The House Democracy Partnership (HDP)  is a bipartisan commission of the U.S. House of Representatives that works directly with 22 partner parliaments around the world to support the development of effective, independent, and responsive legislatures. HDP is proudly implemented by the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute.  

Though The Gambia is not a partner legislature of HDP, the country’s National Assembly participated in a technical assistance consultancy in February 2020, following an assessment to Banjul in May 2019. The program discussed ways to enhance citizen engagement, strengthen the National Assembly’s oversight of the budget, and create effective policy. The Honorable Dawda Kawsu Jawara, representing the Upper Fulladu West constituency, attended the three-day program, and shares his experiences below.  

What parliament and chamber are you a member of? 

I am a member of the National Assembly of the Republic of The Gambia. I serve as a Rapporteur in the standing committee on Defense and Security, a member in the select committee on Health, Women, Children and Refugees, as well as a Vice Chairman of the Select committee on Tourism, Youths and Sports. 

What HDP program did you participate in? 

I participated in HDP’s first technical assistance consultancy to The Gambia in February 2020. The program focused on strengthening parliamentarians’ roles and tactics on citizen engagement, budget oversight and development, and policy creation.  

What is your favorite thing about your country?  

The Gambia is also called “The Smiling Coast of Africa”. My favorite characteristic of my country is her diverse people, their culture and unique history. 

Why did you decide to become a member of parliament? 

The outcome of the 2016 presidential elections presented a unique opportunity to serve. The manifesto of the Coalition government encouraged me to relinquish my duties in my company to participate in shaping and driving The Gambia’s reform agenda. 

Looking back on the HDP program, what was most impactful for you? 

The most impactful part of the technical assistance consultancy was the budget program. The experience helped me a great deal in my understanding of the budget process, its implementation and the legislative branch’s role in oversight. 

How are you applying your experience from the HDP mission to your role as a member of parliament? 

The lessons, innovations and best practices learned in the forum has strengthened my capacity in all spheres of my role as a parliamentarian (i.e. representation, oversight and legislative drafting and development). 

What advice would you give to new members of parliament? 

My advice to new parliamentarians is to try and engage with supportive democratic organizations like the International Republican Institute and the House Democracy Partnership. This will help you stay abreast with international best practices and benchmarking as parliamentarians, in order to best promote, defend and serve the interests, rights and freedoms of your respective constituents. 

What accomplishments in parliament are you most proud of? 

I am honored to have participated in the enactment of two legislations. First, was the enactment of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission in 2017, with the mandate to establish a historical record of the nature, causes and extent of violations and abuses of human rights committed during the period July 1994 to January 2017, and to consider the granting of reparation of victims, to promote national healing and reconciliation as well as promote guarantees of non-occurrence of such violence’s. Second is the enactment of the National Human Rights Commission in 2018 to advance as well as protect fundamental rights and freedoms.

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