. Inter-Parliamentary Union (2003): major findings included the observation that support did not correlate strongly with regime enthusiasm for democracy and good governance.
  19. (2007). is a prime example; see also Michael and Kasemets
  20. (2006). On party strengthening see especially Carothers
  21. (2003). Parliamentary Development Practice Note, available at UNDP
  22. (2009). Parliamentary Strengthening and the Paris Principles. Synthesis Report (London: Overseas Development Institute).
  23. (2007). Parliamentary strengthening in developing countries. Final report for DFID (London: Overseas Development Institute).
  24. Party Parliamentary Group (AAPPG)(2008), Strengthening Parliaments in Africa: Improving Support (London: House of Commons).
  25. (2008). Party regulation and political engineering in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, in:
  26. (2007). Progress and retreat in Africa. Legislatures on the rise?,
  27. (2008). saw the publication of Legislative Oversight and Budgeting: A World Perspective,
  28. (2006). See for example USAID
  29. (2007). Should democracy be promoted or demoted?’ The Washington Quarterly, doi
  30. (2005). subsequently listed 14 country offices engaged in capacity development for MPs, 13 each for parties and enhancing party dialogue, 11 for increasing women’s participation, 7 for strengthening party systems and 10 for improving electoral systems,
  31. (2005). Synthesis doi
  32. (1991). Ten Tears of Strengthening Parliaments in Africa,
  33. (2005). The European Centre for Development Policy Management doi
  34. (2005). The Role of NGOs in International Democratic Development. The Case of Legislative Development (Montreal: Institute for Research on Public Policy), available at
  35. (2007). USAID’s legislative strengthening performance measurements, available at

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