Parliaments play a critical role in their nations' good governance by ensuring that state institutions are accountable, by representing the populace at the highest level of government, and by helping formulate and enact policies and legislation. More specifically, parliaments can be important players in helping curb corruption in their countries by exercising oversight (particularly financial) over the executive branch, building political will and enacting suitable legislation.
In this context, the World Bank has fostered the creation of a Parliamentary Network on the World Bank (PNoWB) to increase parliamentary involvement and effectiveness in the field of international development. Begun in 1999 as a dialogue about development and information-sharing between the Bank's European Vice-Presidency (EUR), based in Paris, and a small group of European Parliamentarians, this initiative has met with great success. The Parliamentarians eventually created a network amongst themselves and broadened their group to include more than 800 MPs from 110 countries around the world.
Besides the activities of the PNoWB, the Open Learning Campus (OLC) has been conducting programs aimed at strengthening parliaments' capacity to represent their electorates effectively, to manage their oversight responsibilities, and to formulate and adopt legislation.
The Japan Chapter of PNoWB was launched on 31 May 2004 at a ceremony held at the Japanese Diet. Mr. Masahiko Koumura, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs co-leads the Chapter along with Upper House LDP member Mr. Keizo Takemi. The Japan chapter also an Advisory Board comprises of several former distinguished Japanese politicians including former Prime Minister, Mr. Toshiki Kaifu and Mr. Tsutomu Hata.
The objective of the PNoWB Japan is to engage Japanese members of parliament in issues related to development and to encourage elected officials from Japan to take part in the global activities of the Network.
In February 2005, the Japan chapter held a video conference with the PNoWB Chair Bert Koenders, and World Bank representatives in Tokyo, London and Paris. PNoWB board member, Ms. Wakako Hironaka, gave a progress report on the activities of the chapter, and outlined plans to raise more awareness of development issues within the Japanese Parliament.
For more information, please contact Ken Suzuki, International Affairs Associate at the World Bank Tokyo Office (Tel: 81-3-3597-6670/Fax: 81-3-3597-6695/Email: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Working with Parliamentarians
Engaging elected representatives and parliaments in the organization’s programs and policies are important objectives of the World Bank. Parliaments worldwide increasingly address global development challenges ranging from poverty reduction to international trade, HIV/AIDS and global warming. The Bank's hub for global parliamentary outreach is based in the European External Affairs Office, and run by the Bank's Development Policy Dialogue Team. The Bank also works with parliamentarians through the Open Learning Campus (OLC) capacity building programs and our country offices and country teams. Through WBI capacity building courses, the Bank has trained over 6000 MPs. Our global network of Public Information Services assists in providing World Bank project documents and other key publications.
In a recent internal survey of Bank country offices, representing over 60% of Bank offices, 13% said their staff interacted with parliamentarians “weekly", 29% "monthly" and 43% “several times a year”. Interaction ranges from informal meetings with individual parliamentarians to more structured consultations on individual projects and the World Bank’s three-year business plans, the Country Assistance Strategies (CAS). Our global network of over 60 Public Information Centers (PICs) assist in providing World Bank project documents and other key publications to parliamentarians. Owned and governed by 184 countries, the World Bank remains the world's single largest source of development assistance.
The Bank, through External Affairs Europe, supported the creation of the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank (PNoWB), now an independent NGO, and has developed joint programs with the PNoWB such as field visits, an Annual Conference and working groups on HIV/AIDS and Trade. During the PNoWB Annual Conference the World Bank's President and Senior staff have the opportunity to meet with around two hundred parliamentarians. In addition to the PNoWB, the Bank engages other established parliamentary organizations as partners for development. Some have a regional focus, others a thematic concentration. One key objective is to connect these groups with the relevant parts of the Bank: the Parliamentary Assembly on Black Sea Economic Cooperation with ECA, the Inter-European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development with the Social Development Department, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association with the Africa Vice-Presidency and so on. The Bank's capacity building programs through WBI are often developed in partnership with parliamentary organizations such as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Organization (CPA) and the Global Organization for Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC).
Parliamentarians can act as agents of change - championing social and economic reforms, speaking out on HIV/AIDS, and taking on corruption. They represent their constituents’ needs and views and can contribute to designing and overseeing implementation of World Bank financed projects. In many countries, Bank projects are subject to parliamentary approval directly through ratification or indirectly through budget approval. In some cases, parliamentarians create, debate and pass new legislation linked to World Bank-supported reform programs. In Poland for example, the parliament had to amend the Public Finance law in order to enable municipalities to accept loans from the Municipal Development Project.
In countries providing development assistance, parliamentarians can be advocates for development. They debate and approve foreign aid budgets, shape and review development policies, and promote coherence across policy areas. Sweden for example has now adopted an integrated global development policy that requires the country's trade, defense, agriculture, environment, migration and other policies to harmonize with the dual goals of fighting poverty and promoting sustainable development.