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Contribution of a network of parliamentary committees of health to the ecosystem of evidence use in African parliaments

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Despite growing interest in evidence among parliamentarians and some emerging literature on evidence use in decision making in parliaments, there is still a notable gap in knowledge on the ecosystem of evidence in parliaments. This paper seeks to contribute to filling this gap by discussing the contribution of a loose regional network, the Network of African Parliamentary Committees on Health (NEAPACOH), to the evidence ecosystem in African parliaments. Although the network was not set up to strengthen evidence use, its mechanisms for realising its goal of strengthening parliamentary committees of health to effectively tackle health challenges in Africa provide an opportunity for understanding how such networks are contributing to strengthening the weak evidence ecosystem in African parliaments. The authors have been involved in the work of the network and therefore use this network for this study purposively. Data were gathered through document review and 34 in-depth interviews with parliamentarians, parliament staff and development partners. Results show that, in a context of weak institutional support and technical capacity to enable evidence use in African parliaments, the network's activities respond to some of the key barriers hindering parliamentarians from using evidence, including: limited access to evidence, complexity of evidence, weak capacity to understand evidence, and weak/lacking linkages with researchers/experts. Apart from generating demand, providing evidence, building capacity for increased evidence use, and linking MPs and researchers/experts, the network creates a sense of competition among countries by requiring countries to make commitments and report progress against the commitments annually, which provide impetus for action.
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Keywords: AFRICAN PARLIAMENTS; EVIDENCE IN PARLIAMENT; EVIDENCE USE; PARLIAMENTARY NETWORKS

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Email: [email protected] 2: Email: [email protected]

Publication date: August 1, 2018

This article was made available online on July 23, 2018 as a Fast Track article with title: "Contribution of a network of parliamentary committees of health to the ecosystem of evidence use in African parliaments".

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