Thematic Publications
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  • Arab Parliaments
  • Arab Parliamentary Bulletin: Issue 1, Issue 2, Issue 3

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Skip Navigation LinksPOGAR > What We Do > Participation > Legislature

The legislative branch of government promotes good governance by enhancing the rule of law, accountability, participation, and transparency. the three main functions of the legislative branch are to make laws, to oversee the activities of the other two branches, particularly of the executive and of bureaucratic agencies, and to engage in providing services to constituencies. The legislative function of the parliament is integral to the rule of law. The oversight function enhances accountability and transparency. Constituency work may further strengthen accountabilityand transparency, as well as foster participation. in addition, most legislatures in the arab world also exercise a consultative function in accordance with the tradition of shura, which aims to bring the government closer to the people. To the extent that they legislate as well as consult, they tend to develop checks and balances with the executive.

The country studies discuss the functions and structure of the legislative body. Parliaments may have a legislative or consultative function, or both; and they may be assigned additional powers by the constitution. The number of chambers (bicameral or unicameral), the number of members, and the process of selection (through direct elections or appointment by the executive branch) are important clues about the mandate of the institution and its accountability. Seating configurations according to political party, national electoral thresholds, if any, percentages of female and minority membership, and quotas may also reflect the quality of representation. The country studies also note the frequency of legislative sessions, and conditions under which special and extraordinary sessions can be called.

The process of drafting a law, from the proposal stage to its publication in the country’s Official Gazette, is also explained in as much detail as space permits. The committee system is the backbone of the legislative process. Accordingly, the essays survey the types of committees (standing, temporary, special, and joint) and their roles. The essays also describe the administrative structure of the parliament, which may include a parliamentary board, a general secretariat, and an office of the president or speaker. Wherever applicable, parliamentary by-laws or standing orders and some of their specific provisions are explained.

The essays also explain procedures for parliamentary oversight, such as a vote of confidence. The essays note indicators of parliamentary independence, such as whether members enjoy freedom of expression and immunity from arrests, investigations, and prosecutions during legislative sessions; whether the rules for dissolution of the parliament call for new elections within a specified time period; and whether the executive branch includes a ministry in charge of parliamentary affairs.

Finally, wherever applicable, the essays note institutional power-sharing arrangements. In some countries, such as Iraq and Palestine, the legislature shares legislative responsibility with parallel organizations like the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) and the Palestine National Council (PNC), respectively. In others, such as Jordan and Oman, the legislature shares that responsibility with the head of the state. In Libya, the legislature encompasses a hierarchical system of People’s Congresses and People’s Committees.

Most of the Arab legislatures are members, as indicated in the country studies, of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and/or the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union (AIPU).

Country Profiles


Advocates and Partners
Thematic Links
Putting Our Work in Context
  • UNDP Parliamentary Development
  • UNDP Strengthening the Role of Parliaments in Crisis Prevention and Recovery
  • Global Programme for Parliamentary Strengthening
  • Inter-Parliamentary Union