Parliaments and political culture: Regime change by stealth?

Alan Hudson
Alan Hudson
7 May 2007
Comment

Speaking at the 2nd meeting in a series on 'Parliaments and Development' organised by ODI and the Africa All-Party Parliamentary Group, the Secretary of State for International Development, Hilary Benn talked about two things. First, the contribution which improved governance, support to democratic politics and 'politics that work' can make to poverty reduction. And second, DFID's support to parliaments in developing countries.

As Hilary Benn outlined, people do not generally view parliaments favourably; the Global Corruption Barometer reports that in two thirds of countries surveyed parliaments are the least trusted institution! Donor support to strengthen parliaments can help to improve parliamentary effectiveness - an important part of building trust. But as was made clear in the discussion which followed the Secretary of State's speech, the wider challenge is that of changing the political culture - an issue which is high on the agenda in the UK, with Gordon Brown waiting in the wings to become Prime Minister.

For donors working to support poverty reduction in developing countries there are at least two questions: is it legitimate to try to change the political culture (regime change by stealth?), and what if anything can external actors - who may not have a good understanding of the existing political culture - do to support such change?

A report of the meeting is available here. Details about the remaining meetings - on the 16th and 23rd May - are available here.

Alan Hudson