Donor support of African parliaments (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 994)

This helpdesk report Identifies reviews of parliamentary strengthening efforts



Identify in which areas of parliamentary strengthening donors support parliaments in Africa. Where possible identify how donors balance between supporting MPs and permanent staff; whether donors commonly undertake field visits; whether donors support parliamentary operational or recurrent costs; and the evidence of key factors of success and failure for parliamentary support.

Key findings

Parliamentary strengthening programmes, including those focused on parliaments in Africa, are diverse in the areas they cover. This is in part because strengthening parliament activities includes issues directly related to parliamentarians but also can include strengthening the services and facilities that parliamentarians depend upon. A number of programmes that help strengthen parliaments may ostensibly focus on other governance areas.

This helpdesk research report identifies reviews of parliamentary strengthening efforts and examines documents of a number of programmes explicitly termed as parliamentary strengthening programmes.

Parliamentary strengthening can be focused on MPs, parliament or other aspects of the political system. One way of looking at the activities undertaken is to divide them into direct support or indirect support. Indirect support is the support of specific policy issues, such as health and education, which subsequently strengthens the parliamentary process. Direct support is work where the objective is to strengthen parliament for democratisation and good governance in general.

This research report was only able to identify one impact evaluation in some way related to parliamentary strengthening though this was on a village council rather than parliamentarians. There are few systematic evaluations of the results of parliamentary strengthening though there are a number of programme evaluations which identify whether programme goals have been met. It may not be possible to identify factors for success and failure for parliamentary strengthening in all contexts. Contexts vary markedly in countries and it is important to understand and adapt to the political context within which the parliament is situated. Though there may not be clear factors for success and failure there are a number of further lessons learned from parliamentary strengthening programmes which include:

  • A need for long term interventions.
  • Interventions should be based on local demand and encourage broad-based local ownership.
  • Parliamentary strengthening should appear neutral.
  • Issue-based approaches are particularly successful.
  • Legislative assistance cannot be viewed in isolation from other areas of support outside of parliament.

Another suggestion is that donor assistance to parliaments should adhere to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, particularly in relation to principles of harmonisation, alignment and ownership.


Rao, S. Donor support of African parliaments (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 994). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2013) 11 pp.

Donor support of African parliaments (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 994)

Published 1 January 2013