Robert Nakamura

University at Albany, SUNY
Political Science

472 State Route 143
Westerlo, NY

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I am completing a manuscript on the role of parliamentary development in Kenya’s transition from its historic norm of “big man” rule to one that is characterized by a more open, more competitive and still imperfect system. It focuses the part played by Parliament in that transition, and the part played by an unusually long, sustained, and successful USAID and DFID program of capacity development. Successful capacity building depended on an implementation strategy that integrated political support from Kenyans, external resources from donors, and an appropriate program of activities managed by implementers. The next crucial step, the actual utilization of capacity depended on Kenyans doing the things that produced a parliament that did things to represent the public, make laws with popular participation and technical support, and exercise oversight. Making that crucial connection—between capacity built with program assistance and utilization by elected politicians—depended on implementers identifying, orchestrating, utilizing or nudging into place the opportunities to connect the motivations of MPs with the necessary capacities to produce changes in behavior.

“Legislative Indicators: Measuring How We Doing Depends On What We Want To Do." Global Partners Governance Newsletter. Forthcoming.
Abstract: Legislative indicators have been devised and used for a variety of purposes to: identify and explain variance, motivate and guide institution building, justify and manage assistance efforts. While indicators vary by purposes, there is a common set of standards which are rarely met simultaneously: to measure legislative performance directly, using valid and reliable indicators, based on easily collected data, and sensitive to changes in independent variables or program efforts. We examine how different trade-offs and simplifying assumptions are made according to the purposes of users. A new need for indicators is emerging as practitioners in legislative development move toward a more adaptive approach to program implementation and evaluation. These practitioners need tailored indicators that can better measure results from adaptive programming and provide information useful for managing efforts. We suggest that these indicators should be adaptable, timely, sensitive, and fungible.
"Strengthening Deliberative Bodies: Legislative Bodies Reference Paper." A U.S. Agency For International Development Reference Paper.
Abstract: Eight comparative case studies. This paper is submitted in response to USAID Task Order AID-OAA-I-12-00005/AID-OAA-TO-15- 000029, Technical Leadership in Legislative Strengthening, under the Strengthening Deliberative Bodies IQC. It provides research and analysis on selected themes of interest in the field of legislative strengthening. While the paper discusses four topics using comparative case studies to illustrate key issues arising under each topic, our analysis has been shaped and informed by SUNY/CID’s quarter century of legislative development work encompassing over 50 projects in 31 countries. The following case studies in legislative strengthening differ considerably but are similar in some important respects. All are drawn from activities which sought to fulfil the promise that legislatures hold for democratic governance as representative and law making institutions where diverse societal concerns are articulated and conflicts resolved through negotiation and compromise, and corruption and incompetence are reduced through oversight. All of these programs sought to build the capacity of legislatures to fulfill their promise and relied upon Members of Parliament (MPs) for action once they were so enabled. These cases provide lessons at three levels. First, together they present the wide scope of feasible legislative programming activities as well as offering opportunities to examine some of the generic elements required for achieving results. Second, each topic area presents lessons about characteristic challenges and responses specific to that topic area (cross-sectoral programming; improving budget capacity; establishing accountability mechanisms; and responding to conflict.) Third, each separate case presents the particular lessons for programming in contexts defined by similar goal and challenges. A caveat: since all of these cases focus only on specific aspects of activities, the reader should be aware that these activities often delivered results in multiple areas and therefore the discussion does not cover what was achieved overall. General Lessons: (1) Legislatures have proven to be versatile institutions offering entry points for programming in the four topic areas examined as well as offering the promise of adaptability to other purposes. (2) Legislative environments proved flexible in offering donors and their implementers diverse choices among partners appropriate for different purposes because they are more internally diverse and less hierarchical than the executive, and their division of labor into committees provides a focus for different civil society groups. (3) Successful legislative programs developed “social capital”— relationships of trust with participants— which meant that new tasks could be taken on with minimum transaction costs and in a short period of time. (4) Results in all the cases were co-produced and dependent upon partner cooperation and commitments that had to be created and maintained through a process of mutual adaptation rather than established once and for all. (5) And success is best conceptualized as existing on a continuum in which functioning systems should be considered as essential starting points for subsequent development. Areas for Future Development: Two topics for future development were raised by our case findings: a theory of policy change and implementation where legislatures put selected problems on the national agenda and linked them to solutions from experts, popular concerns, and the power to pass laws and to influence their implementation; and the need for greater explication of optimal balance between the donor need to exercise control by precisely defining means and goals and the need for flexibility arising from the changing legislative environment in which implementation must take place. While beyond the scope of this report, our cases suggest paths for future development. Strengthening Deliberative