Peter Dobell was motivated to improve the understanding of Canadian Members of Parliament on international affairs, trade and defense. The Parliamentary Centre quickly became as a facilitator for House of Commons committees, being called upon for advice and support on a range of activities happening abroad. The Centre was also approached by a series of other committees in the Senate after gaining recognition for this work.
Through the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Parliamentary Centre was asked to organize a program to support efforts to develop democratic government in parts of the former Soviet Union. In 1993, the Parliamentary Centre launched its program in Russia under the direction of the Clerks of the House of Commons and of the Senate, and the Parliamentary Librarian. This was the Centre’s first engagement in supporting democratic development.
The Parliamentary Centre arranged visits by Canadian Members of Parliament to Washington to discuss with Members of Congress US policies and programs of interest. It also invited US Congressmen to Ottawa to discuss with Members of Parliament Canadian policies that differed from those that had been adopted in the United States.
The Africa Parliamentarians Network against Corruption (APNAC) marked the beginning of a long history of partnerships with African legislatures for the Parliamentary Centre. The Africa Parliamentary Strengthening Program (APSP) for budget oversight, Canada’s largest parliamentary development program in Africa, was born 10 years later has built on this tradition by coming to strengthen the role of targeted parliaments in the national budget process.
In collaboration with the Women and Youth Development Institute of Indonesia, the Parliamentary Centre developed an innovative approach to making women’s voices heard using an SMS polling platform. In 2015, the project won the top prize at the Grand Challenge for Development, a global innovation competition funded by the governments of Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States, the Open Society Foundation and the Omidyar Network.
In 50 years, the Centre has evolved from a purely domestic focus to an international organization regarded as one of the leading organizations dedicated to the strengthening of parliamentary democracy. Our focus on providing sustainable support and linking the different actors of democracy is why legislatures from all over the world continue to seek our expertise.