Osnat Lubrani: Pacific Parliamentary Seminar on Enhancing the Work of CommitteesApr 10, 2017
It is my pleasure to welcome you all here on behalf of UNDP.
UNDP is supporting one in three parliaments around the world in their efforts to build inclusive and participative political institutions, to develop sustainable capacities in legislators and parliamentary staff, and to strengthen dialogue with civil society. Through our seventy parliamentary programmes, we champion parliaments as powerful agents of change that can and should play a critical role in making progress in key areas.
Most of you will be familiar with UNDP’s work with parliaments in the Pacific, and many of you have been directly involved in our activities at one time or another. Our support ranges from sharing expertise and lessons learned, facilitating learning opportunities, and providing long-term capacity development. It also includes support to parliamentary committees and the staff they rely on, so that these committees may fulfil their functions. This is what brings us together today.
Parliamentary committees are critical to all three parliamentary functions - representing citizen interests, legislating, and overseeing the executive branch.
Firstly, committees are uniquely positioned to identify issues and grievances by holding consultations with constituents and communities. They can then ensure these issues are passed on to the appropriate authorities or institutions. Where needed, they can take pre-emptive or remedial action in concert with other relevant actors.
Secondly, committees – as the ‘work horses of parliament’ – are responsible for parliamentary oversight. They ensure that the government allocates revenue appropriately and with equity, scrutinise the government's collection and expenditure record, and ensure that the implementation of legislation and policies benefits citizens on the ground.
Lastly, through its budget process and powers, Parliament’s control of public expenditures gives it the authority to review, amend and authorise the national budget. Much of this, too, is done in committee, with a pivotal role for the Public Accounts Committee.
These are critical and considerable tasks, and parliamentary committees must be properly organised, staffed and resourced to discharge their duties. This has proved challenging for most Pacific parliaments. While many have a fully developed committee system on paper, most struggle to translate their constitutional and procedural powers into a fully functioning committee system. This is in no small part due to limited human and financial resources, a challenge you all face.
But there are solutions, and small parliaments have their strengths. Looking around this room, we are joined today by delegates from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Nauru, Samoa, the Cook Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu. Effective and innovative approaches have been adopted by each of the institutions represented here today. Your participation confirms your commitment to engage with each other, learn from each other, and look for solutions to the common challenges you face. I have no doubt that the seminar will help you dig deeper into what makes committees tick, and will leave you with new ideas and inspiration to take forward in your respective institutions.
UNDP is proud to be facilitating this event and I thank all of you for joining us here in Suva. I would also like to extend my appreciation to the Governments of New Zealand and Australia for their continued support in funding the three parliamentary projects run from our office that have brought you here today - the Pacific Parliamentary Effectiveness Initiative, the Fiji parliament Support Project and the UNDP Pacific Regional programme. We believe that UNDP has a key role to play in supporting Parliaments in the Pacific but this can only be done with the ongoing and generous support of our donors.
With that, I wish you all a successful seminar.