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(Geneva, 18 and 21 October 2015)
1. Membership and Permanent Observers of the IPU
At its sitting on 18 October, the Governing Council approved a request for reaffiliation from the Parliament of Fiji, thus bringing the overall membership of the IPU to 167 national parliaments.
The Council also approved a request for Permanent Observer status from Liberal International (LI) and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND). At the same time, the Council took note of the fact that one of the Permanent Observers, the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Eurasian Economic Community (EURASEC), had ceased to exist. The Council decided to remove that organization from the list of Permanent Observers.
The Council was apprised of the situation of certain parliaments and took note of relevant recommendations adopted by the Executive Committee with regard to each of those parliaments.
The Council was informed of a number of proposals made by the Secretariat to engage more actively with the parliaments of small island developing States (SIDS) from the Asia-Pacific and Caribbean regions, considered a marginalized constituency. It took note of the Executive Committee’s recommendation that the IPU pursue its efforts to facilitate the affiliation and participation of those parliaments in the IPU in a bid to achieve universal membership.
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 17 October 2015. On that date, three Members had significant arrears and were subject to voting sanctions. However, the total amount of contributions in arrears was lower than in 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.
3. Programme and budget for 2016
The Council received the consolidated budget proposal for 2016.
Reporting on behalf of the Executive Committee, the Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on Finance, Mr. R.M.K. Al-Shariqi (United Arab Emirates), stated that the Sub-Committee had provided guidance and oversight to the Secretariat in the preparation of the budget. He confirmed that the budget provided for a substantial reduction in Members’ total assessed contributions of 8.7 per cent as compared to 2014, while maintaining IPU activities thanks to the mobilization of greater voluntary income from external sources.
The Executive Committee welcomed the successful efforts to reduce the financial burden on Members, while recognizing that the IPU could not continue indefinitely to reduce contributions and perform its core functions in an autonomous manner. Mr. R.M.K. Al-Shariqi noted that some flexibility might therefore be required from Members in the future. The Executive Committee shared that view.
The Governing Council approved the 2016 budget of CHF 15,788,300. The approved budget and scale of contributions for 2016 are accessible here.
4. Cooperation with the United Nations system
The Council reviewed the activities undertaken in cooperation with the United Nations system from 15 March to 15 October 2015. The IPU had worked together with the United Nations towards common objectives in a range of political processes. A number of meetings had been held and publications produced.
Members were briefed on the status of the negotiations for a new cooperation agreement aimed at deepening the strategic relationship between the two organizations. The IPU Secretary General explained that the draft cooperation agreement that Members had reviewed and endorsed at the 132nd Assembly in Hanoi was being considered by the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs. Further steps towards a new agreement would be determined based on the response from the United Nations. The Secretary General would report on future developments at the next Council session at the 134th Assembly in Lusaka.
It was recalled that, according to UN General Assembly resolution adopted in 2014 on Interaction between the United Nations, national parliaments and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the United Nations Secretary-General would submit a report to track further developments in the relationship between the United Nations and the IPU during the current 70th session of the General Assembly. The report would form the basis of a new resolution which UN Member States were likely to consider towards the end of June 2016.
5. Implementation of the IPU Strategy 2012-2017
Strategic Objective 1: Strengthen democracy through parliaments
The period under review had been characterized by a major focus on developing the IPU’s corpus of standards for democratic parliaments, encouraging youth engagement with political and parliamentary life, and the regular provision of support to national parliaments, enabling them to improve their capacity.
Research was well underway on the second Global Parliamentary Report, entitled Parliament’s power to hold government to account: Realities and perspectives on oversight. A panel discussion at the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament had provided useful inputs from parliamentarians. Meetings at the 133rd IPU Assembly, held in October 2015, provided opportunities for parliamentarians to provide written input, which was complemented by interviews with parliamentarians.
Guidelines for Parliamentary Research Services, developed in partnership with the Section on Library and Research Services for Parliaments of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), had been launched in August 2015 at the annual IFLA meeting.
The Technical Cooperation Programme continued to support parliamentary developments in almost all regions of the world, with particular emphasis on medium-term projects in countries emerging from conflict and facing security challenges. Adopted by the IPU Governing Council at its 195th session, the Common Principles for Support to Parliament were launched at the Hanoi Assembly. The Common Principles were aimed at assisting partners engaged in the front line of parliamentary support and parliaments worldwide to work together with enhanced relevance, sensitivity and effectiveness.
As at 22 October 2015, the Common Principles had received 97 endorsements (77 national parliaments, five parliamentary assemblies and 14 partner organizations). The Common Principles were already being applied in the IPU’s own capacity-building work, including in projects to support parliaments in Equatorial Guinea, Myanmar and Palestine.
Strategic Objective 2 - Advance Gender Equality
2015 was a year of many global milestones. For the United Nations, they included the setting of new development objectives and the Beijing +20 Review, to which the IPU had contributed by taking stock of implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and setting indicators for Goal 5 on gender equality, in particular through its publication Women in Parliament: 20 years in review and theIPU-UN Women Map on Women in Politics 2015. For the IPU, milestones included two major events: the 30th anniversary of the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, with the adoption of a call for action My Power for Women’s Power at the 132nd IPU Assembly in Hanoi, and the 10th Meeting of Women Speakers of Parliament that brought together 25 women Speakers from 24 countries.
Those four milestones were further reflected in the IPU’s activities to support parliaments in the area of gender equality. The Gender Partnership Programme had provided expertise and supported initiatives to increase women’s participation in politics and decision-making in Kenya and Turkey. It had also carried out activities to support women’s caucuses and build the capacity of women parliamentarians in Mali and Tunisia. In addition, the IPU’s gender team was collaborating with several parliaments in efforts to combat gender-based violence, including harmful traditional practices against girls in Bangladesh and Mali.
