Parliaments must continue to function during the coronavirus pandemic. For some, this means innovative solutions to overcome the legal, technical and logistical challenges of remote working. When parliaments sit remotely, either in plenary or committee, new laws or procedures are often required. Spain, Brazil, Norway and Finland have all amended their laws to allow for remote sittings. The United Kingdom Parliament has approved remote committee sittings and is working on remote plenaries. The New Zealand Parliament has instigated a special committee that meets remotely in order to scrutinize the work of the Government at this time. Some parliaments have the advantage of a recess. This is not so much breathing space as an opportunity to be more strategic and a little less reactive.
Parliaments in Brazil, Spain and Maldives have developed innovative ways to run virtual plenaries. Other are testing this out, and more parliaments are using tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom to hold committee meetings, or at least to allow external evidence to be heard. A crisis such as this is also an opportunity to innovate and to test new ways of working. There are some major challenges on the road to remote parliament and no instant digital solutions. Parliaments face a number of challenges, not least:
- Access for members – all members must be able to access and use the systems.
- Security of the systems – they must be secure enough for its purpose.
- Veracity of the process – the process has to be trusted, transparent and auditable.
The Centre for Innovation in Parliament (CIP) has been working to share what parliaments are doing and to support parliaments trying to find innovative solutions. We have produced a range of resources to help, and our CIP Open Data Hub, hosted by the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, has expanded its WhatsApp communication channel to share information and questions about remote working for parliaments. This group is now open to senior ICT staff from any parliament – anyone interested in joining should contact us at email@example.com.
Parliamentary working methods and remote working
A private webpage on remote working containing more technical details is available to parliaments only. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Parliaments are requested to provide updates via this short survey: https://www.surveygizmo.eu/s3/90224295/remote-working-in-parliaments
Gender equality and human rights in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic: The IPU has published two guidance notes for parliaments to help them ensure that perspectives on gender equality and human rights are mainstreamed in their responses.