The Changing Nature of Parliamentary Representation
In April 2012, the Inter-parliamentary Union and the United Nations Development Programme jointly released the first Global Parliamentary Report: The changing nature of parliamentary representation, a comprehensive examination af the evolving relationship between the world's parliaments and their citizens. Preparation of the report involved the co-operation of 129 parliaments, a survey of over 600 MPs and in-depth interviews of a further 69 MPs.
Key findings from the report include:
- Public trust in parliament is very low in many countries, particularly the EU zone and the United States. MPs are expected to account for their actions more regularly and more transparently than ever before. It is generally well-understood that rebuilding trust must be begin with parliament improving its own performance.
- Parliaments have been making attempts to adapt to society's needs, with nearly all participating parliaments reporting reform efforts for greater public engagement. The outcomes of such efforts have been mixed.
- The constituency work expected of individual parliamentarians has been growing in complexity, volume and content. Addressing this issue will require a better understanding of what is driving it and perhaps the provision of more resources to parliamentary offices.
In addition, the report suggests some improvements to strategies designed to better meet the public's expectations:
- The public needs a better understanding of what MPs do, particularly their representative role.
- Reforms designed to improve transparency and accountability need to ensure that the role of the parliament and individual MPs is not weakened.
- Parliaments need to collaborate more fully with the complex web of mediating organisations to strengthen their links with the public.
The website that contains the report also has many other interesting features including an interactive database of basic parliamentary demographics across the world.
Thumbnail image: Leigh Bedford/Flickr