PLACE DU PETIT-SACONNEX
1211 GENEVA 19, SWITZERLAND
Havana (Cuba), 2 and 7 April 2001
The Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union held its 168th session at the Havana Convention Centre on 2 and 7 April 2001 with its President, Dr. N. Heptulla (India), in the chair.
The Council took note of the written and oral reports by Dr. Heptulla on her work undertaken on behalf of IPU since the 167th session in October 2000. The Council also noted an oral report by the President on the deliberations of the Executive Committee during its 232nd and 233rd sessions held in New Delhi and Havana respectively. The Council also noted the report of the Secretary General on the activities of the Union for the year 2000, copies of which may be obtained from the Secretariat of the IPU.
1. Membership of the Union
The Council decided, on the recommendation of the Executive Committee, to reaffiliate the Parliament of the Sudan to the Union. Consequently, the Union comprises 141 Member Parliaments and five international parliamentary assemblies as Associate Members.
2. Financial Results for 2000
The Council had before it the financial results of the Union for 2000 and the report of the External Auditor. It heard the report by its own Auditors, Mrs. B. Mbete (South Africa) and Mr. I. Fjuk (Estonia), presented by the latter. Having noted the clarifications offered by Mr. Fjuk and by the Secretary General in response to several delegations, the Council approved the Union's accounts for 2000 and the Secretary General's financial administration for that year.
3. Financial Situation of the Union
The Council took note of the concerns expressed by several delegations during the discussion on Financial Results for 2000 about the effects of the budget deficits of recent years on the financial situation of the Union as a result of non-payment of contributions by the United States Congress. It noted that after 2001 no further drawings from the Working Capital Fund to compensate for the absence of the US contribution could be allowed and that the scale of assessments for the budget for 2002 would therefore have to be established without including the United States Congress. Also noting that certain members had stated that they would not be able to afford a corresponding increase in their contributions, the Council directed the Executive Committee to propose a budget and a scale of assessments for 2002 that took account of the concerns expressed. The Secretary General was requested to pursue contacts with individual parliaments to explore the possibilities of voluntary increases in their contributions.
4. Construction of New Headquarters for the Union in Geneva
The Council received a progress report on the project from which it noted that that the construction loan from the Federal Government of Switzerland had been approved by the Finance Committee of the Federal Parliament on 14th March 2001 and that the building permit had been issued by the Geneva Cantonal Authorities in the last week of March 2001. It also noted that some basic work which could be done without waiting for delivery of the building permit had been completed with funds advanced by the Department of Housing and Infrastructure of the Canton of Geneva and that the same department had also agreed to advance further funds for renovation work on the outside of the existing building, pending release of the construction loan by the Federal Government.
The Council took note of the escalation of construction costs in Geneva since the original construction budget of SF.9.5 million was approved in 1998. It noted that the nature of the project had been transformed, for unavoidable reasons, from an entirely new construction to the renovation of an old residence, together with building an extension. Due to those reasons, the costs would inevitably exceed the set budget and, even after some savings realised through a public bidding process for the supply of goods and services, the project was likely to cost up to a maximum of SF. 11 million.
The delegation of Switzerland made a declaration to the effect that the responsibility of the Swiss Federal Government vis-à-vis the project was limited to providing the construction loan requested by the Union. Following interventions by the delegations of Australia, Botswana, China, Ghana, Sweden and the United Kingdom and the explanations given by the Secretary General, and having heard the reservations expressed by a delegate from the United Kingdom about proceeding with the project, the Council expressed its gratitude to the Federal Parliament and the Government of Switzerland for their continued and strong backing for the building of a new headquarters for the Union in Geneva, to the authorities of the Canton of Geneva for their generous support and to the Foundation for Buildings for International Organizations in Geneva (FIPOI) for its invaluable assistance and cooperation. It urged the Secretary General, working with the Building Committee, to continue to make every effort to keep costs as low as possible, authorised an increase in the overall ceiling for the project from SF. 9.5 million to a maximum of SF. 11 million, and requested him to seek additional contributions from different sources to finance the increase.
5. Cooperation with the United Nations System
At its first sitting, the Council took note of the written and oral report of the Executive Committee on cooperation between the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the United Nations. The Council was informed of the resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 8 November 2000, in which the General Assembly has requested the UN Secretary-General "to explore ways in which a new and strengthened relationship may be established between the IPU, the General Assembly and its subsidiary organs". The Assembly invited the UN Secretary-General to hold consultations with member States and with the IPU on the subject and report back to it in May 2001.
The Council heard a statement by the delegation of Egypt expressing strong support for the report of the Executive Committee and suggesting that a joint committee be set up by the IPU and the UN to make proposals for future IPU activities in the domain of cooperation.
At its meeting in New Delhi in December 2000, the Executive Committee had made a series of initial suggestions as to the form that a "new and strengthened relationship" might take. Their suggestions were subsequently passed on to all IPU members, the UN Secretary-General and the representatives of member States in New York.
At its second sitting and after approving a modification proposed by delegates from Germany and Burkina Faso, the Council adopted the report of the Executive Committee. The Council urged all IPU members to take steps to ensure that their Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in New York, when assisting the UN Secretary-General in his consultations, lent their support to the proposals set out in the report.
The Council encouraged the President of the IPU Council and the Secretary General to continue their efforts to strengthen the cooperation between the IPU and the Bretton Woods institutions and to establish an institutional dialogue between the IPU and the World Bank.
The Council adopted a resolution submitted by the delegation of Switzerland on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Adoption of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. It also adopted a resolution submitted by the delegation of Mexico on Support to the United Nations International Year for Volunteers: 2001.
6. Strengthening Democracy and Parliaments
The Council took note of the report of the Executive Committee on a five-year review it had undertaken of the Programme for the Study and Promotion of Representative Institutions, on the basis of a paper submitted by the Secretary General. This Programme seeks to improve understanding of how parliaments are formed and function and to strengthen their means of action so that they can do so more effectively.
From this report it emerged that the IPU had developed unique resources and expertise in strengthening democracy and parliaments and that it needed to build on that experience and develop a more proactive approach as the international focal point in the field.
The Council endorsed the report and encouraged Member Parliaments of the IPU to examine ways and means of assisting the Secretary General in implementing its recommendations.
7. Information Strategy
The Council endorsed the recommendations of the Executive Committee for an IPU information strategy on the basis of a paper presented by the Secretary General. It welcomed the introductory issue of a new quarterly review entitled The World of Parliaments - A Quarterly Review of the Inter-Parliamentary Union which would replace the Inter-Parliamentary Bulletin.
8. Reform of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
The Council noted the Secretary General's oral and written report on reform of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. It took note of the work undertaken by the Executive Committee to develop a vision for the IPU in the future. The Committee had identified broad objectives for reforming the organisation and defined the prospective political role, nature and priorities of the IPU. At the Committee's request, the Secretary General had developed more detailed proposals for the future structures and working methods of the IPU.
Following interventions by the delegations of Germany, Norway and Canada, the Council took note of the Secretary General's report, requested that it be circulated to all the members of the Union and invited them to submit written comments to the Secretariat by June 2001. The Council approved the proposal of its President to hold a session of the Executive Committee in Geneva in July 2001 and authorised expenditure to convene the session for the purpose of preparing a comprehensive set of recommendations on reform for submission to the Council. The Council requested that these recommendations be accompanied by a statement of their financial implications prepared by the Secretary General.
9. Meeting of Women Parliamentarians
The Council took note of the report of Mrs. V. Espín Guillois (Cuba) on the proceedings and conclusions of the Fifth Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, which she had chaired on 1 April 2001. It was also briefed on the panel discussion concerning the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, held on 4 April and moderated by the Council President, Dr. N. Heptulla, then by the President of the Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians, Mrs. V. Furubjelke.
10. Security and Cooperation in the Mediterranean
The Council took note of a report by Mr. M. Vauzelle (France) on the proceedings and results of the 18th Meeting of Representatives of the Parties to the CSCM Process, which he had chaired on 4 April 2001.
11. Human Rights of Parliamentarians
Mr. M. Samarasinghe (Sri Lanka), Vice-President of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, reported to the Council on the work of the Committee at its 92nd and 93rd sessions which took place in Geneva from 22 to 25 January and in Havana from 1 to 5 April 2001. The report relating to a case in Sri Lanka was delivered by the Secretary General. The Council then adopted without a vote resolutions concerning 141 serving or former MPs from the following 18 countries: Argentina, Belarus, Burundi, Cambodia, Colombia, Djibouti, Ecuador, Gambia, Guinea, Honduras, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Republic of Moldova, Sri Lanka and Turkey. Furthermore, it authorised expenditure for conducting two fact-finding missions by the Committee to Mongolia and the Republic of Moldova.
12. Sustainable Development
The Council heard the report of the Committee on Sustainable Development presented by its President Mr. P. Günter (Switzerland), and approved its report on its main session held in Geneva from 12 to 14 March 2001. Among the many activities reviewed or suggested in the report, the Committee proposed that a special parliamentary message be addressed to the Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), to be held in Brussels from 14 to 20 May 2001, in order to channel the views of parliamentarians on the gravest problems currently facing the least developed counties and on the initiatives which the international community could take to ease their gradual integration into the world economy. The Council endorsed the draft parliamentary message, noting the amendment proposed by the UNCTAD Secretariat and approved by the President of the Sustainable Development Committee whereby the paragraph about the debt of the least developed countries would include a sentence in which the Council welcomed the enhanced HIPC Initiative but expressed doubts as to its long term effectiveness.
13. Middle East Questions
Mr. Y. Tavernier (France) reported to the Council on the result of the deliberations held between Palestinian and Israeli representatives in the Committee on Middle East Questions since the last Committee meeting in Paris in January 2001. After hearing statements from the representatives of Palestine, Israel and Jordan, the Council adopted the report. It authorised expenditure for a mission by the Committee to the Middle East region.
14. Gender Partnership Group
At its first sitting (2 April), the Council had before it, for information, a report on the proceedings and recommendations of the Gender Partnership Group, with a request that the regional groups analyse and debate them in depth before the Group formally submitted its recommendations to the Council at its sitting on 7 April. At its second sitting, the Council took note of the report. It endorsed the appeal by the Group urging the Union's members to formulate their observations before the Ouagadougou meetings, in September 2001, on three amendments to the Union's Statutes and various other proposals and comments presented by the Group.
15. Questions relating to the Statutes and Rules
At its sitting on 2 April 2001, the Council endorsed the proposals from the Executive Committee to introduce a series of amendments to the IPU Statutes and Rules designed to reflect more adequately the existing institutional link between the national parliaments of sovereign States and the IPU as their world organisation. Recalling that it had received the original proposals at its previous session in Jakarta and that the Executive Committee had introduced sub-amendments to take account of the views expressed by the membership at a session in New Delhi in December 2000, the Council decided to recommend that the 105th Conference of the Union approve the proposed amendments to the Statutes and pending that decision, approved the corresponding amendments to the Rules of its bodies.
At its sitting on 7 April, the Council approved amendments to Rules 39 and 40 of the Staff Rules of the Union increasing the maternity leave from 12 to 16 weeks and introducing a provision for granting eight weeks leave in the case of adoption of a child. As required by the Statutes of the Union, the Council also approved the amendments proposed by the Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments to Articles 9 and 17 of its Rules.
16. Future Inter-Parliamentary Meetings
The Council approved the agenda of the 106th IPU Conference to be held in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) in September 2001 and the list of organisations invited to attend as observers. Applications for observer status were approved from a further six inter-parliamentary organisations: ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA), Association of Asian Parliamentarians for Peace (AAPP), Indigenous Parliament of the Americas, Inter-Parliamentary Committee of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), Parliamentary Assembly of the Union of Belarus and the Russian Federation, Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The Council endorsed the recommendation of the Executive Committee that, on account of the limited number of hotel rooms available in Ouagadougou at the time of the 106th Conference, the maximum number of rooms that a delegation could reserve should not exceed 11. It was noted that the decision would require delegations to reduce the number of accompanying advisors and secretaries. It was also agreed that no observer delegation except that of Palestine should reserve more than two hotel rooms.
The Council took note of the willingness of the Parliaments of Chile and the United Kingdom to host statutory sessions of the Union in March/April 2003 and April 2004 respectively. It noted that the Union's governing bodies were currently studying proposals for the reform of the organisation that included holding only one statutory conference per year and decided that no commitments could therefore be made by the Union with regard to specific dates for conferences after 2002.
It took note of the report of the Preparatory Committee for the Parliamentary Meeting on International Trade to be held in Geneva on 8 and 9 June 2001 and approved the modalities for the Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance to be held in Durban (South Africa) on 4 September 2001. The Council took note of the calendar of other future meetings and activities.