Parliamentary strengthening partners work to update the CPA’s Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures to assist Parliaments in meeting contemporary challenges across the Commonwealth 

More than a decade on from the launch of the CPA Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and its partners*, a new body of work is being undertaken to revise and update the parliamentary Benchmarks to reflect the changed landscape in which democracies now operate. The updated CPA Benchmarks will also include measurements for Parliaments to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the recommendations contained in the Commonwealth Charter.

SDG 16 centres on the peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development and the role of effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Effective parliaments are one of the principal institutions of any functioning democracy and they are central to the attainment of SDG 16, the development agenda and all of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals.

The launch of the CPA Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures in 2006 was a pioneering step to strengthen Parliaments through the promotion of a set of democratic standards for Parliaments across the Commonwealth. Since the inception of the Benchmarks, Commonwealth Parliaments throughout the CPA membership of over 180 legislatures have undertaken self-assessments using the Benchmarks or have incorporated the Benchmarks into their own parliamentary standards. The focus on measuring impact and the need to demonstrate the effectiveness of legislatures is critical at a time of increased scrutiny of Parliaments and of Parliamentarians and the CPA Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures provide a key tool in assisting parliaments to demonstrate their performance, increase their self-awareness and prioritise areas for development. 

A joint study group convened by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) undertook a review of the CPA Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures at Wilton Park in the United Kingdom from 18-20 June 2018. The study group included representatives from six of the nine CPA Regions – Asia, Australia; British Islands and Mediterranean; Canada; India; Pacific – as well as leading experts in the field of parliamentary strengthening to review the CPA Benchmarks and continue with this seminal work in setting standards for modern Parliaments. 

The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Mr Akbar Khan said: “The pioneering Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures is one of the CPA’s most important pieces  of parliamentary strengthening work and the meeting of experts in the field of parliamentary strengthening to revise and refresh the CPA Benchmarks is vital as we seek to further strengthen Parliaments and Legislatures in line with the aspirations of the Commonwealth Charter, the SDGs and the changing demands of our citizens.”

The Chief Executive of Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), Anthony Smith, CMG said: “Feedback from legislators is clear: the updated CPA Benchmarks constitute an invaluable international reference which can help develop more effective and inclusive democracies. Under the Commonwealth Partnership for Democracy, WFD and its partners are ready to support Commonwealth Parliaments who wish to carry out reviews based on the CPA Benchmarks and SDG 16 indicators.”

The updating of the CPA Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures is part of a wider project, the Commonwealth Partnership for Democracy, which is being led by Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) working with partners including the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA). The Commonwealth Partnership for Democracy was launched during the recent 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London, UK. Over the next two years, the programme will work with Parliaments in 18 Commonwealth Member States across Sub-Saharan Africa and South-Eastern Asia.


For images of the meeting please click here.

Notes to Editors: 

*Background information: The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) together with its partners conducted the exercise which drew on and convened its network to result in the publication of the CPA Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures in 2006. These benchmarks were the outcome of an original Study Group hosted by the Legislature of Bermuda on behalf of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the World Bank Group with support from the United Nations Development Programme, the European Parliament and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. The Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures have been used extensively in parliamentary strengthening across the Commonwealth since 2006.

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) exists to develop, promote and support Parliamentarians and their staff to identify benchmarks of good governance and to implement the enduring values of the Commonwealth. The CPA is an international community of around 180 Commonwealth Parliaments and Legislatures working together to deepen the Commonwealth’s commitment to the highest standards of democratic governance. 

Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) partners with UK political parties, parliaments, electoral and financial audit institutions to help developing countries make their governments fairer, more effective and more accountable. Current WFD initiatives include: helping protect women from violence in the Middle East; engaging women, young people and people with disabilities in politics in sub-Saharan Africa; and building trust in democracy in the Western Balkans. For more information, please visit

Updated 27th June 2018.

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Commonwealth Parliamentary Association
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