|Place du Petit-Saconnex, P.O. Box 438, 1211 Geneva 19, Switzerland|
OF THE INTER-PARLIAMENTARY UNION
(Marrakech, 18, 19, 21 and 23 March 2002)
The Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union held its 170th session at the Marrakech Palais des Congrès on 18, 19, 21 and 23 March 2002. The first three sittings were chaired by the President of the Council, Dr. N. Heptulla. In the absence of the President, the last sitting was chaired by the Vice-President of the Executive Committee, Mr. M. Tjitendero.
The sitting on 19 March was devoted to a debate on reform of the IPU. The debate continued at the sitting of 23 March.
The Council noted the written and oral reports by Dr. Heptulla on her activities and meetings since the end of the 169th session in September 2001. The Council also noted an oral report by the President on the activities of the Executive Committee during its 236th (Geneva) session and by the Vice-President on the 237th (Marrakech) session. Moreover, the Council noted the written report of the Secretary General on the activities of the Union in 2001.
At its sitting on 23 March, the Council paid a tribute to the Assistant Secretary General, Ms. Christine Pintat, who would shortly be leaving the Secretariat, for her long-standing and invaluable contribution to the furtherance of the mission of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
1. Membership of the Union
The Council did not receive any requests for affliliation or reafilliation to the Union. It noted with concern that five Members fell under the terms of Article 4.2 of the Statutes and would face suspension at the 171st session of the Council in September 2002 if there were no change in their respective situations in the intervening period.
2. Financial Results for 2001
The Council had before it the financial results of the Union for 2001 and the report of the External Auditor. It heard the report by its own Auditors, Mr. O.R. Rodgers (Suriname) and Mr. N. Enkhbold (Mongolia), presented by the latter. Several delegations commended the Secretary General's efforts to reduce spending, as pointed out by the External Auditor, while urging the Secretariat to broaden such actions, taking into account the delicate financial situation of the Union. The Secretary General informed the Council that efforts were under way to overhaul the Union's financial administration system in order to address some of the concerns raised by the External and Internal Auditors. Having noted all the clarifications offered by the Secretary General, the Council approved the Unionís accounts for 2001 and the Secretary Generalís financial administration for that year.
3. Reform of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
The IPU has been involved in an active reform process ever since the reform debate was initiated by the Executive Committee in Amman in April 2000. In Marrakech, the Council held a special debate on reform in order to build on the latest detailed report submitted to it by the Executive Committee. The Council was keenly aware that the future of the organisation depended on its efforts to make the Union more relevant on the international scene and more responsive to the calls for parliamentary involvement in multilateral issues, and it showed a clear intent to steer it in that direction.
The two Executive Committee co-rapporteurs on reform are Mr. M. Tjitendeo (Namibia) and Mr. G. Versnick (Belgium). At the opening of the debate, Mr. Tjitendero made an impassioned plea to the members to help build an organisation that was more relevant in the modern world and consequently more respected in the intergovernmental fora to which it sought to provide a parliamentary dimension. He also dwelt on the need to ensure that its debates and work involved the members of parliament who were active in the corresponding issues in their own parliaments.
Mr. Versnick then gave a detailed presentation of the IPU as it had evolved over the years and of its intended future structures, with particular emphasis on financial aspects.
There followed a debate in which 40 speakers took the floor and from which a consensus emerged on the need for a reformed IPU, although opinions diverged on certain aspects. The debate will be resumed at the September session of the Council.
4. Construction of New Headquarters for the Union
The Council received a progress report on the project from which it noted that the first instalments of the SF 9.5 million loan granted by the Federal Government of Switzerland for the construction of the Union's headquarters, amounting to SF 2.5 million, had been received in 2001. The Secretary General also informed the Council that investments in the new headquarters in 2001 were in the order of SF 750,000. The Council also learned that fundraising efforts were being conducted in order to finance a portion of the costs of the new building and that several parliaments had showed interest in funding specific projects within the construction project. The Secretary General also told the Council that under-spending could be expected on the total budget approved and that the probable date for inauguration of the building would be in December 2002, several months earlier than previously forecast.
5. Cooperation with the United Nations System
The Council approved the general approach and operational details of the Inter-Parliamentary Unionís contribution to the work of the United Nations. The Council discussed and approved the draft resolution entitled "Cooperation between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union" which it hoped would be adopted by the 57th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Member parliaments were encouraged to discuss its contents with their foreign ministries to obtain support for its adoption. The tabling of the draft resolution should, however, await the Council's next session in September 2002.
The Council took note of the Secretary General's report on follow-up to the resolution which it adopted in Havana on Support for the United Nations International Year of Volunteers: 2001, and the recommendations included on further cooperation with the UN Volunteers and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
6. Relations with Inter-Parliamentary Organisations, Assemblies and Networks
The Council considered a report on relations with inter-parliamentary associations, assemblies and networks, prepared by the Executive Committee with a view to forging a strategy to govern IPU relations with such bodies. The report was a response to the recent growth in their number, especially that of the informal networks. The Council adopted a series of criteria that would apply when handling requests from such bodies for different kinds of collaborative ventures with the Union. The criteria stipulated that the body should be a formal one, established on the basis of statutes and rules, which shared the objectives and working methods of the IPU. Such working methods should be transparent, and decision-making procedures should involve the entire membership. The body's core funding should come from public sources. The applicant bodies must demonstrate that the activity they were proposing was complementary to the Inter-Parliamentary Union and could not be performed without a collaborative agreement being reached. The implementation of the activity should always ultimately serve the statutory objectives of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
7. Strengthening Democracy and Parliamentary Institutions
The Council took note of developments in the Union's Programme for the Study and Promotion of Representative Institutions. It noted that the Union was implementing some 11 projects in 10 parliaments intended to strengthen the capacity of the parliaments concerned. The projects, many of which covered several years, were worth some US$3.3 million.
