The Role of the Council of Representatives In the Development Process Observed In the Kingdom of Bahrain
The role of the Council of Representatives in Substantiating & Developing Good Governance:
The Council of Representatives constituted a turning point in speeding, developing and stabilizing the democratic reforms process in Bahrain, as well as in the verification and enforcement of laws and projects; while the cooperation of the three authorities that represent the ruling regime (legislative, executive, and judicial) has become one of the most important pillars to substantiate and develop good governance, it is the Council of Representatives duty to perform its legislative role – together with the Shura Council – in terms of developing legislations and performing oversight activities of the different public institutions. The role the Council of Representatives played in the last four years in the development of the democratic process in Bahrain is as follows:
First: Supporting Governmental Effectiveness:
- The House of Representatives approved a draft-law to enhance governmental services. The above stems from the Council’s firm believe in the need to deliver the popular voice of Bahrainis to the government and officials; an issue that contributes in shedding light on popular needs and requirements.
- The House of Representatives, during the fourth session of the second legislative term, set up the Temporary Parliamentary Committee to follow-up on the governmental program and actual achievements supported by examples and figures drawn from all aspects of the governmental action program, by means of mechanisms, initiatives, projects and different programs; in addition to prescribing the causes behind the aspects not realized; and to review the difficulties hindering the governmental realization of the said program. The above falls within the House’s oversight role of the performance of the government in implementing its program, and to shed light on its short outcomes.
Second: Role of the Council in Realizing the Concept of Political Representation:
- Parliamentarians represent the spectrum of different social and political segments that constitute the Bahraini society, including economists, clerics, businessmen, teachers as well as the different political associations and societies in Bahrain.
- Approval of Law No. (26) for 2005 on political societies, which prescribed the role of these societies to further political, social, and economic prosperity in the Kingdom, and regulated the scope of their activities on basis of democratic, popular and national organizations that strife to rally citizens, and politically represent them within a framework of national harmony.
- One of the key achievements of parliament, on the political front, was approving a legislation reducing the voting age from 21 to 20, paving the way for the participation of a larger number of voters, especially within the youth segment.
Third: Role of the Council in Enhancing Procedures, Combat Corruption, and Realize Transparency:
- The Council of Representatives developed over two legislative terms a number of fact-finding committees that were charged with holding governmental institutions accountable, examine defects, encroachments of rights and properties, combat administrative and financial corruption including the fact-finding committee on State public and private properties, and the fact-finding committee on Gulf Air.
- The Parliamentary Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee approved in its meeting held on April 18, 2010, a draft-law to establish the Anti Corruption Agency. The Committee stressed the financial and administrative independence of the Agency, and its reporting directly to HM the King.
- The Council of Representatives approved the “Financial Disclosure” bill, which is pertinent to revealing financial receivables, pursuit of corruption, and disabling persons under this law from misusing their office for personal ends.
- The House of Representatives utilized its constitutionally accredited right to question ministers, and hold them accountable for any short comes and deficiency in their ministry, and examine the performance of the ministries in implementing developmental and reform projects.
- The Council approved a bill to ratify the UN Convention against Corruption associated with Decree No. (64) For 2009.
Fourth: Role of the Council in Promoting Human Rights:
- Since inception, the Council of Representatives took upon itself the responsibility of advocating human rights and substantiating freedoms, in light of the reform initiative of HM the King, and in support of the governmental directives toward developing human rights practices in the Kingdom of Bahrain. It also took upon itself amending laws and drafting legislations in order to conform to international human rights conventions.
- The Council’s efforts were crowned with a number of reforms in the field of human rights. HM the King issued a Royal Decree to establish the National Foundation for Human Rights in Bahrain, which is an independent body, impartial and free in discharging its functions, and assumes the promotion, development and protection of human rights. The Foundation shall also develop a comprehensive strategy to promote and protect human rights in the Kingdom, as well as recommending the issuance of human rights related legislations, in compliance with the Kingdom’s international commitments. The Foundation also undertakes the dissemination of the human rights culture, provide consultations pertinent to issues presented to it by the competent authorities, receive complaints regarding human rights, and cooperate with national and international organizations concerned with promoting human rights, to contribute to realizing objectives of the Foundation.
- One of the Foundation undertakings is to cooperate with the concerned authorities in the Kingdom to develop reports which Bahrain must periodically present, hold conferences and seminars, issue bulletins and reports related to the Foundation objectives and the Kingdom efforts in the field of human rights, and provide training to employees of the different institutions related to public freedoms and political rights in the Kingdom, with an aim to raise efficiency.
- Such consolidated efforts between both the legislative and executive authorities led to promoting the status-quo of the Kingdom of Bahrain at the international level in the field of human rights, attested by testimony of the High Commissioner of Human Rights Judge Navy Pillay, who commended the role of Bahrain in promoting and protecting human rights, and the personal interest of HM the King in this issue reflected in HM support to the international organization. Judge Pillay also highly valued “achievements of the Kingdom of Bahrain as the first regional State who undergone a successful and comprehensive periodical review”, which reflects the keen interest of Bahrain and its leadership to promote and protect human rights. Pillay also hailed the efforts exerted by officials in the Kingdom, the programs developed in the field of human rights, the care for expatriate workers through issuing a Labor Market Regulatory Law No. (19) for 2006, which consisted of a provision allowing a foreign worker to transfer to another employer as per provisions of the Law and terms of the contract, Bahrain’s contributions to disseminate the human rights culture and maintain dignity of humans in all world countries, Bahrain’s ratification of a number of international agreements and conventions related to human rights, particularly the International Covenant on Human and Civil Rights, and the International Convention for Economic, Social, and Cultural rights. Pillay regarded this ratification as a living proof on the keen interest the Kingdom of Bahrain gives to protecting and promoting human rights.
Fifth: Role of Council in Promoting Women and Children Rights:
- The Council of Representatives signed a cooperation agreement with the Supreme Council for Women, in which its provisions stipulate that issues related to social aspects and women should be considered as a high priority on the agenda of the Council, in addition to organizing activities, workshops, awareness seminars in the field of women rights and advocating such rights.
- The Council also approved a draft-law on equal treatment of the foreign spouse of a Bahraini in terms of fees and services, as applied to a Bahraini spouse.
- The Council also approved the accession of Bahrain to the voluntary protocols on children participation in armed conflicts, sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography that are annexed to the UN Convention on the Right of the Child.
- The Council of Representatives approved a draft-law on Children.