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(Manila, 4 and 8 April 2005)
1. Membership of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
At its first sitting on 4 April, the Governing Council approved a request for reaffiliation from the parliament of Georgia, bringing the total IPU membership to 141.
2. Financial results for 2004
The Governing Council considered the Annual Financial Report and Audited Financial Statements for 2004, in conjunction with the report of the External Auditor. The Financial Statements showed that the IPU had an operating surplus of CHF 189,138 in 2004, in addition to a sum of CHF 142,158 credited to the Working Capital Fund.
Ms. L. Lerksamran (Thailand) presented the report of the Internal Auditors on behalf of Mr. S. Vejjajiva (Thailand) and Mr. R. Verrier (Cuba). The Internal Auditors were satisfied with the financial performance of the IPU in 2004 and with the presentation of the Financial Statements, which had further improved over the previous year. The Internal Auditors echoed the concerns of the External Auditor about the investment returns of the Pension Fund for Members of Staff of the IPU, and the possibility of a future deficit in respect of the payments due to the 12 pensioners remaining in the staff Pension Fund after the transfer of the active staff to the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund.
On the recommendation of the Internal Auditors, the Governing Council approved the Financial Statements, approved the transfer of the operating surplus to the Working Capital Fund, and sanctioned the Secretary General's financial administration of the IPU in 2004.
3. Financial situation
The Governing Council was given an overview of the current financial situation of the IPU. Expenditures during the first two months of 2005 were under budget because of vacant staff positions. The payment of contributions was slightly ahead of the previous year. The Secretary General expected to end the year in a break-even position.
4. Pension fund
The Governing Council was briefed about developments in relation to staff pensions. All active staff members had become participants in the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund. The Pension Fund for Members of the Staff of the Inter-Parliamentary Union remained in existence only to pay the pensions of former staff members. The Governing Council was advised that the Executive Committee had agreed to give voting rights to the pensioner representative on the Management Board and to add a statement to the Fund Regulations affirming the commitment of the Union to honour its pension obligations and to find appropriate mechanisms to ensure that sufficient funds were made available for that purpose.
5. Amendments to the Statutes and Rules
The Governing Council gave its approval in principle to a new Rule in the Financial Regulations that would allow it to consider the cancellation of all or part of long-standing financial arrears that potential members may have inherited from former regimes. The proposal stressed that any such decision would only be made in special, extenuating circumstances, and on a case-by-case basis. The formal amendment would be presented to the Governing Council at its 177th session.
6. Cooperation with the United Nations system
The Governing Council noted that the IPU was engaged in an ever broader and more substantive programme of cooperation with the United Nations. At the request of the Executive Committee, the main components of the cooperation, as presented in the Annual Report of the Secretary General, were listed in a separate compilation of recent and current activities carried out by the IPU in cooperation with the United Nations system. They included projects and programmes conducted with UNDP, UNESCO, UNAIDS, UNCTAD, UNV, UNHCR, UNITAR, OHCHR, UNICEF, CEDAW and CSW. The Council agreed that there was great potential for further developing such partnerships in the future.
During the fifty-ninth session of the United Nations General Assembly, resolution 59/19 was adopted by consensus (with the co-sponsorship of over 100 Member States). It urged stronger cooperation between the two organisations, welcomed the decision to convene the Second World Conference of Speakers of Parliaments at United Nations Headquarters in September 2005, and acknowledged the fact that the IPU had taken the lead in consulting national parliaments on the most appropriate means of implementing the Cardoso Panel's recommendations on a more structured relationship between the United Nations and national parliaments. The resolution also acknowledged that the IPU would report back to the General Assembly on the results of that consultation process.
It was also noted that two annual parliamentary events – the Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations (held during the fall session of the General Assembly) and the Parliamentary Meeting, held in March during the annual session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) – were gradually establishing themselves as regular and meaningful features of the programme of work at the United Nations, receiving greater attention and interest from the broader United Nations community. Such work would be further consolidated in the years to come.
7. Second World Conference of Speakers of Parliaments
The Governing Council was informed of preparations for the Conference, scheduled to take place from 7 to 9 September 2005. Formal invitations had been sent to all Speakers. Substantive preparations for the Conference were being made by the Preparatory Committee set up by the governing bodies. The Committee had met twice in 2004 and would hold its third and final meeting in Libreville (Gabon) in May 2005.
In Libreville, the Committee would have four tasks. First, it would consider the draft declaration for the Conference prepared by the IPU Secretary General at its request. The opinions of the wider membership had been canvassed in the course of the 112th Assembly so that they could be taken into account by the Committee in preparing a final text. Secondly, at the request of the Preparatory Committee, the Secretariat had issued a questionnaire inviting Speakers to report on action taken to follow up on the Declaration adopted in 2000 at the first Conference. So far, 80 parliaments had responded. The Preparatory Committee would review the final draft of the report on Good practices for action taken by parliament to consolidate its involvement in international affairs, which reflected the responses received so far.
