- Main page: Handbook for Parliamentarians
- Focal points
- Coordination mechanisms
- National human rights institutions
- Parliamentary oversight
- The courts and the role of the judiciary
In addition to the specific monitoring instruments set up by the Convention, parliament, through its oversight function, plays a key role in ensuring respect for the human rights of persons with disabilities. Some of the most prominent oversight tools are described below. 2
Systematic oversight of the executive is usually carried out by parliamentary committees. They track the work of individual government departments and ministries, and conduct investigations into particularly important aspects of their policy and administration. Effective oversight requires that committees are able to set their own agendas and have the power to oblige ministers and civil servants to appear and answer questions.
Commissions of inquiry
Whenever an issue of major public concern arises, it might be best to appoint a commission of inquiry to address it. This is particularly useful when the issue is not within the purview of a single parliamentary committee or is not the responsibility of a single government department.
Direct questioning of ministers
In countries where ministers are also members of the legislature, an important oversight mechanism is the regular questioning of ministers, both orally and in writing, by parliament. Such direct questioning helps maintain Government accountability.
Scrutiny of executive appointments
An important aspect of oversight in countries where ministers are not members of the legislature is the process of approval for cabinet appointments and top civil servants. Usually, this involves lengthy investigations into the appointee’s suitability for public office. In the case of appointments of ombudsmen, human rights commissioners and cabinet members, it would be entirely appropriate for parliament to verify the appointee’s knowledge of and attitude towards disability issues.
Oversight over non-governmental public agencies
Parliament also monitors independent agencies to which the Government may have devolved public functions, such as regulatory activities or the delivery of front-line services. These include regulatory bodies for health and safety, service-delivery agencies, public utilities and other agencies whose activities might have a direct impact on the rights of persons with disabilities.
Budgetary scrutiny and financial control
Parliament holds considerable influence over policies through its control of the Government’s purse strings. Parliamentary oversight takes place both when the budget is being formulated and during expenditure. As part of this process, parliament can ensure that the impact of the proposed budget on different social groups, such as persons with disabilities, is discussed and monitored.
2. A more comprehensive discussion on parliamentary oversight can be found in Parliament and Democracy in the Twenty-first Century: A Guide to Good Practice (Geneva, Inter-Parliamentary Union, 2006), pp. 127-146.