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(Geneva, 7 and 9 October 2013)
1. Membership of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
At its sitting on 7 October, the Governing Council approved a request for affiliation from the Parliament of Bhutan and a request for reaffiliation from the Parliament of Somalia. It also approved a recommendation by the Executive Committee to waive the arrears accumulated by the Parliament of Somalia towards the IPU before its suspension from the Organization in 2009, given the exceptional nature of political and economic conditions in Somalia.
On the recommendation of the Executive Committee, the Council decided to apply the provisions of Article 4.2 of the Statutes relating to loss of membership to the parliament of Egypt.
The Council also approved a request for observer status from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Economic Cooperation Organization (PAECO).
2. Financial situation of the IPU
The Governing Council was presented with a comprehensive report on the financial situation of the IPU and an updated list of unpaid contributions as at 4 October 2013. On that date, four Members ‑ Bolivia, Djibouti, Mauritania and Sierra Leone – had significant arrears and were subject to voting sanctions and reduced delegation size. The total amount of contributions in arrears was substantially reduced compared with previous years.
The Council took note that the income and expenditure of the IPU were close to target for the first half of the year, with some overall cost savings anticipated by the end of the year in staff and operating costs. The first Assembly, the largest expense of the year to date, had been completed almost on budget with a slight increase in translation and travel costs.
For the 2013 budget, the Secretary General had anticipated a voluntary funding budget of CHF 1.5 million. The total amount of voluntary funds actually received had in fact reached CHF 1.7 million by mid-year. The Governing Council was informed of further voluntary contributions to fund IPU activities. In particular, it welcomed a new partnership with Worldwide Support for Development, a Japanese NGO, which would bring US$ 3 million over five years to fund three core IPU programmes: capacity-building for parliaments, advancing gender equality and providing support to young parliamentarians, with a focus on Asia.
3. Programme and budget for 2014
The Council received the consolidated budget proposal for 2014. Reporting on behalf of the Executive Committee, the Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on Finance, Mr. K. Örnfjäder (Sweden), stated that the Sub-Committee had provided guidance and oversight to the Secretariat in the preparation of the budget. The budget document followed the same structure as the IPU Strategy for 2012-2017 and was supplemented with a summarized logical framework providing a further budget breakdown.
The budget had been prepared with no overall increase in the level of assessed contributions at a time of continuing economic hardship for many Members. Total contributions from Members would be lower in 2014 than they had been in 2007. It was noted that the United Nations had updated its scale of contributions based on a reassessment of each nation’s capacity to pay. The IPU scale had automatically been adjusted accordingly, hence most Members would see a difference in their individual contributions even though the overall total had not increased.
The budget reflected cost savings in the core expenditures on staff, travel, insurance and office costs. Despite the cuts, it included funding for additional activities requested by the Governing Council, including the strengthening of the four Standing Committees, preparations for the Speakers’ Conference in 2015 and additional support for the Committee on Middle East Questions.
Since 2011, the Working Capital Fund of the IPU had increased by CHF 1.9 million thanks to surpluses achieved through cost savings and increased asset values. The Governing Council approved the request to offset the increased depreciation charges of the IPU Headquarters building and website development, if needed, against the Working Capital Fund at the end of 2014.
The Governing Council approved the 2014 budget of CHF 13,746,400.
4. Cooperation with the United Nations System
The Governing Council took stock of recent developments in IPU-UN cooperation and was informed of activities carried out in collaboration with or in support of the United Nations.
It noted that the IPU had commissioned a legal opinion on the existing cooperation agreement with the United Nations and that the Executive Committee had decided to establish the Sub-Committee on the future IPU-UN cooperation agreement in the wider context of examining the IPU’s international legal status.
In the framework of cooperation between the two organizations, the Council heard a presentation by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. A. Guterres, as part of the Special debate on the humanitarian impact of the Syrian crisis). It also heard a presentation by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. N. Pillay.
5. Implementation of the IPU Strategy for 2012-2017
The Governing Council adopted a landmark document on Gender Mainstreaming at the IPU. The document set out the IPU’s general position on gender equality, defined gender mainstreaming and outlined the strategy through which the IPU would achieve its objectives of institutionalizing gender equality at the IPU, promoting equality in representation and participation, building capacity and developing mechanisms for gender mainstreaming. The document also contained provisions for ensuring implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
The Council took note of the decision taken by the Executive Committee to adopt a modified colour version of the current IPU logo with a strap line, "For democracy, for everyone".
It approved amendments and sub-amendments to the Rules of the Standing Committees in keeping with the decision it had taken at its previous session in Quito to improve the functioning of the Assembly and its Standing Committees. It also expressed a favourable opinion on the proposed amendments to the Statutes.
6. Recent specialized meetings
The Governing Council took note of the results of the Regional Seminar on The evolving relationship between citizens and parliaments in the Arab world, the Parliamentary Workshop on The right to identity: Promoting universal birth registration in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Regional Seminar for French-speaking African parliaments on Gender-sensitive parliaments, and the Multi-country Seminar on Parliaments and accountability for women’s and children’s health.
7. Reports of plenary bodies and specialized committees
At its sitting on 9 October, the Governing Council took note of the reports on the activities of the Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians, the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, the Committee on Middle East Questions, the Gender Partnership Group and the Forum of Young Parliamentarians of the IPU.
The Council approved the report of the Middle East Committee, noting that the delegations of Indonesia and Palestine expressed reservations on the report, which they stated did not accurately reflect the fact that 90 per cent of the dialogue with the Committee had dealt with issues of human rights and the situation of detained members of the Palestinian Parliament.
It also approved the 21 resolutions submitted to it by the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, noting the reservations expressed by the delegations of Bahrain, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sri Lanka and the comments made by the delegations of Chad and Thailand.
In addition, it took note of the report of the Committee to Promote Respect for International Humanitarian Law and the report of the Committee’s mission to Jordan and adopted the Committee’s Rules.
8. Future inter-parliamentary meetings
The Governing Council confirmed the decision to hold the 130th Assembly in Geneva from 17 to 20 March 2014. It also approved the list of international organizations and other bodies to be invited to follow the work of the 130th Assembly as Observers.
The Council approved the list of future meetings and other activities to be funded by the IPU’s regular budget and by external sources. It also approved a request for co-sponsorship of the Eleventh Meeting of Parliamentary Scholars and Parliamentarians, to be held in July 2014 at Wroxton College, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom.