The Office for the Promotion of Parliamentary Democracy (OPPD) has been established in order to provide demand-driven parliamentary development support in new and emerging democracies (NED). The beneficiaries of the support of the OPPD are the parliamentary institutions of NED, their Members and their officials.
Since 2008 the European Parliament's support to new and emerging democracies has been developed through the Office for Promotion of Parliamentary Democracy (OPPD), which operates within the Directorate-General for External Policies of the European Parliament (EP). The OPPD support programme is aimed at new and emerging democracy (NED) parliaments beyond the borders of the European Union. The OPPD assists in the establishment and the reform of these parliaments and aims at strengthening their capacity to implement the chief functions of lawmaking, oversight and representation. The creation of the OPPD responds to a rapidly increasing demand for support of NED parliaments and the willingness of the EP actively to share its experiences and expertise.
The main characteristics of the OPPD-EP parliamentary development support include:
Members and staff of NED parliaments can benefit from training, strategic counselling and long-term fellowships provided by the OPPD as well as networking with Members and relevant services of the European Parliament. In addition, the OPPD provides demand-driven and tailor-made technical assistance to these parliamentary organisations in: strengthening the principal functions of parliaments; setting up parliamentary organisations; implementing administrative and institutional reform; initiating inter-parliamentary legislative cooperation and sharing of best practices; and developing information and communication (ICT) strategies and e-democracy projects.
The OPPD cooperates with parliaments in the European Union (EU), (sub)regional parliaments, parliamentary associations and international organisations active in the field of parliamentary development with the aim of creating a community of parliamentary practitioners. It also facilitates the sharing of experiences and best practices of parliamentary methods and applications. Therefore the OPPD is partnering with the UNDP, the World Bank Institute, USAID, and the European Commission in order to launch a global knowledge hub for parliamentary development which aims at being a one-stop-shop for all relevant information on parliamentary development and facilitating exchange and discussion on different aspects of parliamentary work.
The OPPD aims at fostering research and study of parliamentary practices, an area that has so far not received enough attention by either academics or parliamentary practitioners. The OPPD research can be done in-house or outsourced to experts. Where possible, it is done in partnership with other key parliamentary development practitioners. The OPPD has, for example, joined partners in developing benchmarks or standards for democratic parliaments with the aim of creating an effective parliamentary self-assessment tool identifying essential needs and challenges.
Lastly the OPPD is engaged in supporting the EP in its efforts to put democracy promotion further up on the EU agenda and to develop an EU democracy policy.
"The development of parliamentary institutions is synonymous with democratisation, and their sound functioning is a fundamental requirement of democracy. Exchanges between parliaments enhance and strengthen their mission within each country, and contribute to the worldwide dissemination of democratic values. Cooperation between parliaments at different levels of development is therefore a fundamental means of encouraging democracy." Speakers of the EU Parliaments, at the Copenhagen Conference on June 30, 2006
Sustainable democratic development does not end in successfully completed free and fair elections. Such elections are rather a beginning, a critical but nonetheless preliminary step on the road towards democratic maturity. It requires long-term and comprehensive efforts to build up and consolidate representative and well-functioning parliaments able to ensure sound implementation of its lawmaking and oversight powers.
Modern democracy embraces change because it results from a reasoned political manner inspired by politicians listening to their electorate and developing well-founded arguments, based on factual research and political vision. This in turn requires well-organised parliamentary organisations which can support the elected representatives in their work. Transparency, accountability, mutual respect and a constitutional setting which allows proper checks and balances are indispensable for this process.
The Office for Promotion of Parliamentary Democracy (OPPD) contributes to building the institutional and administrative capacity of the parliaments of new and emerging democracies (NED) through counselling, training, internships, exchange of good practices and networking. The OPPD acts on the initiative of NED parliaments and targets the identified needs of each parliament. Support initiatives can also be derived from Resolutions adopted by the EP, the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, or other transnational assemblies such as EUROMED, EUROLAT or EURONEST. The OPPD coordinates all the activities on democracy promotion within the European Parliament.
