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(Quito, 23, 26 and 27 March 2013)
1. Membership of the IPU
No new requests for membership having been received before the 128th Assembly, membership of the IPU remained unchanged. On 23 March, the Governing Council approved requests for observer status from the Global Organization of Parliamentarians against Corruption (GOPAC) and The Parliamentarians for the Americas (ParlAmericas).
2. Financial results for 2012
The Governing Council considered the annual Financial Report and Audited Financial Statements for 2012. For the first time ever, the IPU financial statements were prepared in full compliance with International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). In order to comply with the new accounting standards, the accounts of the IPU and the accounts of the legacy Pension Fund had been consolidated into a single set of financial statements.
The transition to IPSAS had required several significant accounting adjustments and restatements, including the revaluation of the IPU Headquarters building, an external actuarial review and valuation of the legacy Pension Fund and the restatement of the 2011 balance sheet. As a result of those adjustments, the opening Working Capital Fund was increased by CHF 0.5 million. The financial statements and notes now contained greater details of financial information and were presented in a new and more comprehensive format.
The final results for 2012 showed that the IPU had recorded a total operating surplus of CHF 1,015,711. That comprised a higher level of voluntary funding than had been budgeted, savings in staffing and administrative costs, deferral of the IPU website development expenditure to 2013 and IPSAS adjustments required for the legacy Pension Fund and reserves. The Council noted that the reserves and Working Capital Fund had been increased correspondingly. As a result, the balance of the Working Capital Fund stood at CHF 6,385,574 at the year end.
The Internal Auditor’s report prepared by Mr. M. Sheetrit (Israel) was presented on his behalf by the Chair of the Sub-Committee on Finance, Mr. K. Örnfjäder (Sweden). In his report, the Internal Auditor had said that he was satisfied that the IPU had followed all previous recommendations and that, following the transition to IPSAS, the financial management of the IPU was now based on a stronger foundation than ever before. The positive results had increased the Organization’s asset values and financial reserves. In his opinion, the financial results gave a true and fair reflection of the financial position and performance of the IPU for 2012.
The Internal Auditor had taken note of the remarks from the External Auditor that the transition to IPSAS had represented a substantial achievement for the IPU and was a considerable and complex task involving wide-ranging changes. To maintain compliance, he had recommended that the IPU finance team continue to update its technical know-how on the evolving standards.
He had noted that the liability of the legacy Pension Fund, which had been raised repeatedly in previous audits, had now been professionally assessed by an independent actuary and the resulting values were now fully reflected in the IPU’s financial statements. A potential actuarial risk related to the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund (UNJSPF) had been noted by the External Auditor but would not be reflected in the IPU’s accounts until it could be reliably estimated.
On the recommendation of the Internal Auditor, the Governing Council approved the Secretary General’s financial administration of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the financial results for 2012.
3. Financial situation
The Governing Council received an overview of the IPU's financial situation at 28 February 2013 and noted that the overall financial position of the IPU was sound. The overall level of expenditure was on track at 93 per cent of the year-to-date budget. Arrears of contributions stood at CHF 652,000, with further payments of arrears expected shortly.
4. Cooperation with the United Nations system
The Council took note of the activities undertaken in cooperation with the United Nations system since the 127th IPU Assembly.
The Council endorsed a recommendation of the Executive Committee for the IPU to collaborate with the World Future Council and the United Nations in selecting the recipient of the 2013 Future Policy Award. The Award would be conferred to exemplary public nuclear disarmament policies that contributed to the achievement of peace and sustainable development.
5. Implementation of the IPU Strategy 2012-2017
In the context of IPU Strategic Objectives 4 and 5, the Governing Council heard a report on the IPU’s contribution to the design of the post-2015 development framework. It took note of the outcome of the discussions that had taken place between parliamentarians and the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Eminent Persons in Monrovia in January 2013. It encouraged parliaments to take part in national consultations being organized by the United Nations and invited Members to participate in the online global survey called My World .
The Council welcomed the fact that the outcome of the debate taking place in Quito on “Buen Vivir” would be conveyed to the United Nations in the form of the Quito Communiqué as a further parliamentary input to the post-2015 process. The Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations would constitute yet another building block.
Referring to Strategic Objective 7, the Governing Council endorsed a set of proposals relating to the new format of IPU Assemblies, the functioning of the Standing Committees and their Bureaux and the status of the IPU Committee on United Nations Affairs. The proposals comprised input received during the Assembly from a Joint Meeting of the Standing Committees’ Bureaux held on 22 March, the Meeting of Young Parliamentarians and the Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians. Implementation of those proposals would require a number of amendments to the Statutes and Rules, which would be circulated to Members ahead of the 129th Assembly in Geneva.
With regard to Strategic Objective 8 relating to the Communications Strategy, the Council received an update on efforts to develop a visual identity for the IPU. That included work on revamping the IPU website, producing new information products, expanding media outreach and enhancing use of social media. Members were informed that the Executive Committee had decided to defer a final decision on the future logo of the Organization to the next Assembly in Geneva. It endorsed a proposal by the Meeting of Young Parliamentarians to transform its informal meeting into a formal Forum of Young Parliamentarians. The Forum would contribute to the overall achievement of the IPU’s Strategy by increasing the presence of young MPs at IPU Assemblies, incorporating a youth perspective into the IPU’s work and monitoring and enhancing implementation of the IPU resolution on "Youth participation in the democratic process". It would also support youth participation in parliament through advocacy and technical assistance and help build bridges between the IPU and youth organizations.
