PLACE DU PETIT-SACONNEX
1211 GENEVA 19, SWITZERLAND
Windhoek (Namibia), 6 and 11 April 1998
The Inter-Parliamentary Council held its 162nd session in the Safari Court Conference Centre in Windhoek on 6 and 11 April 1998 with its President, Mr. M.A. Martinez (Spain), in the chair.
At the start of the first sitting, the President of the Council read out a message from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson, who expressed strong support for the work of the Union in the field of human rights, urged Parliaments of countries that had not yet done so to work for the ratification of major international human rights instruments and invited other countries to review any reservations that had been lodged with a view to lifting them.
At the opening of its second sitting, the Council learned with sorrow of the recent death of Mr. Abdel el-Faez, former Speaker of the Parliament of Jordan and President of the Jordanian IPU Group, and expressed its condolences and solidarity to his family and to the Jordanian Parliament.
On the same occasion, the Council welcomed with great satisfaction the agreement on Northern Ireland reached on 10 April by the Governments of the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. It decided to send a message of congratulations to the Irish and British Prime Ministers for their personal involvement, courage and ability in reaching a peaceful negotiated solution to the conflict.
At the start of its second sitting, the Council heard the three
candidates proposed by the Executive Committee for the post of
Secretary General of the Union and then held a secret ballot,
as a result of which Mr. A.B. Johnsson was appointed Secretary
General of the Union for a four year period (1 July 1998 -
30 June 2002).
The Council also decided that the retiring Secretary General, Mr. P. Cornillon, would be invited to the 100th Conference in Moscow next September when the Union would have an opportunity to say farewell to him in a solemn fashion.
At the start of its work on the morning of 6 April, the Council first adopted the agenda proposed by the Executive Committee at its 225th and 226th sessions. At the opening of its second sitting on 11 April, it had before it a request from the Canadian Group for the inclusion of a supplementary item in the agenda concerning " Follow-up to the resolution entitled Respect for International Humanitarian Law and the Banning of Anti-personnel Mines, adopted by the IPU Council at its 161st session held in Cairo in September 1997 ". After Mrs. S. Finestone (Canada) presented the request, on which the Executive Committee had expressed a unanimously favourable opinion, the Council likewise unanimously decided to add the subject to its agenda (see paragraph 6 below).
At its first sitting, the Council took note that there were no formal requests for affiliation but that two Groups, those of Central African Republic and Mauritania, were liable to suspension of their affiliation under the provisions of Article 4.2 of the Statutes and had been given a final warning by the Executive Committee that their membership of the Union would cease at the time of the 163rd session of the Council (September 1998) unless steps were taken in the meanwhile to regularise the situation. It was also informed that the Executive Committee had considered the situation of the Group of Congo. The Committee had deplored the violent events and loss of life last year in that country and had taken note of the creation of a multi-party National Council of Transition which had emerged from a National Forum of Reconciliation; it heard the representatives of this Council and expressed the hope that all efforts will be made in the country for the drafting of a Constitution to be put to a popular referendum and that the National Council of Transition can soon be replaced by an elected legislature.
At its second sitting, the Council heard the report of the Committee on the Question of the Affiliation of Palestine, presented by its President, Mr. R. Halverson (Australia), and approved his recommendation that discussion of the question be deferred to the 163rd session when it will be taken up at the first sitting of the Council.
The Union therefore continues to comprise 137 member Parliaments and three international parliamentary assemblies as associate members.
(a) Reports by the President
At its first sitting, the Council heard the report of its President on his activities and contacts since the last session. The President informed the members of his meetings with senior officials of the organisations of the UN system to whom he had stressed the need for inter-State organisations to include a parliamentary dimension.
At both of its sittings, the Council took note of the President's
report on the activities of the Executive Committee in the context
of its 226th session in Windhoek.
(b) Interim report by the Secretary General
At its first sitting, the Council had before it the written interim report of the Secretary General on the activities of the Union and the meetings and composition of its various bodies since the last session of the Council. After hearing a presentation by the Secretary General, the Council took note of the report.
