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(Bangkok, 28 March and 1 April 2010)
1. Membership of the IPU
At its sitting on 28 March, the Governing Council approved requests for reaffiliation from the Parliaments of Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau and Malawi, and a request for affiliation from the Parliament of Seychelles. It also approved a request for associate membership from the Transitional Arab Parliament. The IPU currently comprises 155 Member Parliaments and nine Associate Members.
2. Financial results for 2009
The Governing Council considered the annual Financial Report and Audited Financial Statements for 2009. The Financial Statements showed that the IPU had recorded an operating surplus of CHF 512,439 in 2009. However, after making provisions for the continuing actuarial losses of the legacy staff Pension Fund, the Council noted that the Working Capital Fund had been reduced by CHF 145,561; in 2008, the same reduction had amounted to CHF 713,852. As a result, the balance of the Working Capital Fund had stood at CHF 4,936,690 at the end of the year.
The Internal Auditor, Mr. D. Reisiegel (Czech Republic), reported that he was satisfied with the financial performance of the IPU in 2009 and with the presentation of the Financial Statements. For the future, he recommended that budgets be prepared taking into account the need to make a clearer distinction between activities to be funded from voluntary contributions and those from the core budget. He also underscored the need to prepare a comprehensive inventory of IPU assets. The Secretary General concurred with the Internal Auditor’s suggestion regarding the preparation of future budgets and said that plans were under way to improve the existing inventory system by introducing strict industry inventory standards.On the recommendation of the Internal Auditor, the Governing Council approved the Financial Statements and the Secretary General's management of the IPU in 2009.
3. Financial situation
The Governing Council received an overview of the IPU's financial situation at the beginning of 2010. In spite of the ongoing effects of the financial crisis, which had begun in 2008, the IPU had managed to stay on course and achieve a well-capitalized balance sheet. The Council approved revisions of the budget to take into account additional expenditures that would be required to meet the costs relating to the organization of the 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament (CHF 36,000) and to carry out unforeseen development activities (CHF 40,000). It also approved an amount of CHF 42,000 for the organization of an extraordinary session of the Executive Committee in Windhoek (Namibia) on 15 and 16 February 2010, to lay the groundwork for the 3rd Speakers’ Conference.
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 UN-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 121st IPU Assembly, click here.
The Governing Council welcomed the results of the 2009 Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations, which focused on The Way Forward: Building political support and implementing effective responses to the global financial crisis. The Hearing had been well attended by both legislators and UN officials, among them the UN Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and had allowed for a rich and substantive discussion. The final report of the Hearing, which touches on outstanding issues in the response to the global economic and financial crisis, had been circulated at the United Nations as an official General Assembly and ECOSOC document.
The Governing Council noted the results of the Parliamentary Meeting convened by the IPU and the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen on 16 December 2009 in connection with the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The meeting had concluded with recommendations for a deeper engagement of parliamentarians in support of a new international agreement on climate change. That agenda would be pursued by the IPU throughout 2010, as part of the parliamentary review of progress towards achieving the MDGs and of the process leading up to COP16, which will be held in Mexico at the end of the year.
The Governing Council welcomed the growing cooperation between the IPU and the new bodies of the UN system, in particular the Peacebuilding Commission, the Development Cooperation Forum and the Human Rights Council. It also welcomed the growing practice of including legislators in national delegations to major UN conferences and events.
The Governing Council was reminded that 2010 was an important year for the institutional relationship between the United Nations and the IPU, as the UN General Assembly would for the first time be devoting a specific agenda item to consideration of cooperation between the United Nations, national parliaments and the IPU. For the deliberations to be substantive and meaningful, national parliaments would need to engage closely with their foreign ministries and develop a clear and common understanding of the progress made and the way forward. The IPU stood ready to assist in that process. An overview of progress in IPU-UN cooperation over the past five years is to be found here. The responses from Member Parliaments to the IPU survey on how parliaments organize their work vis-à-vis the United Nations would also serve as the basis for a major report to be submitted to both the 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament (July 2010) and the 65th Session of the UN General Assembly (autumn 2010). All parliaments that had not yet done so were urged to respond without further delay.
The Governing Council welcomed IPU efforts over the years to mobilize parliamentary action towards achieving the MDGs. Those efforts had focused on gender equality, child and maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability and global partnership. The IPU had been invited to share its findings and results with the United Nations, and to contribute to the preparatory process for the UN MDG summit in September 2010. The summit’s primary objective was to accelerate efforts by the international community to meet the MDGs by the target date of 2015, hence the need to undertake a comprehensive review of progress to date.
The Governing Council was also informed of preparations for a series of UN-related activities scheduled for May 2010, in particular the Third Parliamentary Forum on Shaping the Information Society (ICT and the Global Economic Crisis: Current Situation and Future Perspectives, Geneva, 3-5 May), organized in cooperation with the International Telecommunication Union; the Parliamentary Meeting on the Occasion of the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), (UN Headquarters in New York, 5 May); and the parliamentary events to be held in conjunction with the Third Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations (Rio de Janeiro, 27-29 May). Member Parliaments were encouraged to attend and participate actively in those important events.
