Originally planned to take place in Vienna, Austria, the 5th World Conference of Speakers of Parliament was held exceptionally in a virtual format this year owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. The president of the National Council, Isabelle Moret, and the president of the Council of States, Hans Stöckli, took part in the meeting. The physical conference has been postponed until 2021.

More than a hundred speakers and deputy speakers participated in the virtual 5th World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, held on 19 and 20 August, on the theme of ‘mobilising parliaments to take action for more effective multilateralism that brings peace and sustainable development for people and the planet’.

Convening before a panel of world experts composed of renowned scientists and economists, the conference participants exchanged views on a range of topics, including parliamentary action in response to the climate emergency and the challenges of migration. Isabelle Moret called for a more coordinated response to migration and for countries to come together and act on a global level. The participants also discussed the role of democracy and how twenty-first century parliaments are changing in view of the rapid advances in science and technology.

Several participants, including Hans Stöckli, called for a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and for a carbon-neutral economy. They stressed that parliaments have the power and the duty to translate key international commitments – such as the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – into national policy and legislation.

The conference concluded with the adoption of a joint declaration and a round table discussion on improving governance, in particular on ways to bridge the gap between parliaments and the people. The issue has taken on its full meaning during these times of forced digital transformation in our societies. Another key issue during the discussions was the impact of the pandemic: the panel of experts asked the participants to urge their governments to make more funds available to strengthen public health and support health professionals.

On 17 and 18 August, Isabelle Moret also took part in the virtual 13th Summit of Women Speakers. The women speakers all emphasised that efforts must still be made to achieve gender equality in parliaments: at present, only twenty per cent of parliament speakers throughout the world are women. The participants pledged to take action to strengthen gender equality in all areas, drawing on the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Climate change, women’s economic empowerment and the prevention of violence against women and girls were also widely discussed at the summit. Isabelle Moret praised women’s leadership in managing the pandemic, which highlighted the exemplary work of women leaders, including that of President Simonetta Sommaruga. Ms Moret also called for better representation of women in key functions.

The World Conference of Speakers of Parliament takes place every five years. It is organised in cooperation with the United Nations and its purpose is to strengthen the parliamentary dimension of global governance.

 Poster of the conference (PDF)