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To celebrate the 100th endorsement of the ‘Common Principles for Support to Parliaments’ (1), which came from UN Women and include specific calls for parliamentary support on gender equality, the iKNOW Politics Team - in the framework of the current e-Discussion - would like to share some of the key guidelines with you to further stir the debate:

Principle 2: Parliamentary support partners are attentive to the multiple, overlapping social, economic and political contexts in which parliaments operate

Women’s participation may be encouraged by systematically engaging with women’s grassroots organizations, women community leaders, gender-focused research institutes and think tanks.

Parliamentary support partners have an obligation, therefore, to inform themselves about the country’s institutional history and should have a good sense of the country’s general political environment (electoral system, political parties, relevant provisions of the Constitution, human rights situation, gender equality, recent experience of conflict, the budgetary and fiscal situation, the economic context and national development plans.

Principle 6: Parliamentary support addresses the needs and potential of women and men equally in the structure, operation, methods and work of parliament

The importance of gender equality for parliaments is threefold: • Democratic parliaments derive their legitimacy from their ability to represent all the citizens of their country. Therefore, where the role of women is hampered or limited, overall institutional legitimacy suffers. • The small number, or even absence, of women in some parliaments undermines parliaments’ institutional ability to take full account of the needs and interests of a major segment of the population when performing its core legislative, oversight and representative functions. This seriously lowers the quality of a parliament’s legislative and other core outputs. • The parliament is a country’s window to the international community. Most countries seek to demonstrate and 30 promote the implementation of international standards in social and economic policy and benefit fully from participating actively in the community of nations. Parliaments reflecting gender imbalance thus present a distorted image of their country

Parliamentary support activities should address gender equality issues from at least two distinct but complementary points of view. First, activities should aim to support and respond to the current specific needs of women parliamentarians, secretariat staff and specific parliamentary bodies working on gender equality/women’s rights issues such as a women’s parliamentary caucus or parliamentary committees dedicated to gender equality

These are powerful incentives for parliamentary authorities to promote measures to transform the institution into a gender-sensitive one that ensures balanced participation in parliament, sets the example by ensuring respect for gender equality in its functioning and mainstreams gender throughout its work so as to deliver on gender equality goals.

The latest document ‘Common Principles for Support to Parliaments’ can be accessed here.

Other useful sources:

-IPU’s Gender- Sensitive Parliaments Report , 2011

-IPU’s Plan of Action for Gender-Sensitive Parliaments, 2012.


(1) Working Group comprising of representatives from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the French National Assembly, the European Parliament, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) which identifies new guidelines on the best ways of supporting parliaments.



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