The Governing Council welcomed the new or revised cooperation agreements concluded by the IPU with UN programmes and agencies. The new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) negotiated with UNDP in late 2009 further expanded the ways and means for future cooperation in areas ranging from democracy to development. A first MoU with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) provided a comprehensive framework for cooperation in areas such as gender budgeting, ending all forms of violence against women and girls, governance for gender equality and the International Knowledge Network of Women in Politics (iKNOW Politics).
5. Consolidation of the reform of the IPU
The Council took note of a report setting out the rationale for concluding an international convention on the IPU.
The proposal was aimed at securing a clear expression of States’ commitment to work together in the IPU - through their parliaments - to promote democracy at the national and international levels. It involved concluding an international convention on the IPU whereby States would vest their representation in the IPU in their national parliament, and therefore not alter its parliamentary nature. If implemented, the proposal would enhance the IPU’s political and diplomatic status and strengthen its ability to promote democracy. It would place the IPU on an equal footing with other major international organizations and would facilitate cooperation with them. It would also allow the IPU to operate with the necessary guarantees in all countries.
The proposal had been considered by the Executive Committee during its 256th and 257th sessions. At its request, the Secretary General had briefed the six geopolitical groups on the initiative and responded to their initial questions.
The IPU President urged all Members to study the matter in the coming months and to share any questions with the Secretariat, which would be at their disposal for further clarification. The Secretariat would share both the questions it received and the clarification it provided on a continuous basis with the membership to facilitate progress at the next session in October.
Each geopolitical group was encouraged to follow the example set by the African Group, which was setting up a working group, with representation from the different regions of Africa and the participation of its Executive Committee members, to study the proposal in depth. The working group would consult with experts and governments and would present its opinion to the African Group when it met in October. The IPU Secretariat was at the disposal of the African Group, and indeed of all the other geopolitical groups, to assist them in their deliberations. The Executive Committee would also set up its own working group to reflect further on that subject and consult with a small group of Member Parliaments.The IPU President encouraged Speakers of Parliament to discuss the matter when they convened for the 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament in Geneva in July 2010. The President concluded that the Executive Committee would proceed in a thorough and measured manner, allowing sufficient time for all Members to consider every aspect of the proposal.
6. Action by the IPU to strengthen parliaments and democracy
The Council took note of a report on recent IPU activities to strengthen parliaments and democracy.
The IPU provided advice, guidance and technical support to parliaments in transition or in post-conflict situations to help them fulfil their constitutional mandates. In 2009, it had focused on promoting dialogue and reconciliation, helping parliaments ensure parliamentary oversight of the security sector and fostering a parliamentary contribution to the design, planning and implementation of development agendas to ensure effective poverty reduction.
The IPU had played an active part in strengthening the institutional capacities of the parliaments in Burundi, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Maldives, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe. It had also provided support to the Secretariat of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the South Sudan Legislative Assembly.
The IPU worked with the United Nations to promote parliamentary involvement in the implementation of the 2001 Brussels Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries. During 2009, it had increased its cooperation with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD) in the context of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda for Action.
In 2009, the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians had dealt with 77 cases in 34 countries involving 436 parliamentarians. Trial observation and fact-finding missions had been dispatched to Burundi, Colombia, Israel and Arab countries.
Members of parliamentary human rights committees had met in Geneva for a one-day briefing on parliamentary involvement in international human rights covenants. Regional seminars had been organized for European parliaments on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and on parliamentary action to combat human trafficking.
The IPU had produced two handbooks for parliamentarians: one on combating human trafficking and another on missing persons.
The IPU’s action to promote respect for children’s rights focused on helping parliaments make a more meaningful contribution to the achievement of MDGs 4 and 5 on maternal health and child survival. Preventing violence against children was another area of concern.
The IPU continued to monitor progress in and setbacks to women’s participation in parliament, through the publication of monthly online statistics and the production of its annual report on the subject. It had issued the 2010 edition of its Map of Women in Politics. It had also provided statistics and analyses to the UN MDG database and UNDP’s Human Development Report.
The IPU had organized the fourth regional conference of women members of parliament and women in political decision-making positions in the Gulf Cooperation Council States. The fourth annual conference for parliamentary committees dealing with gender issues and women’s rights had discussed women’s political participation 15 years after the Beijing Platform for Action. The annual Conference on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) had discussed parliamentary involvement in the CEDAW reporting process. Country-level support had been provided to women parliamentarians in Burundi, Jordan and Rwanda.
A project had been launched to help parliaments combat violence against women. The IPU had designed and circulated tools for that purpose, including a booklet on good parliamentary practice, a handbook on putting an end to female genital mutilation, and campaign material such as a poster and dedicated web page. Field-based activities included a regional seminar for European parliaments in Paris on migrant women’s vulnerability to gender-based violence.
In 2009, there had been heightened recognition of the IPU’s work to promote criteria for democratic parliaments. It had facilitated assessments of parliamentary performance on the basis of its self-assessment toolkit in several parliaments, including those in Cambodia, Pakistan, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. The parliaments of Australia, Ireland and South Africa had undertaken the exercise on their own. The joint IPU-ASGP annual conference, which had taken place in Geneva in October 2009, had focused on the assessment of parliamentary performance.
The IPU had furthermore pursued implementation of its project on the representation of minorities and indigenous groups as part of its strategy to promote inclusive parliaments.
The IPU and the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament had convened the annual World e-Parliament Conference at the United States House of Representatives in November 2009. The Conference had reviewed good practices and exchanged views and experiences on latest trends, institutional developments and experiences in the use of ICTs in parliaments.
The IPU and the United Nations, in cooperation with the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament, had published the Highlights and Major Findings of the World e-Parliament Report 2010. The Report made practical recommendations for enhancing the use of ICTs in parliament, including greater collaboration and cooperation, notably between parliaments.
The IPU continued to show strong leadership in the celebration of the International Day of Democracy, 15 September, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 2007. It had produced documents to help parliaments mark that occasion. It had commissioned a global poll on public attitudes to democracy, the findings of which had been released at a regional conference on democracy for African parliaments in Gaborone (Botswana) in September 2009. The overall theme of the 2009 International Day of Democracy had been political tolerance.
The Council endorsed proposals for the celebration of the third International Day in 2010, under the theme of Political accountability: Strengthening links between parliaments and citizens. Activities planned by the IPU included a conference on democracy for Asian parliaments on 15 September 2010 and the production of background materials to assist parliaments in their celebrations.
7. Recent specialized conferences and meetings
The Governing Council took note of the results of a Regional Conference on the role of the media and information technology in increasing the number and effectiveness of women in politics, the World e-Parliament Conference, the Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the World Summit on Food Security, the Joint UN-IPU Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations, the Third Parliamentary Conference on Maternal and Newborn Health, organized jointly by the IPU and the World Health Organization, the Regional Seminar on parliaments’ contribution to long-term peace and security in the Great Lakes region, the Conference of Women Parliamentarians and Women in Decision-making Positions in the GCC States, the Regional Conference for the Twelve Plus Group on Migration and Violence Against Women, the Regional Seminar on HIV/AIDS, the Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of COP15, the Regional Seminar for the Twelve Plus Group on human trafficking and the Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the 54th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
8. Reports of plenary bodies and specialized committees
At its sitting on 1 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 Group of Facilitators for Cyprus, the Committee to Promote Respect for International Humanitarian Law, the Gender Partnership Group, and the Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS.
The Governing Council also heard a report of the Committee on Middle East Questions. The Council endorsed a statement prepared by the Committee on the situation in the Middle East after hearing statements by the delegations of Israel, Palestine, Islamic Republic of Iran, Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic, some of which had expressed reservations on certain aspects of the statement.
9. Preparations for the 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament
At its sitting on 1 April, the Governing Council took note of preparations for the 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament in Geneva, from 19 to 21 July 2010. The Conference would be preceded by the 6th Conference of Women Speakers of Parliament, which would be hosted by the Swiss Parliament in Bern on 16 and 17 July.
The Conference would address the theme of Parliaments in a world of crisis: securing global democratic accountability for the common good. It would consider the report, How parliaments organize their work with the United Nations. It would also receive reports on progress achieved since the 2005 Speakers’ Conference on achieving the MDGs, establishing global standards for democratic parliaments, and strengthening the IPU and its relationship with the United Nations. It would also host two panel discussions and other events taking place during the course of the Conference (see the Conference agenda).
The Council was briefed on progress in drafting an outcome document for the Conference. A comprehensive first draft had been sent to all Speakers of Parliament, inviting them to provide their comments before 16 April so that the Preparatory Committee could finalize the outcome document at its third meeting in Geneva on 7 and 8 May.
10. Future inter-parliamentary meetings
The Governing Council approved the venue of Bern for the 125th IPU Assembly from 17 to 19 October 2011, with an opening ceremony in the evening of 16 October.
The Council also decided that the 127th IPU Assembly, to be held in Quebec City in October 2012, would follow the normal format of the second Assembly of the year, to which two extra days of meetings would be added. The composition of delegations to the Assembly would follow the normal statutory provisions for the second Assembly of the year.
In addition to the meetings that had been previously approved, the Governing Council approved the Regional Conference to combat trafficking in children for purposes of labour exploitation (Cotonou, Benin from 26 to 28 May), the Regional Seminar for Latin American parliaments on security challenges and parliamentary oversight, the Regional Seminar for Arab parliaments on violence against women and CEDAW, and the Conference on maternal health and child survival.
The Council was informed of the ongoing discussions with the Mexican Congress to jointly organize a parliamentary conference on the eve of the Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico (COP 16). A comprehensive proposal for such a conference, along with a plan for the IPU to promote parliamentary action to address urgent climate change issues, would be circulated to all Members in due course.
11. Amendments to the Rules of the Standing Committees and to the Rules of the Secretariat
Draft amendments to the Rules of the Standing Committees and a draft amendment to the Rules of the Secretariat were submitted to the Governing Council for information. The draft amendments would be submitted for adoption to the Governing Council at its 187th session in October 2010.