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The Academy
What We Do

Institutional Parliamentary Strengthening

  

  

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) exists to connect, develop, promote and support parliamentarians and their staff to identify benchmarks of good governance, and the implementation of the enduring values of the Commonwealth.

Our primary focus is to deliver programmes and projects to our members which are consistently impact-oriented, effective, sustainable, cost-effective, innovative and of the highest standards. Our dual programmes’ strategy comprises of professional development and institutional strengthening. Both approaches are undertaken on a multilateral and bilateral basis to ensure a depth and breadth of learning across our membership.

Our institutional parliamentary strengthening methodology centres around supporting parliamentary and associated national governance entities to perform at the highest standards. Key to this is our passionate promotion of the Separation of Powers Principles (namely the Latimer House Principles) and promoting key benchmarks (such as the CPA Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures). This agenda remains firmly aligned to Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG 16) on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

CPA Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures

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.

Download the CPA Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures

Download the CPA Benchmarks Field Guide


The original CPA Benchmarks published in 2006 comprised of 87 indicators and were drafted by CPA Parliamentarians representing different Commonwealth regions. The CPA Benchmarks were the outcome of a Study Group in late 2006 hosted by the Legislature of Bermuda on behalf of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and the World Bank Institute (World Bank Group) with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the European Parliament and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI).

Reinforcing the belief that effective Parliaments are one of the principal institutions of any functioning democracy, the Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures provide a minimum standard and a guide on how a Parliament should be constituted and how it should function. The CPA Benchmarks are therefore fundamental to the wider values and principles of the Commonwealth Charter, adopted by Commonwealth Heads of Government on 14 December 2012, which expresses the commitment of member states to the development of free and democratic societies.

Emphasising the position of the parliamentary system as a dynamic one, all Legislatures can be sources of valuable innovations regardless of their size or age. Different experiences, approaches and attitudes foster variations in practices and policies which stimulate innovation everywhere. Reflecting new parliamentary developments and practices as well as important international developments such as the implementation of the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The CPA Benchmarks were revised and updated in June 2018 by a second Study Group of CPA Parliamentarians representing different Commonwealth regions, which met at Wilton Park, West Sussex, United Kingdom. The 2018 Study Group was organised by the CPA together with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) under the CP4D Project*. These updated Benchmarks will continue to play an important part in developing the effectiveness of parliamentary institutions across the 180 Parliaments and Legislatures of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

Since 2018, 17 legislatures spanning the Commonwealth have undertaken self- assessments. Recommendations emanating from the self-assessments have resulted in significant parliamentary reform, ranging from instituting new committees to improved financial accountability and oversight procedures. Recent CPA Benchmarks assessments have been undertaken in the following CPA Branches: South Africa, Malaysia, Belize, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, St Lucia, Pakistan, Grenada, The Gambia, Ghana and Australia Capital Territory and the Isle of Man.

The CPA Headquarters have also delivered four further CPA Benchmarks assessments funded direct through the CPA Headquarters Secretariat: Anguilla, Sierra Leone, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. To read the outcomes report from Anguilla, please click here


*Commonwealth Partnership for Democracy (CP4D)

  • The CPA was a partner in the Commonwealth Partnership for Democracy (#CP4D) programme aimed at strengthening democratic institutions and promoting good governance across Commonwealth countries.  
  • Launched during the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London, UK, the CP4D programme has helped to raise standards and build political commitment to democratic values through advancing inclusive and accountable democracy in the Commonwealth. 
  • Funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (now FCDO), the Project was led by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and included the CPA, Commonwealth Local Government Forum and CPA UK. 
Technical Assistance Programmes

This Programme aims at enhancing the current CPA’s Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures Assessment process by offering a Technical Assistance Programme (TAP) to support Legislatures who have not fully met all/some of the Recommendations.

The CPA continues to support Technical Assistance Programmes, furthering the intermediate objective of the TAP programme to develop a bespoke roadmap to meet the benchmarks within a defined timeline while providing the CPA with an opportunity to demonstrate ‘added value’.

The CPA Headquarters Secretariat will work closely with Parliaments and Parliamentarians to identify what further technical assistance they require to achieve the highest standards in good governance. These programmes cover a range of topics, from improved parliamentary oversight of trade agreements, to increasing parliamentary transparency. In 2020 alone, the CPA assisted Parliaments in amending their Standing Orders and reviewing administrative and governance processes.

The CPA Headquarters Secretariat are currently delivering two such programmes with Belize and Anguilla.

Public Financial Management

The CPA has a long-established focus on strengthening the financial scrutiny and oversight functions of parliaments across the Commonwealth. The CPA has partnered with organisations like the World Bank Institute and now supports the work of the Commonwealth Association of Public Accounts Committees (CAPAC). 

Currently the CPA is working in partnership with McGill University, the Université Laval, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Canadian Audit and Accountability Foundation, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs in a project sponsored by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). The project is being delivered over the course of 2020 and 2021 and focuses on a survey disseminated to parliaments to collect information on the structure and organisation of two critical elements of legislative oversight, namely parliamentary oversight committees (such as Public Accounts or similar audit committees) and Supreme Audit Institutions (such as the Auditor General). The research undertaken will be developed into regional and country-specific case studies of ‘good practice’ which will lead to a set of training and other materials which will help parliaments and parliamentarians be more effective in carrying out their oversight function.

Public Financial Management is integrated throughout CPA's institutional strengthening work, primarily through our Post-Election Seminars, Technical Assistance Programmes and Benchmarking. A notable example was a Public Accounts Committee workshop on the side-lines of the Anguilla Post-Election Seminar delivered in 2020.

 


 

Commonwealth Association of Public Account Committees (CAPAC)

Although independent of the CPA, the CPA seeks to work in support of the Association. The Association works to bring together Commonwealth parliamentary Public Accounts Committees to provide mutual learning and uphold best practice. The Secretariat of CAPAC is based within CPA UK. 

If you are a member or official working with PAC's please go to the CAPAC Portal here or contact CPA UK here

Commonwealth Latimer House Principles on the Separation of Powers

The CPA has played a central role in the establishment of the Commonwealth Latimer House Principles on the separation of powers. The Commonwealth Latimer House Principles (officially titled: Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles on the Three Branches of Government) highlight the importance of the separation of powers between the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary to ensure effective governance and democracy. The Latimer House Principles provide guidance on the role of the separation of powers in the Commonwealth, its effectiveness in providing democratic governance and the role of civil society.

First published in 1988/89, the Commonwealth Latimer House Principles were further revised and updated in 2003 and again in 2008/09. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) was a partner in the establishment of the Commonwealth Latimer House Principles together with partners: The Commonwealth Secretariat, the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association (CMJA), the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and the Commonwealth Legal Education Association. These actors remain members of a Working Group. This Group meets regularly to coordinate programmes and activities, to promote the Principles and to examine opportunities to strengthen to Principles and their development. 

Download the Latimer House Principles here

View the Practitioners Handbook here

Independent Parliaments and Model Law

In May 2020, as part of its commitment to the Principles, as well as its work in benchmarking parliaments against international standards, the CPA developed a Model Law for Independent Parliaments. The Model Law was designed to help empower parliaments to take control away from the executive to ensure it has the administrative, operational and financial resources needed to function effectively. The Model Law has so far been used by the Cook Islands as part of their constitutional review process.

Much of the content of the Model Law was derived from the CPA's work on Administration and Financing of Parliaments Recommendations Report of 2005. The Zanzibar Recommendations can be downloaded here.  

To embed the learning from the Model Law, on 28 October 2020 (eastern timezones) and 25 November 2020 (western timezones), the CPA ran two Webinars for Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth: COVID-19 and Independent Parliaments (part 1 and part 2). The webinars brought together over 40 Speakers and Presiding Officers from across the Commonwealth to examine the nature of parliaments as independent institutions in the context of COVID-19. Highlighting how Parliaments in the long-term should seek to establish policies, strategies and powers to give Parliaments the necessary resources to function effectively regardless of the challenge.

Download the Model Law for Independent Parliaments here.

Codes of Conduct for Parliamentarians

The CPA has continued to lead the way in parliamentary strengthening with regards to its Benchmarking work and the implementation of the good governance values of the Commonwealth, including enhancing public trust in Parliament and its Members.

Following the CPA Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures which were published in 2006 in collaboration with the then World Bank Institute and the UNDP, and developed by a CPA-organised parliamentary study group, attention moved to developing a Recommended Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians.

The public’s trust in its representatives is a fundamental aspect of good governance and an open, transparent society. It is crucial because if Parliamentarians demonstrate high standards of ethics consistent with their important public interest roles, especially when they are scrutinising the executive arm of government, it enhances public trust.

Good conduct is crucial as it can help uncover and deter unethical behaviour and corruption. Good conduct is also crucial because it builds trust - when there are trusting relationships between the people, parliament and other institutions, democracy works at its best. When people trust that their elected representatives are acting in their best interests, this helps legitimise our Parliaments and our democratic systems.

Good conduct is also crucial because it is fundamental to the effectiveness of Parliament in fulfilling its essential roles of legislating, approving budgets, scrutinising Executive Government and representing the public interest.

Read the Codes of Conduct for Parliamentarians here.

Constituency Development Funds

The CPA recognises the emergence of Constituency Development Funds (CDFs) across the Commonwealth. CDFs are called by different names in different countries and are organised according to prevailing national institutional practice. They vary widely in size, type of programme and means of organisation.

On the other hand, they have become popular tools of governance that have enabled Parliamentarians to influence the delivery of services in districts and constituencies throughout different countries. The increasing popularity and growing concerns over the actual and potential missuses of such Funds precipitated the development of a Handbook on Constituency Development Funds (CDFs): Principles and Tools for Parliamentarians which provides a practical guide to the development and operations of these funds that is meant to assist Parliamentarians and parliamentary staff throughout the Commonwealth in addressing the full range of issues arising from the emergence of such funds. 

The handbook was an outcome of a partnership between the CPA and the State University of New York - Center for International Development (SUNY/CID).

Read the CDFs Handbook here.

Gender Sensitive Parliaments

Go to the CWP section for further information

Members Pay and Remuneration

In 2004/2005 the CPA conducted a research project in undertaking a comparative analysis of the pay and benefits of Members of Parliament. In total, 74 Commonwealth legislatures responded and a report was produced. The report can be downloaded here

In 2020/2021, some 15 years later, the CPA conducted a follow-up comparative analysis. The report found...

The 2021, report will be available to download in May 2021.