In 2018, Sierra Leone elected a new Parliament, which is more diverse and representative than previous legislatures. Moreover, 85% of the current Members of Parliament (MPs) are making their first parliamentary inning. A new Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) consisting of the different political parties represented in the fifth Parliament was formed. The PSC and the new MPs need to be capacitated in different aspects on parliamentary functioning to enable them to perform their mandated roles. Considering the standard requirements in modern parliamentary settings, it was observed that the Parliament of Sierra Leone is in need of reform, in order to be in tune with the transformation process now evident in most parliamentary jurisdictions. At the same time, with only 12.5% of MPs, women’s representation and participation in the Parliament is still well below the 30% quota that women’s pressure groups have been advocating for.
Towards a Solution
Following a long-term strategic UNDP project to support the Parliament of Sierra Leone (2008–2016), the current project focuses on the newly elected Members of Parliament (MPs) and pushes for a strengthened parliamentary framework to improve law making, representation and oversight, and thereby good governance in the country.
The initial milestones of the project include an induction programme for the new parliamentarians, conducted in May 2018 in partnership with Westminster Foundation (UK), and a peer-learning visit undertaken in November 2018 to the Parliament of Kenya, to benchmark the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) and the Parliament Budget Office (PBO). During this five-day study tour to Kenya, the Sierra Leonean parliamentarians visited the Office of the Clerk and held detailed briefings with their counterpart PBO and PSC, as well as the Centre for Parliamentary Studies. The concerned MPs further attended sittings of the Kenyan Parliament and met with the services in charge of research, communications and human resources. As a consequence of these South-South exchanges between Kenya and Sierra Leone, the organigramme of the Sierra Leonean Parliament has been restructured, resulting in proper line management of staff and the recruitment of sergeant-at-arms personnel for managing the facilities of the Parliament. Other key achievements of the project so far include the presentation by the PBO of the first-ever budget brief for use of MPs prior to the parliamentary debate on the 2019 national budget, and the elaboration by the PBO of the District Development Profile as its first step towards supporting oversight work.
In 2019 the project is in particular focusing on gender, aiming to support the Parliament to come up with an affirmative-action bill, in line with SDGs 5.5 and 16.7 and in tandem with the parliamentary resolution adopted in February 2019 on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security. Also, the project has engaged the Parliament in the process leading up to the preparation of the related Sierra Leone National Action Plan (SiLNAP), with the support of UNDP’s global project on the role of parliaments as partners in the women, peace and security agenda (involving four countries: Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka).
Countries/territories involved: Kenya, UK, Sierra Leone
Supported by: UNDP
Implementing entities: Parliament of Sierra Leone
Project Status: On-going
Project Period: January 2018 – December 2019
Name Lakshmi Pillai
Title Chief Technical Specialist (Parliament), UNDP, Sierra Leone