6. Action by the IPU to strengthen democracy and parliamentary institutions
The Governing Council took note of an oral report by the Deputy Secretary General and Director of the Division of Programmes, Mr. M. Chungong, on recent IPU activities in the key areas of strengthening parliaments, research and standards-setting, advancing gender equality and protecting and promoting human rights. The IPU’s democracy-related work in 2012 focused on the Arab Spring countries, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar and Palestine. The IPU was also cooperating with the parliaments of Australia and New Zealand in developing a programme of assistance to the Pacific Island parliaments.
In the context of the IPU’s contribution to the design of the post-2015 development framework, the IPU was building on its work to establish standards for democratic parliaments. It would develop measurable targets and indicators for assessing parliaments’ contribution to democracy. That work would serve as a basis for establishing a peer review mechanism whereby parliaments would share experiences on their democratic processes. The IPU also planned to build on its work to map the representation of minorities and indigenous peoples in parliament by collecting data, identifying mechanisms for ensuring better representation and devising advocacy strategies. The results of that work would feed into the proceedings of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (September 2014).
The IPU’s gender equality work increasingly included protecting the rights of women, especially promoting parliaments’ contribution to fighting violence against women. Recently, assistance had been extended to the parliaments of Togo and Burundi in designing legislation on violence against women. A corresponding advocacy strategy had been developed by the women’s parliamentary caucuses in those countries with support from the IPU. In the area of human rights, the IPU continued to focus on the protection of members of parliament. The Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians was examining an increasing number of cases and had adopted new working modalities involving more frequent field missions. In some cases, the IPU had offered assistance to parliaments to build their capacity to protect human rights. Recently, the Parliament of the Maldives had adopted a privileges law. The IPU had provided assistance in drafting that law, which provided guarantees to members of parliament in the performance of their duties. The IPU urged the authorities of the Maldives to implement fully and respect the provisions of that law. It planned to dispatch a mission to that country to help establish smoother relations between the parliament and the executive.
Details of the IPU’s activities in the above-mentioned areas could be found in the Secretary General’s Report on the activities of the IPU in 2012 as well as in the Financial Results for 2012.
7. Statement by the President of the IPU on the situation in the Central African Republic
At its sitting on 27 March, the Council endorsed a statement in which the President expressed the IPU’s deep concern on learning of the coup d’état that had taken place in the Central African Republic, where an armed group had seized power and dissolved the elected parliament.
Once again, declared the President, “an elected parliament has become the main casualty of a political crisis. The IPU strongly condemns this coup d’état. It urges the new authorities of the country to take immediate steps to return to constitutional rule and establish a parliament that reflects the will of the people. The IPU has worked with and supported the dissolved parliament and is committed to pursuing its assistance to the future parliament as the country emerges from the crisis”.
The President deplored that further example of the unconstitutional removal of an elected government and parliament. He underlined the fragility of democracy and called on all parliaments to remain ever vigilant.
8. Recent specialized conferences and meetings
The Governing Council took note of the results of the Parliamentary Workshop on Strengthening the Role of Parliamentarians in the Implementation of Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Recommendations, the Annual 2012 Session of the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO, the Parliamentary Workshop on developing good practice in political representation and constituency work in the Caribbean region, the Regional Seminar for East and Southern African Parliaments on preventing and responding to violence against women and girls: From legislation to effective enforcement, the Joint IPU-UN Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations and the Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
9. Reports of plenary bodies and specialized committees
At its sitting on 26 March, the Governing Council took note of the reports on the activities of the Gender Partnership Group, the Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, and the Meeting of Young Parliamentarians.
At its sitting on 27 March, the Council heard the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians and adopted its resolutions. It received a report from the Committee on Middle East Questions and endorsed its conclusions and recommendations. Lastly, the Council also heard the report of the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians and the Committee to Promote Respect for International Humanitarian Law.
10. Future inter-parliamentary meetings
The Governing Council endorsed arrangements proposed for the 129th Assembly, to be held in Geneva from 7 to 9 October 2013. It took note of the list of IPU Permanent Observers.
The Council approved the venue of Baku, Azerbaijan, for the 130th Assembly, which would take place from 10 to 13 April 2014 on the understanding that the necessary visa assurances would be provided shortly by the Government of Azerbaijan.
The Council also approved the venue of Hanoi, Viet Nam, for the 132nd Assembly, to be held from 29 March to 1 April 2015.
It welcomed the invitation from the Parliament of Zambia to host the 134th IPU Assembly and requested the Secretariat to undertake the usual exploratory mission.
It approved the list of future meetings and other activities to be funded by the IPU’s regular budget and external sources.
11. Election of the Secretary General
The Council took note of the Executive Committee’s decision to publish the vacancy announcement for the post of IPU Secretary General on 1 May 2013. The vacancy announcement described the functions, skills, qualifications, education and language requirements for the post. The Executive Committee had also agreed on minimum eligibility criteria that must be met by all candidates. In accordance with the procedure adopted by the Council in 2010, applications should be submitted within four months, i.e. by 1 September 2013. The final decision would be taken through elections by the Council on 13 April 2014. The new Secretary General would take up the post on 1 July 2014.
12. Amendments to the Statutes and Rules
The Governing Council was informed that, pending further consultations, the French delegation had withdrawn its proposal to amend Article 4 of the Statutes to suspend a Member of the IPU on grounds that it did not “fulfil, as part of its functions, the responsibility that falls to it of protecting its population from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity”. The Council was also informed that discussion of the proposed amendments to Articles 21(l) and 24(h) of the Statutes submitted by the President of the Chilean Group would be deferred to the 129th Assembly in Geneva.