The Office for Promotion of Parliamentary Democracy (OPPD) aims at establishing long-term cooperation following the initial request of new and emerging democracy (NED) national and regional parliaments. A request for cooperation and support is originated by a Speaker or Secretary-General of a NED Parliament. Following such a request and based on political guidelines established by the European Parliament leadership, the OPPD proceeds with a needs assessment mission in the partner country to identify the possible avenues for cooperation through discussions with all the stakeholders, most importantly of course the parliamentarians and parliamentary staff, but also other actors engaged in supporting the parliament.
The recommendations of the needs assessment report are shared with the NED Parliament in order to establish an order of priority, and, subsequently, a long-term circular process of activities and feedback is initiated. The long-term cooperation programme can entail following elements:
Where appropriate, the OPPD will work closely together with the EU Delegations in countries concerned on financial and technical assistance parliamentary projects.
Since support to regional parliaments is a priority for the OPPD, it has engaged with a number and permanent partner. It accompanies the PAP in setting out its strategy and priorities for its development and assists it in its various endeavours, from the building of its infrastructure, the choice of ICT, assistance in setting up interpretation and translation mechanisms to the development of finance and audit systems, as well as the sharing of best practices. This is done through various study missions and technical assistance services both at the EP and in Midrand (South Africa) where the PAP has its seat, through a series of fellowships for its core staff and active participation in strategic discussions regarding the development of the PAP. Close coordination of activities by other donors is ensured through bi-annual conferences. Both parliaments have also created a parliamentary delegation composed of parliamentarians to stimulate political and policy cooperation.
The objective of the Programme is to support parliamentary development in new and emerging democracies (NED) by enhancing parliaments' capacity in implementing the chief functions of lawmaking, oversight and representation. The Programme is targeted at the mid-ranking officials of the NED parliaments. The Fellowships, including training and practical work at the European Parliament, are based on the initiative and needs of the NED parliament. They offer an opportunity to team up with colleagues in various departments of the European Parliament in finding solutions for identified capacity-building needs in each partner parliament. These can include the reform of administrative rules and procedures, legislative and committee work, enhancing parliaments' communication activities or gathering expertise on ICT solutions for the use of parliaments. Fellows will usually be hosted in the EP service mirroring their home parliament service. The Democracy Fellowship Programme allows fellows to obtain practical experience in the operating of the EP as a member of the EP hosting service. The European Parliament covers the costs entailed in participation in the Fellowship Programme. These include the costs of travel, accommodation, and subsistence.
The decision to accept a request for a Fellowship will be based on an analysis of the proposed Fellowship characteristics, the capacity of the relevant department(s) of the European Parliament, geographical balance and budget availability. The proposed Fellows should have significant experience in their home parliaments and appropriate language skills. The main working languages of the programme are currently English and, French .
Once having received the letter, the Office for Promotion of Parliamentary Democracy will stay in close contact with the requesting parliament in order to establish a common view on the activities and timetable of the Fellowship and to formulate a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed by both parties for the Programme to take effect.
In addition to more comprehensive forms of cooperation, the Office for Promotion of Parliamentary Democracy (OPPD) hosts specific thematic study visits for parliaments of the New and Emerging Democracies (NED). These visits are meant to increase knowledge of the target groups about the European Parliament and in particular the specific subject addressed by the mission. It also provides an opportunity for assessing possibilities and interest for further cooperation. The visits can serve as a first step in establishing a long-term support programme.
Examples of this activity are the visit of the Parliament of Chile to study committee work and support systems to Members of the European Parliament in October 2008, and the visit of leaders of the political groups of the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan in November 2008 focusing on work of the political groups and political administration in the European Parliament. The visits established contacts with Members of the European Parliament as well as staff of the political group secretariats and the European Parliament's General-Secretariat and facilitated the exchange of information and experiences between the participating parliaments.
The Office for Promotion of Parliamentary Democracy (OPPD) aims at establishing continuing dialogue and partnership with NED parliaments worldwide. It facilitates the sharing of experiences and best practices of parliamentary methods and applications and will foster research and study of these practices. In order to facilitate the dissemination of research on the promotion of parliamentary democracy, the studies commissioned by the OPPD will be listed here, followed by a collection of links to other organisations and stakeholders in the general field.