PLACE DU PETIT-SACONNEX
1211 GENEVA 19, SWITZERLAND
Jakarta (Indonesia), 16 and 21 October 2000
The Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union held its 167th session at the Jakarta Conference Centre on 16 and 21 October 2000 with its President, Dr. N.A. Heptulla (India), in the chair.
The Council noted the written and oral reports by Dr. Heptulla on her activities and meetings since the end of the 167th session in May 2000. The Council also noted an oral report by the President on the activities of the Executive Committee during its 231st session, in Jakarta. Moreover, the Council noted the written interim report of the Secretary General on the activities of the Union since its 166th session.
At its first sitting, the Council decided, on the recommendation of the Executive Committee, to affiliate the Parliaments of Liechtenstein, Samoa, and Sao Tome and Principe to the Union. At the same sitting, the Council decided to suspend the affiliation of the Parliament of Fiji which had ceased to function. As a result of those decisions, the Union now comprises 140 Member parliaments and five international parliamentary assemblies as Associate Members.
(i) Conference of Presiding Officers of National Parliaments
The Council took note of the written and oral report on the outcome of the Conference of Presiding Officers of National Parliaments that was held in New York from 30 August to 1 September 2000, in the United Nations General Assembly Hall. 145 Presiding Officers of National Parliaments and 11 Vice-Presidents attended this first ever world summit of Presidents of Parliaments which was organised by the Inter-Parliamentary Union in cooperation with the United Nations. 403 representatives of 138 national parliaments, 3 regional assemblies and 22 observer organisations took part in the event.
At the close of the conference, the participants adopted by consensus the Declaration on "The Parliamentary Vision for International Cooperation at the Dawn of the Third Millennium". The Council called on all member Parliaments of the IPU to do everything possible to ensure that the declaration is followed up in a practical and effective manner and, on that basis, to undertake a thoroughgoing review of the parliamentary contribution to the international cooperation process.
The Council expressed regret that two Presiding Officers had been refused visas to enter the United States and had therefore been prevented from participating in the Conference. The Council reaffirmed the fundamental principle of the IPU that "it can only hold meetings if all its members are invited and if their representatives are assured of receiving the necessary visas for participation".
(ii) Millennium Summit
The Council noted that its President had been invited to present the outcome of the Presiding Officers' Conference to the Millennium Summit of Heads of State and Government which was held at the United Nations Headquarters from 6 to 8 September 2000. It welcomed the Millennium Declaration adopted at that Summit in which the heads of State and government resolved "to further strengthen cooperation between the United Nations and national parliaments through their world organization, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, in various fields, including: peace and security, economic and social development, international law and human rights, democracy and gender issues".
(iii) The status of IPU at the United Nations
At its second sitting, the Secretary General reviewed developments in the cooperation between the Union and the United Nations system. The Council was informed of the discussions that had taken place in the Executive Committee and the latter's consultations with the geopolitical groups in the IPU regarding the Union's status at the United Nations. Based on their unanimous recommendation, the Council decided that the Union should not seek observer status in the UN General Assembly. Instead it suggested that the General Assembly "request the UN Secretary-General, in consultation with member States and the IPU, to explore ways in which a new and formalised relationship may be established between the IPU, the General Assembly and its subsidiary organs, and to report thereon to the General Assembly at its resumed session in May 2001."
The Council urged IPU members to take steps to ensure that their countries' Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in New York formally sponsored this year's draft resolution on cooperation between the Union and the UN which contained the above request. Moreover, the Council encouraged member parliaments of the IPU to be present at United Nations Headquarters on 8 November 2000 when the General Assembly would consider the resolution.
(iv) International law and human rights
The Council welcomed the growing cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. It took note of the outcome of the sub-regional workshop for North East Asian Parliaments on human rights and parliaments that had been organised by the IPU in Mongolia in cooperation with the High Commissioner's Office. It welcomed the intention to organise similar workshops in other regions.
The Council noted that work had now started on two parliamentary handbooks: one to be developed on human rights in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the other on international refugee protection with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Council welcomed the interest expressed by the Director General of the UN Office in Vienna, Mr. P. Arlacchi, to develop cooperation with the IPU in support of United Nations efforts to combat transnational crime, money laundering and drug trafficking.
(v) Economy, trade and development
The Council took note of the progress report delivered by the Secretary General on discussions with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank to seek to develop a parliamentary dimension to these organisations. The Council noted that consultations had been started with the African Parliaments with a view to the possible organisation of a parliamentary conference on development issues in which the UNDP had expressed interest.
The Council took note of the plans that were being developed to hold, with the support of the World Trade Organization, a parliamentary meeting on trade issues, in Geneva. It invited the European Parliament to participate in planning the event, and authorised the President of the Council and the Secretary General to nominate a Preparatory Committee that would finalise such plans.
(i) Parliamentary follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women
The Council took note of the activities to follow up this Conference which, for the Inter-Parliamentary Union, took the form of a meeting and publications.
The Council noted the Tripartite Consultation on the theme "Democracy through Partnership between Men and Women" that had taken place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 7 June 2000. It had been organised by the IPU in cooperation with the UN Division for the Advancement of Women on the occasion of the UN General Assembly Special Session entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the 21st century" (New York, 5-9 June 2000), which had convened to assess progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action at the national, regional and international levels. The Consultation aimed at adding a parliamentary dimension and promoting dialogue between three major institutional players whose action is becoming more interdependent and complementary: parliaments, governments and intergovernmental organisations. The event was chaired by the President of the Council and brought together 450 participants, including the members and representatives of governments and parliaments from 75 countries, representatives of five regional parliamentary assemblies or organisations and 9 international organisations. The debate was geared to Twelve suggestions for parliamentary follow-up to Beijing + 5.
With respect to publications, the Consultation provided an opportunity to launch a poster "Women in Politics: 2000" - a world map showing data on the presence of women in the legislative and executive branches. The poster (the eighth in several years) was, for the first time, released jointly by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the United Nations. Participants also discussed the outcome of the IPU world survey entitled Participation of women in political life: An assessment of developments in national parliaments, political parties and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, five years after the Fourth World Conference on Women, as well as an information kit called Women in Politics, 1945-2000 and the study Politics: Women's Insight, which is a compilation of the insights shared by 180 woman politicians from 65 countries, on their political careers and experiences, and which describes the special contribution of women to the democratic process.
(ii) Parliamentary follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development
The Council also took note of the report on the results of the Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the "Copenhagen+5" Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly convened by the Union on 27 June 2000 and attended by some 130 participants from 40 countries. The meeting provided an opportunity for parliamentarians to take part in a debate with experts relating to the full range of issues covered by the World Summit for Social Development and the Special Session of the UN General Assembly.
The Council was informed in this regard that paragraph 126 of the outcome document adopted by the "Copenhagen+5" Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly specifically invited "parliamentarians to continue to adopt legislative measures, and to expand awareness-raising, necessary for implementing the commitments of the World Summit for Social Development and the further initiatives contained in the present document and encourage the contribution of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in this effort".
(iii) Parliament and the Budgetary Process, including from the Gender Perspective
The Council took note of the Regional Seminar on this topic which was held in Nairobi (Kenya) from 22 to 24 May 2000 for English-speaking African countries. The Seminar, which was preceded by a National Seminar on the budget, was organised in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in the context of the IPU/UNDP parliamentary support programme to promote democracy and good governance, with input from UNIFEM and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA). It was inaugurated in the presence of the President and Vice-President of the Republic and chaired by the Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya, who was assisted in the chair by the leaders of the delegations of Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The event brought together 120 participants from 17 countries and representatives of five international organisations. Participants exchanged views and experiences on the respective roles and functions of government and parliament in the budgetary process, with special emphasis on ways and means of including a gender perspective in the budget. The MPs and parliamentary staff represented were able to follow parallel sessions led by resource persons on seven topics: (i) the budget: purpose, composition and terminology, (ii) the respective roles of government and parliament in the budget process; (iii) the need for accountability and transparency in the budget process; (iv) parliamentary oversight of the budget: reading, analysing and questioning; (v) the national audit; (vi) gender impact analysis of the budget; (vii) mechanisms and methods for developing a gender sensitive budget, including gender disaggregated data. At the end of the proceedings, the Key Issues and Guidelines that had emerged from the discussions, as summarised by the President of the Seminar, were adopted unanimously.
The Council responded to the wish expressed in Nairobi that seminars might be held in French-speaking Africa and in other regions by approving the holding, in Bamako (Mali) in July 2001, of a similar event for French-speaking African parliaments. The Council also noted that the Nairobi Key Issues and Guidelines would provide source material for an IPU Handbook for parliamentarians on the subject.
(iv) Sub-Regional North East Asia Workshop on Human Rights and Parliaments
The Council took note of the results of this Seminar, held from 7 to 10 August 2000 in Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) at the invitation of the Government and Parliament of Mongolia. The Workshop was the first activity jointly organised by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in July 1999. Delegations from the five North-East Asian Parliaments (China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Republic of Korea) participated in the Workshop, which was inaugurated by the Chairperson of the State Great Hural of Mongolia, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Assistant Secretary General of the IPU, and the United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Ulaanbaatar. The discussions were led by the Chairperson of the State Great Hural's Human Rights Sub-Committee, who was assisted by a member of that Parliament. Several resource persons contributed.
The programme was designed to address ways in which parliaments as an institution as well as their members individually could promote and ensure respect for human rights, and covered the following nine topics: (i) parliaments and their members as guardians of human rights; (ii) human rights and legislation; (iii) parliaments and human rights treaties; (iv) human rights in the structure of parliament; (v) parliaments and national planning for the promotion and protection of human rights; (vi) parliamentary oversight and human rights; (vii) role of individual parliamentarians in the promotion and protection of human rights in parliament and in their constituencies; (viii) the role of parliaments in addressing thematic human rights issues: a case study on the Convention on the Rights of the Child; (ix) the United Nations: A partner for parliamentarians in the promotion and protection of human rights.
The Council took note of a report by Mrs. I.I. Murti (Indonesia) on the proceedings and outcome of the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians which she had chaired on 15 October 2000. The report included an appeal to national parliaments to take action with a view to the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and its Optional Protocol. It further included an appeal to national parliaments to take action as follow-up to the Beijing + 5 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly, based on Twelve suggestions for parliamentary follow-up to Beijing+5. The Council also took note of a further election to the Coordinating Committee.
The Council took note of a report by Mr. M. Vauzelle (France) on the proceedings and outcome of the seventeenth Meeting of Representatives of Parties to the CSCM process, held on 18 October 2000 under his chairmanship. It noted the enlargement of the composition of the CSCM Ad Hoc Committee. It agreed to hold in Valetta (Malta), on 19-20 January 2001, a session of an Ad Hoc Committee of the CSCM to study in depth issues relating to the possible establishment of a parliamentary assembly of Mediterranean States and noted that the Maltese House of Representatives had offered to bear virtually all the costs of the session, particularly those of interpretation.
The Council took note of a report by Mr. H. Etong (Cameroon), Vice-President of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, who outlined the work of the Committee at its 90th and 91st sessions which took place respectively in Geneva from 10 to 13 July and in Jakarta from 15 to 20 October 2000.
The Council then adopted without a vote resolutions concerning 133 serving or former MPs in the following 16 countries: Argentina, Belarus, Burundi, Cambodia, Colombia, Djibouti, Ecuador, the Gambia, Guinea, Honduras, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Republic of Moldova, Sri Lanka and Turkey. The delegations of Malaysia and Turkey each entered a reservation to the resolution regarding their respective country.
The Council took note of an oral report by Mr. P. Günter (Switzerland) on the proceedings of the subsidiary meeting of the Committee for Sustainable Development, held on 17 October 2000 under his chairmanship.
The Council took note of the report presented by Mr. A. Philippou (Cyprus) on developments in the Middle East since April 2000 based mainly on the accounts given by the Arab delegations (Israel was not represented in Jakarta). The Council authorised the Secretary General to contact the Knesset, the Palestinian Legislative Council and the Palestine National Council, with a view to the possible organisation of a meeting of their representatives with the Committee in the near future to allow them to express their views on the current situation and their opinions on any other means that the Union's Members could use to make a contribution to the peace process. The Council decided that such a meeting should not have any cost implications for the IPU.
The Council took note of a report by Ms B. Mugo (Kenya) on the proceedings and outcome of the meeting of the Committee to Promote Respect for International Humanitarian Law. It welcomed initiatives taken by various parliaments and institutions to translate into different languages the IPU/ICRC Handbook for Parliamentarians on Respect for International Humanitarian Law. It also endorsed the Committee's appeal to parliaments to take action, as appropriate, to ratify the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons before the Review Conference that is due to take place in 2001, to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, and to pursue action on the question of anti-personnel mines and that of the International Criminal Court.
The Council took note of the report presented by Ms Y. Loza (Egypt) on developments and contacts between the two Cypriot sides since May 2000, and on contacts in Jakarta between the two parties arranged with the assistance of the Facilitators. It noted that both sides had affirmed their full support to the Proximity Talks which are being held between the two Leaders, in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions, that they had underlined the importance of good will and expressed their hopes that the Talks would be fruitful. It also noted that the parties had expressed the wish that the process of contacts at the IPU be continued on the occasion of the Havana meetings, in April 2001.
The Council took note of the report on the deliberations and recommendations of the Gender Partnership Group, presented to it by Mr. M.P. Tjitendero (Namibia). It noted the Group's appeal to develop a culture of gender parity and partnership, particularly by educating boys and girls. It took note of an encouraging change with regard to the presence of women in delegations to IPU Meetings and in the Union's main bodies over the past three years. It further took note of the provisional results of the consultation of all IPU members, which had been undertaken by the Group, as well as that body's intention to pursue the consultation in order to give all members an opportunity to express themselves, with a view to submitting a more detailed report to the Council in 2001.
On 21 October, the Council considered the Executive Committee's proposals for the program and budget of the Union for 2001, presented by Mr. H. Gjellerod (Denmark), Rapporteur of the Executive Committee. In his presentation Mr. Gjellerod gave a succinct account of the Union's present financial situation arising from the US contribution being in arrears since 1997. He stated that if the US continued defaulting on payment, the liquidity of the Working Capital Fund would only amount to some 20 percent of the annual budget by the end of 2001. Despite that likelihood, the Union was obliged to continue to assess the US for contributions to the budget since, under the Statutes, the US Congress remained a member of the Union. Moreover, it was imperative that the Union maintain its present level of activities. He also informed the Council that the Executive Committee was looking into the possibility of revising the scale of assessments and exploring additional funding sources. The budget which the Executive Committee was proposing would not lead to an increase in the member parliaments' contributions from their current level. The Executive Committee had noted that economies realised in the implementation of the current year's budget could result in savings representing 4% of the total appropriations.
The Council unanimously approved the budget and table of contributions proposed by the Executive Committee for the year 2001.
The Council had before it a progress report on the construction of the new headquarters building for the Union. It noted that from among five architectural projects, the one submitted by the firm of architects Brauen & Wälchli of Lausanne, Switzerland had been selected by a panel on which the IPU was represented by Mr. I. Fjuk (Estonia) and by the Secretary General. Since then a building committee composed of the architects and representatives of the IPU Secretariat and the Geneva-based Building Foundation for International Organisations (FIPOI) had held weekly meetings to finalise the building plans in order to ensure that they conformed to all aspects of the needs defined by the IPU Council. A request for the building permit had been submitted to the Geneva cantonal authorities on 13 October 2000. The request for the building loan of SF.9.5 million was to be submitted to the Swiss federal authorities shortly. The construction work was expected to start at the beginning of 2001 and to be completed in April 2002 or thereabouts. At the present stage of building plans it appeared that the final cost could somewhat exceed the approved limit of SF.9.5 million and a tender procedure would be followed to select firms for construction work and installations in order to keep the costs at the lowest. Should it appear that the final cost was still likely to exceed the approved ceiling, certain sections of the existing building that would not be required to meet the short to medium term needs, would not be fully renovated and refurbished.
The Council decided to present to the Conference for adoption two amendments to the Statutes proposed by the Executive Committee, as follows: to amend Article 6 of the Statutes changing the date for submission of annual reports by the member parliaments from the end of March to the end of January and to amend Article 27.3 of the Statutes replacing the provision that the budget of the Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments shall be part of the Budget of the IPU by a provision stating that the IPU shall make an annual contribution towards the budget of the ASGP.
The Council was informed by its President of the Executive Committee's deliberations on its proposals for a wider revision of the Statutes aimed at reflecting better in the Statutes the fact that the IPU was an organisation of national parliaments. She recalled that those amendments had arisen out of discussions held with a very large number of parliaments over the last couple of years and with many Speakers of parliament in the context of preparing for the Conference of Presiding Officers of National Parliaments. Concerns had been expressed that the current wording of the Statutes did not reflect the evolution that the organisation has undergone these last 100 years and that it made it difficult to distinguish the IPU from so many other organisations that, like the Union, were not intergovernmental. The amendments had been submitted to the Council in Amman and subsequently circulated to all members. While no sub-amendments had been submitted, some members had expressed reservations and one geopolitical group had asked that consideration of the matter be postponed.
The Executive Committee was convinced that amendments of such a fundamental nature should be approved by all the members and therefore wished to study the matter further with a view to finding a consensus. The Council decided to postpone its deliberations on the amendments and requested the Executive Committee to examine possible sub-amendments that could satisfy all the members of the Organisation at its additional session in New Delhi in December 2000 and to place the matter before the Council and then the Conference in Havana for a final decision.
The Council approved the agenda of the 105th Inter-Parliamentary Conference to be held in Havana (Cuba) in April 2001 and the list of organisations invited to attend as observers.
The Council accepted the invitation of the Parliament of Uruguay to host the 108th Conference of the IPU in the latter part of 2002 and welcomed the invitation of the Parliament of Chile to host a statutory conference at the earliest available opportunity.
The Council approved a request by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the IPU help organise a parliamentary session on the occasion of the Second Global Forum on Fighting Corruption to be held in The Hague in May 2001. It also approved the proposals of the Committee for Sustainable Development concerning the modalities and practical arrangements for the holding of the Parliamentary Meeting on International Trade in Geneva in mid-2001 which it had authorised at its previous session and took note that the exact dates for the meeting would be determined following consultations with the World Trade Organisation.
It approved the inclusion of the following specialised meetings in the programme for 2001: (i) Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-III), (ii) Seminar for French-speaking Parliaments in Africa on "Parliament and the budgetary process, including from the gender perspective", organised under the IPU/UNDP Parliamentary Support Programme and (iii) Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
The Council took note of the calendar of future meetings and other activities.