PLACE DU PETIT-SACONNEX
1211 GENEVA 19, SWITZERLAND
Brussels (Belgium), 11-15 April 1999
The 101st Inter-Parliamentary Conference began its work at the European Parliament in Brussels on the afternoon of 11 April by electing by acclamation Mr. R. Langendries, President of the Chamber of Representatives of Belgium, as its President.
On the morning of 12 April, the Conference heard a statement by Mr. J. Diouf, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), who summed up the world food situation, highlighting its most acute problems.
On that same afternoon, the Conference was addressed by Mr. J.-L. Dehaene, Prime Minister of Belgium, who explained his country's position on major international issues, particularly the current situation dominated by events in Kosovo.
1. INAUGURAL CEREMONY
The 101st Inter-Parliamentary Conference was inaugurated at a ceremony held on 11 April at the Palais des Congrès in the presence of Their Majesties, the King and Queen of the Belgians. During the ceremony, the delegates heard statements from Mr. J. Lefevre, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Group of Belgium; Mr. A. Gutiérrez Díaz, Vice-President of the European Parliament; Mr. V. Petrovsky, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and DirectorGeneral of the United Nations Office at Geneva, who delivered a message from the UN Secretary-General, Mr. K. Annan; and Mr. M.A. Martínez, President of the Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The ceremony concluded with a speech by H.M. King Albert II.
Extracts from the speeches delivered on that occasion will be published in the InterParliamentary Bulletin (N° 1, 1999).
Delegations from the Parliaments of the following 125 countries took part in the work of the Conference Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, San Marino, Senegal, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
The following Associate Members also took part in the Conference: the Andean Parliament, the Central American Parliament, the Latin American Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
The observers included representatives of: (i) Palestine; (ii) United Nations system: United Nations Organization, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), World Bank, International Labour Organisation (ILO), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); (iii) the Council of Europe, the League of Arab States, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the International Organization for Migration (IOM); (iv) the Assembly of the Western European Union (WEU), the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Association of Parliamentarians for (Southern) Africa (AWEPA), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Co-operation (PABSEC), the Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Co-operation (PAEAC), the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organization (AIPO), the Amazonian Parliament, the Union of African Parliaments (UAP), the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union; (v) the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; (vi) the World Association of Cities and Local Authorities Co-ordination (CAMVAL).
There was a total of 1,377 delegates, including 647 parliamentarians among whom 46 were Speakers of Assemblies, 28 Deputy Speakers and 132 women parliamentarians (20.4% of the parliamentarians), and lastly 53 delegates attending as observers.
3. SELECTION OF SUPPLEMENTARY ITEMS
(a) Supplementary item
When this question was taken up in the afternoon of 11 April, the Conference had before it six requests for the inclusion of a supplementary item (the request from Kuwait was amended slightly). After hearing statements by the sponsors of the requests, the Conference proceeded to vote on them by roll call with the following results:
The proposal by the Parliament of South Africa, having received not only the necessary two-thirds majority but also the highest number of positive votes, was added to the agenda as item 7. The delegations of Egypt and Uruguay then explained their votes.
(b) Emergency supplementary item
The Conference had before it a request from the Parliament of the Russian Federation to include in the agenda an emergency supplementary item entitled: "The situation in the Balkans and parliamentarians' role in putting an end to the escalation of the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia and in normalising the situation in the region". After hearing a representative of the Russian Parliament and a delegate from the German Parliament who spoke against the proposal, the Conference rejected the request by 625 votes to 438, with 315 abstentions. The delegations of Mexico and Guatemala then explained their votes.
4. WORK AND DECISIONS OF THE CONFERENCE AND ITS STUDY COMMITTEES
(a) General Debate on the political, economic and social situation in the world (Item 3)
The General Debate on the political, economic and social situation in the world was held throughout Monday, 12 April, from 4 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. on 13 April and throughout 14 April. A total of 141 speakers from 113 delegations took part in the debate, which was chaired by the President of the Conference. The latter invited the Conference Vice-Presidents belonging to delegations of the following countries to take the chair in turn: Bolivia, Cambodia, Canada, Cape Verde, Jordan, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Senegal.
Many speakers devoted much of their statements to the situation in Kosovo, which was also mentioned by the Conference President during the closing ceremony. He emphasised that what was happening in that region hurt everyone, the Serbian people, the inhabitants of Kosovo. He declared that on the eve of the third millennium, the international community did not have the right to shut its eyes to that situation.
Moreover, at that sitting, the President made a statement concerning the situation in Niger, which had received the unanimous support of the Conference, denouncing and strongly condemning the brutal blow to the efforts of the people of Niger to build a State based on the rule of law. The Conference President made an urgent appeal to the military authorities in that country to re-establish democratic institutions as soon as possible.
(b) Parliamentary action to encourage all countries to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty prohibiting all nuclear testing, to encourage universal and non-discriminatory nuclear non-proliferation measures and to work towards the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons (Item 4)
This item was considered on 12 and 14 April by the Ist Committee (Committee on Political Questions, International Security and Disarmament) which met under the chairmanship of its President, Mr. A.R. Zamharir (Indonesia). The Committee had before it 11 memoranda presented by the National Groups of Argentina, Australia, Chile, Congo, Egypt, Hungary, Iraq, Japan, Russian Federation, Switzerland and Venezuela; an information document prepared by the Union's Secretariat; and 20 draft resolutions submitted by the Groups of Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Congo, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Japan, Kuwait, Philippines, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, United Kingdom and Venezuela.
