International Parliamentary Institutions “help to overcome democracy deficits”

22. December 2010

A new study published by the Committee for a Democratic U.N. (KDUN), a think tank based in Berlin, concludes that international parliamentary institutions such as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe or the Pan-African Parliament “all introduce a democratic element into regional and global governance.” The study analyses and classifies more than 100 international parliamentary institutions. Around 70 of them

were established within the last 10 years. “There is a clear trend towards stronger interaction of parliamentarians across national borders and towards the creation of formal mechanisms for their inclusion into international organizations. The institutions might not be in the public spotlight. Nevertheless, they do play an increasingly important role,” said Claudia Kissling, author of the study and Vice-Chair of the Committee.

According to the study, international parliamentary institutions are increasingly equipped with competences and functions that “help them to fulfill genuine parliamentary oversight functions.” In this way, it is argued, they can contribute to overcoming existing democracy deficits. However, it is pointed out that the trend so far has not reached major international intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, or the World Trade Organization. “So far, none of them does possess a formal parliamentary body. This seriously weakens their legitimacy. We are convinced that the creation of a global parliamentary assembly will come onto the agenda sooner or later. The trend towards more parliamentary involvement will not be limited to regional organizations,” Ms. Kissling noted.

The head of the Centre for Parliamentary Studies and Training at the National Assembly of Kenya and former Clerk of the Pan-African Parliament, Murumba Werunga, notes in the preface of the new publication that international parliamentary institutions “have so far proved to be the best placed fora to bridge the gap between the governed and international governance. One therefore sees in the international parliamentary institutions a compelling rationale for the creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly.”

Professor Lucio Levi, head of the research program “International Democracy Watch” at the Centre for Studies on Federalism in Italy, said that the study “is a very important contribution to the advancement of our knowledge of international democratic bodies. It fills a huge vacuum that was present in this field of research.”

Download the study from KDUN's website

Top image: The building of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. The Council’s Parliamentary Assembly celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2009. It is the oldest parliamentary assembly in the world. Copyright: Council of Europe