Parliamentary international relations is the continuation of a political process and dialogue among legislatures of the world. At different international meetings, members of Parliament (MPs) and presiding officers have the opportunity to exchange views with their counterparts from other countries on a range of international challenges.
The Parliament of South Africa participates in several international forums and organisations, including the -
- Pan-African Parliament;
- SADC Parliamentary Forum;
- Commonwealth Parliamentary Association;
- Inter- Parliamentary Union (IPU); and
- African, Caribbean, Pacific-European Union Forum.
Parliament has identified four guidelines that inform its international relations programme of action:
Developing and strengthening partnerships in Africa
Parliament, in line with the country’s foreign policy, gives special attention to Africa in its overall international relations policy framework. This includes engaging proactively with some of the legislative assemblies of countries where the South African government has been involved in peace building efforts.
Evolving international structures have placed a greater responsibility on parliamentarians, in view of their oversight role, to interact with one another on matters such as respect for the rule of law, human rights, and governments’ transparency and accountability. Parliament’s participation in international parliamentary bodies is also aimed at making significant progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and getting support for Africa’s development agenda.
Bilateralism through friendship societies and strategic groups
At this stage, Parliament is focusing on building bilateral relations with other legislative bodies through proactively forming “friendship groups” with those bodies rather than establishing formal ties. However, the National Assembly recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the People’s Assembly of the People’s Republic of China, the only formal bilateral agreement it has entered into to date.
Providing for public input
Parliament makes provision, through the relevant offices, committees and other mechanisms, to ensure that there is ongoing engagement with the public on important international relations issues, in line with the vision and programmes of Parliament.