Botswana: Parliamentarians and evidence

Parliamentarians and evidence-based decision making:
Gaborone, 31 October and 1 November 2011

Some 24 Members of the Botswana Parliament, including three Ministers, attended sessions over two days in Gaborone, Botswana, to learn about evidence and how to get the most out of it as legislators and decision-makers. The Botswana parliament has 57 elected members.

Hon. Mokgweetsi Masisi opens the training. Photo: Moses Magadza

CIET facilitators were Prof Neil Andersson, Executive Director of CIET, Prof Lehana Thabane, Professor of Biostatistics at McMaster University, Canada, and Dr Anne Cockcroft, CIET Senior Research Fellow.The event was coordinated by the National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) and Hon Mokgweetsi Masisi, Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, gave the opening address. He stressed the importance to parliamentarians of having a grounding in how to use and interpret evidence in their work and noted that Botswana was taking the lead in this among the countries of southern Africa and indeed internationally. Evidence is crucial in setting policies and taking actions to tackle HIV and AIDS, and is also needed to support decision-making across a wide range of issues.

In the inaugural session, Prof Andersson explained the types of evidence that might be available and how evidence could be optimised to be useful for planning, the importance of counterfactual evidence, and the use of estimates of population risk as well as individual risk. Prof Thabane summarised the findings from a survey among 27 parliamentarians undertaken shortly before the workshop. Respondents expressed the need to be better equipped to interpret and use evidence, and considered it would help them to make better, evidence-based, decisions.

Parliamentarians discuss evidence. Photo: Moses Magadza

The event proved lively and informative, with strong participation from the parliamentarians. In their evaluation of the event, the parliamentarians called for further similar sessions for MPs and ministers,  as well as for other groups in the country, such as local government officers, research officers, NGOs and churches.

The SADC Parliamentary Forum produced an issue of its magazine New Dawn, devoted to the training sessions.

This session was a collaboration between the Government of Botswana and CIET’s ADAPT programme.