PLACE DU PETIT-SACONNEX
1211 GENEVA 19, SWITZERLAND
Cairo (Egypt), 11 and 16 September 1997
The Inter-Parliamentary Council held its 161st session in the Cairo International Conference Centre on 11 and 16 September 1997 with its President, Mr. A.F. Sorour (Egypt), in the chair.
On a proposal made by the President towards the end of the second sitting, the Council addressed a message of thanks to the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, H.E. Mr. Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, for having honoured the Union by inaugurating the 98th Conference and expressed its support for his sustained efforts to secure peace and stability in the Middle East.
At the close of the session, Mr. G. Haarde (Iceland), Vice-President of the Executive Committee, paid tribute to Mr. Sorour for the work accomplished during his term of office as Council President and, on behalf of the Union, presented him with a silver and ebony gavel and a signed photograph of the members of the Executive Committee. He also welcomed the newly-elected President, Mr. M.A. Martinez (Spain).
At the start of its work on the morning of 11 September, the Council first adopted the agenda proposed by the Executive Committee at its 224th and 225th sessions.
At its first sitting, the Council decided, on the recommendation of the Executive Committee, to accept the request for affiliation to the Union presented by the Parliament of Fiji. Likewise on the recommendation of the Executive Committee which had re-examined the situation of the National Group of Belarus, it decided to reaffiliate the National Assembly of Belarus.
Also at its first sitting, the Council decided to suspend the affiliation of the Group of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (former Zaire) since the Parliament of that country had ceased to function and the establishment of a representative institution is not foreseen; the Council nevertheless hoped that such an institution would be rapidly restored. It also decided to suspend the affiliation of the Groups of Comoros and Jamaica which both owed at least three full years of contributions, while hoping that they would soon be able to regularise their financial situations and thus be in a position to rejoin the Union.
As a result of those decisions, the Union now comprises 137 member Parliaments and three international parliamentary associations as Associate Members.
At its second sitting, the Council had before it the report of the Committee on the Question of the Affiliation of Palestine. Before the Committee's President, Mr. B. Halverson (Australia) presented the report, the Council adopted by 48 votes to 5, with 2 abstentions, a motion presented by the Egyptian delegation to adjourn the debate until its next session in April 1998.
(a) Report by the President of the Council
At its first sitting, the Council took note of the written report by the President on his activities and contacts since the 160th session.
At both sittings, the Council also heard and took note
of the oral report of the President on the activities of the
Executive Committee in the context of its 225th session in
(b) Annual report of the Secretary General on the activities of the Union
At its sitting on 11 September, the Council had before it the written report of the Secretary General on the life and work of the Union during the last year. After hearing a presentation by the Secretary General, the Council took note of the report.
At its first sitting, the Council heard a report by the Secretary General on the positive developments which had taken place over the last year in the field of co-operation between the Union and the United Nations system. The Council took note of several examples of practical co-operation following the signing of the Agreement of Co-operation between the UN and the IPU last year, such as the Union's contributions to the UN Commission on the Status of Women and to the UN Commission for Sustainable Development, as well as the statement made by the President of the Council to the Special Session of the UN General Assembly to review and appraise the implementation of Agenda 21. Looking to the future, the Council noted that the annual meeting of MPs attending the UN General Assembly would be held on 27 October 1997, on the day before the UN General Assembly is to debate an item on " Co-operation between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union ", and was informed of the plans for the Union to open a liaison office with UN Headquarters in New York.
The Council also took note of the signing of two Agreements of Co-operation, one with UNESCO and the other with FAO, as well as developments relating to the conclusion of an Agreement with UNDP. At its second sitting, it adopted a draft resolution presented by the Executive Committee concerning co-operation between the Union and FAO relating in particular to the joint organisation by the Union and FAO, at the invitation of the Italian Parliament, of a specialised Conference on " Agricultural production for attaining the objectives of the World Food Summit while respecting the environment " in Rome in November 1998. The general modalities of this Conference were decided on by the Council in the context of the programme and budget for 1998.
At its second sitting, the Council had before it the draft of a Universal Declaration on Democracy which had been prepared by the Executive Committee and was based on contributions prepared by several experts from all regions and civilisations of the world. The Council adopted the Declaration without a vote, after which the delegation of China expressed certain reservations with regard to the text.
At its second sitting, the Council had before it a draft resolution prepared by the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians recommending action by the Union and its members to mark the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948. The Council adopted the resolution without a vote, after which the delegations of Indonesia and Singapore expressed reservations.
On 16 September, Mr. H. Batalla (Uruguay), President of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, reported to the Council on the work carried out by the Committee at its 78th and 79th sessions which took place respectively in Geneva from 7 to 10 July and in Cairo from 10 to 15 September 1997.
The Council then adopted without a vote resolutions concerning 129 serving or former MPs in the following 12 countries: Burundi, Cambodia, Colombia, Djibouti, Gambia, Honduras, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Togo and Turkey. With regard to cases in Guatemala and Tunisia, the Council endorsed the Committee's recommendation to refer them for examination under the latter's confidential procedure. The presentation of the Committee's report on the cases of Colombia, Djibouti and Indonesia gave rise to comments from the delegations concerned which expressed reservations on the corresponding resolutions.
