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|Chemin du Pommier 5, C.P. 330, CH-1218 Le Grand-Saconnex/Geneva, Switzerland|
(Geneva, 8, 9 and 10 October 2007)
1. Membership of the IPU
At its sitting on 10 October, the Council decided to suspend the affiliation of the Parliament of Guinea, which had accumulated more than three years' arrears in the payment of its contributions. The IPU currently comprises 146 Member Parliaments and seven Associate Members: international parliamentary assemblies and organizations.
As regards the Parliament of Thailand, the Council welcomed the developments that had taken place over the last six months and invited the Parliament to resume full participation in the activities of the Organization as soon as it convenes after the elections which are due to take place on 23 December 2007.
The Governing Council also approved a request for observer status from the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty (OCST).
2. Financial situation of the IPU
The Governing Council received a comprehensive written report on the financial situation of the IPU as at 30 June 2007 and a list of Members’ arrears as at 8 October 2007. Other than the Parliament of Guinea, four Members with significant arrears were subject to sanctions. The Secretary General projected that despite the extraordinary expenditures incurred at the beginning of the year, the IPU would be able to end the year within the originally approved budget, thereby avoiding the need to dip into the Working Capital Fund.
The Council noted that the closed Staff Pension Fund reported an actuarial surplus in 2006 and although the IPU was responsible for the payment of existing retirees' pension benefits, no additional contributions were required at that time.
3. Programme and budget for 2008
The Council received a PowerPoint presentation of the proposed budget for 2008. The Secretary General noted that the consolidated budget was results-based and provided both a medium-term outlook and a gender perspective. Additionally, the 2008 budget proposed to be carbon-neutral by providing funds to offset carbon emissions.
Mr. G. Versnick (Belgium) reported on the discussions on the budget that had taken place at the Executive Committee meeting, where several themes had emerged. The Committee expressed support for the budget presentation, which it commended for its transparency and detail. However, it found that the large budget for projects to be funded from voluntary contributions tended to obscure the regular spending estimates. The Committee asked for future budgets to include separate information for regular funds and voluntary funds.
The environmental theme of the 2008 budget being relevant and timely, the Executive Committee supported, in principle, the reduction of carbon emissions and the idea of offsetting. However, the Executive Committee would request prior review of any expenditure of those funds and a report on the impact of such expenditure.
The Executive Committee was opposed to a five-per-cent increase in membership fees and had asked the Secretary General to make reductions. As a result, the proposed budget was revised to take into account the weakening of the US dollar in recent months and reductions were made in new or expanded spending initiatives including travel, succession planning, a new information brochure, evaluation and oversight and the ability to respond to urgent, unforeseen requests for assistance from parliaments.
The Executive Committee recommended a budget with a higher-than-normal increase in Member contributions, provided that increases were maintained at three per cent a year on average over a longer period.
Several delegates intervened on behalf of their geopolitical groups. They spoke about the need for action on climate change and agreed that the IPU should show leadership in this regard, but questioned whether carbon offsets were an effective alternative to reducing emissions in developed countries. There was a general consensus that existing functions and committees of the IPU, in particular the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians and the Committee on Middle East Questions, needed to be properly resourced. The overarching feeling was that any increase in assessed contributions had to be viewed in light of the fundamental change to the scale of contributions that was being introduced gradually over six years, as a result of which some Members were already facing steep increases in contributions while others were enjoying savings.
At the end of the debate, the Governing Council approved the 2008 budget as recommended by the Executive Committee with gross operating expenses of CHF 20,131,400 for 2008, requiring an overall increase of 4 per cent in assessed contributions, and capital expenditures of CHF 100,000. The Council authorized carbon emissions of up to 3,160 tonnes in relation to heating and staff travel and agreed to offset those emissions, provided that any offsetting expenditure would be subjected to the prior review of the Executive Committee.
Members of the Council welcomed the opportunity offered at that session to consider the IPU’s draft programme and budget in greater detail. They recommended that more time be set aside for that purpose at future Council sessions so that Members could more effectively be involved in setting the priorities of the Organization. They also expressed the desire to take part in future evaluations of IPU activities so as to determine whether certain activities might be discontinued in favour of new priorities.
4. Cooperation with the United Nations System
The Governing Council expressed satisfaction with the recent visit of the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to IPU Headquarters. It had offered an opportunity to discuss follow-up to the Declaration on Climate Change, which had been endorsed by the 116th Assembly, and to talk about priorities for future cooperation between the two organizations.
The Council noted the different initiatives taken since its last session to implement United Nations General Assembly resolution 61/6 on Cooperation between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, particularly in fostering close cooperation between the IPU and the new United Nations bodies, such as the Peacebuilding Commission.
The IPU and the United Nations were also implementing the recommendation to organize, for the first time, a joint parliamentary hearing at the United Nations General Assembly. The hearing will examine The role of parliaments in reinforcing the rule of law in international relations. The Council urged its members to ensure that the invitation was widely circulated in parliaments so that interested persons could also be informed and attend the event.
As recommended by the General Assembly resolution, the IPU was assuming a more active role in support of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and its new functions. The IPU had started to give shape to a parliamentary dimension to the Development Cooperation Forum (DCF) and was taking on an active role in preparing for the first session of the Forum. The Council endorsed a proposal that IPU convene a representative group of members of parliament from both developed and developing countries well versed in development cooperation issues to participate in a Stakeholder Forum to be organized by the United Nations in Florence, Italy, in May 2008, to provide input to the DCF. The IPU will consult with the United Nations on the agenda of the meeting.
The Council received the latest information regarding the first Global Parliamentary Meeting on HIV/AIDS, which the IPU and the Senate of the Philippines were organizing in cooperation with UNAIDS and UNDP in late November 2007. The meeting would focus on leadership issues in combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic and would consider a policy paper on affordability of drugs and patent issues. The Council invited its members to ensure that each parliament was represented at the event.
More generally, the Governing Council took stock of recent developments in IPU-United Nations cooperation, was informed of a variety of activities carried out with or in support of the United Nations, and approved a calendar of forthcoming initiatives and meetings.
5. Consolidation of reform of the IPU
The Secretary General made a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the achievements of the institutional reform process initiated several years ago with a view to making the IPU more relevant, topical and visible. The reform has already resulted in an overhaul of the Union's structure and working methods, adoption of a new set of arrangements for the second annual IPU Assembly held in Geneva, improvements in reporting on the implementation of IPU resolutions, and significant development of the IPU's relationship with the United Nations.
Following the presentation, the Governing Council had an exchange of views on the role of the IPU President as the political head of the Organization, the proposal for the President to be assisted by six Vice-Presidents representing each of the geopolitical groups, the need to provide adequate resources to the Middle East Committee and the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, and the imperative to pursue proactive relations with the United Nations system, including the ILO.
To provide a statutory framework for the continuation of the reform process, the Governing Council adopted a number of amendments to the IPU Statutes and Rules (see point 9 below).
6. Recent specialized conferences and meetings
The Governing Council took note of the results of the Regional Seminar on The role of parliaments in Latin America in promoting reconciliation so as to consolidate fair and inclusive societies based on the rule of law, the Parliamentary Forum on the occasion of the 7th Global Forum on Reinventing Government, the Regional Seminar on Developing a protective environment for South Asian children: the role of parliamentarians in the protection of children in the juvenile justice system, the Regional Seminar for Parliaments of Europe and Central Asia on Parliament and the budgetary process, including from a gender perspective, and the Third Meeting of the IPU Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS.
7. Reports of committees and other bodies
At its sitting on 10 October, the Governing Council took note of the reports on the activities of the Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians, the Gender Partnership Group and the Committee on Middle East Questions. The Governing Council deplored the fact that the Middle East Committee had failed to hold a regular meeting in Geneva due to the absence of the quasi-totality of its titular members. The Council expressed the hope that, following the election of three new members, the Committee would be able to live up to the political expectations associated with its work. In the afternoon of 10 October, the Governing Council heard an extensive report on the activities of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians. The Committee made separate presentations on the cases it dealt with in Colombia, Myanmar and the Philippines. The Governing Council subsequently adopted the decisions prepared by the Committee on the 34 cases before it.
8. Future inter-parliamentary meetings
Having heard a presentation by Ms. B. Mbete, Speaker of the South African Parliament, on the advancement of practical preparations for the 118th Assembly, to be held in Cape Town from 13 to 18 April 2008, the Governing Council approved a list of international organizations and other bodies to be invited to follow the work of the Assembly as observers. The Council endorsed the theme of the general debate at the 118th Assembly: Pushing back the frontiers of poverty.
The Council approved a list of future meetings and other activities to be funded by the Union's regular budget as well as by external sources. In addition, the Council approved the requests for IPU sponsorship of the Regional Workshop for Latin American Parliamentarians on Trade Negotiations (Montevideo, Uruguay, 5-7 December 2008), and the Eighth Workshop of Parliamentary Scholars and Parliamentarians (University of Hull, United Kingdom, 26-27 July 2008).
9. Amendments to the Statutes and Rules
The Council had before it a set of reform-related amendments to the Statutes and Rules which it had approved in principle at its 180th session in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, on 30 April 2007, and which had subsequently been circulated to all IPU Members.
At its session on 8 October, the Council considered four proposals concerning amendments to the IPU Statutes and another two proposals concerning amendments to the Rules of the Standing Committees. Following an exchange of views, the Council voted by show of hands on each of the proposed amendments. An amendment to Article 19.1 of the Statutes, extending the mandate of the IPU President from three to four years, was defeated. Three remaining amendments were approved by majority vote, namely:
The approved amendments were subsequently submitted to the Assembly for adoption.
The Council also adopted by majority vote two amendments to the Rules of the Standing Committees, namely: