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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation October 18, 2019


Hello friends,
I have been in Belgrade, Serbia this week attending the Inter-Parliamentary Union's 141st gathering of parliamentarians from 178 countries. I landed just now so this week's missive will be mostly photos - I apologize for those of you who have been following my journey on social media for the tedious duplication. 
While I must admit it felt a little lonely to be only one of two Americans at the Summit, I did find it incredibly satisfying to listen to the women parliamentarians speak about the role that institutional reforms like gender quotas, proportional voting systems, and gender-conscious parliamentary procedures have played in their success as candidates and elected officials. Hearing from the  parliamentarians first-hand that systems reforms are really driving the election of women around the globe fortifies my commitment to track the international data, analyze the trends, and push for the adoption of institutional reforms in the United States. 
Here is a bit of history of the organization from the IPU website:

The Inter-Parliamentary Union was created in 1889, in an era when there were no established means for governments, parliaments or MPs to work together internationally.

It took two 19th century men of vision—Englishman William Randal Cremer and Frenchman Frédéric Passy—to lay the foundations for all that has followed. They set up an association of MPs which has been transformed into the thriving global organization of today.

The men were from vastly different social backgrounds, but were united in their belief in solving international disputes through peaceful means. Lifelong, tireless campaigners for peace, both went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize—along with six other IPU figures.

Their work led to the world’s first permanent international political organization and provided the origins for multilateral cooperation between nations today. The IPU was instrumental in setting up the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 1899, and its calls for an international institution linking governments helped lay the foundations for the creation of the League of Nations in 1919 and the United Nations in 1945.

The idea of bringing together MPs from different countries had been gaining ground among pacifists in the 1870s and 80s, but until 1889 no one had seized the initiative to turn the idea into a reality.

Cremer had been born into poverty in England, working as a carpenter and trade union leader before becoming an MP in 1885. Passy was from a wealthy and influential French family, and was a respected economist. They were working separately in their own countries to promote arbitration between nations, before joining forces across the social and national divides that separated them.

Cremer had persuaded 234 of his fellow MPs to sign a document proposing an arbitration treaty with the United States. He headed a delegation which crossed the Atlantic and presented it to US President Grover Cleveland.

The treaty was not approved by Congress, but the visit triggered a barrage of support for the notion of arbitration, and in June 1888 the US Senate adopted a proposal to enter into arbitration over disputes with other governments whenever possible.

Around the same time, Passy put forward a motion calling on his own government to seize every opportunity to settle international conflicts by mediation and arbitration.

Cremer heard about the Frenchman's actions, and wrote to him suggesting they met to exchange views. Cremer said he could bring 200 British MPs to Paris if they were invited to a meeting.

Passy issued the invitation, telling Cremer that if he brought only half a dozen MPs it would be a great event. The historic meeting was organized at the Grand Hotel in Paris on 31 October 1888.

In the event only 9 British MPs crossed the Channel and joined 25 of their French counterparts at the meeting. Passy opened proceedings and was elected President, while Cremer and Sir George Campbell became Vice-Presidents.

The meeting concluded that a treaty of arbitration between France and the United States was far more likely to succeed than a treaty between Britain and the United States, due to disputes over Ireland and Canada.

Keen to continue their work and far from discouraged by the low attendance, the MPs arranged to meet the following year.

Crucially, they decided to invite MPs sympathetic to the cause of arbitration from parliaments around the world, opening the doors to serious international conferences for the first time. A committee was set up to organize a conference in Paris on 29 and 30 June 1889, to coincide with the World Exhibition.

When Cremer visited the modest hall chosen as the venue a few days before the conference began, he was appalled and felt it was a poor match for the grandeur of the occasion. He rushed out and booked the Hotel Continental—home to one of the most beautiful auditoriums in Paris.

This time the meeting was attended by 55 French and 28 British MPs, as well as 5 Italians and 1 representative each from the parliaments of Belgium, Denmark, Hungary, Liberia, Spain and the United States.

Although the global contingent was small, it was enough to give the Conference an international character. On the second day, the MPs decided the meeting should take place every year.

The Inter-Parliamentary Conference—later called the Inter-Parliamentary Union—had officially been born on 30 June 1889. Passy was elected President and Cremer Vice-President.

Three years later, the group set up its headquarters, the Inter-Parliamentary Bureau, at Berne in Switzerland, with Albert Gobat (who went on to win the second Nobel Peace Prize) acting as voluntary Secretary General until 1909.

It was Cremer who initiated the process by which Christian Lange became the first paid Secretary General, from 1909 until 1932, and the organization was placed on a firmer footing financially by Andrew Carnegie.

The organization adopted its current name—the Inter-Parliamentary Union—in 1899.


I had fun chatting with a delegate from Cabo Verde as the United States and Cabo Verde used to be tied for 78th place for women's representation but now they have edged us out and rank 77th while the US now ranks 78th!


I was honored to attend two meetings of the Bureau of Women Parliamentarians and share with them some of the resources that a small team has been developing to help parliamentarians meet the UN's Sustainable Development Goals for women's representation and leadership. The RepresentWomen team was especially involved in the development of the script for a video on strategies to advance women's representation and a big book of infographics for every country showing their progress toward gender balance. I am very glad to be working with former Ambassador from New Zealand to the UN, Amanda Ellis, and her terrific partner Marianne Dutkiewicz on this ongoing project - here they are in action below!
And I met a parliamentarian from the UAE which is now at parity!
Next year is of course 2020 and an excellent excuse to get Americans back at this important gathering.....I am going to do my best to find some members of Congress to attend the gathering scheduled for Switzerland and Rwanda next year - let me know if you have any suggestions for good strategies for this pursuit!
I found this piece in US News and World Report very interesting - great to see analysis like this of multiple factors that impact women's well-being:
GENDER IMBALANCES HAVE long been a point of policy discussions in countries, and with lawmakers focusing on women's representation, rights, and access to services. Yet some countries are still better for women than others, shows new research, and the top 10 are all European.

This week, the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and the Peace Research Institute Oslo announced the inaugural 2019-2020 Women, Peace, and Security Index, illustrated by National Geographic magazine. The index ranks 167 countries from best to worst places to be a woman.
Sorry to be so hasty here - thanks for all you do,
P.S. 😕 CA governor Gavin Newsom vetoed the legislation that had NO OPPOSITION IN THE LEGISLATURE that would have allowed jurisdictions in California the option to adopt Ranked Choice Voting. Newsom's absurd veto is a clear statement that he doesn't trust localities in California to adopt voting systems that save taxpayers money, fuel civility, increase turnout, eliminate split votes, and elect more women & candidates of color to office. 

More than 17 years after San Francisco approved ranked-choice voting over the objections of then-Supervisor Gavin Newsom, California’s first-year governor got a chance for some payback, vetoing a bill that would have allowed more cities, counties and school districts across the state to switch to the voting system.

The bill, SB212 by state Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, was overwhelmingly approved by both the state Senate and the Assembly. An analysis of the bill found no opposition.

If you know Gov Newsom please ask him why he is so opposed to this voting system that has out-performed all the expectations. The winner take all voting system is a huge impediment to women's electoral success and the fact that he vetoed legislation that would have leveled the playing field for women candidates is infuriating. I am really very vexed with both the governor and his wife who can no longer claim the mantle of women's representation champions.

The confluence of the Danube and the Sava Rivers...
In the bathroom at the palace...

One last photo that captures fleeting beauty....

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