Researching the Development of Regional Parliaments in Europe, South America & Africa | UACES Scholar 2018

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Report by UACES-James Madison Charitable Trust (JMCT) Scholar 2018, Bruno Theodoro Luciano (University of Birmingham). 

Thanks to the UACES/JMCT scholarship I was able to conduct a research fieldwork in South Africa for the purposes of my PhD research, which aims to investigate the development of regional parliaments in Europe (European Parliament), South America (Mercosur Parliament) and Africa (Pan-African Parliament). In this sense, this sponsorship was essential to develop my third case study on the African Union and the Pan-African Parliament and gather the empirical data needed to conclude my doctoral research.

I have spent about 45 days in South Africa (Johannesburg and Pretoria) where I conducted semi-structured interviews with 13 officials, parliamentarians and academics specialised in the African Union (AU) and the Pan-African Parliament. During these weeks in South Africa I followed the plenary sessions of the Pan-African Parliament, which was convened in the first weeks of May. I listened to the debates in the Plenary, Regional Caucuses and some Committee meetings, such as the Committee of Trade and Regional Integration, where parliamentarians interacted with the members of the African Union Commission on the most important issues of African integration.

The most relevant discussions for my research that I followed were those related to the AU’s institutional reforms and its annual budget, and the parliament’s activity report. During the first days of fieldwork it was difficult to establish a closer contact with my potential interviewees, as they were too focused on the key activities of the plenary sessions (such as the elections of the new members of the parliament’s bureau).

However, I have gradually established more confidence with them, especially with the senior officials, who granted me very insightful interviews and assisted me to point out who were the key actors that should/could be reached during the fieldwork.

In the last day of the sessions, I also attended to a special seminar on EU-AU relations on the topic of migration co-organised by the Pan-African Parliament and the European Parliament. Besides following the event itself, which gathered experts and parliamentarians to debate on a very sensitive topic to EU-AU bi-regional relations, I could meet members of the European Parliament’s delegation to the Pan-African Parliament and ask them about their perception on African continental integration and the development of its parliamentary dimension.

Moreover, I cooperated with the Department of Politics and International Relations of the University of Johannesburg as a visiting researcher, where I met professors and senior lecturers of this university, attended academic events organised in this period as well as accessed the university’s library and database. As a result of this academic exchange, I will potentially submit a research paper derived from my fieldwork to a special issue organised by the director of the department on a prestigious African journal.

To sum up, this research trip funded by UACES and the James Madison Charitable Trust was a great opportunity to improve my empirical analysis of the Pan-African Parliament and the African Union as well as to create key connections with African politicians, officials and academics. Following so closely the parliamentarians in action was an insightful experience to better understand the logic of regional parliaments and the overall functioning of the African Union and its institutions.

Applications are now open for the 2019 UACES Scholarships. UACES is offering 4 Scholarships for a fixed amount of 1,500 GBP, to support PhD students undertaking essential fieldwork in contemporary European Studies. 

Scholarship European Studies PhD fieldwork funding EUBruno Theodoro Luciano is a Doctoral Researcher in Political Science and International Studies at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. He was a visiting researcher at the Institute for Latin American Studies (ILAS), German Institute of Global Area Studies (GIGA), Hamburg, and at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Johannesburg, South Africa. His research focuses on regional integration and regionalism and he is developing a PhD investigation on the institutional development of regional parliaments in Europe, Latin America and Africa.