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Stakeholder group: International and regional organisations
The IPU is a global organisation of national parliaments. It was founded more than 130 years ago as the first multilateral political organisation in the world, encouraging cooperation and dialogue between all nations. Today, the IPU comprises 178 national member parliaments and 14 regional parliamentary bodies.
It promotes democracy and helps parliaments become stronger, younger, gender-balanced, and more representative. It also defends the human rights of parliamentarians through a dedicated committee made up of members of parliament (MPs) from around the world.
The IPU’s digital activities have significantly increased over the past few years with the creation of the dedicated IPU Centre for Innovation in Parliament. The Centre researches the impact of digital technologies on parliaments and coordinates a network of parliamentary hubs on innovation in parliaments. It also publishes the landmark World e-Parliament Report and hosts a biennial World e-Parliament Conference.
The IPU holds many of its inter-parliamentary meetings either in a virtual or hybrid format as part of its strategy to bring together as many parliamentarians from around the world as possible while reducing the carbon footprint of international meetings.
Digital policy issues
In line with its objective to build strong and democratic parliaments, the IPU assists parliaments in building their capacity to use information and communications technologies (ICTs) effectively, both in parliamentary proceedings and in communication with citizens. The IPU has also been mandated by its member parliaments to carry out capacity development programmes for parliamentary bodies tasked with overseeing the observance of the right to privacy and individual freedoms in the digital environment.
The IPU also encourages parliaments to make use of ICTs as essential tools in their legislative activities. To this aim, the IPU launched the Centre for Innovation in Parliament in 2018 to provide a platform for parliaments to develop and share good practices in digital transformation strategies, as well as practical methods for capacity building. The IPU holds the World e-Parliament Conference, a biannual forum that addresses, from both policy and technical perspectives, how ICTs can help improve representation, law-making, and oversight. Every two years it publishes the World E-Parliament Report, providing insights into innovation strategies and good practices, based on survey data from around 120–140 national parliaments.
As of August 2020, eight regional and thematic parliamentary hubs were operating under the Centre for Innovation in Parliament, covering IT governance, open data and transparency, Spanish-speaking countries, Eastern Africa, Southern Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. Each hub is co-ordinated by a national parliament and brings together parliaments to work on subjects of common interest, such as remote working methods during COVID-19.
The IPU works to raise awareness about the sustainable development goals (SDGs) among parliaments, and provides them with a platform to assist them in taking action and sharing experiences and good practices in achieving the goals.
Privacy and data protection
One of the IPU’s objectives is to promote and protect human rights. Its Committee on Democracy and Human Rights is involved in activities aimed at contributing to ensuring privacy in the digital era and the use of social media as effective tools to promote democracy. A 2015 resolution – Democracy in the Digital Era and the Threat to Privacy and Individual Freedoms – calls on parliaments to create adequate mechanisms for the protection of privacy in the online space, and to ensure that legislation in the field of surveillance, privacy, and data protection is based on democratic principles.
Freedom of expression
The IPU’s Committee on Democracy and Human Rights works on promoting the protection of freedom of expression in the digital era and the use of social media as an effective tool to promote democracy. In 2015, the IPU adopted a Resolution on Democracy in the Digital Era and the Threat to Privacy and Individual Freedoms encouraging parliaments to remove all legal limitations on freedom of expression and the flow of information, and urging them to enable the protection of information in cyberspace, so as to safeguard the privacy and individual freedom of citizens.
It offers virtual training sessions for parliamentarians. Its IPU Parline database is an open data platform on national parliaments, which includes data on the age of people in parliament as well as a monthly ranking of women in national parliaments.