BGIPU remains extremely active and engaged despite marking one year under lockdown
With UK Parliamentary travel suspended since March 2020 and all IPU meetings cancelled or being held virtually online, the COVID-19 global pandemic represents the most serious disruption to the work of BGIPU since the two World Wars of the 20th century. Over the last year, as the global pandemic spread to an estimated 120 million cases worldwide, tragically causing at least 2.66 million lives to be lost, almost all international travel ceased and borders were locked down between even the closest nations.
Interparliamentary exchanges have had to adapt, moving online for virtual meetings to keep the administration of our international organs and vital debates moving forward and for key thematic discussions and bilateral exchanges.
BGIPU proved to be an early adopter of these new socially distanced forms of engagement. Adapting almost immediately, BGIPU Secretariat staff began providing its support to members working from home locations across the United Kingdom in England, Scotland and Wales, under regional and national lockdowns and UK Parliament-wide “work from home” provisions. Our March 2021 review of virtual activities reflects the incredible sacrifice, hard work, dedication and resourcefulness of BGIPU staff. UK Parliament and all BGIPU members owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
In the year to March 2021, BGIPU events were attended by an estimated total of 750 members from both Houses of the UK Parliament. This included keeping up our core role of ensuring close engagement with parliamentary counterparts, arranging bilateral meetings with 19 Parliaments allowing UK Members to engage with 86 of their colleagues from all corners of the world.
In an active series of events, UK Parliamentarians also enjoyed detailed briefings and discussions with UK Ambassadors (or mission staff) in 31 countries in addition to members benefitting from dialogue with their foreign counterpart London-based Ambassadors to the Court of St James from 24 countries.
There were also themed subject briefings on a wide range of matters on the global policy agenda with 10 partner organisations on issues affecting some 59 countries. BGIPU also worked to ensure the very active participation of UK members in 8 major IPU meetings during the year, plus attendance at 14 other IPU hosted webinars on international matters related to the IPU agenda.
The BGIPU Executive Committee and its sub-committees also met virtually with the Director and members of the Secretariat on at least 10 occasions through this 12 month period, in additional to twice-weekly Secretariat meetings and many other internal management and governance meetings.
The main difference for the work of the IPU between the disruptions of the two world wars and this global pandemic is that the communications and information technology now exists to continue our dialogue across the world. This has helped us ensure members continue to have the access and opportunity to engage in what has always been the main purpose of the IPU’s existence; global interparliamentary dialogue.
In building back the world in the wake of this dreadful pandemic, our eyes have been opened to new possibilities for engagement and cooperation and the opportunity should not be left to pass without learning these lessons and applying them to all our global challenges, not just to defeat this small virus which has united us in this desperate fight of our times.