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CSO - Parliamentarian Engagement in East Africa

Typically policy engagement initiatives focusing on policy-makers target powerful line ministry officials, such as ministries of finance and economics who are mandated with the coordination of poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP) processes. Due to their relative weakness in many developing countries, policy advocacy work directed towards parliamentarians/congressional representatives has been less common. But if one of the aims of good governance is to promote a system of checks and balances among the three main branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial branches), then working to strengthen the pathways through which parliamentarians are able to access and make use of quality policy-relevant evidence should be seen as an important goal.

Accordingly this research project is designed to explore the strengths and weaknesses of the formal and informal relationships and mechanisms that currently exist in the East African sub-region between civil society organisations (including think tanks, NGOs and CBOs) and parliamentarians (either individual MPs and/or parliamentary committees). It also aims to solicit the views of both civil society representatives and parliamentarians as to how these linkages could be improved in order to enhance the uptake of evidence-informed development research in national policy debates and processes. These insights will form the basis for subsequent action research initiatives, potentially with the East African Community Parliament.

The purpose of this research project is threefold:

  1. to better understand how civil society engages with parliaments in East Africa, both the enabling and inhibiting factors;

  2. to explore how parliamentarians view such engagement and ways in which CSO-parliamentarian engagement could be fostered in order to develop more pro-poor policies, and

  3. to pilot joint Civil Society Partnership Programme (CSPP) North-South research partnerships. The latter will include capacity development in qualitative research methods, including the use of qualitative data analysis software (max qda).

The ultimate aim of this research is to use the insights derived to prepare an action research project plan to improve the quality of CSO-parliamentary interactions. The results of this study will be disseminated within each country in a workshop with CSOs and parliamentarians as well as at an end-of-project workshop in Arusha, Tanzania in May 2008.

In order to provide a concrete focus to the work we will select a specific policy sector in three East African countries – Kenya (energy), Uganda (health),Tanzania (health). This will enable us to compare both across countries and sectors. We will work with specific partners within eacy of these sectors: AFREPREN (Kenya), CDRN (Uganda) and ESRF (Tanzania). For more information on the development of this research strategy.

The research will combine the following methods:

  • a desk-based literature review,

  • structured questionnaire surveys among CSOs working in the health or energy sectors,

  • follow-up focus group discussions and semi-structured key informant interviews with CSOs and

  • semi-structured key informant interviews with parliamentarians by ex-parliamentarians.