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FEATURE STORY

Supporting Better Parliamentary Oversight in Morocco

April 7, 2015


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The Building of the Parliament in Rabat, Morocco. 

Posztos l Shutterstock

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An international watchdog, Global Integrity, ranks parliaments in the region last in terms of their ability to fulfill their oversight role of the executive, and to promote good governance.
  • Parliaments have played a more important role in some countries in the Middle East and North Africa since the 2011 Arab Spring.
  • The World Bank is working with parliamentarians and administrative staff to help them assess public policy and government expenditure.

Internationally, the experience of many parliaments testifies to the role effective, representative legislatures have in strengthening governance and improving democratic processes. Parliamentary oversight is considered one of the cornerstones of good governance—an essential link in the chain of accountability. Such oversight is important in terms of ensuring that a government’s policies and programs achieve their desired effect; in shedding light on the workings of government through parliamentary debate; on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of expenditure; and in upholding the rule of law.

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, recent events have reinforced the central role parliaments should have in strengthening the public’s voice and its participation, as well as in introducing reforms linked to oversight.

In Tunisia, decisions on the powers a new parliament would have were pivotal to the discussions that shaped the country’s post-revolutionary state. Morocco’s 2011 constitution empowered its parliament, increasing its reach, particularly in the budget process. Similarly, promises of genuine legislative power and parliamentary oversight have been made in Yemen, Jordan, and Oman.

The capacity of legislatures to function effectively is still a major concern, though, in many MENA countries. The international watchdog, Global Integrity, places most of MENA well below Latin America and the Caribbean and South Asia. “Capable parliaments are crucial to good governance in MENA,” said Hisham Waly, Practice Manager of Governance Global Practice at the World Bank. “They foster popular participation in politics and promote a more responsive style of government. This depends on political and electoral systems, formal parliamentary powers, political will and space, and technical capacity.”

Relatively weak governance results, coupled with recent constitutional reforms, illustrate the timeliness of Bank support to parliaments in the region. Over the past three years in Morocco, the Bank has addressed governance issues, encouraging reform at national and local levels. In the Transparency and Accountability Development Policy Loan (DPL) Series (Hakama), the Bank invested in policies that laid the foundations for more government accountability and openness. 



" Capable parliaments are crucial to achieving good governance … They foster greater public participation in politics and promote a more responsive style of government. "

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Global Integrity: Strength of parliamentary oversight, MENA compared Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and South Asia (SA)


In parallel to its support to Morocco’s executive, the Bank launched a project—funded by MENA’s Multi-Donor Trust Fund—in the country’s legislature, dedicated to building parliament’s capacity both for budget oversight and public engagement. The project supports the skills needed for the new roles and responsibilities spelled out in Morocco’s constitution. “We can build an effective partnership with the World Bank to develop parliamentary capacity through the year 2015,” said Rachid Talbi El Alami, Speaker of Morocco’s House of Representatives. “This shows our genuine will to establish a culture of debate and dialogue, and be [kept] informed of international best practice to support our work.”

The Bank’s support focuses on helping parliamentarians and administrative staff better understand the performance-based approach to governance, as well as equipping them to carry out macro-fiscal forecasts and evaluate public policies. International exchanges and regional initiatives can help them build networks of practitioners and other links. In the medium-term, the project hopes to support parliament’s capacity for dealing with public petitions and consultation—two key mechanisms in public engagement. (While public consultations are generally government-driven, introducing the right of petition brings the new constitutional principle of participatory democracy into practice.)

The new project targets administrative staff and individual members of parliament, based on their involvement in public engagement and on reforms to the right of access to information. The project’s intended outcome includes a better understanding of different ways to engage the public effectively; better legislative oversight, particularly on budget formulation and implementation; and more awareness of how other countries have gone about enacting similar reforms.

Recent reforms across MENA are slowly encouraging parliaments to play a more proactive role in parliamentary standards of transparency and integrity as well. As the only institution with authority to oversee government and play an active role in budget oversight, parliament is integral to accountability and development. Promoting public engagement presents opportunities for creating a more engaged citizenry, better informed politicians and, hopefully, better development outcomes.


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