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(Lusaka, 20 and 23 March 2016)
1. Membership and Permanent Observers of the IPU
At its sitting on 20 March, the Governing Council approved requests for reaffiliation from the Parliaments of Egypt and Comoros, as well as a request for affiliation from the Parliament of Guyana. The Council also approved a request for associate membership from the Interparliamentary Assembly of Member Nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States (IPA CIS), formerly a Permanent Observer. The overall membership of the IPU was thus raised to 170 parliaments and 11 Associate Members.
The Council also approved a request for permanent observer status from the Forum of Parliaments of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (FP-ICGLR). An updated list of Permanent Observers of the IPU can be found here.
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 them. The Council approved the decision to remove Burkina Faso and Haiti from the list of countries to be closely monitored as the transitional period had ended in the former case and a fully functioning parliament was in place in the latter. It decided to continue to monitor developments in Burundi and engage with the parliament. Regarding the Central African Republic, the Council decided to continue to monitor the situation closely until the transitional period had been completed. It also decided to follow developments closely in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As for Libya, it decided to keep monitoring the situation and expressed the hope that the current peace talks would reach a successful conclusion. Now that a bicameral parliament was in place in Madagascar, the Council considered that the IPU should provide support to it. As parliamentary elections were scheduled to take place in the Syrian Arab Republic on 14 April, the Council decided to continue to closely monitor the situation and engage with the parliament. Regarding Thailand, the Council decided to continue to monitor the situation through direct contacts with the National Legislative Assembly. It also decided to keep a close eye on the situation in Venezuela, express its solidarity with the parliament and dispatch an on-site mission to the country. The Council decided to keep the situation in Yemen under review and requested updates from Members.
2. Financial results for 2015
The Governing Council considered the Financial Report and Audited Financial Statements for 2015. The Financial Statements had been prepared in full compliance with the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). The accounts of the IPU and the closed Pension Fund were again consolidated into a single set of financial statements.
The financial results for 2015 were introduced by Mr. R. del Picchia (France), Chair of the Sub‑Committee on Finance, who conveyed the External Auditor’s positive impression of the financial statements and internal controls. Although the IPU had recorded a reduction in its net assets of CHF 494,596, that was due in part to losses on investments in a challenging global environment. The closed Pension Fund remained a risk which was, however, well managed and fully provided for in the accounts. As a result, the balance of the Working Capital Fund now stood at CHF 8.6 million at year-end, of which CHF 6.6 million represented available funds and the balance represented IPSAS accounting adjustments. Although nominally reduced in 2015, the Fund had since been built up from CHF 4.5 million in 2010.
The Internal Auditors’ report was presented by Mr. D. Pacheco (Portugal) who said that the accounts accurately portrayed the financial situation of the IPU at 31 December 2015 and complied with all current standards and rules. The External Auditor had expressed no reservations on the Financial Statements and had made only one recommendation, which had already been implemented by the Secretariat. The deficit for the year should be addressed in future through more effective measures, which might include increasing income through assessed contributions and voluntary funding. Expenses were carefully controlled and had already been reduced. He had no doubt that the Secretariat would address the financial challenges in an effective manner.
Voluntary funding had continued to increase in 2015, although at a less-than-anticipated rate. In his report on the state of extrabudgetary resources, the IPU Secretary General announced new donations made by Canada and the Federated States of Micronesia in addition to those made by China, Equatorial Guinea, United Arab Emirates, Irish Aid, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PNMCH), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), UNDP, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Worldwide Support for Development (WSD - Japan).
Notwithstanding increased financial risks typical of uncertain times, the Organization’s financial standing was strong. It was clear, however, that the IPU’s assessed contributions could no longer be reduced each year and that an appropriate balance needed to be struck between core and voluntary funding. The IPU President applauded the initiative of the United Arab Emirates to include in the parliamentary budget a special line earmarked for assistance to the IPU above and beyond the regular statutory contribution, and also welcomed in-kind assistance.
The Governing Council approved the Secretary General’s financial administration of the IPU and the financial results for 2015. It also endorsed new guidelines relating to voluntary contributions.
3. Financial situation
The Governing Council received an overview of the IPU's financial situation at 31 January 2016 and noted that the financial position was sound. The overall level of expenditure was on track at 101 per cent of the year-to-date budget. Arrears in assessed contributions amounted to CHF 537,000, with 37 Members having overdue accounts. Two Members (Congo and Honduras) were at risk of suspension if no payments were received before the next session in October 2016. Several new sources of voluntary funding were announced, supplementing the generous support provided by existing donors.
4. Cooperation with the United Nations system
The Council took note of the activities undertaken by the IPU in cooperation with the United Nations system since the previous IPU Assembly held in October 2015. The Secretary General drew attention to the far-reaching partnership between the IPU and the United Nations on a wide range of issues. In particular, he referred to the 2016 edition of the annual Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations, which had focused on the world drug problem and had been organized as a contribution to the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs. The deliberations of the Parliamentary Hearing had been frank and substantive, resulting in a number of concrete recommendations.
New cooperation had been initiated with the UN Security Council on the implementation of Resolution 1540 relating to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction among non-State actors. The issue was gaining prominence in the context of escalating acts of terrorism and violent extremism. A regional Seminar for African Parliaments had been held in Côte d’Ivoire in February 2016, the first in a series of related activities. Close cooperation was also being pursued in terms of mobilizing parliaments on the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, with a series of regional seminars already having been held or in the pipeline, including the South Asian Speakers’ Summit (Dhaka, January 2016), the regional Seminar for Central and Eastern Europe (Bucharest, April 2016) and the regional Seminar for Central and Latin America (Panama, November 2016).
The Secretary General informed the Council of the status of consultations on the new Cooperation Agreement between the IPU and the United Nations, which would reflect progress over the past 20 years and place the institutional relationship between the two organizations on a stronger footing. Based on the IPU submission of April 2015 (further to the decision of the IPU Governing Council) and the response from the United Nations, a new text was currently under consideration, with the expectation that a substantively improved agreement would be ready for signature by the UN and the IPU Secretaries General in the course of 2016. As recommended by the Executive Committee, the Agreement would be accompanied by a letter from the UN Secretary-General underscoring the strategic importance of the UN-IPU partnership, as well as a letter from the IPU Secretary General clarifying that joint activities and initiatives with budget implications for the IPU would be subject to approval by the IPU governing bodies.
5. Implementation of the IPU Strategy 2012-2017 and preparation of the revised Strategy
The Secretary General briefed the Council on the implementation of the IPU Strategy for 2012-2017, which would conclude in December 2016. As the first IPU Strategy of its kind, it had certainly proved its worth. Among numerous examples of how the IPU was working on practical implementation of the Strategy in 2016, the Secretary General referred to the ongoing preparation of the second edition of the Global Parliamentary Report and mentioned the PaperSmart Initiative approved by the Executive Committee at its session in Lusaka.
With reference to Strategic Objective 5 of the current Strategy, which dealt with the building of parliamentary support for international development goals, the IPU President presented the draft Parliamentary Action Plan on Climate Change. The Plan was designed to accompany the Paris Agreement adopted at the COP21/CMP11 session in Paris in December 2015 and was meant to serve as a policy directive offering a medium- to long-term vision of IPU objectives and priorities in the field of climate change and related areas of sustainable development. Bearing in mind that broad consultations on the preliminary draft of the Action Plan had been carried out during the 133rd IPU Assembly (Geneva, October 2015), as well as at the Parliamentary Meeting on climate change organized by the IPU in Paris in December 2015, the Council approved the Parliamentary Action Plan on Climate Change.
The Secretary General informed the Council of the ongoing work on the preparation of a revised IPU Strategy, a preliminary draft of which had been prepared by the IPU Secretariat and examined by the Executive Committee at its session in Lusaka. The revised Strategy should take stock of developments since 2012, reflect the findings included in the mid-term review carried out in 2014, and be based on the outcomes of the 2015 World Conference of Speakers of Parliament and the UN Summit, which had adopted the SDGs in September 2015. The Council took note of the fact that a preliminary draft of the revised IPU Strategy had been posted on the IPU website and was open for comments and observations by IPU Members. Relevant inputs should be submitted to the IPU Secretariat by 15 July 2016.
6. Recent specialized meetings
The Governing Council took note of the results of the Conference on Ensuring everyone’s right to nationality: The role of parliaments in preventing and ending statelessness; the Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the UN Climate Change Conference COP21/CMP11; the Annual Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations ; the Seminar for African parliaments on the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 1540; the Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the 60th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women; the South Asian Speakers’ Summit on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals; and the Third Global IPU Conference of Young Parliamentarians.
7. Reports of plenary bodies and specialized committees
At its sitting on 23 March, the Governing Council took note of the reports on the activities of the Committee on Middle East Questions (see page 56); the Group of Facilitators for Cyprus; the Committee to Promote Respect for International Humanitarian Law (see page 57); the Gender Partnership Group; the Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal, Newborn and Child Health; the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians; and the Forum of Young Parliamentarians of the IPU.
The Council also heard the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians and approved seven decisions submitted by the latter, noting the reservations expressed by the delegations of Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand concerning the cases in their respective countries.
8. Future inter-parliamentary meetings
Following the recommendation of the Executive Committee, which had been apprised of the positive findings of the on-site mission to Dhaka (Bangladesh) carried out by officials of the IPU Secretariat in January 2016, the Governing Council confirmed the decision to hold the 136th IPU Assembly in Dhaka from 1 to 5 April 2017.
The Council was reminded of the invitation received from the Parliament of the Russian Federation to host the 137th IPU Assembly in St. Petersburg in September/October 2017. The invitation had been duly considered by the Executive Committee, which authorized the IPU Secretary General to dispatch a technical assessment mission to St. Petersburg not later than the end of May 2016. In so deciding, the Executive Committee was cognisant of the fact that the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation had provided written assurances that all delegates and observers invited by the IPU to the 137th IPU Assembly would be duly granted entry visas by the Russian authorities. In conformity with established practice, the Parliament of the Russian Federation had also undertaken to cover additional costs resulting from holding the second Assembly of the year outside Geneva.
Following an exchange of views, the Council accepted in principle the invitation of the Parliament of the Russian Federation to host the 137th IPU Assembly in St. Petersburg, provided that all logistical requirements were met. Should the findings of the assessment mission conclude that the Russian Federation was in a position to host the Assembly, the authorities would be given the go-ahead to start planning, including preparation of the budget for the event. A decision would be formally taken by the Council at its next session, to be held in Geneva in October 2016.
9. Amendments to the Statutes and Rules
In conformity with the IPU Statutes, the Governing Council approved a series of amendments to the Rules of the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians. Henceforth, the Meeting would be called the "Forum of Women Parliamentarians", while its Coordinating Committee would be called the "Bureau of Women Parliamentarians".
The Council agreed that relevant editorial changes would also have to be made in the text of the IPU Statutes.