The firm establishment of democracy implies the need to strengthen links between parliament as an institution and the public. Promoting knowledge of parliaments is an important means of strengthening these links.
The IPU uses its central position as the world organization of parliaments to collect and disseminate information about the powers, structure and working methods of representative institutions. It also undertakes original research, often in cooperation with Member Parliaments and other partners, particularly the Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments (ASGP). Beyond its own production, the ambition is for the union's Parliamentary Resource Centre to serve as a gateway to the vast amount of information on parliaments and democracy that is available around the world. A summary of the IPU's information tools and research activities is presented below.
PARLINE database on national parliaments
PARLINE (Parliaments online) database is an authoritative source of information on national parliaments. Information is provided for each parliamentary chamber in all countries where a parliament exists.
A range of modules has been developed for the PARLINE database. Besides general information about each chamber, there is an analysis of electoral systems, results of the most recent elections and information collected in surveys carried out by the IPU. Topics surveyed to date include the presidency of each parliament (appointment, status, functions), parliamentary mandate (status of members, exercise of the mandate), the parliamentary oversight (accountability of government, oversight of budget, foreign relations, defence, etc.) as well as the structure and functioning of parliamentary bodies specializing in specific fields (human rights, international trade, status of women).
Chronicle of Parliamentary Elections
Published annually in English and French since 1967, the Chronicle contains separate chapters on national legislative elections held throughout the world during a given year. It includes information on the electoral system, the background and outcome of the elections and statistics (election results, distribution of votes, distribution of seats according to political group, sex and age).
The IPU constantly updates information on parliamentary elections. The latest information is made available in the Last Elections module of the PARLINE database (click on the Last Elections hyperlink at the bottom of the page for the chamber in question). In most cases, a historical archive of parliamentary election results for a given chamber over the last twenty years is also available online.
Women in national parliaments
The IPU maintains a unique online collection of statistics on the number of women elected to national parliaments, as well as of the relevant world and regional averages. In addition, the IPU and the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women publish the "Women in Politics" map, which charts the presence of women in parliaments and the executive around the world. An archive of relevant statistical data is available online back to 1997.
World Directory of Parliaments
The World Directory of Parliaments is a bilingual English/French quick-reference book which provides information on the basic characteristics of the world's national parliaments: the name of the Parliament, its constituent Houses, their President/Speaker and the Secretary General/Clerk. It also lists each parliament's address, telecommunications data and, whenever available, the name and address of a specific contact in the parliament to facilitate communication and exchange of information.
The World Directory of Parliaments is published annually, in hard copy. Updated information is available in the General Information module of the PARLINE database.
World Directory of Parliamentary Human Rights Bodies
The Directory provides a wealth of information on the role, structure and functioning of some 130 committees in over 80 countries, including contact details of presiding officers and assistants. It aims to ensure a better understanding of the way in which human rights are dealt with in each parliament and to strengthen contacts and partnerships between parliaments and the human rights community in the protection and promotion of human rights.
The latest hard copy edition of the World Directory of Parliamentary Human Rights Bodies was published in 2004. Updated information is available in the Specialized Parliamentary Bodies module of the PARLINE database.
Directory of parliamentary websites
This online directory provides links to all known parliamentary websites. In 2000, the IPU published Guidelines for the content and structure of parliamentary websites.
The annual IPU Directory is distributed exclusively to members of the IPU as a bilingual English/French reference tool. It includes contact details for IPU Member Parliaments and Associate Members, as well as for the various IPU bodies (Executive Committee, standing committees, other committees and working groups, focal points in national parliaments for questions relating to the status of women).
Women in Politics bibliographic database
This online database contains over 2'000 bibliographic references to documents on women's participation in political life, classified by theme, country and source. Many of the references can be consulted online (on other websites). Prior to making the database available on the Internet, the IPU published a bilingual bibliography on women in politics in hard copy.
Normative work on parliaments and democracy
Normative work at the IPU covers many different aspects of parliaments and democracy, such as free and fair elections and the democratic quality of parliaments. A leading example is the Universal Declaration on Democracy, adopted in 1997. The Declaration sets out the principles of democracy, identifies the elements and exercise of democratic government and outlines the international dimension of democracy. Another example of this nature is the Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections, adopted by the IPU in 1994.
Analytical studies seek to bring a global comparative perspective to the study of parliaments, to foster a better understanding of their similarities and differences. Some of them are available in the form of hard copy publications and can be ordered online.
Thematic and country-specific publications
Original contributions to many of the IPU's activities to strengthen parliaments are recorded and published in reports from seminars, specialized meetings and workshops. Information about how to obtain IPU publications can be found on the publications page.