German Ambassador to Zambia Achim Burkart says limited knowledge of citizens and lack of formalised engagement processes for constituency office staff to engage Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Zambia remains a major challenge.
And Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini says his institution recognises the important role that the local partners in the constituencies play in enhancing the roles of Parliament.
Speaking during the launch of the of the partnership strategies and guidelines for constituency offices and CSOs at Parliament buildings in Lusaka, Monday, Ambassador Burkart said CSOs at the local level were potentially a strong intermediary for information flow between members of parliament and the citizenry.
He, however, noted that, currently, engagement between constituency offices and CSOs were on an ad-hoc basis.
“While the creation of constituency offices aimed at improving the member’s [MPs]-constituent relationship, there have been challenges with regards to achieving this goal. The reasons are manifold and includes: limited knowledge of citizens on the purpose of constituency offices as well as lack of formalised engagement processes for constituency office staff to engage and be engaged by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) at constituency office level. CSOs at local-level are potentially a strong intermediary for information flow between members of parliament and the citizenry. Currently, engagement between constituency offices and CSOs are on an ad-hoc basis,” Ambassador Burkart said.
He said in order for the National Assembly to improve the collaboration between constituency office staff and CSOs, the German government has supported the National Assembly in the development of partnership guidelines.
He further encouraged the National Assembly to strengthen constituency offices and their staff.
“It is evident throughout the process that the constituency office staff does not yet have the technical capacities to run the constituency offices effectively. The lack of continuous financial support, through the National Assembly, is furthermore hampering the offices, [and] are often not fully operational. This was and will be a challenge, and [the] National Assembly is encouraged to further strengthen these offices and their staff, ” Ambassador Burkart added.
And Dr Matibini said the National Assembly recognises the important role that local partners in constituencies play in enhancing Parliament’s representative role.
“While emphasis in the guidelines is placed on fostering partnerships between constituency offices and CSOs, this does not exclude the constituency offices from collaborating with other sectors, such as the business community, government or quasi-government institutions with strong presence and ties to local community. The National Assembly of Zambia, as an institution, recognises the important role that local partners in the constituency play in enhancing the roles of Parliament, especially its representative role. Hitherto, the partnership at constituency office-level have been un-coordinated and ad-hoc. Therefore, the development of these guidelines puts in motion a process of developing and sustaining structured partnerships between the constituency offices and CSOs,” said Dr Matibini, who added that the guidelines would help improve governing the partnerships once they were formed.