Altogether 66 speakers took the floor in the debate which was held on 12 April. At the end of the discussion, the Political Committee designated a drafting committee composed of representatives of the following nine Groups: Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, Japan, Poland and South Africa. This group, assisted by an international arms control expert, met for some four hours on 13 April. It began its deliberations by electing Mr. J. McKiernan (Australia) as its President and Mr. T.G. Alant (South Africa) as its Rapporteur. Taking the Australian text as a basis for its work, the committee proceeded to a detailed consideration thereof. In the process of putting the resolution together, it also incorporated elements from five other texts. The resulting consolidated draft was adopted unanimously.
On 14 April, the Ist Committee, after having heard the report by Mr. Alant on the work of the drafting committee, examined the proposed text paragraph by paragraph. A number of amendments were tabled, which led to a total of 14 votes. Major changes related to the operative section, where additional wording and three supplementary paragraphs to sub-heading D (on nuclear-weapon-free zones) were approved. The draft resolution as a whole was subsequently adopted by 25 votes to 2, with 1 abstention.
In the afternoon of 15 April, Mr. Alant presented this same text at the concluding plenary sitting of the Conference. Subsequently, the delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran proposed additional wording to operative paragraph E.16 concerning non-proliferation of missiles; that insertion was unanimously approved. Thereafter, the entire draft resolution, thus amended, was adopted without a vote. Finally, the delegations of India, China, Belarus and Lebanon took the floor to explain their votes, with the first of these expressing its rejection of the resolution as a whole (see text of the resolution).
(c) The problem of metropolitan areas: a global challenge to which parliamentarians must respond in terms of urban civilisation and democracy (Item 5)
This item was considered on 13 and 15 April by the IVth Committee (Committee on Education, Science, Culture and Environment) which met under the presidency of Mr. J. Trobo (Uruguay). The Committee had before it 13 memoranda presented by the Parliaments of the following countries: Belgium, Chile, Congo, Egypt, France, Hungary, Iraq, Japan, Sudan, Switzerland and Venezuela, by one individual MP, Mr. C.A. Becerra (Argentina), and by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; three information documents presented by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and 23 draft resolutions presented by the delegations of the following countries: Belgium, Canada, Chile, Congo, Egypt, France, Gabon, Germany, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Philippines, Romania, Senegal, Sudan, United Kingdom and Venezuela, by Mr. C.A. Becerra and by the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians.
A total of 70 speakers from 63 countries took part in the debate, which was held throughout 13 April. After the debate, the Committee appointed a drafting committee composed of representatives of the Groups of the following countries: Belgium, Canada, Chile, Egypt, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Mongolia, Romania, Senegal and Sudan. The FAO also took part in the drafting in an advisory capacity. The drafting committee met throughout 14 April and elected Mrs. Z. Rios Montt (Guatemala) as its President and Mr. L. Goovaerts (Belgium) as its Rapporteur. It took the text of the Group of Romania as the basis for its draft but also drew extensively on other texts. The resulting consolidated draft was adopted without a vote.
At its sitting on the morning of 15 April, the IVth Committee considered the text presented by the drafting committee and adopted it without a vote.
On the afternoon of 15 April, Mr. Goovaerts (Belgium) presented the IVth Committee's draft resolution to the 101st Conference, which adopted it without a vote (see text of the resolution).
(d) Writing off the government debt of heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs) (Item 7)
This item was placed on the agenda of the Conference at its first sitting on 11 April and referred to the IIIrd Committee (on Economic and Social Questions). The Committee held two sittings on 13 and 15 April with its President, Mr. H. Gjellerod (Denmark), in the Chair. It had before it two draft resolutions submitted by the delegations of Philippines and South Africa and elements for a draft resolution submitted by the Group of Canada.
During its first sitting on 13 April, the Committee held a debate on the item in which 31 speakers took the floor. At the end of the debate, the Committee appointed a drafting committee composed of the representatives of the Parliaments of the following countries: Australia, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Mexico, Philippines, Romania, South Africa, Switzerland, Togo and United Kingdom.
The drafting committee met on 14 April and at the beginning of its work, elected as its President Mr. A. Somlyay (Australia) and Mr. M. Lekota (South Africa) as its Rapporteur. The committee adopted the draft resolution submitted by the Parliament of South Africa as a basis for its work and drew from the other texts to produce a consolidated text. This text was adopted unanimously.
During its second sitting, on 15 April the IIIrd Committee examined the drafting committee's text and adopted it unanimously with minor amendments.
Mr. Lekota (South Africa) presented the draft resolution to the plenary Conference at its sitting in the afternoon of 15 April. The plenary Conference adopted it without a vote (see text of resolution).
(e) Amendments to the Union's Statutes
At its first sitting, the 101st Conference had before it a proposal, submitted by the Council (which had decided in favour thereof at its 163rd session held in September 1998 in Moscow), to amend Article 24 of the Statutes to the effect that the President of the Co-ordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians is an ex officio member of the Executive Committee. The Conference adopted it unanimously.
At its last sitting, the 101st Conference also had before it a proposal submitted by the Council (which had decided in favour thereof at the first sitting of its 164th session on 11 April in Brussels) to amend Article 22(h) of the Statutes concerning the participation of observers in the Union's meetings. The Conference adopted it unanimously.