Established in 1889, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is the oldest international organisation promoting cooperation between parliaments. The Finnish Parliament joined the IPU in 1920 and since 1921 has participated in nearly all of the organisation's Assemblies (formerly known as the Inter-Parliamentary Conference). The IPU provides a forum for discussion among parliamentarians from around the world and promotes peace and democracy. All of Finland's 200 MPs belong to the Finnish IPU group, but MPs elect an executive committee comprising eight members and eight deputy members that regularly participates in activities. The executive committee elects the Finnish delegation to the IPU Assembly, which has a secretariat in Parliament's International Department.
Nearly every parliament in the world belongs to the IPU, which has 162 members plus 9 associate members, including the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, for example.
Assemblies are the IPU's most important form of activity. The spring Assembly is held in a different member country each year. The smaller autumn Assembly is generally held in Geneva, where the organisation's secretariat is based. Around 700 MPs attend the Assembly in the spring and around 500 in the autumn. A large number of civil servants and diplomats also participate in Assemblies.
The IPU's Plenary Study Committees and Governing Council meet during Assemblies, as does the Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments (ASGP). The Governing Council is composed of three MPs from each country.
Parliament sends six delegates to the spring Assembly and five to the autumn Assembly in Geneva. In recent years major topics on the agenda have been promoting democracy, security issues, human rights, the position of children, sustainable development and gender equality.
The IPU arranges training sessions and seminars on different subjects in member countries. It also maintains the PARLINE ja PARLIT databases as well as the Women in Politics bibliographic database. The IPU has observer status in the UN and cooperates closely with the organisation and its sub-agencies.
The IPU is funded by member states' contributions and voluntary donations. The 2013 budget is 13.6 million Swiss francs (about €11 million).
The IPU has had its headquarters in Geneva since 1921. An international secretariat with a staff of about 45 persons takes care of practical arrangements for the IPU Assembly and day-to-day business. The secretariat is headed by the Secretary General, who is elected by the Governing Council for a term of four years.
The IPU has four Plenary Study Committees, which are formed by representatives of all national groups. They focus on the following areas: Peace and International Security; Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade; Democracy and Human Rights; and United Nations Affairs. The committees meet during the semi-annual Assemblies.
The IPU also has closed committees and working groups that are appointed to perform specific tasks. Chief among them is the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, which examines complaints concerning human rights violations against legislators. It has reviewed over a thousand cases and has usually achieved a solution satisfying the parties involved.
The IPU Governing Council appoints the Secretary General and President and is responsible for administrative tasks (including the budget) and policy-making. The Governing Council is composed of three representatives from each national delegation. It is chaired by the President, who is elected for a three-year term.
The Executive Committee prepares the agenda of the Council and the Assembly. It has 17 members, who are elected by the Council every four years. The President of the IPU also chairs the Executive Committee.
MP Katri Komi, who chaired the Finnish IPU group in 2004, was elected to the Executive Committee that same year.
Since 1986 women parliamentarians have held their own one-day meeting on the eve of each IPU Assembly to discuss how they can achieve common objectives. In 1990 the Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians was established to take charge of arranging these meetings. This committee can make recommendations to the Governing Council and has succeeded in increasing women's representation in the IPU's official organs.
Teemu Vuosio00102 EDUSKUNTAFinlandTel: +358 9 432 3556Mobile: +358 40 567 7916teemu.vuosio(at)eduskunta.fi
Marja Huttunen00102 EDUSKUNTAFinlandTel: +358 9 432 3557marja.huttunen(at)eduskunta.fi