Two smiling women holding folders outside a building.
Women parliamentarians of the Afghan Lower House arrive at their inauguration ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan - women made up 69 of the 249 candidates elected to the Afghan parliament in 2010.
Photo:UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein
Women parliamentarians of the Afghan Lower House arrive at their inauguration ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2010 - 69 of the 249 candidates elected were women. Photo: UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

Parliaments' role is more vital than ever during COVID-19

In COVID-19 times, Parliaments and other government institutions are subject to the same social distancing measures as other public and private organizations. Yet, in a time of crisis, the role of parliament is more vital than ever to pass emergency laws, allocate resources and scrutinize government action. Some parliaments are modifying laws and procedures to allow for remote working, some have continued meeting physically and some have recessed altogether. The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is helping to facilitate inter-parliamentary coordination and solidarity by sharing examples of how parliaments can continue to legislate, debate and scrutinize the actions of government in a time of lockdown and social distancing.

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.

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 Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has been working closely with them to help build their capacity in doing 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.


June 30 is the day designated to celebrate the International Day of Parliamentarism. The United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution A/RES/72/278, recognized the role of parliaments in national plans and strategies and in ensuring greater transparency and accountability at national and global levels. It is also the date, in 1889, on which the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) — 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.

Parliaments and the United Nations

Member States have encouraged the growing involvement of parliamentarians and parliamentary organizations in the work of the United Nations. Parliamentary organizations play a leading role in promoting the engagement of parliaments in United Nations processes and activities.  Indeed, there is a recognition that when parliamentarians communicate their concerns and aspirations to the United Nations, the Organization is empowered to workd more closely with the people of the world.

The IPU, as the world organization of parliaments, connects national parliaments in order to promote greater transparency, accountability and participation at the global level. Along with other parliamentary organizations, IPU engages with the United Nations on activities that cover a broad range of issues, including peace and security, human rights and sustainable development.

Parliaments and the SDGs

Parliaments and parliamentary organizations played an active role throughout the negotiations on the post-2015 development framework, advocating strongly, for instance, for the inclusion of goals related to democratic governance. Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals is dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels. Following the finalization of the 2030 Agenda, the focus of cooperation between the United Nations, national parliaments and parliamentary organizations has now firmly shifted towards implementation.

António Guterres

As the world responds to the pandemic, we see the critical importance of adequate health systems, robust social safety networks, and equitable economic growth that generates decent jobs.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres

Did you know?

  • 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.
  • 25% of the world's members of parliament are women.
  • 28.1% of the world's members of parliament are under 45.


Parliament in a time of pandemic icon

How is the COVID-19 pandemic changing the way parliaments work? Which parliaments continue to sit? How are they helping implement the emergency health measures recommended by the World Health Organization? The Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) lists some of the measures being taken around the world, with the objective of sharing parliamentary practice and facilitate inter-parliamentary communication.

women in conference room

The IPU collects data on women in politics since the 1970s, when the issue of women’s participation in decision-making was barely considered. The research provides statistics on progress and remaining challenges. The extensive database on women in politics ranks women in national parliaments and regional parliamentary assemblies. It provides comparative data by country and region.

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.