Bodies – Legislative Engagement Reference Paper 1 Topic 1. Cross-Sectoral Programming. Kenya STARCK helped to put climate change on the national political agenda by supporting efforts of motivated MPs, linking them with experts who could help connect problems with solutions, and facilitating a public engagement process. Uganda LINKAGES also linked Parliament to attentive publics in targeted issue areas, increasing parliamentary ability to deal with the selected topics and providing a means for incorporating public inputs into legislation. In Kenya and Uganda, legislatures have proven to be useful arenas through which to deliver greater policy focus and to push for policy area results because they offered programming entry points featuring: (1) Responsiveness to mobilized constituencies. As general purpose representative and law making institutions, legislative programming can be re-focused on different sectoral programming as societal needs and priorities change. (2) Influence. Their potential power made them arenas attractive to different sectoral actors seeking influence. (3) Confluence. Because they are officially situated between the public whom they represent and the executive through whom they act, they are the place where popular concerns and government action can come together. Topic 2. Capacity Building in Budgeting. In Morocco and Afghanistan, considerable capacity building did occur in the targeted areas despite impediments. Capacity building inputs of training, technical assistance and other forms of support are effective tools for producing outputs in the form of increased knowledge and abilities to perform tasks. Outcomes brought about by the utilization of those capacities included more informed legislative participation and willingness to act on the basis of that knowledge. In neither Morocco nor Afghanistan were functioning budget offices sustainably created nor did the hoped- for aftermath of institutionalized and persistent legislative involvement in the budget develop. We draw the following lessons from this experience. (1) Budget involvement should be conceptualized as existing in continuum rather than as a goal that is either achieved or not according to binary indicators such as whether or not a budget office is formally established. (2) While the development literature and donor admonitions stress the importance of “political will” and “ownership,” the actual commitment of legislative partners varies considerably in character and meaning; these cases provide insights into the sources of diversity, depth, variability and durability of partnerships. Topic 3. Accountability in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and Bangladesh. Both of these programs achieved positive results in deeply divided societies. In BiH a productive partnership developed among the diverse memberships of the parliamentary budget and finance committees, the leadership of the audit institutions, and the attentive public (through civil society and the media). This assistance led to measureable improvements in audit results for government agencies, an internationally-recognized indicator of good governance. In party-polarized Bangladesh, improvements were made in the transparency of the budget process, in the expertise available to MPs, and in producing an increase in the use of parliamentary questioning to scrutinize government policies. The key lessons proved to be those of working below the partisan radar, focusing on areas where improvements are feasible by avoiding direct confrontation, emphasizing the technical rather than political and working toward the creation of functioning systems by disaggregating what would otherwise be an intractable problem. Topic 4. Addressing Conflict in Kenya and Bolivia. These cases illustrate the fleetness of foot possible when effective legislative programs have to shift attention to an important new task in the face of changing circumstances. In Kenya and Bolivia existing legislative programs were quickly and successfully re-tasked to support conflict mitigation efforts. And by helping to channel conflict through representative arenas, these and other efforts helped to convert some of the more “winner take all aspects” of succession politics into legislative efforts where some reconciliation of differences was possible. Both cases involved executive succession, the consideration of laws on polarizing issues, and the preparation of frameworks for constitutional review to resolve historical grievances. A number of lessons can be drawn including: (1) Leadership succession issues tend to put legislatures temporarily in central positions as Strengthening Deliberative Bodies – Legislative Engagement Reference Paper 2 normally dominant executives are either absent or their claim to positions in doubt. (2) Having a legislative development program in place when conflict erupts provides ready access for helpful post- conflict assistance. (3) In Kenya and Bolivia, the status and reputations of SUNY’s activity leaders brought special advantages to USAID efforts: (a) each could draw on accumulated “social capital” because due to existing relationships with legislators, activity managers who could talk directly and quickly to many of the principals; (b) activity managers kept USAID abreast of what was going on in ways that were not available to donors just rushing in; (c) and their knowledge of the range and character of citizen groups informed decisions about which groups to include.
"An Evaluation of the World Bank Assistance Program to the Plan and Budget Committee of the Turkish Grand National Assembly in Support of the Implementation of the Public Financial Management Act." Report to the World Bank. 2012.
"Success Where You Least Expect It: Parliamentary Oversight in Bosnia Herzegovina" by Robert Nakamura and Samir Musovic." Paper presented at the 2012 World Congress of the International Political Science Association, Madird. 2012.
"Mid-Term Evaluation of the UNDP Legislative Assistance Program to the Parliament of Moldova." 2012.
Stapenhurst, Frederick, Mitchell Olson and Robert Nakamura. 2007. "The Case of Rwanda."Parliaments in Conflict and Post-Conflict Societies. Washington, DC: World Bank.
Nakamura, Robert, and Thomas Church. 2003. Taming Regulation. Washington,DC: Brookings Institution.

Substantive Focus:
Governance PRIMARY
Comparative Public Policy SECONDARY

Theoretical Focus:
Agenda-Setting, Adoption, and Implementation PRIMARY
Policy Analysis and Evaluation SECONDARY