At its second sitting, the Council heard a report by the Secretary General on recent developments in co-operation between the Union and the organisations of the UN system, particularly as regards activities carried out under the Agreements of Co-operation with the UN, UNESCO and FAO. The Council approved the project for IPU-UNESCO co-operation to develop Internet sites for Parliaments of developing countries, particularly in Africa, as well as several meetings organised by UNESCO and the FAO with IPU support which are summarised in paragraph 15 below.
On the proposal of the Executive Committee, the Council approved the holding of a Conference of Speakers at the UN in New York in the year 2000 which would provide an opportunity for the solemn re-foundation of the IPU for the 21st century; it took note that every effort must be made to mobilise Speakers of Parliaments and Ministries of Foreign Affairs in support of this project.
The Council also authorised the Secretariat to start making preparations for a second tri-partite meeting of MPs, government representatives and representatives of international organisations in 1999 to promote the follow-up to the Social Development Summit held in Copenhagen in 1995. Furthermore, on the recommendation of the Meeting of Women MPs, the Council took a series of decisions concerning parliamentary action for national follow-up to international agreements and treaties regarding women.
At its second sitting, the Council was informed of recent negotiations carried out by its President and the Secretary General with the Swiss authorities concerning the possible construction of premises for the Union in Geneva to be called " The House of Parliaments ". After a short debate and with abstentions from the delegations of Canada, Germany and Japan, the Council decided to (i) encourage the Secretary General to pursue speedy negotiations with the competent Swiss authorities and obtain the best possible conditions, (ii) request its President and the Secretary General to contact the Swiss Parliament and the highest authorities of the host country in order to hasten implementation of the project and (iii) urge the Swiss National Group to do everything in its power to ensure that the project is carried out in the best conditions. The Council took note that the Executive Committee hoped to be able to present a positive report in Moscow next September when it will carefully review developments relating to this important project.
Having decided to add this supplementary item to its agenda, the Council heard a presentation by Mrs. S. Finestone (Canada) and then adopted without a vote the draft resolution proposed by the Canadian Group.
At it first sitting, the Council heard the report of the Union's Committee for Sustainable Development, presented by Mr. A.S. Akhmetov (Kazakhstan). The Council approved the Committee's report and adopted a declaration on declining official development assistance and financial aid in general. The Council also endorsed the Committee's recommendation that it henceforth be considered as a permanent Committee composed of seven titular and seven alternate members and decided that elections to fill the vacant posts would be held on the occasion of the 100th Conference in Moscow.
On 11 April, Mr. C. Holding (Australia) , President of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, reported to the Council on the work carried out by the Committee at its 80th and 81st session which took place respectively in Geneva from 13 to 16 January 1998 and in Windhoek from 5 to 10 April 1998.
The Council then adopted without a vote resolutions concerning 188 serving or former MPs in the following 16 countries: Argentina, Burundi, Cambodia, Chad, Colombia, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Honduras, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Togo and Turkey. The Council decided that the Committee is to carry out an on-site mission to Indonesia and Malaysia, the necessary funds to be drawn from the Working Capital Fund. The presentation of the Committee's report on the cases of Turkey and Indonesia gave rise to comments from the delegations concerned which expressed reservations on the corresponding resolutions, the latter, however, stating that it would favourably relay the Council's decision regarding the on-site mission to the competent authorities.
On 11 April, the Council heard the report presented by Mrs. P. Shoombe (Namibia) on the work of the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians which she had chaired on 5 and 10 April 1998. The Council took note of the report. It also took note of the new composition of the Co-ordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians, and the re-election of Mrs. F. Kéfi (Tunisia) as President of the Committee and the election of Mrs. S. Finestone (Canada) and Mrs. N. Routledge (South Africa) as First and Second Vice-Presidents, respectively.
At its second sitting, the Council heard the report on the work of the XIIth Meeting of the Representatives of the Parties to the CSCM Process, presented by Mr. M.H. Khelil (Tunisia), President and Rapporteur of the CSCM Co-ordinating Committee. The Council took note of the report. It took note of the arrangements for the Second Thematic Preparatory Meeting of the IIIrd CSCM, which will take place on 25 and 26 June 1998 in Evora (Portugal) on the topic: " Facilitating access to information and cultural exchanges in the Mediterranean ". It also accepted with gratitude the invitation from the Parliament of Slovenia which wishes to host the Third Thematic Preparatory Meeting in March 1999 in Ljubljana.
At its second sitting, the Council considered the report of the Committee to Monitor the Situation in Cyprus, which was presented by Mr. H. Kemppainen (Finland), President and Rapporteur of the Committee. It endorsed the Committee's report.
At its sitting on 11 April 1998, the Council had before it the report of the Committee on Middle East Questions, presented by Mr. M.A. Abdellah (Egypt), Rapporteur. The Council endorsed without a vote the report of the Committee.
On 11 April, the Council heard a report on this Conference, presented by Mr. E. Ndebele (Zimbabwe). The Conference was organised by the Union of African Parliaments (UAP), with the sponsorship of the IPU, and brought together MPs from 21 African Parliaments and observers from five international organisations. The Council took note of the Conclusions and Recommendations of the Conference concerning the role of Parliament in promoting the process of democratisation and the " Harare Declaration of the Union of African Parliaments " on the revitalisation of the UAP.
At its second sitting, the Council had before it the financial results of the Union for 1997 and the report of the External Auditor. It heard an oral report by its own Auditor, Mr. M. Tumubweinee (Uganda) and approved the Union's accounts for 1997 and the Secretary General's financial administration for that year.
At its second sitting, the Council approved the Executive Committee's recommendations concerning the agenda of the 100th Conference which will be held in Moscow (Russian Federation) from 6 to 12 September 1998, as well as the list of observers to be invited to that meeting.
The Council took note of the calendar of future meetings and accepted with gratitude the invitation of the Jordanian Group to host the 103rd Conference in Amman in April/May 2000.
Moreover, on the proposal of the Executive Committee, the Council (i) approved the final arrangements for the joint IPU/FAO Conference on " Attaining the World Food Summit's objectives through a sustainable development strategy " to be held in Rome from 29 November to 2 December 1998; (ii) decided that the IPU would provide support to a Conference to be organised by UNESCO in Paris (French National Assembly and UNESCO Headquarters) from 7 to 9 December 1998 to mark the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; (iii) granted the Union's sponsorship to an Asia-Pacific Conference of parliamentarians and media representatives to discuss partnership between them in promoting a culture of peace, organised by UNESCO and hosted by the Thai Parliament in Bangkok in late October 1998; (iv) accepted the invitation of the Group of Slovenia to host the 3rd Thematic Preparatory Meeting for the IIIrd CSCM in Ljubljana in March 1999; (v) approved the holding of a joint IPU/UNESCO Conference on the theme " Perspectives on Democracy: Do Women make a Difference? ", to be held at UNESCO Headquarters from 2 to 4 December 1999; (vi) approved the holding of a joint IPU/UN meeting on the occasion of the Special Session of the UN General Assembly in June 2000 to review and appraise the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.
At its second sitting, the Council had before it the proposal of the Egyptian Group, supported by those of Argentina and Mexico, to amend Article 20.2 of the Statutes in order to introduce the principle of rotation of the post of President of the Inter-Parliamentary Council among the geo-political groups. It also had before it a sub-amendment by the Indian Group to replace the notion of geo-political groups by " geographical regions ". In the absence of the Indian delegation when the item was taken up, the Council decided to recommend that the Conference adopt the amendment proposed by the Egyptian Group; this matter will accordingly be placed on the agenda of the 100th Inter-Parliamentary Conference for decision.
The Council also decided, on the proposal of the Executive Committee, to amend Rule 5 of the Union's Financial Regulations by changing paragraph 9 and introducing a new paragraph 10. These new provisions stipulate (i) that arrears owed by a National Groups whose affiliation is suspended because the Parliament of the country in question has ceased to function are written off and (ii) that a Group suspended for failing to meets its financial obligations towards the Union shall remain accountable for such arrears.
The Council was also informed that the Executive Committee has (i) decided to open the procedure for amending the Statutes in order to introduce a new Article 22 which will codify the existence of the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians and its Co-ordinating Committee, and (ii) decided to propose the addition of a new paragraph 8 to Rule 3 of the Union's Financial Regulations to cover a situation in which the Council rejects the draft budget proposed by the Executive Committee.