|>>> VERSION FRANÇAISE|
|Chemin du Pommier 5, C.P. 330, CH-1218 Le Grand-Saconnex/Geneva, Switzerland|
(Geneva, 13, 14 and 15 October 2008)
1. Election of the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
The Governing Council elected Mr. Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia) as President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union for a three-year term ending in October 2011.
2. Membership of the IPU
At its sitting on 13 October, the Governing Council approved the request for affiliation of the Parliament of Oman and the requests for reaffiliation of the parliaments of Comoros and Sierra Leone. At its sitting on 15 October, it approved the affiliation of the Parliament of Palestine. The delegation of Palestine subsequently made a statement thanking the IPU for having accorded its Parliament the status of full Member and setting out its position on that issue. The IPU currently comprises 154 Member Parliaments.
The Governing Council took note that the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan had accumulated more than three years' arrears in the payment of its contribution and would therefore automatically be suspended on 1st January 2009, unless payment was received before 31 December 2008.
The Governing Council also approved requests for observer status from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM) and from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA).
3. Financial situation of the IPU
The Governing Council received a comprehensive written report on the financial situation of the IPU as at 30 September 2008. The Secretary General projected a substantial operating surplus as a result of savings from the weak US dollar and due to the changes in the financial regulations by which contributions from new Members and earnings on the Working Capital Fund were recognized as income. A list of Members’ arrears as at 10 October 2008 showed five Members with significant arrears and subject to sanctions under the Statutes.
The Council was told that the financial crisis had had a deleterious effect on the closed Staff Pension Fund, which had lost 9 per cent of its value since the start of the year. It was noted that the IPU was responsible for any eventual deficit in the Fund, which provided the pensions for 12 retired members of the Secretariat.
4. Programme and budget for 2009
The Council received the budget proposal for 2009 and a summary of planned activities and requirements for 2009-2011. The Secretary General noted that the consolidated budget was results-based and sustainable, in both fiscal and environmental terms. For each area of expenditure the gender effects and the environmental impacts were clearly identified. As in the previous year, the budget proposed to be carbon-neutral by providing funds to offset carbon emissions.
Mr. R. del Picchia (France) reported on the discussions of the Executive Committee which had unanimously endorsed the budget. The Committee expressed support for the budget presentation, which it commended for its transparency and detail. Mr. R. del Picchia noted that the budget included additional funds for parliamentary activities related to development, such as promoting the MDGs and combating HIV/AIDS, more funding for peace activities, including missions of the Committee on Middle East Questions, and new funding for security at the second Assembly and for preparations for a Conference of Speakers of Parliament in 2010. The proposed increase in assessed contributions was below inflation and in keeping with the longer term commitment to limit fee increases.
One delegate from each geopolitical group spoke on the budget analysis their group had undertaken. All of the speakers noted the continued improvement in the content and visual quality of the budget that made it easier to understand. They applauded the targeted increases in spending on gender issues, development issues and peace activities. Several speakers welcomed the expenditure on teleconferencing facilities and called for more efforts to reduce travel. The African Group echoed the request of the Executive Committee for measures to facilitate the participation of parliaments that could not afford to join the IPU. Members drew attention to past difficulties in fully executing the budget and in particular looked forward to progress in the implementation of a communication strategy for the IPU.
At the end of the debate, the Governing Council approved the 2009 budget as recommended by the Executive Committee with gross operating expenses of CHF 18,359,000 for 2009, requiring an overall increase of 2.5 per cent in assessed contributions, and capital expenditures of CHF 100,000. The Council authorized carbon emissions of up to 1,709 tonnes in relation to heating and staff travel and agreed to offset those emissions. The Executive Committee was expected to bring forward a proposal for effective offsetting measures to the next session of the Governing Council.
5. Cooperation with the United Nations System
The Governing Council welcomed the biennial Report of the United Nations Secretary-General on Cooperation with the IPU, in particular its conclusions and recommendations for future action. All Member Parliaments were encouraged to work closely with their foreign ministries to garner strong support for an ambitious resolution of the UN General Assembly.
The Council received the latest information on the 2008 joint Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations, to be held on 20 and 21 November at UN Headquarters in New York, under the chairmanship of the President of the IPU and the President of the UN General Assembly. The Hearing will examine the topic Towards effective peacekeeping and the prevention of conflict: Delivering on our commitments. All Member Parliaments were encouraged to participate actively in the event, as well as in other parliamentary meetings organized in New York during the week commencing 17 November: a conference on legislative frameworks for human rights and child protection convened by UNICEF with IPU support, and a panel discussion organized by the IPU on a parliamentary fact-finding mission to Tanzania.
The Governing Council was pleased to note that preparations were under way for the parliamentary hearing to be held on 28 November 2008 in Doha, Qatar, on the occasion of the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus. It endorsed a draft parliamentary message to be delivered at that event.
The Council also took stock of parliamentary action in support of the MDGs, particularly those related to child and maternal health. The Council heard a presentation by Dr. F. Songane, Director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, who reported on follow-up action to the Countdown to 2015 Conference held in Cape Town, in parallel with the 118th IPU Assembly. The IPU would be working closely with the Countdown initiative to support the 68 countries currently not on track to meet the relevant MDGs. It would be preparing case studies featuring good practices adopted by at least six parliaments in framing legislation and ensuring adequate budget allocations, and would present those studies on the occasion of the 120th IPU Assembly in Addis Ababa.
The Governing Council took stock of recent developments in IPU–United Nations cooperation, was informed of a variety of activities carried out in collaboration with or in support of the United Nations, and approved a calendar of forthcoming initiatives and meetings.
6. Activities in the field of development
In the context of consolidation of the reform of the IPU, the Governing Council was informed of recent IPU activities in the field of development and of efforts under way to start transforming them into a more comprehensive programme of activities. The Council gave its general endorsement to the plans to establish a programme to mobilize parliaments on development issues, with special focus on such issues as the attainment of the MDGs, reduction of child mortality and improvement of maternal health, the fight against HIV/AIDS and other pandemic diseases, poverty reduction, environmental sustainability, and promotion of global partnerships for development. Those priorities were duly reflected in the IPU’s programme and budget for 2009 as well as the Planned Activities and Requirements for Voluntary Funding 2009-2011.
7. IPU Policy on the participation of persons with disabilities
The Governing Council approved a policy to ensure the participation of persons with disabilities in the work of the Organization, whether as delegates, as candidates for employment, as employees or as public interlocutors. The policy, which was premised on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, set out objectives to raise awareness and promote inclusion. The IPU undertook to make its meetings accessible, provide public information that could be understood by all, provide barrier-free access to facilities, ensure equal employment opportunities and accommodate disabled employees.
The Governing Council stipulated that the policy should be gradually implemented within a reasonable timeframe and without imposing undue burden, financial or otherwise, on the IPU. The Secretary General would report back on the implementation of the policy.
8. Action by the IPU to strengthen democracy and parliamentary institutions
First International Day of Democracy
The Governing Council took note of a report by the Secretary General on activities undertaken by parliaments and the IPU to celebrate the first International Day of Democracy on 15 September 2008. The Day was proclaimed by the United Nations in November 2007 and coincided with the 11th anniversary of the adoption of the IPU Universal Declaration on Democracy in September 1997.
Some 50 parliaments had reported to the IPU on the activities they had organized. They included, among others, the adoption of resolutions marking the Day, television and radio programmes, "open days" and special parliamentary sessions. The IPU President had participated in one such session at the Hellenic Parliament. Other activities included the involvement of the public, in particular young people, in parliamentary proceedings and the organization of democracy-related exhibitions. Many of the parliaments had made use of the information that the IPU had placed at their disposal, which included a poster and leaflet, as well as a redesigned version of the 1997 Universal Declaration on Democracy. Some had translated or intended to translate the material into their national language(s).
At its Geneva Headquarters, the IPU had organized a panel discussion on 15 September 2008, focusing on the challenges to democracy today. Guest speakers included Mr. D. Türk, President of Slovenia; Ms. M. Lagos, Executive Director of LatinoBarómetro, a polling organization in Chile; and Professor B. Barber, a US-based political analyst and writer. Former US President Jimmy Carter had sent a video message and Mr. S. Ordzhonikidze, Director of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) had made a few introductory remarks on behalf of his Organization. The event was attended by ambassadors, journalists, students and representatives of international organizations and non-governmental organizations. It was webcast live and can be seen at the IPU website.
In addition, the IPU had set up an exhibition of caricatural drawings portraying challenges to democracy. The exhibition had also been on display during the 119th Assembly. A special section on the International Day of Democracy was created on the IPU website. The section contained background information, a list of events organized by the IPU and its Member Parliaments, a series of questions and answers entitled "10 things you should know about democracy", a video extract of the above mentioned panel discussion, and the exhibition of political caricatures.
The Governing Council took note of the activities. They endorsed the appeal by the Secretary General for an increasing number of parliaments to celebrate the Day in the future.
Promoting and defending democracy
The Council took note of a comprehensive report by the Secretary General on activities carried out recently by the IPU in the area of democracy. The work continued to be inspired by the 1997 Universal Declaration on Democracy and the 2006 handbook on Parliaments and democracy in the twenty-first century: A guide to good practice.
