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By Baroness Smith of Llanfaes
Press releases

Inter-Parliamentary Union forges connections with foreign parliaments

4 min read

As the newly elected British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union (BGIPU) chair, I look forward to being able to provide as many opportunities as possible for United Kingdom MPs and peers to engage with their counterparts worldwide.

It is a great honour to have been elected, by Members of both Houses, to chair this fantastic organisation, which provides numerous opportunities for parliamentarians to enhance their understanding of global issues and form and develop relationships with parliamentarians from around the world. 

I first got involved due to my interest in modern slavery, but since I have been able to engage on a range of issues in close cooperation with counterparts from many countries. In recent times, this included condemning illegal Russian aggression against Ukraine, debating major global challenges like climate change, defending women’s rights and political empowerment, and debating vaccine equity in the post-pandemic world.  

Since I became involved with the BGIPU I have been able to engage on a range of issues in close cooperation with counterparts from many countries

I am joined on the 26-member executive committee by Labour MP for Leeds North West Alex Sobel, Conservative MP for Chelmsford Vicky Ford and former lord speaker Baroness D’Souza as vice-chairs, and Labour MP for Liverpool Walton Dan Carden as treasurer. Fully funded by both Houses of Parliament, BGIPU represents the United Kingdom in the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the global body of national parliaments founded well over a century ago as the first ever multilateral political body.  

It is a truly historic organisation, growing from just nine delegations at its first gathering in Paris in 1889 to a global organisation now comprising of 178 sovereign national parliaments. The IPU works in close cooperation with the United Nations and other multilateral bodies, pursuing international peace, democracy and human rights through cooperation and dialogue.

The IPU is a global forum where the UK has been a leading voice since its inception. I am strongly committed as chair to the BGIPU to continuing to lead the IPU in defending the multilateral order at a time when powerful autocracies work to undermine the rules-based international order which has advanced human rights, peace and prosperity for every citizen globally in the last 70 years.

While the multilateral scope of BGIPU’s work is of course complementary to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s own efforts to demonstrate British values and leadership globally, it also has a key role to advance bilateral relations through inter-parliamentary exchanges. Despite restrictions applied during the global pandemic, BGIPU made a quick return to its core work with delegations sent to IPU assemblies in Madrid, Nusa Dua and Kigali in 2021 and 2022. On the bilateral front in 2022, BGIPU has hosted delegations from France, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Madagascar and Colombia as well as multiple delegations from Ukraine. It has also sent UK cross-party delegations to Greece, Gabon,  Republic of Korea, Kosovo, Finland, Mexico and Jordan.  

As chair, I am keen that we maintain a similarly high level of activity in 2023, with IPU Assemblies in Bahrain and Angola in March and October respectively, bringing more than 120 delegations from every region of the world together to debate major global issues. A busy bilateral programme is also being prepared.

I know some Members still think BGIPU has strict membership criteria or requires some sort of extra payment or subscription. Such barriers to participation are long past and every Member of both Houses is automatically a member and eligible to take part in our activities. 
I am keen to encourage as many applications as possible, particularly from Members who have not previously been involved (calls for nominations are published weekly in the All-Party Notice). I am also keen to hear programme ideas or suggestions of countries where Members think bilateral exchanges could make a difference.

As well as contacting me directly with your views, BGIPU also has a dedicated website ( and email ( to contact the hard-working BGIPU secretariat team. 

Karen Bradley is Conservative MP for Staffordshire Moorlands and chair of the British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union

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