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(Geneva, 4 and 6 October 2010)
1. Membership of the IPU
At its sitting on 4 October, the Governing Council took note that the Secretary General had been in contact over recent months with parliaments that were not members of the Organization. He informed the Council that, at the initiative of the Parliaments of Australia and New Zealand, a meeting had taken place with the parliaments from the Pacific Islands, and it was hoped that a mechanism would be devised to allow them to become members in the near future.
At the 123rd Assembly, the Governing Council granted observer status to the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-speaking Countries (TURKPA) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union of the Member States of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IPU-IGAD).
The IPU currently comprised 155 Member Parliaments.
2. Reports on activities of IPU Members
The Governing Council took note of the reports submitted by 58 IPU Members on how their parliaments had followed up and implemented recommendations contained in the three resolutions adopted by the 120th Assembly on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament issues, climate change and renewable energies, and freedom of expression and the right to information (see http://www.ipu.org/strct-e/stcnfres.htm#120). The Council commended the parliaments concerned on their reports and the action they had taken and urged all Members to fulfil their obligations and to submit an annual report, as required by the Statutes.
The Council took note of the report on the many activities carried out by parliaments and the IPU to observe the International Day of Democracy on 15 September 2010. The IPU had proposed Political accountability: Strengthening links between parliaments and citizens as the theme for that year and had circulated posters, brochures and other promotional material to assist parliaments. Thirty-six parliaments informed the IPU of activities they had carried out (see http://www.ipu.org/dem-e/idd/events.htm#parliaments).
3. Financial situation of the IPU
The Governing Council was presented with a comprehensive report on the financial situation of the IPU as at 30 June 2010, and an updated list of unpaid contributions as at 30 September 2010. On that date, two Members had significant arrears and were subject to sanctions. The Council further took note of the Secretary General's projected operating surplus of CHF 227,714 notwithstanding some new activities and higher than expected expenditure on others, due to lower than foreseen expenses for interpretation, translation/editing, publishing and institutional gifts for the 122nd Assembly, and other savings achieved under the External Relations and Programmes Divisions.
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 573,000, which included reallocations already approved by the Council at the 122nd Assembly: CHF 50,000 for the Extraordinary Executive Committee, which took place in Namibia on 15 and 16 February 2010; higher than foreseen expenditure of CHF 103,000 for the 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament; CHF 20,000 for co-sharing the cost of a meeting of Pacific Island parliaments (Auckland, 9‑10 August); CHF 50,000 for modernizing the IPU website; CHF 40,000 to carry out an IT needs assessment; CHF 70,000 to organize a Climate Change Parliamentary Meeting in Mexico (December 2010); CHF 40,000 to prepare a report on the effectiveness of parliamentary mechanisms on the MDGs; and, lastly, CHF 140,000 to prepare a Global Parliamentary Report. The Members noted that not all of those items had been included in the projections prepared as at 30 June 2010 and hence, the projected surplus currently stood at CHF 87,000.
4. Programme and budget for 2011
The Council received the budget proposal for 2011 and a summary of planned activities and requirements for 2011-2013. Reporting for the Executive Committee, Mr. F.-X. de Donnea (Belgium) stated that the Committee had invited the Secretary General to revisit the 2011 budget and submit a revised version with no increase of the assessed contributions. He also highlighted the fact that several proposals by the Secretary General to enhance the functioning and management of the Secretariat, including changes to the Secretariat's organigram, could be implemented with immediate effect at no cost. It specifically encouraged the Secretary General to implement a new communications strategy within the confines of the IPU budget (ICTs).
During the debate, one Member proposed that the Secretariat continue its efforts to reduce costs, as some parliaments had not been able to send delegations to the Assembly due to financial constraints. He suggested that the IPU, taking into account the limited travel budgets of some parliaments, organize more meetings in close proximity to the less affluent Members. He also suggested that spending had to be closely monitored on staff costs and travel and that better use had to be made of tele- and video-conferencing. Another Member also underscored the need for the IPU to do more with less by optimizing new information and communication technologies.
The Secretary General, in response to those comments, confirmed the IPU’s intention to start implementing some of those suggestions. He stated that a broad outline of the 2012 budget would be submitted to the members of the Executive Committee in February 2011 in order for discussions on the next budget to begin earlier than usual. In reference to a comment concerning the scale of contributions, the Secretary General confirmed that the scale would be reviewed at the 124th Assembly in Panama.
Following the recommendation of the Executive Committee, the Governing Council approved the new scale of contributions and the revised 2011 budget. It approved gross operating expenses of CHF 18,086,540 and capital expenditures of CHF 125,000.
5. Cooperation with the United Nations System
The Governing Council took stock of recent developments in IPU-UN cooperation, and was informed of a variety of activities carried out in collaboration with or in support of the United Nations.
The Council noted in particular the many activities, including in-depth studies and reports, carried out by the IPU in support of parliamentary action to achieve the MDGs, as well as the input provided by the IPU to the 2010 high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on the MDGs. The Council adopted a statement on the MDGs, in which the IPU pledged to continue to mobilize parliaments in their efforts to achieve the MDGs by 2015.
The Governing Council welcomed the biennial Report of the UN Secretary-General on Cooperation between the United Nations, national parliaments and the IPU, and in particular its conclusions and recommendations for future action. The Council endorsed a draft resolution, which it recommended that States adopt at the UN General Assembly when debating the cooperation item on its agenda. All Member Parliaments were encouraged to work closely with their foreign ministries to garner strong support for that UN General Assembly resolution.
6. Consolidation of the reform of the IPU
The Governing Council received a first draft of a strategic plan for the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The document described the IPU today, how it was depicted in its Statutes and Rules and the internal and external environment in which it operated. It highlighted some of the challenges facing the organization, its strengths and comparative advantages.
The draft provided a basis for IPU Members to reflect on the organization, its mission and future direction. In order to assist Members in that exercise, it identified seven strategic objectives for the IPU, six covering the current areas of its activities and one concerning modernization of the Organization. The document listed 33 tasks/questions which it recommended be addressed by the membership as it set out to draft a strategy for the IPU for the coming years.
Several delegates expressed support for the exercise. They pleaded for sufficient time to carry out the process so that all Members could participate and commit themselves to the outcome. They underscored that the strategy would have to take account of the current financial difficulties facing parliaments in all parts of the world. Delegates suggested that certain IPU activities, for example those aimed at promoting democracy, human rights and gender partnership, should be priority strategic objectives of the organization. It was also proposed that in current times of economic hardship, the IPU should give priority to assisting parliaments in promoting development and social justice.
Some delegates suggested that the proposal to base the IPU on an international convention would require further in-depth study and should be deferred to a later stage, as envisaged in the draft strategy.
The IPU President called on all Members to study the draft strategy and be fully involved in the exercise. He noted that one geopolitical group had already set up a working group to study the draft and he encouraged the other geopolitical groups to follow suit. He also called on the different committees within the IPU to study those aspects of the plan which were relevant to their area of work.
The President announced that the Executive Committee would hold a three-day extraordinary session in February 2011 to convert the draft strategy into a concise document expressing a clear vision for the IPU and its strategic development over the coming years. The document would be circulated to all Members in time for them to consider it at the 124th IPU Assembly.
7. Recent specialized conferences and meetings
The Governing Council received a full report on the 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament (see http://www.ipu.org/splz-e/speakers10.htm). The Conference was the biggest parliamentary summit ever organized, with Speakers and Deputy Speakers from 135 parliaments participating in the debates. The Conference adopted a declaration on Securing global democratic accountability for the common good (see http://www.ipu.org/splz-e/speakers10/declaration.pdf). The Speakers' Conference had been preceded by the Sixth Meeting of Women Speakers of Parliament, which had adopted the Bern initiative for global parliamentary action on maternal and child health (see http://www.ipu.org/splz-e/speakers10/bern.pdf).
The Council took note of the results of a Regional Seminar for Latin American parliaments on violence against women (see http://www.ipu.org/splz-e/cuenca10.htm), the Third Parliamentary Forum on Shaping the Information Society (see http://www.ipu.org/splz-e/ICT10.htm), a Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the UN Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference (see http://www.ipu.org/splz-e/NPT10.htm), a Regional Conference "Towards enhanced parliamentary action to combat the trafficking of children for purposes of labour exploitation in West and Central Africa" (see http://www.ipu.org/splz-e/cotonou10.htm), a Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the 2010 Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations (see http://www.ipu.org/splz-e/unaoc10.htm), a Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the XVIII International AIDS Conference (see http://www.ipu.org/splz-e/aids10.htm), a Regional Workshop for Arab Parliaments on Implementing CEDAW and ending violence against women (see http://www.ipu.org/splz-e/beirut10.htm) and a Regional seminar on parliamentary oversight in the area of security in West Africa (see http://www.ipu.org/splz-e/dakar10.htm).
8. Reports of plenary bodies and specialized committees
At its sitting on 6 October, the Governing Council heard the reports 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.
9. Future inter-parliamentary meetings
The Governing Council took note of the dates for the next four Assemblies, which would be held in Panama, Bern, Kampala and Quebec City respectively. In addition to meetings already approved, the Governing Council approved the future meetings, for which approval had been pending.
10. Amendments to the Statutes and Rules
The Governing Council approved amendments to Rules 8 and 9 of the Rules of the Standing Committees and Rule 3 of the Rules of the Secretariat.