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(Kampala, 1 and 5 April 2012)
1. Membership of the IPU
At its sitting on 1 April, the Governing Council readmitted the Parliament of Haiti. It also granted Associate Member status to the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC). At its sitting on 5 April, it readmitted the Parliament of Myanmar and admitted the Parliament of South Sudan as a new Member.
The Governing Council approved requests for observer status from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the World Scout Parliamentary Union (WSPU).
2. Financial results for 2011
The Governing Council considered the annual Financial Report and Audited Financial Statements for 2011. The Financial Statements showed that the IPU had recorded an operating surplus of CHF 723,874 in 2011. After making provisions for the actuarial loss of the legacy Staff Pension Fund, the Council noted that the Working Capital Fund had been increased by CHF 422,874, compared with a decrease of CHF 401,096 in 2010. As a result, the balance of the Working Capital Fund stood at CHF 4,958,468 at the year end.
The Internal Auditors, Mr. D. Pacheco (Portugal) and Mr. H. Tajam (Uruguay), reported that they were satisfied that the IPU had presented positive financial results and had implemented the recommendations of the 188th session of the Governing Council. They noted that the external audit carried out by the Swiss Federal Audit Office had been exceptionally thorough and comprehensive. In their opinion, the financial results faithfully reflected the financial situation of the IPU for 2011.
The Internal Auditors underlined the need for an actuarial study of the IPU legacy Pension Fund. They recommended that the IPU Secretariat take the necessary steps to comply with the latest International Public Service Accounting Standards (IPSAS), in particular with regard to internal staff taxation, valuation of the Headquarters building and presentation of the Pension Fund accounts. They commended the Secretariat for the savings achieved in 2011. They noted several key components of the overall results, including savings achieved in payroll and other costs, lower than budgeted voluntary income, and the actuarial loss on the Pension Fund. Lastly, the Internal Auditors noted the importance of timely payment of Member contributions and urged all Members to fulfil their responsibilities.
On the recommendation of the Internal Auditors, the Governing Council took note that the Secretary General had written off the arrears totalling CHF 163,984 of the Parliaments of Comoros and Liberia, it approved the use of up to CHF 409,800 of the anticipated surpluses in the Working Capital Fund to balance the 2012 budget and it approved the Secretary General’s financial administration of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the financial results for 2011.
3. Financial situation
The Governing Council received an overview of the IPU's financial situation at 29 February 2012. The overall financial position of the IPU was sound. Arrears of contributions for past years had improved compared to the same period the previous year. At 31 March 2012, the total amount of outstanding contributions from previous years stood at CHF 455,000, compared to CHF 607,000 for the same period the year before. The overall level of expenditure had reached 81 per cent of the year‑to-date budget.
4. Cooperation with the United Nations System
The Governing Council noted the preparations under way for the debate that would take place in late May in the United Nations General Assembly on interaction between the United Nations, national parliaments and the IPU. It was informed of developments in recent years.
The Council was informed of the content of the draft resolution to be considered by UN Member States for adoption. Member Parliaments were encouraged to follow the process closely and consult with their respective foreign ministries to seek their formal sponsorship of a strong resolution.
The Council took note of the activities undertaken in cooperation with the United Nations system since the 125th IPU Assembly. It was also informed of the growing interaction between the IPU and the Bretton Woods Institutions.
5. Implementation of the IPU Strategy 2012-2017
The Governing Council heard a report from the Executive Committee on initial work to implement the third strategic direction; to make the IPU a more effective instrument of parliamentary cooperation. It had discussed the format of the second Assembly of the year and the functioning of the Standing Committees and the Committee on United Nations Affairs. The Executive Committee would pursue that discussion at its extraordinary session, to be held later in the year.
The Council was also informed that the new Director of Communications had briefed the Executive Committee on plans under way to implement the new Communications Strategy.
It also noted that the Executive Committee had approved plans to develop a policy for the IPU to mainstream gender throughout the organization. The Gender Partnership Group was spearheading the effort and the 127th IPU Assembly would hold a special session to finalize and adopt the policy.
6. Action by the IPU to strengthen democracy and parliamentary institutions
The Governing Council took note of an oral report by the Director of Programmes, Mr. M. Chungong, on recent IPU activities to strengthen parliaments and democracy in the key areas of capacity-building for parliaments, promoting women’s political and other rights, defending and promoting human rights, developing standards for democratic parliaments and promoting peace and security. The IPU’s democracy-related work in 2011 focused on forging greater links between parliaments and the people.
In 2011, the IPU provided capacity-building assistance to 16 parliaments mainly in Africa, Asia, Latin America and increasingly in Arab countries. Much of the work involved developing parliaments’ information capacity with a view to promoting transparency and accountability. Increasingly, parliaments were also developing strategic plans and codes of conduct. In the Arab countries, the IPU was providing a robust response to the Arab Spring. It was working with the authorities of Egypt and Tunisia to lay a solid foundation for strong legislative institutions in those countries, through the review of the legislative framework and providing advice to staff and members of parliament on the performance of their duties. The IPU planned to field a high-level mission to Libya to assist the new authorities there in identifying the building blocks for a new democratic parliament. Similar missions were planned for Myanmar and South Sudan. The IPU was also monitoring events in Syria and Yemen and stood ready to provide assistance as required.
The IPU also devoted efforts to continue to promote gender equality in politics. It provided advice to the transitional authorities in Tunisia with a view to drafting an electoral law that guaranteed significant political representation of women. It provided capacity-building assistance to women parliamentarians in Rwanda and Burundi. Recently, it had also organized training sessions for the parliaments of Uganda, Jordan and Burkina Faso on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In 2011, the IPU published a ground-breaking study on Gender‑sensitive Parliaments. The study identified good practices for ensuring that parliaments took into account the interests of both women and men. Other areas included continuation of the project to build capacity in parliaments to deal with violence against women. In that field, inroads had been made in Togo and the Maldives, where the IPU provided assistance with drafting legislation on violence against women. Bills were pending adoption in those parliaments. The IPU and the United Nations had published a new version of the Map on Women in Politics in February 2012.
The IPU’s work in defence of human rights included defending the rights of parliamentarians through its Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians. The Committee was examining the individual cases of about 400 parliamentarians in 39 countries. It undertook missions to Rwanda, Burundi, Colombia and the Maldives to gather information on the cases it was addressing. Two important trial observation missions had also been undertaken. The IPU continued to work for children’s rights, particularly in cooperation with UNICEF. Highlights in that area included the publication of a Handbook for Parliamentarians on Child Participation. The IPU pursued implementation of its programme on combating child trafficking in Burkina Faso, Gabon and Togo.
The IPU’s standards-setting work received a boost in 2011 with preparation of the Global Parliamentary Report, the first of its kind. The publication was produced in cooperation with UNDP, and was launched in Kampala on 2 April 2012 (see page 16). The findings of the survey for the Global Parliamentary Report were fed into the International Day of Democracy on 15 September 2011. A total of 35 parliaments had organized a host of activities to mark the day, including debates, workshops and exhibitions on the theme of Citizens’ expectations of their parliament.
The IPU pursued its programme of support to parliaments for their commitment to peace and security as well as the national reconciliation agenda. In Sierra Leone, it continued to promote cross-party cooperation in the conduct of dialogue with constituents on the work of parliament and national reconciliation. Recently, the IPU had fielded good offices missions to the Maldives, in the wake of the resignation of that country’s President in order to help the parliament resolve the ensuing crisis.
Other activities of note were the efforts the IPU had deployed to ensure parliaments provided meaningful and substantive inputs to the international development agenda. The IPU thus mobilized parliaments in support of the new Istanbul Programme of Action for LDCs as well as the OECD-led initiative on aid and development effectiveness. The IPU had organized parliamentary forums in Istanbul in May 2011 during the Fourth UN Conference on LDCs and in Busan during the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in November 2011. Both efforts had resulted in greater recognition of parliaments as key stakeholders in setting the development agenda.
The IPU also continued its work to promote the achievement of MDGs 4 and 5 on reducing child mortality and improving maternal health with key projects being launched in Kenya and Uganda for building relevant parliamentary capacity.
In 2011, the IPU had commissioned an independent evaluation of its technical assistance activities. While finding those activities highly relevant and efficiently implemented, the evaluation had recommended the development of project management tools for more measurable results and monitoring. In response to those recommendations, the IPU had developed an office-wide logframe consistent with results-based management.
The exponential growth in the IPU’s democracy work occurred at a time when the Organization’s resources from Members’ contributions were dwindling. It was therefore necessary for Members to help the Secretariat mobilize additional resources from their development cooperation agencies to enable the Organization to respond swiftly and flexibly to increasing demands from parliaments for assistance.
7. Recent specialized conferences and meetings
The Governing Council took note of the results of the Regional Conference on national and regional defence and security challenges in Latin America - The role of parliaments, the Regional Parliamentary Workshop on Parliamentary oversight of the security sector: Disseminating best practices in ECOWAS Member States, the Joint IPU-UN Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations, the Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, the Parliamentary Meeting on the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP17/CMP7) and the Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
8. Reports of plenary bodies and specialized committees
At its sitting on 5 April, the Governing Council took note of the reports on the activities of the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, 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 nternational Humanitarian Law, the Gender Partnership Group and the Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS.
9. Future inter-parliamentary meetings
The Governing Council endorsed arrangements proposed for the 127th Assembly, to be held in Quebec City from 21 to 26 October 2012. It also approved the list of international organizations and other bodies to be invited to follow the work of that Assembly as observers.
The Council approved the venue of Quito, Ecuador, for the 128th Assembly, which would take place from 22 to 27 March 2013. It approved the list of future meetings and other activities to be funded by the IPU’s regular budget as well as by external sources.