The Council also took note of efforts to mobilise resources for the establishment of a Parliamentary Resource Centre at IPU Headquarters, using modern information technology.
The Council also took note that the Secretary General, in conformity with the mandate entrusted to him by the governing bodies in Havana in 2001, had been able to secure resources from the United Nations Development Programme to fund a short-term consultant position in the Secretariat.
Finally, the Council was informed of the Secretary General's plans to design umbrella projects along the same lines as that concluded with the UNDP in 1998 and to approach donors for funding. These projects would include activities to strengthen the capacity of parliaments, promote gender partnership and enhance the role of parliament as guardian of human rights.
On learning that the Constituent Assembly of East Timor had adopted its Constitution, for which the IPU had provided technical assistance in the drafting phase, the Council decided to send a message of congratulations to the Parliament and the people of East Timor.
8. Recent Specialized Conferences and Meetings
The Council took note of the results of the Regional Seminar for French, Arabic and Portuguese speaking countries in Africa on "Parliament and the budgetary process, including from the gender perspective", which was held in Bamako (Mali) from 1 to 3 November 2001 at the invitation of the National Assembly of Mali. The Seminar, which was preceded by a three-day national seminar on the budget, had been organised in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the IPU/UNDP parliamentary support programme to promote democracy and good governance. It also had support from the World Bank. The meeting included joint sessions for all categories of participants alongside parallel sessions, some of which were reserved for parliamentarians and others for parliamentary staff. Under the guidance of experts, it provided an opportunity for an exchange of views and experiences on the respective roles and functions of parliament and government in the budgetary process, parliamentary oversight and the need for responsibility and transparency in the budgetary process and ways of ensuring equity between men and women through the budget. At the close of proceedings, the participants unanimously adopted a document underscoring the main themes of the debates.
The Council also noted the results of the Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the Fourth WTO Ministerial Conference, held in Doha (Qatar) on 11 November 2001. Convened by the IPU and the European Parliament, the MPs present in Doha adopted a Declaration in which they proposed that the WTO's transparency be increased by associating parliaments more closely with its work. The Declaration also proposed the establishment of a steering group to prepare a conference on international trade, to be held in 2002, and which, among other objectives, would prepare options for the establishment of a parliamentary dimension for WTO.
Finally, the Council also took note of the results of the Conference on International Humanitarian Law for the Protection of Civilian Populations during Armed Conflict in Africa Ė the first of its kind in the region Ė held in Niamey from 18 to 20 February 2002, at the invitation of the National Assembly of Niger. Organised by the African Parliamentary Union, and sponsored by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the International Committee of the Red Cross, it benefited from the financial support of the Governments of Canada, Norway and Switzerland. After a lively debate, moderated by experts, the Conference unanimously adopted a Declaration summarising the views and commitments of the participants to implement IHL and International Refugee Law. The preparatory committee, which had become the follow-up committee, then met on the 21 March during the Marrakech Conference.
9. Reports of Plenary Bodies and Subsidiary Committees
At its sitting on 21 March, the Council took note of the reports on the activities of the Committee for Sustainable Development and the Gender Partnership Group. The reports of the other plenary bodies and subsidiary committees, namely the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, the Meeting of Representatives of Parties to the CSCM Process, the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, the Committee on Middle East Questions, the Committee to Promote Respect for International Humanitarian Law, and the Group of Facilitators for Cyprus were taken at its sitting on 23 March.
The Council then proceeded to fill the vacant positions on the different bodies.
When it approved the report of the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, the Council also adopted a motion of support calling for a pardon for Ms. Safiya Husseini (Nigeria) who is under sentence of death by stoning for adultery. The motion was passed to the delegation of Nigeria attending the Conference.
After hearing the report of the Committee on Middle East Questions, the Council heard statements by the representatives of Palestine, Israel and Egypt. Acting in his capacity as Committee President, Mr. Y. Tavernier (France) then accepted clarifications proposed by the representative of Egypt and the observer from Palestine. The Council subsequently noted the report and authorised expenditure for a mission by the Committee to Sharm-el-Sheikh to attend a meeting organised by the Speaker of the People's Assembly of Egypt, at the initiative of the President of the National Assembly of France.
When noting the report on the Meeting of Representatives of Parties to the CSCM Process, the Council also noted the request of the Parliament of Germany to be made an associate participant of the CSCM process, and the concern expressed that the reform proposals did not provide for the Meeting of Representatives to sit during the second statutory meeting of the year.
The Council approved the resolutions presented by the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians concerning 24 cases of human rights violations affecting 118 MPs or former MPs of 18 countries. The delegation of Malaysia expressed a reservation with respect to the resolution on Mr. Anwar Ibrahim, and in particular its paragraph 5. While expressing its appreciation for the work of the Committee, the delegation stated that Mr. Ibrahimís trial was being conducted in accordance with the law, and requested the Committee to review its position on the case. The resolution was nonetheless adopted without amendment.
10. Future Inter-Parliamentary Meetings
The Council approved the dates for future Statutory Conferences to be held in Santiago de Chile and London. It also approved the list of future meetings and other activities.
The Council adopted the modalities for its special session, to be held in Geneva in September 2002. The session will include a prior meeting of the Executive Committee and the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians. The three-day session will be divided into two parts, consisting of two sittings of the 171st session of the Council, and a special Council session, of four sittings, under the provisions of Article 17.2 of the Statutes. The special session will include a panel discussion on a theme relating to the subject of financing for development, to which the head of an international institution will be invited. The Council also appointed three co-rapporteurs, from Iceland, Thailand and South Africa, to prepare a report for the special session. The Council also approved a sitting of the Committee on Middle East Questions and a sitting of the Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians.