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(Cape Town, 14 and 18 April 2008)
1. Membership of the IPU
At its sitting on 14 April, the Governing Council approved a request for affiliation from the parliaments of Iraq, Mauritania and Timor-Leste. At its sitting on 18 April, it approved a request for affiliation from the National Assembly of Lesotho and suspended the membership of the Parliament of Bangladesh, which is no longer functioning. The IPU currently comprises 150 Member Parliaments.
The Council welcomed the return of the Parliament of Thailand to full participation in the activities of the IPU, and reinstated the membership of the Parliament of Guinea, which had expeditiously defrayed its arrears.
The Council also approved a request for associate membership from the Inter-Parliamentary Committee of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), bringing the number of Associate Members to eight.
The Executive Committee had debated a request from Palestine for full membership, and concluded that for such a request to be met, it would be necessary to amend the IPU Statutes. On its recommendation, the Council decided to take the necessary steps to admit the Parliament of Palestine as a Member of the IPU and to that end, instructed the Executive Committee to meet in extraordinary session to prepare an amendment to the IPU Statutes and circulate it to the Members in time for its adoption at the 119th Assembly.
The Governing Council also approved a request for observer status from Human Rights Watch.
2. Financial results for 2007
The Governing Council considered the Annual Financial Report and Audited Financial Statements for 2007. The Financial Statements showed that the IPU had an operating surplus of CHF 168,940 in 2007, bringing the balance of the Working Capital Fund to CHF 5,796,103. Revenues for the year included the full payment of arrears by the Parliament of Jamaica, a former member.
The internal auditors, Mr. D. Pacheco (Portugal) and Mr. R. Khan (India), reported that they were satisfied with the financial performance of the IPU in 2007 and with the presentation of the Financial Statements. For the future, they recommended that budget estimates should be more realistic, asked for more detailed gender and environmental analysis of expenditures in financial reports, and encouraged Members to be more timely in the payment of their contributions.
On the recommendation of the internal auditors, the Governing Council took note of the write-off of arrears of two suspended Members and of accounts receivable from the European Commission and approved the Financial Statements, the transfer of the operating surplus to the Working Capital Fund, and the Secretary General's financial administration of the IPU in 2007.
3. Financial situation
The Governing Council was given an overview of the IPU's financial situation at the end of the first quarter of 2008. The global financial crisis had had a significant impact on asset values, expenditures and revenues. In particular, the pension liability associated with the closed staff pension fund had increased. The overall impact of the crisis was negative but manageable.
The Secretary General informed the Governing Council about recent fund-raising activities and announced the conclusion of substantial grant agreements with Irish Aid and Canada’s CIDA in support of gender equality, reconciliation and representation of minorities.
4. Cooperation with the United Nations system
The Governing Council took stock of recent developments in IPU-United Nations cooperation, considered reports on a variety of United Nations-related activities and approved a calendar of forthcoming initiatives and meetings. For the list of activities undertaken in cooperation with the United Nations system since the 117th IPU Assembly, click here.
The Council was provided with an overview of some of the main activities taking place at United Nations Headquarters in New York that are of particular importance to parliaments and the IPU. The Council endorsed the recommendation that members of parliament from the relevant select committees join their national delegations to the forthcoming UN high-level debates in New York on HIV/AIDS (9-11 June 2008), Implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (early September 2008) and the mid-term review of the Millennium Development Goals (23 September 2008). The Council also approved a meeting for MPs attending the Second Global Conference on Financing for Development, which will take place in Doha, Qatar, from 29 November to 2 December 2008.
The Council noted the preparations underway for the 2008 General Assembly debate on cooperation between the United Nations and IPU and the negotiating process on the related UN General Assembly resolution. Member Parliaments were encouraged to follow the process closely, consult with their respective foreign ministries to help ensure a favourable outcome in the form of a strong, substantive and forward-looking resolution on cooperation between the two world bodies.
The Governing Council noted the evolving relationship with the new Development Cooperation Forum (DCF), as part of the mandate outlined in the 2006 General Assembly resolution on Cooperation between the United Nations and the IPU. The Council encouraged an active IPU role in the DCF Stakeholders’ Forum, which will be meeting for the first time in Rome in June 2008. This, together with the resolution adopted at the Cape Town Assembly on Parliamentary oversight of State policies on foreign aid, will constitute the parliamentary contribution to the first substantive session of the DCF, when it meets in New York in July this year, on the occasion of the 2008 session of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
The Council was informed of the new Memorandum of Understanding signed between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the IPU in November 2007. The new Agreement focuses on activities undertaken by both organizations to strengthen parliaments as "institutions of democratic governance". It proposes strengthened cooperation between the two bodies in relation to technical expertise, parliamentary strengthening programmes, standards, economic governance and poverty reduction, political representation, implementation of international conventions, and iKNOW politics. IPU Member Parliaments were encouraged to make use of the possibilities afforded by this new cooperation framework, with a view to obtaining assistance from UNDP working together with the IPU.
The Council heard a brief presentation of the newly released World e-Parliament Report 2008. This report, produced jointly by the IPU and the United Nations and drawing on the experience of 105 parliamentary chambers, is the first effort of its kind to establish a baseline of how parliaments are using information and communication technologies (ICT) in their work. The Council took note of the recommendations of the Report, which describe in detail what needs to be done in parliament in order to make the most effective use of ICT, and to this end undertook to work closely with the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament.
The Council heard the report of the second meeting of the Advisory Group of the IPU Committee on United Nations Affairs (November 2007) and approved the proposals submitted by the Executive Committee regarding the future work and functioning of the Committee on UN Affairs and its Advisory Group. The Council also approved a proposal for members of the Advisory Group to undertake a first field mission later in the year, to assess the implementation of the UN plans for greater system-wide coherence and enhanced aid effectiveness known as “Delivering as One”. In this process, the Group will be working closely with the parliament of the pilot country in which the mission will be undertaken.
5. International Day of Democracy
The Governing Council noted that the United Nations had instituted an International Day of Democracy, to be celebrated on 15 September each year, and it approved proposals for the IPU and parliaments to mark the International Day.
6. Policies to reduce maternal, newborn and child deaths in developing countries
The Governing Council heard a report on the joint special session of the IPU and Countdown to 2015 held on 17 April to discuss parliamentary action to reduce preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths in developing countries. The Council endorsed the proposal of the special session that the IPU, with the support of Countdown to 2015, mobilize and assist parliaments in the countries concerned over the next 12 months to take action to reduce child and maternal mortality and report on progress to the 120th IPU Assembly in Addis Ababa.
7. Amendments to the Statutes and Rules
On 13 April, the Governing Council adopted amendments to the Rules of the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, with a view to extending from two to four years, non-renewable, the term of office of the elected members of the Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians, and renewing half of its membership every two years in order to facilitate continuity in its work and to enable new regional representatives to benefit from the experience of remaining members. To that effect, Rules 31.1(c), 31.2, 32.1 and 32.4 of the Rules of the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, and Rules 4.1 and 4.3 of the Rules of the Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians were amended.
The Council also had before it a set of amendments to the Financial Regulations arising from the recommendations of the internal auditors for the 2006 accounts. On 13 April, the Council unanimously adopted the amendments, as follows: to Rule 5.1 and Rule 6.3 to redefine the sources of financing for the General Fund and the Working Capital Fund in order for all income to be reported appropriately in the income statement; to Rule 4.9 to place a ceiling on transfers of appropriations between budgetary headings without the prior approval of the Executive Committee; and to Rule 6.5 to update descriptions for trust funds and special accounts which are set up to handle donor funds with restrictions or other money held in trust.
The Council also approved a proposal for new working modalities of the International Humanitarian Law Committee and the Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS.
8. Recent specialized conferences and meetings
The Governing Council took note of the results of the Seminar on Migration: The human rights perspective, the Regional conference for women parliamentarians of the GCC States, the Preparatory meeting of parliamentarians dealing with employment issues on the eve of the ILO Forum on Decent Work for a Fair Globalization, the Annual Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations, Reinforcing the Rule of Law in International Relations: The Key Role of Parliaments, the Regional Capacity-building Seminar for Asian Parliaments on Sustainable Development, the First Global Parliamentary Meeting on HIV/AIDS, the Regional Seminar for parliaments in southern Africa on security sector reform, the Meeting of parliamentary bodies dealing with the status of women and gender equality, the Parliamentary Forum to Fight Human Trafficking, the Parliamentary meeting on the occasion of the 52nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women, the Regional Seminar for Latin American Parliaments on the theme "Women shaping politics: gender, parliamentary representation and legislative agenda", and the Meeting to promote parliamentary input into the implementation of the 2001 Brussels Programme of Action (BPOA).
The Council heard an oral report on the Meeting of Women Speakers of Parliament and noted that several parliaments, including the National Assembly of Pakistan, had expressed interest in hosting the next annual meeting.
9. Reports of plenary bodies and specialized committees
At its sitting on 18 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.
10. Future inter-parliamentary meetings
In addition to the meetings previously approved, the Council approved the Conference organized by the African Parliamentary Union in cooperation with the IPU on Africa and migration: Challenges, problems and solutions (Rabat, 22-24 May 2008), the Parliamentary session at the Stakeholder Forum on The role of national and local stakeholders in contributing to aid quality and effectiveness (Rome, 12-13 June), the Regional Seminar for English-speaking Africa on reconciliation (Freetown, 23‑25 June), the Panel discussion and briefing during the XVII International AIDS Conference (Mexico, 3-8 August), the Regional Seminar on Violence against Women (second half of 2008, at a venue to be decided), the Third Conference of Women Parliamentarians and Women in Decision-making Positions in the GCC States (second half of 2008, at a venue to be decided), the Meeting of the IPU Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS (second half of 2008, at a venue to be decided), the Regional HIV/AIDS Training Seminar (second half of 2008, at a venue to be decided), IPU/ASGP/IFLA meeting on parliamentary information (Geneva, 16 October), the World e-Parliament Conference (Brussels, November 2008), and the Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the International Review Conference on Financing for Development (Doha, 29 November‑2 December 2008).
The Council approved the venue of Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) for the 120th Assembly. It also considered a policy statement to cover the provision of visas and other matters relating to the attendance of delegations at IPU Assemblies. At the request of several delegations which expressed the need for more time to consider the proposed policy, the Council decided to defer the matter to its next session. The Council noted that several parliaments, including those of Canada and Venezuela, had expressed an interest in hosting the 122nd Assembly, and asked the Secretary General to work with those parliaments with a view to developing concrete proposals that could be considered by the IPU's governing bodies at their session in October 2008 in Geneva.