The Legislator Training Programme is a collaboration between Instituto de Estudios Superiores en Administration (IESA) and the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (UCAB) in Venezuela. It came about because of a lack of training for parliamentary members and other officials within the National Assembly. The Programme aims to develop the capacity of members of the legislative branch. I spoke with Mariella Porras, manager for academic planning at IESA about this important project.
What is the Legislators Training Programme?
The Legislators Training Programme is a collaborative project between Instituto de Estudios Superiores en Administracion and the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (UCAB) with financing from the European Union (EU). Started in 2013, its aim is to strengthen the National Parliament of Venezuela through the realisation of training programmes with courses and workshops aimed at members of the legislature (officials and workers of the National Assembly, deputies and their assistants).
How did the project come about?
When the National Assembly was created in 1999, the Parliament counted with the support of a special office focused on judicial issues and another assisting with economic issues. When the new National Assembly was put into place, these support offices where minimized and substituted by customised counselling. In 2010, the Institute of Parliamentary Studies worked on a project with the National Assembly and as part of that project came to the conclusion that there was a lack of knowledge and skills with the legislators (in part because of the closed special offices) as well as some weaknesses in the process of developing new laws.
In response to this, a proposal was developed between the Institute of Judicial Studies from the UCAB and IESA that was presented to the EU for consideration as part of their financing project relating to the promotion of democracy and human rights and presented by the Venezuelan’s Delegation to the EU in 2013. This proposal was successful – a final agreement was signed in 2014 and launched this past August with the aim of building the capacities of the members of the Assembly.
How does the programme work?
The programme is structured into two parts. The first is the design and execution of a training program that engages different levels of the legislature including:
- Module on the theory of Legislation, the role of parliament in a democracy and the principles of parliamentary rights (Constitutional Laws, Administrative Law, etc.)
- Module on Economics for parliamentarians including economic analysis, the impact and viability of a law, analysis of the situation, interpretation of indicators as well as areas to improve the generation process of laws.
- Module on Performance Management
- Module on additional management techniques including negotiation, conflict management, consensus building, analytical thinking, problem solving, creativity, thought processes, high performance teams among other topics.
The second part of the programme includes a period of support and advice during the last year of the training programme relating to the implementation of improvements of the legislative body, based on diagnoses raised with officials, and the application of the tools taught during the training programme.
What have been some of the successes?
The main challenge of the programme has been maintaining relationships with the various parliamentary bodies and the formulation and implementation of semi-annual work plans. However in the past 2 years of this programme there have been a total of 35 training activities and we have scheduled to conduct 10 more workshops in areas identified by members of Parliament for training including decentralization, public budget, relationship management, induction-training for parliamentary staff, etc.
What advice do you have for other schools thinking of doing something similar?
- Identify potential partners and stakeholders that are crucial to engage in order to reach your target audience.
- Put in place a mechanism to gather feedback throughout the project and incorporate that feedback in order to strengthen your offerings.
- Be flexible with the planning and the execution of the project. Things will change regularly and the needs of your target audience are also likely to change so be open to adapting as you go.
What’s next for the initiative?
We are aiming to create a permanent Legislative Training Programme to form members of the National Assembly across a number of areas. One of the projects planned in this phase of the project is to tap into the experiences from the past few years delivering this programme to support the development of a basic programme to train members of parliament.