Madame Speaker, Hon Prime Minister, Hon Ministers, Hon Leader of the Opposition, Hon Members of the House, fellow members of the diplomatic corps, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I am delighted to be in Dodoma today to participate in the launch of the Legislative Support Programme (LSP) to be implemented by both the National Assembly and the Zanzibar House of Representatives with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This programme will help to strengthen both of these parliaments.
Parliaments have an essential role to play in national democratic governance systems. Their key functions of legislation, oversight and representation contribute significantly to any maturing democracy. They also help the fight to reduce poverty by ensuring that the people’s views and concerns are effectively represented.
And while no system of government is perfect, we know from history that a democracy, with strong institutions in a system of checks and balances, is the surest way of ensuring stability and national prosperity. As Winston Churchill said: “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.”
Countries of the Commonwealth have long recognised the importance of democracy, and the central role played by parliaments in a democracy. Parliaments need to be effective and vibrant, willing and able to fulfil their democratic mandate. And Britain and Tanzania, as two longstanding members of the Commonwealth, are working together through the links provided by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to share experience and best practice. This is very much a two-way exchange, shown for example during the visit by a group of Tanzanian women MPs to London in January.
Tanzania’s progress in consolidating and deepening democracy since its transition to a multi-party system has been impressive. And over the years, Tanzania’s Parliament has matured and developed more fully into its mandate. But clearly challenges remain.
For example I know that parliamentary committees feel hampered because they lack enough researchers to help them with their work. And with so many – 66 per cent - MPs being newly elected in 2010, there is a need for them to build up their expertise and their knowledge base.
I am delighted that Britain has been a longstanding partner for the National Assembly in Tanzania, and we have over the years undertaken a number of initiatives to support the National Assembly. I mentioned the recent visit of Women MPs to Westminster, and there have been other capacity building initiatives through our Commonwealth links.
The UK, through the Department for International Development, also provided support to the National Assembly of around £1 million through the Deepening Democracy Programme launched in 2007. And we remain committed to ongoing support to Parliament through a variety of different mechanisms: for example, support to the financial committees through the upcoming Public Financial Management Reform Programme.
As part of this on-going support, DFID is contributing £1.5 million to the current Legislative Support Programme, as the largest Development Partner contribution to that programme.
The Legislative Support Programme, based on the corporate plans of both legislatures, will provide support to the National Assembly and Zanzibar House of Representatives. It will help strengthen and enhance the capacity of MPs and Representatives, and their committees, to better exercise their core functions: law making, executive oversight including national budget approval and oversight, and representation of constituencies and citizens.
The Legislative Support Programme will also strengthen the Secretariats of both legislatures to help them deliver effective services to parliamentarians and help build sustainable, modern internal management structures and practices.
I would like to take this opportunity, Madame Speaker, to restate the British Government’s on-going strong commitment to help build strong and effective democratic institutions. And it is my great pleasure to be here in Dodoma to attend this launch of LSP.
• Diane Corner is British High Commissioner to Tanzania. This is the full text of the speech she gave at the launch of the Legislative Support Programme in Dodoma on Monday (April 23).