Strategic Objective 3: Protect and promote human rights
In the period under review, the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians followed up on the 39 cases which had been examined at its session held in March-April concerning the situation of 178 parliamentarians in 24 countries. As part of those follow-up efforts, the Committee had sent a trial observer to Niger in April 2015. A confidential country visit had been paid by a Committee delegation in May 2015. Committee delegations had also conducted missions to Malaysia and Mongolia in June-July and September 2015 respectively. A visit to Washington, D.C. had taken place in September 2015 to engage with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on cases, which were both before the Committee and the Commission.
On 22 June 2015, the IPU had co-organized a panel discussion during the session of the UN Human Rights Council to evaluate progress in the involvement of parliaments in the Universal Periodic Review. In collaboration with OHCHR and the ILO, the IPU finalized the revised version of Migration, Human Rights and Governance: A Handbook for Parliamentarians, which was launched on the occasion of the 133rd IPU Assembly.
The IPU and UNICEF, at the invitation of the Namibian Parliament, organized the regional seminar for the parliaments of member countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), on promoting child nutrition. The event took place in Windhoek on 28 and 29 September 2015.
The IPU Strategy called for the introduction of a rights-based approach to its work so as to enhance the capacity of parliaments to promote and protect human rights. Following recommendations made by consultants, a training session had been held at IPU Headquarters to better sensitize staff members to key human rights principles and promote the value of a rights-based approach in their work. Next steps included internal consultations as a basis for developing a toolkit to help the IPU Secretariat take a more human rights-based approach to its activities and, subsequently, develop a relevant policy for the Organization as a whole.
Strategic Objective 5: Build parliamentary support for international development goals
Over the past six months, the IPU had vigorously promoted awareness among parliaments about UN negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda and the related SDGs. Notable achievements included the adoption of Goal 16 on governance and effective institutions and the inclusion of a clear reference to the role of parliaments in Agenda 2030, the outcome document of the UN Summit held in September 2015. The IPU also contributed to the conceptualization of governance indicators to support the implementation of Goal 16. An awareness-raising seminar on the SDGs had been organized for the parliaments for the East European region in Bucharest in May.
The IPU had also provided important input regarding the role of parliaments to the UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. Cooperation agreements had been concluded with the parliaments of Bangladesh, Lesotho, Rwanda and Uganda to advance the health-related MDGs. As part of its work on HIV/AIDS, the IPU had produced a policy guide with UNAIDS. A new framework of cooperation between the IPU and UNAIDS had been signed during that reporting period.
6. Recent specialized meetings
The Governing Council took note of the results of the IPU Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians in Tokyo, the Regional Seminar on the Sustainable Development Goals for the Parliaments of Central and Eastern Europe, the 10th Meeting of Women Speakers of Parliament, the Regional Seminar for Southern African parliaments on promoting child nutrition, and the 34th session of the Steering Committee of the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO.
The Council also heard a more extensive presentation on the outcome of the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament – an event of special importance organized by the IPU every five years. The 2015 Conference had taken place in New York and had been organized in close cooperation with the United Nations, as part of a series of high-level meetings leading up to the UN Summit on the post-2015 development agenda. The Council took note of the results of the Conference of Speakers of Parliament, notably its Declaration entitled Placing democracy at the service of peace and sustainable development: Building the world the people want.
In connection with the Speakers’ Conference and the Meeting of Women Speakers held in New York, the Council was informed of a regrettable situation with regard to the issuance of a visa with conditions to one of the Speakers of Parliament, which had prevented her from participating in both events. The Council took note of a Statement that the IPU President had issued in that regard.
7. Reports of plenary bodies and specialized committees
At its sitting on 21 October, 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 Committee to Promote Respect for International Humanitarian Law, the Gender Partnership Group and the Forum of Young Parliamentarians of the IPU. The Council also approved 19 decisions concerning 71 parliamentarians submitted by the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, noting the reservations of Venezuela and Malaysia concerning the cases in their respective countries, as well as of Cuba concerning the case in Venezuela.
Although the Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal, Newborn and Child Health had not met during the 133rd Assembly and therefore had no formal report to submit to the Governing Council, it used the occasion to launch a new publication entitled Fast-tracking HIV treatment: Parliamentary action and policy options, co-produced with UNAIDS. The Executive Director of UNAIDS, Mr. M. Sidibé, was joined by the IPU Secretary General, Mr. M. Chungong, in presenting the new publication to the Council.
8. Future inter-parliamentary meetings
The Governing Council confirmed the decision to hold the 134th IPU Assembly in Lusaka (Zambia), from 19 to 23 March 2016 and approved the theme of the General Debate to be held during the Assembly: Rejuvenating democracy, giving voice to youth.
The Council was informed of three invitations received by the IPU for hosting of future IPU Assemblies, namely from the Parliaments of Israel, Bangladesh and the Russian Federation. Following an exchange of views, the Executive Committee had authorized the IPU Secretariat to undertake an on-site visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, to ascertain the availability of facilities and infrastructure for hosting an IPU Assembly in the first half of 2017. Regarding the other two invitations, the Council was informed that discussions would be pursued, bearing in mind the concerns expressed by certain members. The Secretariat would ascertain with the Russian authorities that visa guarantees would be given to allow all invited participants to attend. As for Israel, the Executive Committee had expressed concern over the advisability of holding an Assembly which a substantial number of Members would not attend.
The Council approved the list of future meetings and other activities to be funded by the IPU’s regular budget and by external sources.