As far as strengthening parliaments was concerned, the IPU continued to give priority to parliaments in post-conflict countries. It had carried out extensive needs assessments of the parliaments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Sierra Leone and Togo. Those assessments were currently being converted into assistance projects in cooperation with the United Nations and the parliaments concerned. The IPU continued to assist the parliaments of Afghanistan, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea and Timor-Leste. In Burundi, the IPU had initiated a good offices mechanism to facilitate political dialogue and inclusiveness in the functioning of the parliament.
The IPU’s parliamentary strengthening programmes increasingly focused on capacity-building in substantive areas identified in cooperation with the parliaments and less and less on procedure and processes. They were complemented by thematic regional and subregional seminars on issues where the IPU had developed specific expertise, such as human rights, gender equality and gender budgeting, reconciliation, security sector reform and sustainable development.
Four specific initiatives had been launched recently. The first sought to facilitate the involvement of parliaments in the least developed countries in the implementation of the 2001 Brussels Programme and Plan of Action, which set out a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy tailored specifically to the needs of the LDCs. The second consisted of helping a number of French-speaking African parliaments to promote and ensure implementation of major human rights treaties. A third initiative was aimed at assisting English-speaking African parliaments to promote national reconciliation. The fourth project sought to promote a better understanding of how minorities and indigenous groups were represented in parliaments and on the basis of that knowledge, develop tools for better and more effective representation.
In the area of human rights, the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians was working to protect an ever growing number of parliamentarians who came under threat merely for exercising their right to freedom of expression. The Committee, apart from one on-site visit carried out under its confidential procedure, had carried out on-site missions to the Philippines, Ecuador and Sri Lanka, observed trial proceedings in one confidential case, as well as trial hearings of a Palestinian legislator imprisoned in Israel and hearings relating to a request for his early release.
The IPU, at the request of the Committee, also intended to carry out an in-depth study on freedom of expression and the ability of members of parliament to freely carry out their popular mandate.
The IPU was building a coalition among parliamentary human rights committees and continued to organize yearly meetings for their members to exchange views with human rights specialists. In 2007, the meeting had addressed the human rights perspective on migration. In Sri Lanka, the IPU also facilitated the work of an International Independent Group of Eminent Persons set up to observe the proceedings of the country’s National Inquiry Commission, which was investigating a number of alleged human rights violations, including the murder of two parliamentarians.
In the area of promoting gender partnership in politics, the IPU continued to track and analyse the evolution of women in parliaments and government and had published a new edition of the world map on Women in politics: 2008. It had carried out research on women in the political arena and had completed a major survey on Equality in politics: a study of women and men in parliaments, which had been launched in April 2008.
The IPU also implemented technical assistance activities for women parliamentarians and mobilized them on specific gender issues. It had organized for the second year running a Conference for women decision-makers from the Gulf Cooperation Council States. It had launched a project in Burundi to provide technical and material assistance to women parliamentarians to enable them to contribute effectively to decision-making in parliament and build strong ties with civil society in support of gender issues. The IPU also brought together members of parliamentary committees dealing with gender equality issues. In 2007, the meeting had focused on Women and Work.
In its work to promote knowledge and set standards for parliaments and democracy, the IPU had undertaken a thorough review of the Chronicle of Parliamentary Elections, which had resulted in several improvements. The IPU had also upgraded information tools available on its website and the PARLINE database had undergone a major overhaul to make it more user-friendly. The IPU worked closely with the Global Centre for Parliaments and ICT (jointly established with the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs) to promote parliaments’ use of ICT. They had organized a first Global e-Parliament Conference in Geneva late last year and had published the first ever World e Parliament Report in early 2008.
In view of its increasing work in the area of democracy, the IPU had continued to expand its funding base through support from a growing number of donors. That would enable it to deepen and expand its activities. Future areas of priority included promoting political dialogue and inclusiveness in post-conflict parliaments.
9. Recent specialized conferences and meetings
The Governing Council took note of the results of the seminar on The role of parliaments in Central America in reconciliation and democratization processes, the Conference organized by the African Parliamentary Union in cooperation with the IPU on Africa and migration: Challenges, problems and solutions, the Parliamentary briefing on HIV/AIDS, the Stakeholder Forum on The role of national and local stakeholders in contributing to aid quality and effectiveness, the Panel discussion on Parliaments, peace building and reconciliation, the Regional Seminar on The role of parliaments in national reconciliation processes in English-speaking Africa, the Parliamentary briefing at the XVII International AIDS Conference, the Annual session of the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO, and the Subregional workshop on special measures for women.
10. Reports of plenary bodies and specialized committees
At its sitting on 15 October, the Governing Council took note of the reports on the activities of the Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians, the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, the Committee on Middle East Questions, and the Gender Partnership Group.
11. Future inter-parliamentary meetings
The Governing 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. The Council approved a list of international organizations and other bodies to be invited to follow the work of the 120th Assembly as observers. It also approved the venue of Bangkok (Thailand) for the 122nd Assembly.