On 16 September, the Council heard the report presented by Mrs. Y. Loza (Egypt) on the work of the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians which she had chaired on 10 September 1997. The Council took note of this report.
The Council heard at its second sitting the report of the Group's Rapporteur, Mrs. N. Heptulla (India), who gave an account of the Group's first meeting in Cairo.
At its second sitting, the Council heard the report on the work of the XIth Meeting of the Representatives of the Parties to the CSCM Process, presented by Mr. P. Médecin (Monaco). The report covered the results of the Ist thematic preparatory meeting of the IIIrd CSCM that was held in Monaco on 3 and 4 July 1997. The Council took note of the report and gratefully accepted the invitation of the Parliament of Portugal to host the IInd thematic preparatory meeting in Evora on 25 and 26 June 1998.
At its second sitting, the Council considered the report of the Committee which was presented by Sir Peter Lloyd (United Kingdom), in the absence of the Committee's President and Rapporteur, Mr. H. Kemppainen (Finland). It endorsed the Committee's report and recommendations and took note of the Committee's decision concerning the re-election of its officers.
At its sitting on 16 September 1997, the Council had before it the report of the Committee on Middle East Questions, presented by its President, Mr. D. Sow (Senegal). After hearing the representative of Lebanon who stated that he would vote against the adoption of the report unless its paragraph 11 was amended, the Council approved the Committee's report.
On 16 September, the Council had before it the report of the Committee to Promote Respect for International Humanitarian Law (IHL), presented by its President, Mr. J.T. Nonô (Brazil), covering the results of the world enquiry carried out in 1996 and 1997 on parliamentary action to promote national implementation of the rules of IHL, and also on the question of anti-personnel mines. The Council adopted without a vote the resolution proposed by the Committee which, inter alia, authorises it to pursue the enquiry and report in September 1998.
At its second sitting, the Council considered the Executive Committee's proposals for the programme and budget of the Union for 1998, presented by Mr. G. Haarde (Iceland), Rapporteur of the Executive Committee. In his presentation, Mr. Haarde reported that when examining the budget estimates prepared by the Secretary General, the Executive Committee had been conscious of the fact that the Union may face a serious shortfall in the payment of contributions for 1998 and that, as any such shortfall would automatically be met by a drawing from the Working Capital Fund under Rule 6.2(c) of the Union's Financial Regulations, the Executive Committee had felt it judicious to make a substantial provision in the budget for strengthening that Fund as it had already done on a previous occasion under similar circumstances and, at the same time, to make reductions under other budget lines. This will result in a 6.38 % increase in the members' contributions to the 1998 budget as compared with their contributions in 1997. Mr. Haarde informed the Council that the Executive Committee was considering a number of options with a view to reducing future expenditure.
After a substantive debate, in which several delegations took part, the Council held a vote by roll call and approved by 188 votes to 14, with 23 abstentions, the programme and budget for 1998 amounting to SF 9,665,000.- as proposed by the Executive Committee. The Council also approved the scale of contributions to the 1998 budget. It was agreed that the suggestions and comments made by the delegations during the debate would be studied by the Executive Committee at its next session.
At its second sitting, the Council approved the Executive Committee's recommendations concerning the agenda of the 99th Conference which will be held in Windhoek (Namibia) from 6 to 11 April 1998, as well as the list of observers to be invited to that meeting. Moreover, it was informed of the Executive Committee's decision that, on account of the limited number of hotel rooms available in Windhoek at the time of the Conference, the maximum number of rooms that any delegation may reserve will be 11, which will require certain Groups to reduce the number of advisers and secretaries accompanying their delegations; furthermore, no observer delegation may reserve more than two rooms. This decision will be clearly indicated in the convocation of the 99th Conference and other relevant documents.
The Council took note of the calendar of future meetings and accepted with gratitude the invitation of the Belgian Group to host the 101st Conference in Brussels from 5 to 10 April 1999. Moreover, on the proposal of the Executive Committee, the Council decided to grant the Union's sponsorship to the specialised Conference on " Contribution of Parliaments to Democracy in Africa " to be organised by the Union of African Parliaments in Harare (Zimbabwe) during the first week of April 1998, and to the " Third Workshop of Parliamentary Scholars and Parliamentarians " which is organised by the International Political Science Association and will take place in Wroxton College (Oxford, United Kingdom) on 8 and 9 August 1998. The Council took note that the granting of sponsorship to these two events would have no financial implications for the Union.
At its second sitting, the Council had before it the proposal of the Group of Egypt, supported by the Groups of Argentina and Mexico, as well as a sub-amendment presented by the Group of India, to amend the provisions of this Article in order to introduce the notion of a regular rotation of the post of Council President among the various geopolitical or geographical groups in the Union. On the proposal of the delegation of Germany, the Council decided by 40 votes to 3 to adjourn consideration of this item to the first sitting of its next session in April 1998.