On the eve of its 135th year, the IPU has never been so close to universal membership, with the accession in 2023 of the parliaments of Liberia and the Bahamas, our 179th and 180th Members respectively, as well as many observers and partners signing up to join or rejoin our global parliamentary community.
This, together with the multiple events and initiatives that we organized in 2023, in which thousands of parliamentarians and stakeholders from all over the world participated, demonstrates that the IPU is becoming more inclusive, in line with our strategy to develop richer parliamentary ecosystems for democracy, for everyone.
Parliaments for the Planet
Climate action was our main theme of the year, following the request from Members to make it the main priority of the 2022-2026 IPU Strategy.
At the 146th IPU Assembly in Bahrain in March, we launched a new climate campaign, Parliaments for the Planet, designed to encourage parliaments to go further and faster in addressing the climate emergency.
After only a few months, the campaign has already mobilized hundreds of trailblazing parliamentarians, who have shared their good practices and solutions when it comes to greening parliaments and implementing the Paris Agreement on climate.
Many of those solutions were also highlighted by parliamentarians at COP28, the UN Climate Change Conference, which took place in Dubai in December. This year, for the first time, two IPU meetings were held on-site, at the heart of the COP corridors of power, highlighting the shared responsibility between the executive and legislative branches in tackling climate change.
Also linked to the theme of the year, the Cremer-Passy Prize, named after the IPU’s founding fathers, was awarded to Mr. Samuelu Penitala Teo, Speaker of the Parliament of Tuvalu, in recognition of his outstanding record on climate action.
William Randall Cremer and Frédéric Passy were indeed at the forefront of our minds this year, not only because of their namesake prize, but also because the spirit in which they founded the IPU, to encourage dialogue and diplomacy, has never seemed so relevant.
In 2023, against a backdrop of both old and new conflicts around the world, the IPU has continued to leverage its global position to bring together parliamentarians, including from countries at war, to contribute to peace efforts, as it has been doing for the past 13 decades.
Member Parliaments adopted two important declarations to underscore the hope for peace: the Manama Declaration on Promoting peaceful coexistence and inclusive societies: Fighting intolerance at the 146th IPU Assembly, and the Luanda Declaration on Parliamentary action for peace, justice and strong institutions at the 147th IPU Assembly in Angola in October.
The Luanda Declaration also made reference to an important new piece of work that the IPU has spearheaded, the Indicators for Democratic Parliaments, designed to help parliaments evaluate their democratic credentials with a view to becoming stronger and more inclusive institutions.
And for the first time, we organized a global Parliamentary Conference on Interfaith Dialogue to encourage parliaments to be more inclusive of religions, beliefs and faith-based organizations in their work in the interests of peaceful coexistence. The Conference laid down some of the groundwork for next year’s overarching theme which will be peace and security.
We also visited some of the regions experiencing conflict, notably the Sahel region and the Middle East, on behalf of the global parliamentary community, to see how the IPU can mediate between warring parties.
Our efforts in the Middle East take on new relevance today in view of the conflict in Gaza with its disastrous humanitarian consequences. And the war in Ukraine will remain at the forefront of our peace-building efforts, particularly through the work of the IPU Task Force for the peaceful resolution of the war in Ukraine.
Gender equality inches forward
History teaches us that wars are usually fought between men but that women often play an essential role in peace and reconciliation processes.
Indeed, at the IPU, we have been convinced for a long time that many of the world’s problems could be solved through greater gender parity in political leadership.
By the end of the year, we were able to report that 26.7% of parliamentarians in the world were women, a small increase on last year.
Earlier in the year, our annual report, Women in Parliament 2022, revealed that women’s participation in parliament has never been as diverse and representative as it is in many countries today. And for the first time in history, not a single functioning parliament in the world is male-only.
However, overall progress towards global gender equality remains painfully slow. Accelerating levels of online violence, which disproportionately targets women and is being exacerbated by artificial intelligence, will prove an additional hurdle for women entering political life.
More young people in politics
As well as more women, more young people running for office is another prerequisite to stronger and more inclusive democracies.
The latest IPU report on Youth Participation in Parliament showed that parliaments are getting slightly younger, with small increases in the number of parliamentarians under 45 years old. However, despite the progress, parliaments are still a long way from representing young people proportionately.
To help address this, our campaign I Say Yes to Youth in Parliament! continues its upward trajectory, with close to 1500 signatories, including 60 Speakers of Parliament, having pledged to take the necessary steps to rejuvenate their parliaments.
Defending MPs in trouble
A few days before Human Rights Day on 10 December, we released our annual map of the number of reported cases of human rights violations suffered by parliamentarians around the world.
Although the numbers continue to rise, there have been positive developments in some countries, partly due to actions by the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, the IPU body which defends MPs in trouble by raising global awareness and lobbying national authorities.
2024 and beyond
Despite the dangers they sometimes face, we remain confident that candidates from all walks of life will come forward to run in the many parliamentary elections that will take place in 2024.
Indeed, democracy will be put to the test in 2024 with over half the world’s population going to the polls.
With peace and security central to our mission next year, the IPU will continue to support parliamentarians, both incumbent and new, and the wider parliamentary community, for democracy, for everyone.
Season’s greetings and a peaceful New Year to you and your families.
Tulia Ackson, IPU President, and Martin Chungong, IPU Secretary General.