Due to various public health restrictions, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) held its Spring Assembly online. IPU members have been unable to meet in plenary session since Belgrade (October 2019), with the assemblies in Geneva (April 2020) and Kigali (October 2020) being cancelled or postponed. It was therefore with much interest that the eight members of the Swiss delegation took part in this meeting.
The nd Assembly, which took place in virtual format from 24 to 27 May, focused on the overall theme of “Overcoming the pandemic today and building a better tomorrow: the role of parliaments”. At the meeting, IPU President Duarte Pacheco noted, “The COVID-19 pandemic has created social, economic and political crises. It has exacerbated inequalities within and between countries, and has stalled progress on sustainable development, youth empowerment and gender equality.” He added that, “women and youth have been disproportionally affected, with more women than men losing jobs and taking on an even greater share of household work, and many young people being left without access to work or education.”
Guided by these considerations, participants committed to ensuring that relief efforts reach the most vulnerable groups, and that vaccines, tests and treatments are affordable and accessible to all. They acknowledged that a crisis of this magnitude requires a global solution, which is best achieved through multilateralism.
Two resolutions were formally adopted by the Assembly during the session. The Standing Committee on Peace and International Security dealt with parliamentary strategies to strengthen peace and security in the face of threats and conflicts resulting from climate-related disasters and their consequences (E/F). The Standing Committee on Sustainable Development, on the other hand, proposed the widespread use of digitalisation and a circular economy to achieve sustainable development goals, including responsible consumption and production (E/F). National Council member Laurent Wehrli was appointed by the Twelve Plus geopolitical group, of which Switzerland is a member, to the Drafting Committee of the Standing Committee on Sustainable Development to defend the proposals of the group and Switzerland.
This Assembly also saw a number of appointments. The Governing Council was called on to elect six members to the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, of which Switzerland is a member (CS Andrea Caroni, FDP/AR). Two Swiss members made a noteworthy entrance to the IPU by taking up roles within the organisation: Council of States member Johanna Gapany joined the High-Level Advisory
Group on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism, while National Council member Thomas Hurter joined the new on Science and Technology. They were formally appointed on 26 May and took up their duties the day following the 142nd Assembly.
The Executive Committee met several times online between March and May to prepare for this Assembly, developing rules for the virtual format. The Committee discussed at length the situation in Venezuela and the recognition of its Parliament. The Executive Committee recommended that the Governing Council defer any decision on Venezuela’s membership until the next Assembly, by which time it would have a report with first-hand information gathered by an IPU mission to Venezuela.
Situations of IPU members
The IPU is working tirelessly to achieve its goal of universality – one of its main strategic objectives. It has grown from 155 to 179 parliament members since 2010, although the United States (a founding member of the IPU) is still noticeably absent. It has been decided to relaunch talks for membership in the near future. Joint letters from the IPU President and Secretary General (January 2021) and members of the IPU Executive Committee were sent to the leaders of the US House of Representatives and the Senate to highlight the many advantages of re-affiliating the United States to the IPU.
Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians
The Committee examined the cases of 170 parliamentarians (158 men and 12 women). Of these cases, four were new complaints concerning 22 parliamentarians. The Committee also held five hearings in the presence of complainants and other interested parties. The Committee submitted to the Governing Council for adoption concerning 152 parliamentarians from the following countries: Egypt, Libya, Myanmar, Philippines, Turkey, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
The organisation’s finances are in good shape despite the crisis. As of 22 May, 75% of annual membership contributions had been paid.
Due to the improved health situation in Switzerland and Europe, hope is emerging that face-to-face meetings will again be possible. The next assemblies will take place in 2022 with the Spring Assembly in Bali (Indonesia, 20–24.03.2022) and the Autumn Assembly in Kigali (Rwanda, 19–23.10.2022). The Governing Council will meet in November to take decisions concerning the organisation’s budget and open vacancies, particularly in the Executive Committee. It is possible that this meeting will be in hybrid format.
The full Swiss delegation was made up of the following members:
- National Council member Christian Lohr (The Centre/TG), delegation president
- Council of States member Daniel Jositsch (SP/ZH), delegation vice president
- National Council member Christine Badertscher (Greens/BE)
- Council of States member Andrea Caroni (FDP/AR), IPU
Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians
- National Council member Laurence Fehlmann Rielle (SP/GE), IPU
- Council of States member Johanna Gapany (FDP/FR)
- National Council member Thomas Hurter (SVP/SH)
- National Council member Laurent Wehrli (FDP/VD),
Committee on Middle East Questions and the bureau of the
Committee on United Nations Affairs