2015 Conference on the Role of Parliaments in the Protection and Realisation of the Rule of Law and Human Rights

Since 2010, international interest in democratising the rule of law and human rights by increasing the role of parliaments in their protection and realisation has grown. With the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Commonwealth and other international organisations taking active steps to increase the role of parliaments in these key areas over the last few years, we decided to organise a high-level international conference bringing together relevant experts from parliaments, policy-making, academia, NGOs and international bodies to take stock of the significance of these developments.

The conference, which was funded by the AHRC,  was entitled "The Role of Parliaments in the Protection and Realisation of the Rule and Human Rights" and took place on 7 September 2015 on the ground of the Westminster Parliament. The purpose of the conference was to consider whether there is a need for some internationally agreed principles and guidelines to provide a more coherent narrative to these disparate developments, and to help parliaments everywhere to devise the appropriate practical means to develop their role in the protection and realisation of the rule of law and human rights. The conference assessed the desirability and feasibility of reaching international agreement on some principles and guidelines and aimed to identify what further work, including academic research projects, may be required in order to achieve that end.

At the conference, participants from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, a number of Parliaments around the world including in the Asia Pacific, Africa and Europe, inter-governmental organisations, non-governmental organisations and academia, agreed about the importance of parliament’s role in relation to the rule of law and human rights, that parliaments should be more involved than they currently are, and that developing guidelines in some form or other, to assist parliaments, is a good idea in principle. While there was a range of views about the scope and substance of any principles and guidelines, and about the best process for reaching international agreement, there was a strong consensus that developing such a set of internationally-agreed guidance was a desirable end well worth pursuing.

The keynote speakers were:

  • Gianni Magazzeni, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,
  • Professor Nico Schrijver Professor of International Law, Leiden University, Member of Dutch Senate and Executive Committee Member of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and
  • Dr Josephine Ojiambo, Deputy Secretary General of the Commonwealth.

The complete text of the keynote speeches and some of the presentations can be found below, as well as the conference background paper and the report of the conference proceedings. 

Concept PaperMurray Hunt
Conference ProgrammeMurray Hunt and Ben Gibbons
 Conference ReportBrian Chang
 Keynote SpeechGianni Magazzeni, on behalf of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Second Keynote SpeechProfessor Nico Shrijvers, on behalf of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
 Third Keynote SpeechDr. Josephine Ojiambo, on behalf of the Commonwealth Secretariat
Speech by Natalie SamarasingheNatalie Samarasinghe, UNA-UK
Speech by Sam MullerDr Sam Muller, Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law
WFD PresentationGeorge Kunnath, Westminster Foundation for Democracy 

There have also been two blog posts about the conference. The first (link here) summarises the contribution made by Judge Robert Spano of the European Court of Human Rights. The second (link here) summarises the conference proceedings.