Parliaments and parliamentarians are the fulcrum of democratic political systems. They sit at the centre of a web of domestic accountability that links them to the executive and other branches of government, to constituents and the wider public, and to political parties. Expectations about what parliaments should deliver have increased tremendously over the past two decades.
Yet in many countries parliaments are weak and ineffective and remain among the least trusted and legitimate institutions in the eyes of the population. As such, parliaments are both a cause of poor democratic governance – and an integral element in improving it.
How to help parliaments become more effective and responsive is therefore a crucial question for international development actors who are committed to democratic strengthening.
Following up on one of the recommendations that emerged from a 2005 evaluation of Sida's support to parliaments, in 2011 Sida commissioned this Evaluation Pre-Study on Parliamentary Development Assistance (PDA) from ODI to review the state of knowledge on donor approaches and their effectiveness since 2005, identify lessons learnt and key gaps in knowledge, and assess the need for a multi-stakeholder thematic evaluation.
The Pre-Study concludes that, while efforts to collect evidence about what works in PD assistance and why have not been systematic, rigorous or comprehensive enough, a single, large-scale evaluation of assistance should not be undertaken. The report recommends instead the use of targeted evaluation and research exercises to fill knowledge gaps.