In June 2012 the pilot session of a global first – an International Executive Parliamentary Staff Training Program – was hosted by McGill University’s Institute for the Study of International Development. Organized as a collaborative venture between ISID, the World Bank Institute, the Canadian Parliamentary Centre, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the State University of New York, with support from other organizations around the globe. The program brought together participants from 11 countries.
Assistance to parliaments has historically included activities intended to improve the skills of Members of Parliament. And, more recently, to help improve the infrastructure, such as libraries and information technology, within parliaments. However, experience has shown that focusing on these areas alone yields limited results. The effectiveness of parliaments depends on more than structure and capacity of their premises, equipment and technical services and of the skill-sets of MPs, important as these are. Over the past decade, there has been increasing recognition of the importance of enhancing the institutional memory of parliament and thus combating the problem of skills loss at election times, when in some countries the turnover of MPs is 80% or higher. Building institutional memory in parliament requires a focus on training of parliamentary staff.