"Parliaments can be pillars of democracy, important defenders of human rights and can link local and global issues. Through laws and spending decisions, they can contribute significantly to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – our blueprint for peaceful, resilient societies on a healthy planet." — UN Secretary-General António Guterres
For the first time, 30 June this year is celebrated as the International Day of Parliamentarism. It is also the date, in 1889, on which the Inter-Parliamentary Union — the global organization of parliaments — was established.
This Day celebrates parliaments and the ways in which parliamentary systems of government improve the day-to-day lives of people the world over. It is also an opportunity for parliaments to take stock, identify challenges, and ways to address them effectively.
What parliaments do
Strong parliaments are a cornerstone of democracy. They represent the voice of the people, pass laws, allocate funds to implement laws and policies, and hold governments to account. They work to make sure that policies benefit all people, especially the most vulnerable, by passing laws—for example—on violence against women and ensuring equal access to health care.
Parliaments also link international and national agendas, ensuring that governments implement international treaties and agreements that they sign up to. They play a vital role in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the IPU has been working closely with them to help build their capacity to do so.
In countries emerging from conflict, robust parliaments can help make possible a peaceful transition to a functioning democracy by healing divisions in society through dialogue and cooperation.
A few facts and figures about parliaments
- Every country in the world has some form of representative government.
- Parliamentary systems fall into two categories: bicameral (with two chambers of parliament) and unicameral (with one chamber). Out of 193 countries, 79 are bicameral and 114 are unicameral, making a total of 272 chambers of parliament with over 46,000 members of parliament. (figures from the IPU)
- The oldest parliament is the Althingi, the Icelandic Parliament, founded in 930.