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Comisiwn y Cynulliad
Assembly Commission

NAFWC 2010 (Paper 7 Part 1)
International Strategy

Date: 30 November 2010
Time:After Plenary
Venue:Conference Room 4B
Author name and contact number: Natalie Drury-Styles, ext 8563

This paper has been prepared for consideration by the National Assembly for Wales Commission. It has been deemed suitable for publication after such consideration in line with the Commission’s rules for conduct of business. Premature publication or disclosure of the contents of this paper is not permitted as this might prejudice the Commission’s deliberations

1.0 Purpose and summary of issues

1.1 This paper considers the Assembly’s current international activity and proposes a framework for developing a coordinated work programme to position the Assembly appropriately on the international stage.

1.2 By agreeing the outlined proposal, the Assembly’s international activities will become more focused. This will ensure that its international exchanges, whether as host or as visitor, positively contribute to its collective development. In particular, the proposal seeks to encourage enhanced Member involvement and to create a more transparent and meaningful evaluation framework.

2.0 Recommendations

2.1 That the Assembly Commission approves the approach for the development of a framework for the Assembly’s international activities.

3.0 Discussion

3.1 Over the last decade, inter-parliamentary dialogue between the National Assembly for Wales and international legislatures, governments and organisations has been frequent and productive.  For example, the Assembly is considered to be an international innovator in our application of new technology in a parliamentary context; similarly the Senedd’s architectural and sustainability credentials are heralded in an international context.

3.2 However, our international work has not, to date, been guided by an overarching framework to prioritise and govern our activities.

4.0 Issues

4.1 A number of cross-cutting issues have been considered in the development of this paper including:

4.2 Historically the Assembly’s international activity has been ad-hoc and reactive to the requests of others.  Although some flexibility needs to be maintained, developing an annual work programme would enable a proactive and meaningful approach to international engagement.  This work programme can be approved by the Commission to provide clarity of direction and secure most effective use of resources.

4.2 The Independent Panel’s recommendations on financial support for Assembly Members provides an opportunity to link international activity with the training and development of Assembly Members.

4.3 The Independent Panel’s report recognised the need to develop robust evaluation mechanisms for Member travel.  The proposed framework would incorporate this requirement ensuring that the resources allocated to the Assembly’s international activities are transparent, effective and serve to benefit the Assembly.

4.4 A number of Assembly staff have responsibility for various aspects of international activity.  For example, the International Relations team within External Communications, the Head of Europe office within MRS, and Assembly Committees which seek examples of international best practice.  The new framework would aim to deliver a more coordinated approach to all international activities across the Assembly.

4.5 The new framework also proposes to invite other Wales-based international organisations to information sharing discussions.  These will help inform the development of the Assembly’s international activities, providing mutual opportunities and benefits to those charged with promoting Wales on the international stage.

5.0 Strategic Objectives

5.1 To address these issues, a framework will be developed to deliver the following objectives for the Fourth Assembly:

  • to promote and present a positive image of Wales and Welsh democracy on an international stage by participating in relevant international bodies and establishing formalised partnerships with key internationally focused organisations;

  • to provide the Assembly with the opportunity to gain and impart knowledge and understanding of international good practice, using this to improve the Assembly’s practice where appropriate; and

  • to promote Wales and Welsh democracy by focusing on specified themes to be reviewed annually and linked to the Assembly’s positioning statement.  For 2011–15 we propose to focus on the following themes:

  • citizen participation;

  • e-democracy;

  • effective scrutiny of Government; and

  • sustainable and transparent democracy.

6.0 Method of Delivery

6.1 To deliver these objectives, we propose the following:

6.2 Recognising limitations on available resources, we will bring together existing resources into a budgeted International Activities Programme.  Within this we will prioritise planned activity both on the Assembly estate and overseas, to be approved by the Commission.

6.2 Undertake a positive engagement exercise with all Assembly Members to establish preferred opportunities for international engagement.  This will aim to encourage wider meaningful involvement in the Assembly’s international activities.

6.3 Ensure that we have dialogue with relevant external organisations to share best practice, inform the programme and highlight opportunities for positioning the Assembly on the international stage.

6.4 Establish an internal group to deliver the International Activities Programme.  The group would consist of the European and International Relations Team, the Head of the Europe Office, a representative from Committee Service and the Outreach Team.

6.5 Review our current involvement with international networks and legislatures, maximising the benefits that can be achieved through such networks.

6.6 Establish robust criteria to help the National Assembly for Wales choose countries and associations with whom we will engage and partner most actively and to best effect.  This is to ensure that we can respond positively and appropriately to engagement opportunities from other countries and parliaments.

6.7 Develop robust mechanisms to evaluate our engagement with the international community.

6.8 Ensure that all knowledge and experience gained through the programme is shared for the benefit of Members, the Assembly and Wales.

7.0 Resource

7.1 The International Team currently includes two dedicated team members and the Outreach and International Team manager.  The team works closely with the Head of EU Office of the National Assembly for Wales based in Brussels and the Llywydd’s office.  In addition to the staffing resource, the current budget for international activity is £50k.  This paper does not propose any increase in existing resources, but ways of improving the effectiveness of the resources we have.

7.2 Coordinating activity under the umbrella of a clear strategy with agreed themes will involve collaboration with partner organisations in receipt of external funding, and links with Assembly committee activities where appropriate.  This could significantly increase the total resource devoted to communicating the Assembly’s strategic themes.

8.0 Risks

8.1 Failing to deliver a unified, coherent international strategy could have a significant impact on the reputation of the Assembly, its relationship with the Welsh electorate and its international standing.  It could also present a significant loss of opportunity to strengthen the bond between the Assembly and international partners.  Poor use of resources may lead to public criticism.

8.2 Specific risks to the successful delivery of the strategy include:

  • failure to comply with the proposed Governance arrangements;

  • failure to monitor and evaluate activities;

  • failure to deliver joined up services and learn from each other’s experiences and expertise; and

  • inadequate resource to deliver an ambitious programme.

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