Skip to main content

Developing Countries: Politics and Government

Volume 458: debated on Monday 19 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to encourage the composition of parliaments in developing countries to reflect the population of those countries in terms of (a) gender, (b) ethnicity, (c) religious belief and (d) sexuality; and if he will make a statement. (127441)

As part of its commitment to promoting good governance, DFID works to strengthen the parliaments of developing countries. What we do is different in different countries, depending on our assessment of what the priorities are. In some places we will focus more on the legislative function of parliaments, for instance, while in others our efforts will be channelled more towards strengthening oversight of the executive.

Representation is of course a core function of parliaments everywhere, and DFID recognises that a representative parliament has a head start on this.

One of the initiatives DFID has supported recently to improve representativeness is the High Level Committee on Reservations which has developed recommendations for affirmative action for women and dalits in the political structures of Nepal. Another group we have supported is the Forum des Femmes Rwandaises Parliamentaires (FFRP). The FFRP comprises all the women members of the Rwandan Parliament—and at 48.8 per cent. Rwanda has the highest female representation in the world. Our most recent support to the FFRP funded a conference on 22 and 23 February that celebrated the progress made towards gender equality in Rwanda. It also produced the "Kigali Declaration", that will add vitality to the efforts of other African countries to get more women into Parliament—following Rwanda's example.

As we increase our focus on accountable, responsive governance, DFID will support more groups like Nepal's Reservations Committee and the FFRP—not only to get disadvantaged groups into parliaments, but to ensure they function effectively once there.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what information is collected by his Department on the extent to which national parliaments of developing countries are representative of their populations in terms of (a) gender, (b) ethnicity, (c) religious belief and (d) sexuality. (127442)

The proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments is an indicator used to monitor progress towards the Millennium Development Goal to promote gender equality and empower women. The number of women in parliaments is also one of the governance indicators included in the new Country Governance Analysis (CGA) that is now a mandatory component of DFID’s Country Assistance Planning process. DFID tracks progress on the gender composition of parliaments using data compiled by the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Information on the composition of national parliaments by ethnicity, religion and sexuality is not as easy to find. I am not aware of any international initiative to gather this information systematically. Where it is available—for one or more of these categories in particular parliaments—it is likely that our country offices hold this information, but it is not gathered and stored by DFID centrally.