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(Geneva, 19 and 21 October 2009)
1. Membership of the IPU
At its sitting on 19 October, the Governing Council suspended the Parliament of Niger. It condemned the unconstitutional dissolution of the Parliament, deplored the persecution and arrest of its members and requested the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians to examine their situation.
At its sitting on 21 October, the Council decided that unless payments were received before the end of the year, the membership of Papua New Guinea and Somalia would be automatically suspended effective 1 January 2010, for the accumulation of arrears in contributions. There were no requests for affiliation and the IPU thus currently comprised 152 Member Parliaments.
At its second sitting, the Governing Council, seeking to dispel uncertainties about the representation at the Assembly of the Parliament of Palestine, endorsed a statement by the President that pending any major developments in the Occupied Territories, the Palestine National Council would be treated on a par with any other IPU Member in all matters relating to its status as representative of Palestine at the IPU.
The Governing Council agreed that the Secretariat should write to all those observers which had rarely or never participated in IPU meetings to gauge their interest in remaining observers.
2. Financial situation of the IPU
The Governing Council was presented with a comprehensive written report on the financial situation of the IPU and a list of unpaid contributions as at 30 June 2009. Four Members had significant arrears and were subject to sanctions. The Secretary General projected an operating surplus of CHF 432,000, mostly due to vacant posts, savings in the areas of transportation, translation, editing and publishing for the 120th Assembly, as well as to a favourable exchange rate with the US dollar.
On the recommendation of the Executive Committee, the Council agreed that the following activities be carried out within the approved budget ceiling for a total amount of CHF 150,000:
(a) for the Human Rights Programme, the organization of a seminar in Bogotá, Colombia, to contribute to solving the conflict between the Colombian Congress and other State powers, and a mission to Madagascar to help solve the cases of certain parliamentarians;
3. Programme and budget for 2010
The Council received the budget proposal for 2010 and a summary of planned activities and requirements for 2010-2012. The Secretary General, reporting on the discussions of the Executive Committee, which had unanimously endorsed the document, noted that the budget was essentially a zero-growth budget considering the increases in expenditures the organization was to incur during 2010 in relation to the organization of the 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament and the increased security measures required for the Geneva Assembly.
Council members commented on the need to carry out a more realistic budgeting, particularly in relation to activities funded through voluntary contributions. They also made several suggestions for greater savings in IPU operations and requested more detailed spending estimates.
The Governing Council also heard the recommendations of the Executive Committee following the re-convening of the Working Group on Assessed Contributions1, which had been mandated to undertake a mid-term review of the IPU scale of contributions to ensure its alignment with the UN scale and to examine steps that could be taken to reduce the burden of the parliaments of least developed countries and small island developing States (SIDS).
The new scale of contributions presented to the Council included the immediate implementation of the contribution targets approved by the Council for 2012 for least developed countries and the weakest SIDS, thereby substantively reducing the level of their contributions. The cost of implementing that decision was to be borne by the Working Capital Fund. The contributions for the remaining Members reflected percentages which had been approved previously by the Council for 2010. The Working Group was to reconvene in 2011 in order to review the scale of contributions for the period 2011-2012.
At the end of the debate, on the recommendation of the Executive Committee, the Governing Council approved the new scale of contributions and the 2010 budget as submitted by the Secretary General. It approved gross operating expenses of CHF 18,692,300, which required an overall increase of 2 per cent in assessed contributions, and capital expenditures of CHF 100,000. As in previous years, the Council authorized the offsetting of carbon emissions related to heating and staff travel and noted that the Secretary General had submitted a proposal in October 2009 to the IPU's main donors to offset carbon emissions from activities funded through voluntary funds.
4. Cooperation with the United Nations System
The Governing Council took stock of recent developments in IPU-United Nations cooperation, and was informed of a variety of activities carried out in collaboration with or in support of the United Nations.
The Council received a presentation on the work and objectives of a recent UN initiative, the Alliance of Civilizations, which aimed to improve understanding across cultures and religions and help counter polarization and extremism. The Council approved the proposal for the IPU to strengthen its cooperation with the Alliance of Civilizations, which inter alia invited legislators to attend the 2010 Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations in Brazil (28-29 May 2010) and convene a parliamentary session during the Forum.
The Council was informed of the status of the IPU Questionnaire on how parliaments organized their work vis-à-vis the United Nations. All Member Parliaments were urged to submit their response as soon as possible so that a comprehensive report could be presented to the 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament and the 2010 debate at the United Nations on cooperation between the United Nations, national parliaments and the IPU.
All Member Parliaments were encouraged to attend the 2009 Joint Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations, to be held on 19 and 20 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 would examine the topic The Way Forward - Building political support and implementing effective responses to the global economic crisis.
The Council was also informed of forthcoming parliamentary meetings, held in cooperation with the United Nations or in the context of major UN events : the World e-Parliament Conference (Washington, D.C., 3-5 November), the Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the World Summit on Food Security (Rome, 13 November), and the Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Copenhagen, 16 December).
5. Consolidation of the reform of the IPU
The Governing Council heard reports from the geopolitical groups on their deliberations regarding the reforms carried out at the IPU. Several suggestions were made on improving the second Assembly of the year. Members also proposed measures to make the discussions more interactive. Several of the members commented on the Committee on United Nations Affairs. While some felt that it was too soon to draw any conclusions, others suggested that the work of the Committee could be carried out better by its Advisory Group. The full set of recommendations submitted during the discussions would be considered by the Executive Committee, which would report back to the Governing Council at its next session.
6. Preparation of the 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament
The Governing Council was informed that the President of the IPU had established a Preparatory Committee of some twenty Speakers of Parliament to assist in organizing the 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament. The Preparatory Committee had held its first meeting at IPU Headquarters in Geneva on 16 and 17 July.
The Preparatory Committee had decided that the 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament would take place at the United Nations Office in Geneva from 19 to 21 July 2010. The theme of the Conference would be Parliaments in a world of crisis: securing global democratic accountability for the common good.
The next meeting of the Preparatory Committee was scheduled to take place at UN Headquarters in New York from 16 to 17 November, just prior to the Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations.
7. Recent specialized conferences and meetings
The Governing Council took note of the results of the regional meeting for Twelve Plus parliaments on the rights of persons with disabilities, the Parliamentary Conference on the Global Economic Crisis, the Fifth Meeting of Women Speakers of Parliament, the Regional Seminar for Latin American countries on The role of parliaments in confronting violence against children, the Regional Conference on the contribution of parliament to the national reconciliation and institutional reform agenda, the Parliamentary Conference on Democracy in Africa, the Fourth Conference for members of parliamentary committees on the status of women and other committees dealing with gender equality, and the Parliamentary Panel within the framework of the Annual WTO Public Forum.
8. Reports of plenary bodies and specialized committees
At its sitting on 21 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, the Gender Partnership Group, and the Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS.
9. Future inter-parliamentary meetings
The Governing Council approved the venues for the two Assemblies of 2012, which, in a break with usual practice, would both be held away from Geneva. The April Assembly would be held in Kampala, Uganda, and the October Assembly in Quebec City, Canada. In addition to meetings already approved, the Governing Council approved the future meetings, for which approval had been pending.
10. Election of the Secretary General
On the recommendation of the Executive Committee, the Governing Council decided through a secret ballot to reappoint the incumbent Secretary General, Anders B. Johnsson, for a fourth mandate from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2014.
The Governing Council also took note of the proposal of the Executive Committee to prepare an amendment to the Rules spelling out the procedure for electing the Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The amendment would be submitted to the Council at its next session.