Glossary of terms

This glossary provides definitions of the key terms used on this website and throughout the Indicators for Democratic Parliaments.

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Term Definition

A group composed of all MPs from the same political party, or a meeting of party leaders or civic organizers, the purpose of which may be to show unity for a particular issue or to select a candidate for office. Sometimes, the term “caucus” is used for all MPs who are in Cabinet or who support the government. In some parliaments, cross-party or all-party groups are known as “caucuses”. The term may also refer to issue-based or thematic groups formed within parliament that include MPs from multiple parties. See also: All-party group and Cross-party group.


An individual who is a naturalized or native-born resident of a State, displays allegiance to that State’s political and legal authority, and is therefore entitled to the rights and protections of its laws, including the right to political participation.


The right of national identity bestowed by a State on individual members of that system by birth or application. Citizenship carries an expectation of allegiance.

Citizens’ assembly

See: Citizens’ jury.

Citizens’ jury

A form of deliberative democracy in which small groups of people are brought together to hear evidence about a policy or legislative issue, and to debate and determine a judgement based on the evidence received. Citizens’ juries are used to inform issue-based advocacy campaigns or decision-making by public officials on complex policy matters.

Citizens’ legislative initiative

A public participation method that allows citizens to submit legislative proposals on a constitutional and/or legislative matter. See also: Advocacy and Petition.

Civic education

Programmes that introduce the basic rules and institutional features of a democratic political system, and that provide knowledge about democratic rights and practices, such as constitutional rights, gender equality and collective action. Civic education programmes aim to impart the necessary knowledge and skills needed to effectively participate in the community, government and politics.

Civic engagement

The involvement of citizens and citizens’ organizations in, or their commitment to, the political or community process as they fulfil their rights and responsibilities.

Civic space

The legal, political, social and economic environment that enables people, without hindrance, to organize, communicate and participate with each other to consider and influence issues that matter to them.

Civil servant

A person who works for the administrative service of a government, which is known as the “civil service” or the “public service/administration” and usually includes government (executive) departments as well as various bodies and agencies. Depending on the nature of a country’s laws, civil servants may be eligible to work in other branches of government, including the legislature or the judiciary, in addition to subnational government offices.

Civil society

People in the community not associated with the government. Also, the groups and organizations outside of government in which people participate. The term also refers to all sorts of voluntary, collective activities organized around shared interests, values and objectives.

Civil society organization (CSO)

An association of people who work for a common cause. This umbrella term can include non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations and other diverse organizations.


See: Secretary General.


An alliance, temporary or permanent, of different people or organizations that come together for a common cause or to engage in a joint activity, usually focused on advocating with the government for change. In the parliamentary context, a coalition is often an alliance formed by two or more political parties for the purpose of gaining more representation.

Code of conduct

A document adopted by many parliaments that explicitly codifies acceptable standards of behaviour and general conduct for MPs. A parliamentary code of conduct may also apply to parliamentary staff, or there may be a separate code of conduct for staff at the level of parliament or the entire public administration.


See: Parliamentary committee.


The process of exchanging information, opinions and ideas through dialogue and interactions between people, or between government institutions and people.


People living in the same place or area, or a group of individuals that have particular characteristics in common.

Conflict of interest

In the parliamentary context, a situation in which someone in a position of trust or authority has competing professional or personal interests that directly challenge their role as a person representing the public interest, leaving them unable to fulfil their duties impartially. A conflict of interest exists even if no unethical or improper act result from this situation, and where there is an appearance of impropriety that can undermine confidence in the person/position/office.


A specific geographic area or electoral division in a country that an MP represents, also known as a “riding” or “electoral district”. The term may also refer to a portion of the population represented by a particular elected leader or organization.


A citizen who votes or lives in an MP’s area of representation.


The process through which the opinions, views and suggestions of the community are sought on an issue or an activity.

Cross-party group

A group of MPs from two or more political parties who work together towards a common goal. Usually, a cross-party group is not an official parliamentary body and can also include external stakeholders as well as MPs. See also: All-party group and Caucus.