International Conference on Benchmarking and Self-Assessment for Democratic Parliaments



The International Conference on Benchmarking and Self-Assessment for Democratic Parliaments (Paris, 2-4 March 2010) provided an opportunity to gather more than 100 MPs, parliamentary development practitioners, and donors to take stock of and assess progress on reaching consensus on internationally agreed standards and assessment frameworks for democratic parliaments. The conference highlighted the work of several inter-parliamentary groups such as the IPU, CPA and APF and welcomed the participation of organisations that are new to the process, such as PACE, OSCE, Parlatino and COPA.

The conference provided a forum to discuss the different approaches for evaluation of parliament, and to share lessons learned around the potential results and impact of such evaluations. Participants debated the merits, challenges and benefits of the different assessment frameworks, whether parliaments themselves should be allowed to identify the criteria by which they should be evaluated, who should be involved in assessments, and why and how parliaments should play a stronger role in their own internal development and reform processes. AGORA was launched on the evening prior to the conference and a Donor Coordination Meeting on Parliamentary Development was held directly following.

The floor deliberated on and adopted a conference Participants’ Statement recognising “emerging consensus on the core values of a democratic parliament”, an institution “that is representative of the political will and social diversity of the population, and is effective in its legislative, oversight and representation functions, at the subnational, national and international levels.” They noted that “current assessment frameworks have the potential to be immensely powerful tools for change” and that “the effectiveness of such assessments should be judged against the outcomes that emerge, not only in terms of parliament becoming more representative, transparent, accessible, accountable and effective, but also in terms of improved economic and social development.” The Statement identifies areas of consensus between the various tools, in areas such as procedural fairness, democratic legitimacy and representation, parliamentary organisation, and core legislative and oversight functions, as well as areas that remain challenging, such as political financing, parliamentary values and ethical issues, criteria around specific innovations or "emerging" practices, and criteria that are highly dependent on the size of constituencies or the availability of resources. It concludes with a set of recommendations for parliaments, parliamentary strengthening organisations, interparliamentary organisations, donors, and other actors.

Conference Documents