Thirdly, the Preparatory Committee had requested the IPU to prepare a handbook setting out exemplary practices in parliament that were widely recognised as making a noteworthy contribution to democracy. A working group had prepared a first outline of the handbook, which the Preparatory Committee would discuss. Lastly, the Preparatory Committee would take stock of the deliberations conducted within parliaments on the question of parliaments' response to the recommendations of the Cardoso Panel.
8. Democracy and strengthening of parliaments
The Governing Council received a report on recent significant developments in the IPU's democracy-related work. In the context of its Technical Cooperation Programme, the IPU was currently involved in providing assistance to the parliaments of Albania, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste, Uruguay and Kosovo. Projects were being initiated for the future parliament of Afghanistan and for the Transitional National Assembly of Iraq. The bulk of those projects were carried out in cooperation with UNDP, which also provided the funding. Other donors included the European Commission and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
The IPU had also pursued work to develop guidelines for the delivery of technical assistance to parliaments in conflict situations, in cooperation with UNDP. The guidelines, to be endorsed at a conference in Brussels in 2006, would single out the challenges facing parliaments operating in conflict situations and identify ways to assist them in addressing those challenges.
In 2004, the IPU and UNITAR had initiated a project to strengthen parliaments' capacity in the field of environmental management and sustainable development. A series of regional and national seminars would be organised in response to the specific needs of parliaments. The first such seminar would take place in Paris on 22 and 23 April 2005.
In sum, in 2004, the IPU had received some CHF 3.2 million in new funding for activities to strengthen parliaments. That funding included some CHF 1.3 million provided by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency in the context of an agreement concluded with the IPU in December 2004. Under that three-year agreement, the IPU would pursue its activities to strengthen parliaments, promote the participation of women in political life and strengthen parliaments' capacity to promote and protect human rights.
In the electoral field, the IPU had been involved in election-related activities in Palestine and Iraq. Although the IPU rarely observed elections, it had registered as an official observer for the out-of-country elections held for the Transitional National Assembly of Iraq. IPU observers were present in eight of the 14 countries which had been chosen for out-of-country polling on account of their sizeable expatriate Iraqi populations.
Ten years after publishing Free and Fair Elections: International Law and Practice and the corresponding Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections, the IPU had embarked on a project to review the publication's validity and topicality. It would publish a new edition of the study, taking into account major developments in the electoral field, including the need for greater women's representation in political life and the use of electronic technology. Funding for that project was being provided by the Ford Foundation.
The IPU had launched a major democracy framework project, which would produce a manual on parliaments' contribution to democracy. The project would identify good parliamentary practices, including reforms that parliaments had undertaken or were undertaking to improve their functioning and thus contribute to democracy at the national and international levels.
Lastly, the Global Parliamentary Foundation for Democracy, established in 2003 in order to mobilise additional resources in support of the IPU's democracy-related work, was being registered under Swiss law and was expected to go into full operation in the near future. It was managed by a board, currently comprising eight members.
9. Recent specialised conferences and meetings
The Governing Council took note of the results of the 2004 Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations, the Brussels Session of the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO, the Fourth Inter-Parliamentary Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Mediterranean, and the Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the forty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
10. IPU reform
The report delivered to the Executive Committee by the external consultant on a strategy for the IPU to upgrade its public image did not go unnoticed at the 112th Assembly. By way of acknowledgement of its findings, the Governing Council endorsed the suggestion of the Executive Committee that the latter should continue its practice of monitoring the implementation of the reforms. The Council was informed of one practical facet of the reforms directly related to its overall communications strategy, the establishment of a new IPU Resource Centre. It noted that the purpose of the Centre was fourfold: to establish and reinforce the IPU as a global point of information on parliaments and democracy; to preserve and promote knowledge produced within the IPU; to support and develop the ability of the IPU Secretariat to carry out its activities; and to participate in and strengthen information networks on parliaments and democracy.
11. Reports of plenary bodies and specialised committees
At its sitting on 8 April, the Governing Council took note of the reports on the activities of the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians and its Coordinating Committee, the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, the Committee on Middle East Questions, the Group of Facilitators for Cyprus, the Committee to Promote Respect for International Humanitarian Law, and the Gender Partnership Group.
12. Future Inter-Parliamentary Meetings
The Governing Council approved the dates for the 113th and 114th Assemblies, to be held respectively in Geneva and Nairobi. In addition to the meetings listed as previously approved, the Council approved a seminar on the impact of parliamentary action on indigenous peoples' rights, to be organised in partnership with OHCHR and to be held in Geneva from 25 to 27 July, a parliamentary meeting on the occasion of the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, to be held in Tunis on 17 November, a meeting to finalise a humanitarian agreement and promote justice, reparation and truth in Colombia, to be hosted jointly by the International Federation of Ingrid Betancourt Committees, the International Federation for Human Rights and the IPU, and to be held at a place and date to be determined, and a Meeting of the Coordinating Committee of the World Conference of Women Parliamentarians for the protection of children and young persons, to be held in Geneva, also at a date to be determined.