GPG has been working to improve the effectiveness and openness of the Parliament of Sudan since 2016 and has developed a close and trusted relationship with high level senior stakeholders including the Speaker, Secretariat, and several parliamentary committees. GPG’s work began by introducing effective and inclusive oversight and scrutiny techniques to the parliament for the first time and has more recently focused on the sensitive area of Freedom of Religion and Belief.
Effective and Inclusive Policy Oversight
Working with MPs and committees to empower the National Assembly to actively conduct effective oversight activities on subjects of its choosing, GPG introduced an oversight inquiry process involving public outreach and scrutiny of government activities for the first time.
Beginning with pilot inquiries supported by GPG, the committees selected priority policy areas of real potential impact on citizens, collected evidence from diverse sources, including international organisations, local civil society organisations, and academics and experts, in addition to government ministries. They also consulted groups in society that are disproportionality affected by policy impacts, such as women and girls and people with special needs and used this evidence to produce inquiry reports with clear recommendations. Following the initial pilots, GPG continued work with parliamentary committees to introduce the technique of post-legislative scrutiny, pioneered by the UK parliament.
What is Post Legislative Scrutiny?
PLS is a way for parliament, through its committees, to return to laws it has passed to see how well they have been implemented and test their effects on the citizen, normally through inquiries and evidence-taking by parliamentary committees. Through PLS, MPs, in cooperation with civil society, can help improve the quality of services to the public. This strengthens their representative function and their oversight of government more generally and underpins the critical role that Parliament can play in improving the quality of legislation and services delivered to citizens.
Freedom of Religion and Belief
Building on our earlier successes and good relationship with key figures in the National Assembly, in 2018 GPG began a new project which aims to support parliament in finding constructive policy solutions to improve the lives of religious minorities in Sudan, as part of the National Dialogue reconciliation process. GPG has been able to develop and implement a successful approach to raising the issue of freedom of religion and belief within the National Assembly, and secure engagement and commitment to making practical progress amongst key stakeholders. The National Assembly has a unique role in the reform process because it has the responsibility to ensure that Sudan’s laws and policies are reflective of the National Dialogue, which encompasses improvements in respect for human rights and identity, including guaranteeing religious and ethnic minority citizens their full and equal rights.
Key project facts
- GPG has supported four committees to conduct meaningful oversight on issues of public concern for the first time, speaking directly to citizens and civil society groups and making recommendations to government for improvements in services:
»Agriculture, Animal Welfare and Forestry Committee – Inquiry into the marketing of sorghum
»Health, Environment and Population Affairs Committee – Inquiry into the disposal of solid waste.
»Energy, Water, Mining and Industry Committee – Inquiry into solar power generation and use.
»Education and Scientific Research Committee – Inquiry into training of general (academic) and technical (vocational) teachers.
- Since 2018 GPG has also supported two committees in conducting PLS:
»Committee for Public Accounts, Labour, Administration and Public Grievances – Pensions and Social Insurance Law
»Committee for Social Affairs, Youth and Sport – National Health Insurance Law
- Under FORB, GPG is working with:
»Defence and Security Committee – Inquiry on Effectiveness on peacebuilding in Sudan
»Legislation, Human Rights and Justice Committee – Inquiry on Domestication of International Human Rights Frameworks
»Parliamentary Women’s caucus – women’s leadership in religious affairs
- GPG’s project team includes Lord Jeremy Purvis, member of the House of Lords, Aileen Walker, former Director of Public Engagement at the House of Commons, and Alex Brazier, parliamentary expert and former committee specialist at the House of Commons.
- The Assembly’s public consultations represented a new practice and experience for the parliament. The committees have established links with organisations outside government which they did not have before, which will facilitate the inclusion of citizens’ views into Assembly work.
- Several of the Committees GPG supported have independently continued and extended their oversight activities. The Agriculture Committee has investigated wheat production and the Energy Committee’s inquiry on solar power has been followed up with work to implement its recommendation to develop a law on solar power in collaboration with the relevant ministries, adopted in mid 2018.
- Through their inquiry work, committee MPs and staff have worked much more closely together. Staff were able to develop and demonstrate skills in supporting oversight and scrutiny, and MPs realised that empowering staff enabled them to be more active and effective.
- GPG worked with the Assembly to develop guides and manuals that will help all committees in the Assembly conduct PLS and oversight inquiries effectively in future. The guides build on the knowledge developed and lessons learned from the pilot committees and will play an important role in spreading these new practices to all other committees in the Assembly, supporting sustainable gains from the project and the regular use of parliamentary inquiries and PLS as an oversight tool.
- A new training committee has been established by the Speaker to be responsible for MPs’ continuing professional development. The committee is setting up a government funded training centre or ‘Academy for Leadership and Governance’ within the Assembly to extend the experience of GPG’s project to other members of the Assembly. The Chair of the committee has also expressed his ambition for the Centre’s facilities to be extended to members of State Legislative Councils, creating closer links between representatives at different tiers of government, and eventually becoming a hub for parliamentary capacity building within the region.
‘GPG’s intervention couldn’t be more relevant. It came at the time when Parliament is expected to oversee the new Government’s implementation of National Dialogue recommendations and policy reforms, include new Members with no previous parliamentary experience, conduct necessary constitutional reforms and all relevant legislation’- Senior Member of National Assembly of Sudan Secretariat.
‘The key lesson we learnt from this programme is to not to rely on the Ministers’ reports as our single source of information and to cross check them through consultations with concerned entities and stakeholders’ – Staff, Education Committee, National Assembly of Sudan
‘The way the GPG programme was designed was nothing like ordinary training programmes that are usually compressed and depend on academic lecturing. It was rather practical and enjoyable’ – Staff, Education Committee, National Assembly of Sudan