‘Parliamentary diplomacy’ concerns  the full range of international activities undertaken by parliamentarians in order to increase mutual understanding between countries, to assist each other in improving the control of governments and the representation of a people and to increase the democratic legitimacy of inter-governmental institutions.

Various activities may fall under ‘parliamentary diplomacy’. It may include:

  1. institutionalised or informal ways through which national parliaments and their members are engaged in international affairs and foreign policy . It certainly includes bilateral relations (e.g. ‘friendship groups’, exchange of delegations) between parliaments, as well as relations between national parliaments and inter-parliamentary organisations .
  2. Multilateral activities and settings are at the core of ‘parliamentary diplomacy’. Parliamentary diplomacy is more institutionalised than ‘simple’ parliamentary cooperation . The institutional framework within which multilateral parliamentary diplomacy is mostly exercised are the various ‘International Parliamentary Institutions’ . Within the various IPIs, parliamentarians cooperate in order to adopt ‘decisions, strategies or programs, which they implement or promote […] by various means such as persuasion, advocacy or institutional pressure’

A basic classification of IPIs distinguishes between ‘international parliamentary organs’ (IPOs), i.e. ‘organs of international governmental organisations composed of parliamentarians’ and ‘international parliamentary associations (IPAs)’, which are not attached to an international organisation but rather constitute such themselves .

Transnational networks of parliamentarians’ which are ‘voluntary associations of national parliamentarians’ (can be considered as a major subcategory of IPAs; The numerous  international parliamentary assemblies, associations, unions and networks can be categorized on a number of other dimensions as well, e.g. depending on the regional, interregional or global base of their membership, their issue-specific or broad focus, their legal status.

Parliamentary diplomacy facilitates a direct interaction between representative bodies which can act on behalf of the peoples. Parliaments combine features inherent in formal diplomatic channels (the legitimate status) and people’s diplomacy (voicing popular sentiments and interests, as well as expert opinions). The combination of these features exerts a powerful synergetic effect encouraging a vigorous exchange of opinions and collective decision-making at international venues. Parliamentary diplomacy is not exclusively aimed at establishing the legal basis for international relations. It also seeks to strengthen ties and solidify interstate and interregional integration. Parliamentary diplomacy predominantly seeks to enhance understanding between countries, to make the government more accountable, to better represent the people, and to increase the democratic legitimacy of intergovernmental institutions.

The best practices of parliamentary diplomacy include:

  1. assisting in conflict resolution,
  2. maintaining relations with political forces from a country amid a diplomatic chill,
  3. creating a less biased, if not positive, picture of a country, and
  4. exerting the impact on public opinion abroad.


Parliamentary Diplomacy in Russia

Both chambers of the Federal Assembly, the Federation Council and the State Duma, engage in parliamentary diplomacy. The Russian Federation’s Foreign Policy Concept, which was approved by President Vladimir Putin on November 30, 2016, tasks both chambers of the Federal Assembly not only with legislative support of foreign policies and the fulfillment of international obligations but also with improving the effectiveness of parliamentary diplomacy. Parliamentary diplomacy is increasingly moving beyond protocol activities of exclusively international committees. Actually, the leadership of both chambers, with the two speakers at the helm, and all parliamentarians have direct contacts with their foreign counterparts, paying working visits both to the near and far abroad, holding meetings with public officials and civil society representatives in different countries, and articulating new ideas and mechanisms for resolving various international problems. Foreign representatives tend to visit the Russian parliament not just to maintain the existing ties but also to expand cooperation and find solutions to problems. An important feature of Russia’s current parliamentary diplomacy is its focus on resolving particular pressing issues.  The fact that different parliamentary delegations visit  Moscow also testifies to the effectiveness of parliamentary diplomacy. Such meetings at the State Duma increasingly produce joint initiatives, which are consistent with the logic of bilateral relations and Russia's foreign policy priorities in numerous spheres.  A greater parliamentary dialogue constitutes a mechanism, which allows scope for expanding those areas of cooperation that require more careful and regular attention. To some extent, parliamentary diplomacy seems to give more room for maneuver, combining functions of official diplomacy in discussing certain issues and in engaging in direct P2P (parliament-parliament) contacts.

At the international level, parliamentary cooperation has become an integral part of Russian politics and a result of the alignment of Russia's foreign policy strategy and the principles of "soft power" and the expansion of the strategic communication with foreign countries.

The “Development of Parliamentarism” International Forum has emerged as a natural stage of the instrumentalization of the relevant work of the State Duma with other foreign parliaments. In fact, as a regular mechanism for a global interparliamentary dialogue, the forum shapes a new parliamentary identity of contemporary international relations which are complex, controversial, not always stable, but of extreme importance for each country and every voter.

The Forum highlights the broad areas of promising interparliamentary cooperation: 

  • De-escalation de international tensions,
  • Support for the establishment of a polycentric fair world order,
  • Importance of an inclusive equitable cooperation among nations and their alliances,
  • Ensuring global sustainable development,
  • International and regional security and stability,
  • Establishing safe and open global information space (Cooperation in shaping common rules and common standards for the exchange of information and its protection),
  • Strengthening collective efforts in countering terrorism and other common challenges and threats; 
  • Significance of the UN resolutions,
  • Coordination of the activities of the parliaments on the legislative provision of innovative spheres of the regulation related to the transition to a new technological structure of the economy and the rapid digitization of all spheres of life,
  • Cooperation in the formation of the unified standards for the exchange of information and its protection,
  • Introduction of the digital technologies in the state governance and the social sphere.

In 2018, more than 550 parliamentarians and experts from 97 countries participated in the Forum, 83 countries were represented by parliamentarians, 22 countries were represented by Speakers of Parliaments (chambers of parliaments), 15 countries were represented by Vice-Speakers. Delegations of 11 international parliamentary organizations took part in the Forum, 6 of which were headed by their Presidents. More than 200 experts from 56 countries also made their contribution to the Forum work.

The organization of parliamentary events to discuss pressing issues on the world agenda, deputies’ participation in international conferences, and statements to the foreign media contribute to a greater openness and clarity of the Russian position on various international issues.

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