Why do parliaments matter to development effectiveness?

When development discussions refer to ‘governments’, 99 times out of 100 they mean the executive branch and ignore the legislative branch as if it didn’t exist.

Yet it is parliaments that make the laws and pass the budgets that make development happen. And, without sufficient oversight of executive branch expenditures of development funding– including from domestic and foreign sources – it is virtually assured that corruption and leakage will detract from achieving development objectives and value for money. Parliaments are the only democratic institutions with the constitutional mandate to hold governments to account. To work effectively, parliamentarians must be empowered to give inclusive voice to the needs and concerns of the people who voted them into power. This is not a given.

What challenges do parliaments face?

Parliaments are countervailing powers to their governments’ executive branches if they have oversight capacity. But in the developing world, parliamentary institutions are the political underdogs in an executive-dominated landscape. They are also chronically under-staffed and ill-informed. More often than not, they are sorely under-resourced and vital research and other capacity is often in short supply. To make matters worse, although civil society in mature democracies is accustomed to reproaching parliaments to do better on development, developing countries’ local and foreign-based civil society groups tend to ignore opportunities for parliamentary interactions. What’s more, they are frequently isolated from international development debates.

Is investing in oversight capacity vital to effective development?

Development efforts are more likely to meet their targets when parliaments engage effectively in the budget process, both for budget formulation and to oversee executive (and donor) expenditures. But we cannot always count on government executives to provide sufficient resources and support for parliaments’ proper oversight of their performance. That is why parliaments in emerging democracies look to the donor community for support, as do civil society organisations. Donors tend to shy away from supporting legislatures to be “development watchdogs”, offering around ten times less support to them than to civil society organisations. However, bypassing parliaments because of their weakness only further weakens their capacity. We should be developing it. A strong parliament can help manage and prevent conflicts by representing citizens inclusively and affecting income redistribution to address inequalities and reduce extreme poverty.

BalchquoteWithout sufficient oversight of executive branch expenditures of development funding – it is virtually assured that corruption and leakage will detract from achieving development objectives and value for money.

How can donors encourage parliamentary inclusion in aid structures? 

Parliaments should be invited to participate in all development dialogues at country and regional levels. Country-level donor-partner meetings, debates, surveys, and plans should include all relevant parliamentary decision-makers. Development-related committees’ Chairpersons or representatives should especially be included.

Donor countries’ parliamentary stakeholders are also of increasing yet often unrecognised importance. Not only do they vote more freely to support Official Development Assistance (ODA) when they have first-hand knowledge of its achievements, but they are increasingly finding time and money to partner with parliamentary colleagues in other countries to ensure proper oversight of ODA and other expenditures. They are maximizing opportunities for reaching better policy coherence for development effectiveness.

What should the Global Partnership do to meet commitments on parliaments?

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation is mandated to monitor implementation of the commitments made to the various stakeholders in the landmark Paris (2005), Accra (2008) and Busan (2011) documents. However, the implementation of commitments made regarding parliaments is not monitored at present. Indicator 6 is intended to measure ODA recorded in annual budgets that are subject to parliamentary scrutiny. But while aid quantities are measured, the quality of parliamentary oversight is not. An indicator is needed to monitor parliamentary engagement in country-level budget processes. Associated with this, there should be an ODA category to record funding going to strengthen parliaments, as there already is for civil society. Lastly, all mutual accountability frameworks should by default include parliamentary representatives.

A number of parliamentary stakeholders who attended the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation’s High-Level Meeting in Mexico City expressed frustration at not getting their messages across, and disappointment at the missed opportunity to build bridges to other stakeholder groups. They attributed this issue among CSO and private sector representatives, for example, to a concern for consolidating ties with the executive branch of government rather than marginalised parliamentary actors.



BalchbioDr. Jeff Balch is Director of Research and Evaluation at AWEPA, the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa, where he has worked since 1987. He is responsible for multi-lateral and thematic programming, which encompasses partnerships with African regional and national parliaments and promotes parliamentary competence in such areas as the MDGs, development effectiveness, gender equality and budget oversight. He participates in the Steering Committee of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation, and is a member of the European Evaluation Society.


We need better measures of the strength of country systems

Most would agree that 1) strong country systems, like systems for procurement, budgeting, auditing, tax administration, and human resource management, are necessary for sustainable development and 2) effective aid means investing in reforms that have impact. Unfortunately, in the area of governance and public sector management, we know very little about what types of reform lead to stronger country systems and connect to the development outcomes we desire. The iChallenge aims to change this.

There is wide recognition that national institutions (or country systems) matter for development, with several convincing empirical studies demonstrating that countries with better governance have higher per capita incomes and stronger growth. However, we have a hard time unpacking this aggregate information to understand how particular aspects of government operations lead to growth, poverty reduction and shared prosperity. In other words, the composite indicators of “government effectiveness” or “government quality” used in these empirical studies provide little actionable information about the strength of institutions, or public management systems, in a country. This lack of actionable information is arguably affecting the success of reform efforts; several recent reviews of World Bank projects, for example, have concluded that project effectiveness could be improved with a better set of metrics.




The iChallenge runs through July 1, 2014. Join the conversation at www.worldbank.org/ichallenge

Why don’t we have the information we need to monitor and evaluate the results of governance reform? Well, measurement is hard. Many countries are only just now implementing information systems that can track key aspects of performance. Many behaviours are difficult for even experts to observe.

The good news is that while measurement is hard, it’s not impossible. Recent strides have been made in public financial management (for example with PEFA) and tax (TADAT) to develop rich indicator sets that can be applied to countries around the world. These tools measure the strengths and weaknesses and actual functioning of national institutions in a way that can help us diagnose problems, plan responses, and track results — helping us achieve our ultimate goal of making development co-operation more effective.

