Celebrating Democracy: Highlights from the INTER PARES Global Workshop on Parliamentary Peer-To-Peer Partnerships and the International Conference to commemorate the International Day of Parliamentarism - Strengthening Parliaments to Enhance Democracy

To celebrate the International Day of Parliamentarism, and in conjunction with the Spanish Congress, INTER PARES organised a global workshop on Parliamentary peer-to-peer partnerships in León, Spain on Thursday, 29 June 2023, which followed the INTER PARES Steering Committee Meeting on 28 June 2023.

The workshop brought together around seventy-five participants, from EU Member State Parliaments, INTER PARES partner Parliaments, EU institutions, as well as experts and representatives from the EU institutions, parliamentary associations, foundations and academia to explore and showcase the importance of peer-to-peer partnerships and inter-parliamentary cooperation in strengthening the capacity of Parliaments to foster democracy worldwide and address critical global challenges.

A panel discussion on the role of Parliaments in promoting democracy internationally brought together Pietro Ducci (Director-General, Directorate for External Policies of the Union, European Parliament) who participated virtually, Maria João Costa (Deputy Secretary General of the Assembly of the Republic of Portugal), Barbara Dithapo (Clerk of the National Assembly of Botswana), Momodou A. Sise (Secretary General of the National Assembly of The Gambia), Bettina Giesecke (Head of the International Affairs Division, German Bundestag) who collectively touched upon the importance of network development and peer-to-peer exchanges in strengthening democracy worldwide. They also highlighted the contribution of INTER PARES in promoting international cooperation. The session was moderated by Jonathan Murphy, Head of Programme at INTER PARES.

The second panel discussion invited members from the EU Member State Parliaments and INTER PARES partner Parliaments for a discussion on the ways the core parliamentary functions can be strengthened to uphold democratic values globally.

The first part of the discussion covered how the EU Member State Parliaments have used staff attachments to strengthen internal capacities. Among other models presented, the panellists discussed an INTER PARES activity to organise intensive secondments for staff from the Parliament of Montenegro. Through this programme, eight committee staff members who work on harmonising the Montenegrin legislation to the EU acquis spent between one week and one month in the Parliaments of Croatia, the Czech Republic, the French National Assembly and Senate, and the Italian Chamber of Deputies.

The panellists also discussed the various mechanisms and implementation modalities they have used to strengthen lawmaking and oversight and effectively support the effectiveness of parliamentary administrations.

The panellists included:

  • Milena Vuković Sekulović, Deputy Secretary General, Parliament of Montenegro
  • Pierre-Nicolas Guesdon, Deputy Head of the Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation Unit, French National Assembly
  • Giovanni Rizzoni, Head of the Research Department, Italian Chamber of Deputies
  • Tatjana Tomić, Counsellor, Coordinator for Technical Assistance, Croatian Parliament
  • Martin Kuta, Head of the General Analysis Department, Czech Republic
  • Iuna Sadat, Advisor for European Affairs, Legislative Service, Belgian Senate
  • Laouali Ibrahim, National Coordinator, INTER PARES Partnership with the National Assembly of Niger
  • Marie-Christiane Tanoe, Head of Cooperation and Partnership Division, Senat of Côte d'Ivoire
  • Pernille Deleuran, Head of the International Secretariat, Danish Parliament
  • Xavier Dupriez, Adviser, Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation Unit, French Senate

The last panel of the day highlighted INTER PARES key thematic areas looking at youth and gender in particular. Discussions explored how focusing on these themes can help strengthen parliamentary democracy. Hannah Johnson (Senior Gender Advisor, INTER PARES) stressed the need to transform institutions for streamlining gender equality. She underlined how INTER PARES recent efforts have advanced a systematic consideration of gender in law-making and oversight.

Constanza Toro (Acting Head of Gender Policies, Chamber of Deputies of Chile) and Maryan Henríquez Ayala (Gender Coordinator of the Chamber of Deputies of Chile) shared experiences and insights gained from the INTER PARES facilitated exchange between the Chamber of Deputies of Chile and the Italian Chamber of Deputies on post-legislative scrutiny and gender impact assessment. Concluding the session on gender, Mariadele Cucinotta (Gender Budgeting Expert, Italian Chamber of Deputies) shared insights and challenges of her work as a gender budgeting expert in the Italian Chamber of Deputies.

Rodrigo Goñi Reyes (President of the Committee for the Future, Parliament of Uruguay) emphasised the importance of anticipatory governance and the urgent need for Parliaments to adapt to challenges posed by a consistently and rapidly changing environment. Dr. Jochen Guckes (Citizens’ Assemblies Project Team, German Bundestag) underlined the importance of citizen assemblies organised by parliaments themselves and what participatory democracies entail.

Lotte Geunis (Parliamentary Adviser, INTER PARES) highlighted the importance of youth engagement in decision-making.  She presented INTER PARES plans under Phase II of the project, which includes collecting good practices, facilitating constructive exchanges, and supporting partner Parliaments in further developing their capacity to engage youth. She shared insights on how INTER PARES would engage with young people through its activities in the coming months.

Summing up the conference, Kevin Casas-Zamora (Secretary-General, International IDEA) reflected on why Parliaments are the key partners in supporting democracy. He emphasised the need for collective action among democratic actors as the only appropriate response to the global challenges of democracy.

Highlighting the work of INTER PARES, he concluded by underlining the importance of exchanging ideas and best practices to support Parliaments and to assure a continuing link between citizens and the state in the policy and decision-making processes.

The INTER PARES workshop was followed by the International Conference to commemorate the International Day of Parliamentarism - Strengthening Parliaments to Enhance Democracy, organised by the Spanish Congress of Deputies on the same premises at the at the Real Colegiata Basílica de San Isidoro in León, Spain. Marking the start of the Spanish Presidency of the European Council on 1st June, the event gathered Speakers of EU national parliaments, as well as the Speaker of the National Assembly of Malawi, invited as representatives of INTER PARES partner Parliaments.

Kevin Casas Zamora, Secretary General, International IDEA moderated a session on the importance of parliamentary cooperation and development of democracy highlighting the key role played by Parliaments in promoting democracy worldwide.

The session was enriched by the perspectives of:

  • Rt. Hon. Mr. Othmar Karas, First Deputy Speaker of the European Parliament
  • Rt. Hon. Ms. Bärbel Bas, Speaker of the German Bundestag
  • Ms. Catherine Gotani Hara, Speaker of the Parliament of Malawi
  • Rt. Hon. Ms. Marketa Pekarova Adamova, Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic