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
Secondary legislation

Types of legislation created by ministers (or other bodies) under powers given to them by a law passed by parliament. Secondary legislation is used to fill in the details of law, providing practical measures that enable the law to be enforced and operate in daily life. A piece of secondary legislation usually has the words “rule”, “order” or “regulation” in its title. Many pieces of secondary legislation are referred to as “statutory instruments” (or SIs), which are the most common form of this type of legislation. See also: By-law and Delegated legislation.

Secretary General

Typically the most senior permanent officer of parliament, who advises on procedure and records the decisions of the house. This person is also usually the administrative head of the parliamentary administration. In some institutions, the role of Secretary General and the responsibilities listed here may be performed by more than one individual or by several offices of jurisdiction.


The highest authority and principal presiding officer of the parliament, or of the house or chamber in bicameral parliaments. The Speaker is usually an MP elected at the beginning of each convocation by fellow MPs to preside over the parliamentary chamber or, in a unicameral system, to preside over the parliament.

Standing orders

See: Rules of procedure.

Supreme audit institution (SAI)

A body responsible for auditing public financial administration and the management of public funds. It plays a central role in the efficient, effective, transparent and accountable use of the public resources approved by parliament through the annual budget process. In some jurisdictions, the SAI may be known as the “national audit office”, “court of auditors”, “audit bureau”, “board of audit” or “auditor-general”.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Global goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that, by 2030, all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Together, the SDGs constitute the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: a series of 17 interlinked goals designed as “the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”.