While these indicator sets are an important start, there are still a lot of gaps in measurement. We don’t know much about the strength of public administration and civil service systems, for example, and many of the indicators we do have are based on the views of experts rather than data collected and maintained by countries themselves. Many indicators still focus on legal and institutional frameworks rather than the functioning, outputs or outcomes of public management systems. In addition, there have been at least as many failed attempts to develop indicators as there have been successes, with considerable resources expended without commiserate results.

The iChallenge aims to address these issues and push the conversation forward on what should be measured and how it should be measured. Launched at the High-level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation and sponsored by the Effective Institutions Platform, the World Bank, and other partners, the iChallenge crowdsources ideas for indicators that can be used to measure the strength of public management systems like procurement, tax, public financial management, public administration/civil service. Anyone is allowed to participate in the iChallenge, including practitioners from governments, NGOs, the private sector, or donor organizations; academics and researchers; or general members of the public (all participants must be over 18 years old). Participants can share ideas for indicators that have been used successfully before, or those that they would like to see collected. The goal is to both learn from what others are already doing and gather creative ideas for entirely new measures.

The iChallenge runs through July 1, 2014. Join the conversation at www.worldbank.org/ichallenge

Jordan Holt2Jordan Holt is the Coordinator of the Indicators of the Strength of Public Management Systems (ISPMS) project, which is conducted by the World Bank with a wide variety of partners. ISPMS aims to identify and build consensus around a set of indicators that can be used to measure the “health” of a country’s government. It is one of five main areas of work under the Effective Institutions Platform.

The Roadmap to a Fair Living Wage  

Global buyers can join to drive change at industry and community level

Too many people still live in poverty in today’s world. Meanwhile, we can also see that the environment that we live in is facing various scarcity issues. Some of the key challenges for my industry are clean water and textile waste, and when it comes to human development, we are focused on issues such as wages and overtime.

My job includes securing H&M’s global sourcing strategy by ensuring sustainability in production countries. This includes promoting our Fair Living Wage Roadmap in countries that supply our products.

H&M is a global fashion retailer and does not own any factories. The supply chain to our operation is very large and we work actively with our suppliers. We see this as a great opportunity to support and influence local businesses and to contribute to positive change for the whole industry.

At H&M, we work for sustainability by considering both present and future generations’ needs in the decisions we make today. People, planet and profitability are equally important in our business decisions. We are part of the community in which our suppliers operate, and we affect people and the planet in various ways. It is in our interest to strive for the well-being of workers, and the world.

When we started working on sustainability in the 1990s, it was very much issue-based with focus on basic safety such as ensuring that factories had fire exits, alarms, evacuation plans and fire fighting equipment. Over the years, the field has expanded to stretch over many different areas and today we are working in a more strategic way. In order to reach more sustainable business practices, we are addressing issues relating to wages, industrial relations and workers’ skills as well as water, chemicals and energy. We have had to learn how to prioritise and focus. This is about identifying and seeing where we have the best possibility of influencing and driving change.

It has always been our vision that all textile workers should be able to live on their wage. This is stated in our Code of Conduct. We do a lot of audits to make sure that the factories we use comply with this. Last year we did more than 2,800 audits and interviewed over 11,000 workers. The results from these audits and interviews serve as a base for us to develop our capacity building programs to drive change at supplier level.



If workers lack the opportunity to unionise and negotiate for their fundamental labor rights it creates an unpredictable and unstable market. This can, in turn, be a challenge for our business growth.

However, there is a limit to what you can achieve alone, even if you are one of the largest buyers in a country like Cambodia or Bangladesh. That’s why a collaborative approach is crucial.

We believe that developing a national minimum wage is taking too long in some countries. We are taking action for improvements and encouraging the whole industry to follow. With H&M’s size comes responsibility, and we have the ability to contribute to change. The key point of our current strategy is to use our size as leverage to create coalitions with like-minded companies and organisations.

Our new Roadmap to a Fair Living Wage is based on the vision that a fair living wage covering a workers’ basic needs should be paid by all our commercial goods suppliers. This should be enabled through H&M’s purchasing practices and based on the expectation that workers will have their wages negotiated and annually reviewed. It is also necessary to have democratically elected trade unions and/or worker representatives involved in the process.

To fulfill our Fair Living Wage commitment, we are dependent on others. An initiative such as the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation is a good example of how many sectors can be brought together. Different actors have different roles to play: buyers, suppliers, workers, their unions and governments. For example, we as a buyer have to improve our purchasing and negotiation practices to ensure they enable our suppliers to pay their textile workers correctly. We also have to work actively to build the capacity of both workers and factory management.

If workers lack the opportunity to unionise and negotiate for their fundamental labour rights it creates an unpredictable and unstable market. This can, in turn, be a challenge for our business growth. We are working to strengthen the voice of the workers. In Bangladesh we are training suppliers and their employees in social dialogue, and encouraging freely elected Worker Participation Committees.  The intention is to reach 100% of our suppliers by 2018.

To contribute to this objective, this year we have entered into the first collaboration of its kind between a multinational brand, Swedish trade union IF Metall, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). Through this collaboration, we are supporting the development of functioning industrial relations, peaceful conflict resolution and collective bargaining in Cambodia. We are also planning a similar initiative in Ethiopia.

We are also working with like-minded brands and with governments to advocate for regular wage revisions and enforced labour legislation, including protecting workers’ freedom of association.

Going forward, H&M will be working on all levels towards fair living wages and functioning industrial relations. This will empower workers in the whole industry.


Anna Palmqvist is H&M’s Head of Sustainability Production, heading the sustainability programme in production countries including promotion of the Fair Living Wage Roadmap and Water Stewardship. She has been with H&M for 20 years, where she previously held the position of H&M Regional Manager for China, Cambodia and Vietnam.