PLACE DU PETIT-SACONNEX
1211 GENEVA 19, SWITZERLAND
Berlin (Germany), 11 and 16 October 1999
The Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union held its 165th session at the International Conference Center in Berlin on 11 and 16 October 1999 with its Acting President, Mrs. N.A. Heptulla (India), in the Chair. Part of the meeting on 16 October (that concerning election to the office of President of the Council) was chaired by the Vice-President of the Executive Committee, Mr. F. Solana (Mexico).
Before beginning its proceedings, the Council observed a minute's
silence in honour of the memory of Dr. Hans Stercken, a former
President of the Council, who died on 26 June 1999.
1. MEMBERSHIP OF THE UNION
At its first sitting, the Council decided, on the recommendation of the Executive Committee, to reaffiliate the Parliament of Nigeria and to affiliate the Parliament of Ukraine to the Union.
At the same sitting, the Council decided to suspend the affiliation of the Parliament of Niger which had ceased to function. However, it welcomed the announcement that parliamentary elections would be held before the end of 1999 and expressed the hope that a legislative institution would be promptly re-established in Niger so that the Parliament would be in a position to rejoin the Union.
As a result of those decisions, the Union now comprises 139 member parliaments and five international parliamentary associations as Associate Members.
At the first sitting of the Council, the Secretary General reviewed developments in cooperation between the Union and the United Nations system since the previous session. Mr. V. Petrovsky, Under-Secretary-General and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, addressed the meeting.
The Council noted that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. M. Robinson, would address the Conference the following day.
The Council encouraged member parliaments of the IPU to attend the annual Parliamentarians' Meeting at United Nations Headquarters on 25 October 1999 and to be present when the General Assembly considered its agenda item on cooperation between the UN and the IPU on 27 October. It also urged IPU members to take steps to ensure that their countries' Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in New York formally sponsored the draft resolution on the matter and promoted its adoption.
The Council urged members to attend the Forum entitled "Perspectives on Democracy: How Women Make a Difference", organised jointly by the IPU and UNESCO, in association with the UN Division for the Advancement of Women, to be held at UNESCO Headquarters from 1 to 3 December 1999.
The Council also encouraged members to participate in the parliamentary meeting on the occasion of the UNCTAD X Conference to be organised by the IPU and the National Assembly of Thailand with the assistance of the UNCTAD Secretariat on 10 and 11 February 2000 in Bangkok.
At the second sitting of the Council, the Secretary General reported on the second session of the Preparatory Committee for the Conference of Presiding Officers of National Parliaments held in Rabat, Morocco, on 8 and 9 September 1999. The Council approved the nomination of the Hon. Gildas Molgat, Speaker of the Canadian Senate, and of the Presidents of the two Chambers of the Swiss Federal Parliament as members of the Committee and the continued membership of the following outgoing members of the Executive Committee, who had participated in its proceedings from the outset: Mr. E. Menem (Argentina), Mr. C.-S. Park (Republic of Korea) and Mr. M.M. Traoré (Burkina Faso).
The Council endorsed the arrangements for the Conference and took note of the draft Declaration that had been prepared by the Preparatory Committee. The Council noted in particular that the format of the Conference of Presiding Officers precluded any last-minute modification of the draft Declaration and therefore recognised the importance of building a broad consensus on its content as soon as possible. To that end, the Preparatory Committee had requested the Secretary General to share the draft with the IPU geopolitical groups before the Berlin Conference. Those groups and the national parliaments represented in the IPU have thus been given an opportunity to study the text and make proposals for further improvements. Such proposals should be submitted in writing to the Secretary General by 1 December 1999 at the latest. The Council noted that the Declaration would be finalised by the Preparatory Committee at its third session in Geneva on 31 January and 1 February 2000.
The Secretary General reported to the Council on developments in the project for the construction of a new headquarters building for the Union in Geneva. The Council took note of information on three proposed sites: the first, located behind the World Health Organization (WHO) building in Pregny-Chambésy, would involve the construction of a new building; the second, located in Chemin du Pommier, would involve the restoration and conversion of an old family property; the third, located in the vicinity of the International Labour Organization (ILO), may have to be ruled out as it will not be ready for construction for several years. The Inter-Parliamentary Union will receive a final response on the first two options by the beginning of the year 2000.
Mr. Nzouba-Ndama, President of the National Assembly of Gabon, presented the results of the Parliamentary Seminar on Relations between Majority and Minority Parties in African Parliaments and introduced the publication on the meeting (see publication No. 33, 1999). Taking note of the results, the Council urged all members of the Union to bring the model guidelines for the opposition in parliament adopted by the Seminar to the attention of their assemblies. The Council authorised the Secretary General to consult the Union's external partners, particularly the UNDP, on the possibility of organising similar seminars in different parts of the world to draw on ideas emanating from a range of political cultures. This will enable the IPU to draw up consolidated guidelines on the rights and duties of the opposition in parliament.
(a) Report by the President of the Council
At its first sitting, the Council took note of the written and oral reports by the outgoing President, Mr. M.A. Martínez (Spain), on his activities and contacts from the end of the 164th session until his resignation on 15 July 1999. It further took note of the oral report by the Acting President, Mrs. N.A. Heptulla (India) on her activities and contacts since 15 July.
At both sittings, the Council also took note of an oral report by the President on the activities of the Executive Committee during its 229th session in Berlin.
(b) Interim report of the Secretary General on the activities of the Union since the 164th session of the Council
At its sitting on 16 October, the Council had before it the written report of the Secretary General on the activities of the Union since the 164th session of the Council. Following an introductory statement by the Secretary General, the Council took note of the report.
(c) Four-yearly evaluation of the activities of the Union's members
At its sitting on 16 October, the Council also had before it the Executive Committee's report and recommendations on the four-yearly evaluation of the activities of the Union's members. It took note of the report, again following an introductory statement by the Secretary General.
On 16 October, Mrs. R. Süssmuth (Germany) reported to the Council on the proceedings of the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians which she had chaired on 10 October. The Council took note of the report.
On 16 October, Mr. M. Vauzelle (France) reported to the Council on the proceedings of the Fifteenth Meeting of representatives of parties to the CSCM process, held on 13 October under the chairmanship of his compatriot, Mr. C. Huriet. Taking note of the report, the Council approved the arrangements and draft rules for the Third Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Mediterranean (CSCM), to be held in Marseilles (France) from 30 March to 3 April 2000.
On 16 October, Mr. F. Autain (France), President of the Committee, reported on the proceedings of its 86th and 87th sessions held respectively in Geneva from 7 to 10 July 1999 and in Berlin from 10 to 15 October 1999.
The Council then adopted without a vote resolutions concerning 130 serving or former MPs in the following 17 countries: Argentina, Belarus, Bhutan, Burundi, Cambodia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Ecuador, Gambia, Guinea, Honduras, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Republic of Moldova and Turkey. Statements were made by delegates from Colombia, Denmark, Mali and the Republic of Moldova.
On 16 October, the Group of Facilitators on Cyprus reported on the inter-Cypriot meeting that it had organised at the 102nd Conference in Berlin on 12 October. Two of the three Facilitators, Mr. H. Gjellerod (Denmark) and Mr. J. Hunt (New Zealand), took the floor in turn, indicating that the meeting had proved extremely constructive. They stated that the Cypriot parties, which were represented at the meeting at the level of political parties and one of which is a member of the Union, wished their status to be taken into consideration. They indicated that the two parties had expressed the wish that similar meetings should be held in Cyprus itself. They announced that it had been agreed that half of any session held on the island should take place in the south and half in the north. Taking note of that wish, the Council authorised the Group of Facilitators to proceed, provided that any costs should be defrayed alternately by the parties concerned.
On 16 October, the Council took note of the report of the Committee on Middle East Questions presented by its Rapporteur, Mr. A. Philippou (Cyprus).
On 16 October, the Council took note of the report and adopted the recommendations of the Committee to Promote Respect for International Humanitarian Law presented by the Committee's Rapporteur, Mr. J. Hunt (New Zealand).
The Group's Moderator, Mrs. T.V. Yariguina (Russian Federation) reported to the Council on the Group's meeting in Berlin. Following a discussion of how national delegations to inter-parliamentary sessions are formed, the Council took note of the oral report. In this connection, the Council heard statements by the delegations of the following countries: Belgium, Mali, Mozambique and Venezuela.
On 16 October, the Council considered the Executive Committee's proposals for the programme and budget of the Union for 2000, presented by Mr. M.P. Tjitendero (Namibia), Rapporteur of the Executive Committee. In his presentation, Mr. Tjitendero pointed out that the proposed budget was 4.5% higher than the current year's budget as a result of the volume of activities approved by the Council for the year 2000. Nevertheless, the contribution of each member parliament would be maintained at the current year's level, on the one hand because of new affiliations that had taken place during 1999 and, on the other, because part of the budgetary increase would be financed by drawing from a reserve account and by transferring certain provisions from 1999. He informed the Council that the Executive Committee had held in-depth discussions on the overall financial situation of the Union. The Committee was cognizant of the need to draw up contingency plans to meet the possible cessation of payment of one of its major contributors. The Committee was developing plans to that effect and at the same time was pursuing its reflection on introducing new reforms in the IPU, including a reordering of priorities for the Organisation which would have implications for the future programme and budget.
After hearing clarifications provided by the Secretary General in response to questions raised or reservations expressed by delegates from Austria, Canada, Colombia, Japan and Uganda, the Council approved without a vote the budget and the scale of contributions for the year 2000.
At its second sitting, the Council considered the Executive Committee's recommendations concerning the agenda of the 103rd Inter-Parliamentary Conference to be held in Amman (Jordan) from 30 April to 6 May 2000. Following a discussion, it agreed that the debate on agenda item 4 should not be confined to peace, stability and comprehensive development in the Middle East, as porposed, but should cover the whole world. The agenda was amended accordingly and approved. The Council also endorsed a recommendation by the Executive Committee that the Parliamentary Union of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference Members be granted observer status and approved the list of observers to be invited to the Amman Conference.
The Council took note of the calendar of future meetings and other activities. It approved the modalities for the parliamentary meeting on the occasion of UNCTAD X, the tripartite meeting on the occasion of the "Beijing + 5" Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly and the parliamentary meeting on the occasion of the "Copenhagen + 5" Special Session of the General Assembly. Furthermore, on the proposal of the Executive Committee, the Council decided to grant Union sponsorship to the Fourth Workshop of Parliamentary Scholars and Parliamentarians organised by the Department of Politics of the University of Hull (United Kingdom).