NEW FORMAT FOR THE IPU ASSEMBLIES, |
THE FUNCTIONING OF THE STANDING COMMITTEES AND THEIR BUREAUX,
AND THE STATUS OF THE IPU COMMITTEE ON UNITED NATIONS AFFAIRS
Approved by the IPU Governing Council at its 191st session
(Quebec City, 24 October 2012)
Overall programme of work of the Assemblies
- The IPU is first and foremost a political organization. The Assemblies offer Members an opportunity to network and to debate and express their views on matters relating to the promotion of parliamentary democracy, as well as on major issues of international concern.
- It is recommended that the three Standing Committees meet on the occasion of both annual IPU Assemblies*. In this way, Members will have an opportunity within any given year to address topics of their choice and adopt at least three resolutions on highly relevant political issues.
- Similarly, it is important that Members have an opportunity to debate the emergency item placed on the agenda of each Assembly before they adopt the draft resolution. It is therefore proposed that each Assembly allocate half a day for a debate on the adopted emergency item.
- In order for this to happen without increasing the overall costs of the annual IPU Assemblies, it is proposed that both Assemblies of the year take place over four days, as compared to the current format of a five-day first Assembly and a three-day second Assembly in Geneva.
- Each Assembly would thus have an identical work programme that includes the following elements:
- General debate and a closing sitting of the Assembly to adopt resolutions;
- Debate on the emergency item;
- A full sitting of each of the three Standing Committees followed, where needed, by drafting committees to finalize the resolutions;
- The sittings of the Governing Council;
- The Meeting of Women Parliamentarians;
- A sitting of the IPU Committee on United Nations Affairs;
- The Executive Committee meetings and brief meetings of other specialized Committees.
- In this scenario, the number of panel discussions will be limited, due to time constraints, but also to enable the effective participation of all delegations. Side events can still be held, but would in principle be limited to the lunch break and have limited interpretation services.
Composition of delegations
- The size of delegations would follow the rules currently applied to the first Assembly of the year insofar as the number of members of parliament appointed as delegates to both annual sessions should not exceed eight or ten, including men and women.
- The composition of these delegations would impact heavily on the quality and outcome of Committee work. It is proposed that Member Parliaments include men and women legislators from select parliamentary committees dealing with the issues under consideration, and who are thus prepared to participate actively and contribute to the debates on the agenda, including from a gender perspective. It is further proposed that Member Parliaments, when announcing the composition of their delegations, also indicate which sessions delegates would attend. With a view to ensuring continuity and greater expertise in the work of the Standing Committees, delegates designated to Standing Committees should attend at least two consecutive Assemblies covering the one-year cycle leading up to the adoption of resolutions.
Functioning of the Standing Committees
- The Standing Committees should be given broader responsibilities. This could include planning and implementing activities in their areas of competence, starting to develop institutional expertise, holding hearings with heads of international organizations and senior UN officials, undertaking field missions, preparing and submitting reports and reporting on good practices and progress in implementing IPU resolutions resulting from their Committee work.
- In order to be able to carry out a more ambitious programme of work, the Standing Committees would need to receive support by way of both financial and human resources. It is proposed that, within the regular budget, funds be identified to support the work of the Standing Committees. In turn, the IPU Secretariat will need to devote more time and effort to providing the assistance required to sustain such activities.
Role and composition of the Bureaux
- The Bureaux should play an active role in planning, guiding and directing the work of the Standing Committees. They should be encouraged to adopt a multiyear programme of work and invite the membership to propose items for debate and rapporteurs to help prepare them. The Bureaux should also play an active role in monitoring follow-up to resolutions, including in terms of encouraging the systematic reporting by Members on any action they have taken.
- Members of the Bureaux should be appointed for a two-year period, renewable once, on the basis of their competences and ability to take part in all meetings. All candidates for Bureaux membership should submit a brief biography, specifying their Committee membership in parliament and familiarity with the issues covered by the Committee. This should be accompanied by a commitment from their parliament that they will be supported in their work and included in future delegations to Assemblies.
- Both titular and substitute members of the Bureau would be encouraged to attend its meetings. It is proposed that attendance be strictly monitored, that quorums be enforced, and that simple majorities be used for decision-making.
- Bureau members would also be encouraged to interact with the geopolitical groups, with a view to preparing the groundwork for multiyear programmes of work, identifying the best possible office-holders, and enhancing the contribution by Members to the work of the Standing Committees.
Selection of subject items for debate
- When considering subject items to be taken up by the Standing Committees, the Bureaux should invite the proponents of the various items to present and make the case for their proposal. When the discussion on proposed subject items is inconclusive, the Bureaux should be able to submit more than one proposal to the full Committee for its decision.
- Each proposal for a rapporteur should be accompanied by an assurance from the parliament concerned that it will provide the necessary support and assist the rapporteur in his or her tasks. When deciding on subject items, consideration should be given only to those proposals that are accompanied by the name of at least one rapporteur.
Preparing the outcome documents
- Once the Standing Committees have selected a subject item, Members should be encouraged to provide input and suggestions before a first draft of the reports(s) and resolution is formulated by the rapporteurs and circulated to the membership. The second Assembly of the year would allow for hearings and a first exchange of views and proposals on the item under consideration, with resolutions expected to be adopted at the first Assembly of the following year.
- It is proposed that the Presidents and First Vice-Presidents of the Standing Committees meet and consult on possible guidelines and modalities of work to ensure the resolutions are sharp, focused, and action-oriented. According to the IPU Statutes, the purpose of the exercise is to "bring about action by parliaments and their members."
- Every effort will be made to have the draft resolutions finalized in the Standing Committees. Only when necessary should they be referred to a drafting committee. The composition of the drafting committees needs to reflect a gender and regional balance and should not exceed 15 members, with a recommended geopolitical distribution of seats similar to that applied by the IPU Executive Committee.
IPU Committee on United Nations Affairs
- The IPU Committee on United Nations Affairs should be maintained as a plenary body open to all IPU Member Parliaments. Its programme of work should be more focused and regular. The Committee should concentrate more on priorities and planning of activities to avoid duplication with other IPU bodies and to promote more productive relations with the United Nations.
- The Committee should meet at each IPU Assembly and focus primarily on aspects relating to the planning of cooperation and the elaboration of parliamentary responses to UN processes. It should be placed on a firm and equal footing with the IPU’s existing Standing Committees and be invested with a clear set of rules and regulations.
Making better use of ICT
- Lastly, in order to enhance the overall impact of IPU Assemblies and encourage the engagement of as many parliamentarians as possible, the IPU Secretariat will examine possibilities to better utilize available ICT tools, including Twitter, webcast and online delegates’ forums. This would allow participants to contribute to ongoing and emerging debates, and hence enrich the outcome of such debates.
* Due primarily to cost implications there is little support for the option of convening Standing Committees outside the bi-annual Assemblies (which would have allowed the participation of parliamentarians from relevant committees in their own parliaments to take part in the proceedings).
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