CPA Parliamentary Academy

What are the Benchmarks?

Simply put, the CPA Benchmarks, or to give them their full name, the CPA Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures, are a set of 132 indicators by which Legislatures should measure themselves against. The CPA Benchmarks are a 'minimum' set of standards and are applicable to large and small, unicameral or bicameral Legislatures across the countries and jurisdictions of the Commonwealth. 

The CPA Benchmarks cover a range of areas related to the Legislature and the governance environment within which it sits. The CPA Benchmarks cover four categories:

  • I. General
  • II. Organisation of the Legislature
  • III. Functions of the Legislature
  • IV. Values of the Legislature

To be more precise, the CPA Benchmarks cover topics on elections, financial and budget oversight, engagement with the citizenry and press, privileges, petitioning, voting, natural justice, infrastructure, rules of procedure, professional development, etc.

An example of a Benchmark is as follows:

  • Under section III. Functions of the Legislature, Benchmark 6.3.1 states [that] opportunities shall be given for public input into the legislative and committee process, including the budget process. 

Updated in 2018, the new CPA Benchmarks differ from the original 2006 version in several ways. Namely they focus on controlling corruption and ethics, Freedom of Information, the role of the opposition, the cost of politics, delegated legislation, post-legislative scrutiny, drafting legislation, oversight of the budget process and international agreements, representation, outreach and transparency, as well as a focus on gender and inclusion. Most importantly, the new CPA Benchmarks incorporate the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

2018 CPA Benchmarks and the Sustainable Development Goals

In September 2015, at the UN General Assembly, all member states of the UN endorsed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Building on the results achieved through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were implemented from 2000-15, the SDGs looked to provide a road map for building a sustainable approach to development.

Each of the goals outlined in the 17 SDGs has a set of targets, accompanied by a series of indicators for each target. Specific support will be provided to increase capacity to collect data and statistics to provide a baseline for each Goal in each country. All countries, including high income countries, will be measured on their success in achieving the goals. The SDG timeframe is 2015-2030.

One of the significant differences between the MDGs and the SDGs is the provision of a specific SDG Goal related to governance and the delivery of government services. As noted above, a lesson learned with respect to the MDGs was that shortcomings in achieving goals were often attributed to the failure of systems of governance.

  • SDG 16 - Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. 

SDG 16 provides a defined goal for all levels of government – national, sub-national and local – to measure the delivery of public services. Parliaments are expected to deliver specifically on a number of the targets and indicators for SDG 16. Parliaments need not only to ensure that the government is achieving the SDGs it committed to 2015, but also Parliament itself is achieving certain operational objectives. Where a Parliament can meet the objectives of SDG 16 it will be a functional and effective component of the governance system and, in turn, contribute to economic and social development.

In updating the CPA Benchmarks between 2016-2018 considerable effort was made to integrate the SDGs. Overall 75 of the 132 Benchmarks include reference to the SDGs, helping to support legislatures in meeting the relevant targets. 


Target 16.5 - Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms

  • Indicator 16.5.1: Proportion of persons who had at least one contact with a public official and who paid a bribe to a public official, or were asked for a bribe by those public officials, during the previous 12 months
  • Indicator 16.5.2: Proportion of businesses that had at least one contact with a public official and that paid a bribe to a public official, or were asked for a bribe by those public officials, during the previous 12 months

Target 16.6 - Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels

  • Indicator 16.6.1: Primary government expenditures as a proportion of original approved budget, by sector (or by budget codes or similar)
  • Indicator 16.6.2: Percentage of the population satisfied with their last experience of public services

Target 16.7 - Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels

  • Indicator 16.7.1: Proportions of positions (by sex, age, persons with disabilities and population groups) in public institutions (national and local legislatures, public service, and judiciary) compared to national distributions
  • Indicator 16.7.2: Proportion of population who believe decision-making is inclusive and responsive, by sex, age, disability and population group

Related Documents

CPA Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures (2018)

Building on the Commonwealth Latimer House Principles on the separation of powers, the CPA Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures provide a framework for excellence in Commonwealth parliamentary and legislative practice.

Field Guide: CPA Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures (2018)

The Field Guide is a useful resource to support legislatures to conduct their own internal self-assessment against the CPA Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures.