PLACE DU PETIT-SACONNEX
1211 GENEVA 19, SWITZERLAND
Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), 10, 11, 13 and 14 September 2001
The Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union held its 169th session at the Ouaga 2000 Conference Centre on 10, 11, 13 and 14 September. The first three sittings were chaired by the President of the Council, Dr. N. Heptulla. In the absence of the President and the Vice-President, the last sitting was chaired by Mr. G. Versnick (Belgium), a senior member of the Executive Committee.
The sitting on 11 September was to have been devoted to a debate on reform of the IPU. Instead the Council heard a declaration of condolences and solidarity issued by the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Council following the terrorist attacks carried out that day on the territory of the United States of America.
The Council noted the written and oral reports by Dr. Heptulla on her activities and meetings since the end of the 168th session in April 2001. The Council also noted an oral report by the President on the activities of the Executive Committee during its 234th (Geneva) and 235th (Ouagadougou) sessions. Moreover, the Council noted the written interim report of the Secretary General on the activities of the Union since its 168th session.
1. Membership of the Union
At its first sitting, the Council decided, on the recommendation of the Executive Committee, to reaffiliate the Parliament of Côte d'Ivoire to the Union.
As a result of that decision, the Union now comprises 142 Member parliaments and five international parliamentary assemblies as Associate Members.
2. Reform of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
At its sitting on 13 September, the Council held a debate on the Executive Committee's preliminary proposals for reform of the structures and working methods of the IPU. Those proposals were presented on behalf of the Executive Committee by the two rapporteurs it had appointed for the purpose, Mr. M. Tjitendero (Namibia) and Mr. Versnick. Mr. Tjitendero outlined the general considerations, objectives and history of the process and the proposals before the Council, while Mr. Versnick presented the financial implications. A large number of delegates took part in the ensuing debate in which they addressed every aspect of the reform proposals.
The Council will hold a further debate on the subject at its next session in Marrakech in March 2002 on the basis of a further report of the Executive Committee which should reflect the views expressed during the Ouagadougou debate.
3. 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 report of the United Nations Secretary-General dated 26 June 2001 in which he recommended that the UN General Assembly consider granting a standing invitation to the IPU to participate in the sessions and work of the General Assembly and its subsidiary organs in what amounted to an observer capacity, and that it decide to allow for the circulation of IPU documents in the Assembly.
On the basis of subsequent consultations between the IPU and a large number of representatives of Member States at the United Nations in New York, the Executive Committee had prepared a draft United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution to implement the recommendations of the UN Secretary-General's report. The Council approved the text of the resolution and authorised the President of the Council and the Secretary General to forward it to Member States represented by their Parliaments on the IPU Executive Committee with a request that further consultations between Member States be based on that draft. The Council also called upon all Members of the Union to contact their respective Ministries of Foreign Affairs to enlist the support of their country for an early adoption of this resolution.
At its second sitting, the Council was informed of a draft Council resolution submitted by the Twelve Plus Group that sought to clarify the nature of any contribution that the IPU might make to the United Nations, and the question of who could speak on behalf of the Organisation. As the draft resolution was submitted too late for prior consideration by the Executive Committee, the Council decided to refer it to the Committee and revert to the issue at its next session. At the same time, it instructed the Secretary General to accompany the draft UNGA resolution with a message clearly indicating that such matters would be decided by the Council before the IPU exercised the rights conferred upon the Organisation by its new status.
At its second sitting, the Council also took note of a report submitted by the Secretary General providing an overview of the current level and scope of operational cooperation between the IPU and the United Nations system.
Finally, the Council took note of information documents provided by the United Nations Office in Vienna on drug control and combating transnational organised crime. The Council recommended that the IPU strengthen its cooperation with the UN Office in Vienna, particularly by promoting ratification and implementation of the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.
4. Programme and Budget for the year 2002 and other Financial Matters
Programme and Budget
On 13 September, the Council considered the Executive Committee's proposals for the programme and budget of the Union for 2002, presented by Mr. Versnick, rapporteur of the Executive Committee. Mr. Versnick explained that in the prevailing situation of uncertainty with regard to the status in the IPU of the United States Congress, the Executive Committee's income forecasts for 2002 did not include an assessed US contribution to the budget for that year. The Executive Committee had also agreed that other members could not be asked to increase their contributions to compensate fully and immediately for the absence of the US contribution to the tune of some 15% of the budget. Faced with that situation, the Executive Committee had felt that it would not be possible in 2002 to maintain the same level of activities as in 2001. It therefore proposed to hold a single statutory conference in 2002, thereby substantially reducing costs. Other proposals included reducing the budget for specialized meetings and publications, and the subvention to the Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments. It was also proposed that, as a cost saving measure, the Committee for Sustainable Development should meet during the IPU Conferences instead of at the IPU headquarters. In a gesture of good will, the staff had volunteered to forego the cost-of-living adjustment of their salaries and allowances in 2002. The Executive Committee had studied the level of salaries and allowances of the IPU staff and had found that they were generally at the same level as those of other international organizations based in Geneva. Given the cost of living in Geneva, it was not surprising that the staff costs absorbed a large part of the budget.
Mr. Versnick said that the Executive Committee was proposing ad-hoc reductions pending a decision on the proposed reform of the IPU. With those reductions, the expenditure budget for 2002 would be 10% lower than the current year's. However, members contributions would increase by 5%. The Executive Committee had noted that introducing minimum reforms or implementing a normal programme of work under the current system in 2003 would require a 16% increase in the contributions in 2003. In order to spread that increase and to build up reserves, the Executive Committee proposed that the Council consider asking members to accept a further 5% increase in 2002.
A number of delegations took the floor and underlined the need to reduce costs as countries were experiencing increasing difficulty in meeting their membership dues to international organisations in the worsening economic situation. Several members expressed reservations about the additional proposal to increase the contributions by a further 5%, mainly for the reason that they had not had an opportunity to consult with their parliaments since no advance notice was given of the proposal.
At its sitting on 14 September, following a motion to keep that additional proposal in abeyance and to accept the budget as presented by the Executive Committee with a built-in increase of 5% in the contributions, the Council unanimously approved the budget and table of contributions proposed by the Executive Committee for the year 2002.
On the recommendation of the Executive Committee the Council decided to adopt the accrual basis of accounting in full in the future. The IPU had ceased to use accrual accounting for income accounting in 1993, on the suggestion of the external auditor. The Council noted that full application of the accrual basis of accounting went hand-in-hand with the "going concern" assumption and the principle of capitalisation of costs of furniture and equipment and such costs that increased the value of fixed assets, and that the value of those assets should be depreciated over their useful life.
Construction of the new headquarters building
The Secretary General informed the Council of the progress made since the Havana session to proceed with the construction project. As approved by the Council in Havana, the total cost of the project was not to exceed SF. 11 million. The agreement for the SF. 9.5 million loan from the Swiss Federal Government to finance construction and renovation work had been signed. The Government of the Republic and the Canton of Geneva was providing the land freehold. IPU would have to purchase for renovation the building valued at SF. 1.1 million that stood on that land, and the Geneva Cantonal authorities would allow the Union to do so in 20 annual and interest-free instalments. There would also be a grace-period of 5 years before payments started. The Secretary General had approached several potential donors and there was good reason to believe that voluntary contributions would meet the balance of SF. 400'000 of the costs. The prices quoted by different suppliers and contractors and accepted by the Building Committee were to be binding. Under these conditions, the Secretary General had given the go-ahead for the major renovation and construction work to start on Monday, 17 September. The project should be completed within 15 months and the move to the new premises was expected in early 2003.
Overview of the Union's financial situation
The Council received a comprehensive report on the financial situation of the IPU which included a detailed description and projection of costs relating to the new headquarters building, and probable budgetary outlay up to 2008.
5. Recent specialised Conferences and Meetings
At its sitting on 14 September, the Council took note of the reports on the following recent specialised conferences and meetings:
At its sitting on 14 September, the Council, having decided to dispense with oral presentations for lack of time except in the case of the Committee on Human Rights of Parliamentarians, took note of the reports on the activities of the following plenary bodies and subsidiary committees during their sessions in Ouagadougou: the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, the Meeting of Representatives of Parties to the CSCM Process, the Committee for Sustainable Development, the Committee on Middle East Questions, the Committee to Promote Respect for International Humanitarian Law, the Group of Facilitators for Cyprus, and the Gender Partnership Group. The Council then proceeded to fill the vacant positions on the different committees.
7. Human Rights of Parliamentarians
At its sitting on 14 September, 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 94th and 95th sessions which took place respectively in Geneva from 14 to 21 June 2001 and in Ouagadougou from 9 to 13 September 2001.
The Council then adopted without a vote resolutions concerning 138 serving or former MPs in the following 19 countries: Argentina, Belarus, Burundi, Cambodia, Colombia, Djibouti, Ecuador, Gambia, Guinea, Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Republic of Moldova, Sri Lanka and Turkey.
8. Future Inter-Parliamentary Meetings
The Council approved the agenda of the 107th Inter-Parliamentary Conference to be held in Marrakech (Morocco) in March 2002 and the list of organisations invited to attend as observers.
The Council approved the holding of a parliamentary meeting on the occasion of the 4th WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha (Qatar) in November 2001 in cooperation with the European Parliament and other parliamentary assemblies. It gave its approval to the holding of an additional session of the Executive Committee (236th session) in Geneva in December 2001.
The Council approved the holding of a Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the Second World Assembly on Ageing (8-12 April) in the programme for 2002. It took note of the following meetings to be organised through extra-budgetary funding : (a) a Seminar for French-speaking Parliaments in Africa on "Parliament and the budgetary process, including from the gender perspective", organised under the Union’s Technical Cooperation Programme, in cooperation with UNDP and the World Bank, Bamako (Mali) 1–3 November 2001 and (b) a similar Seminar for Asian Parliaments at a date and venue to be decided.
The Council granted sponsorship to the following events: a Conference on International Humanitarian Law for the Protection of Civilians During Armed Conflict in Africa to be organised by the African Parliamentary Union and held in Niamey (Niger) from 18 to 20 February 2002 at the invitation of the National Assembly of Niger; a Regional Conference on the issues of security, regional cooperation and combating international terrorism to be held in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) in 2002 at a date to be determined; and the Fifth Workshop of Parliamentary Scholars and Parliamentarians to be held in Oxfordshire (U.K.) from 3 to 4 August 2002.
The Council took note of the calendar of future meetings and other activities.