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(Geneva, 8-10 October 2007)
1. Opening of the Assembly
The 117th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union opened its proceedings at the Geneva International Conference Centre in the morning of Monday, 8 October 2007. The President of the IPU, Mr. Pier Ferdinando Casini, welcomed the participants and declared the 117th Assembly officially open. He was subsequently elected President of the Assembly, and the Vice-President of the Executive Committee, Ms. M. Mensah-Williams (Namibia), was elected Vice-President. In the afternoon, the Speaker of the Swiss National Council, Ms. Christine Egerszegi-Obrist, addressed the Assembly.
Delegations of the parliaments of the following 125 countries took part in the work of the Assembly: Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The following Associate Members also took part in the Assembly: the Andean Parliament, the East African Legislative Assembly, the European Parliament, the Latin American Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Observers included representatives of: (i) Palestine; (ii) United Nations system: United Nations, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), International Labour Organization (ILO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); World Bank, Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), and World Trade Organization (WTO); (iii) League of Arab States; iv) African Parliamentary Union (APU), Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union (AIPU), Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA), Assembly of the Western European Union (WEU), Association of Senates, Shoora and Equivalent Councils in Africa and the Arab World (ASSECAA), Confederation of Parliaments of the Americas (COPA), European Parliamentarians for Africa (AWEPA), Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Eurasian Economic Community (EURASEC), Inter-Parliamentary Committee of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), Maghreb Consultative Council, Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (PABSEC), Parliamentary Assembly of the Union of Belarus and the Russian Federation, Parliamentary Union of the Organization of the Islamic Conference Members (PUOICM), Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum; v) International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and World Federation of United Nations Association (WFUNA). Furthermore, the Parliaments of Timor-Leste and Mauritania participated as observers with a view to their future affiliation.
Of the 1,075 delegates who attended the Assembly, 511 were members of national parliaments. The parliamentarians included 42 presiding officers, 28 deputy presiding officers and 159 women parliamentarians (31.1%).
3. Choice of an emergency item (Item 2)
The Assembly had before it a consolidated request for the inclusion of an emergency item submitted by the delegations of Iran (Islamic Republic of) and Bahrain on behalf of the Arab Group entitled "Supporting Iraq's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity", and a request submitted by the delegation of Indonesia entitled "The urgent need to immediately stop the widespread human rights violations and to restore the democratic rights of the people of Myanmar".
After a vote, the proposal submitted by the delegation of Indonesia was adopted and added to the agenda as item 6.
4. Debates and decisions of the Assembly and of the IPU Committee on United Nations Affairs
(a) Debate on the emergency item
The urgent need to immediately stop the widespread human rights violations and to restore the democratic rights of the people of Myanmar (Item 6)
The debate on the emergency item took place in the afternoon of Monday, 8 October. The meeting was chaired in turn by the President and the Vice-President of the Assembly.
A total of 31 speakers from 29 parliamentary delegations and one observer took part in the debate.
The Assembly referred the item to a drafting committee composed of members of the delegations of Canada, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Netherlands, Philippines, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay and Zambia. The drafting committee appointed Mr. J.P. Letelier (Chile) as its president and Mr. M. Darusman (Indonesia) as rapporteur. It met on Tuesday, 9 October, in the morning and prepared a draft resolution.
The draft resolution was adopted unanimously by the Assembly on Wednesday, 10 October.
(b) IPU Committee on United Nations Affairs (Item 4)
The Committee on United Nations Affairs held its first meeting on the occasion of the 117th Assembly. The Committee has been set up on a trial basis as a subsidiary body of the Assembly by the Governing Council. Pending a final decision by the Council, the Committee will elaborate on the definition of its mandate and its working methods and draft rules to govern its proceedings.
The report prepared by Mr. G. Versnick (Belgium) on the nature of the relationship between the United Nations and the world of parliaments was approved by the Committee members and subsequently approved by the Assembly as an official IPU policy paper.
Mr. J. Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), and senior member of the United Nations Chief Executives Board for Coordination, made a presentation on the current status of United Nations reform and engaged in an interactive discussion with the Committee members.
Mr. A. Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), spoke of the dangers facing people, nations and global economic development because of climate change and severe weather events. The ensuing discussion focused on the role and responsibilities of parliamentarians in this area.
Ambassador D. Costea of Romania, President of the United Nations Human Rights Council, gave an overview of the main opportunities and challenges facing this newly established body and discussed ways in which parliaments could engage with the Council, particularly in the universal periodic review process, whereby all States report on their implementation of international human rights instruments and identify areas where additional efforts are required.
Ms. C. Molinier, Director of the UNDP Office in Geneva, gave a presentation on the progress made and setbacks encountered in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and engaged in a substantive discussion with Committee members. The Committee requested similar updates at each annual session, with a special focus on parliamentary initiatives aimed at furthering the MDGs.
Mr. K. Chutikul of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) spoke about preparations for the UNCTAD XII meeting, scheduled to take place in the spring of 2008 in Accra, Ghana. The forthcoming IPU resolution on parliamentary oversight of State policies on foreign aid would make an important contribution to the Accra meeting.
The report prepared by Mr. F.M. Vallersnes (Norway) on the proceedings of the first meeting of the Committee’s Advisory Group (July 2007) sparked an in-depth discussion of the practical and operational aspects of the Committee’s future work. The resulting ideas and proposals were taken up by a drafting committee composed of representatives from Belgium, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Canada, India, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Norway, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, South Africa and Switzerland. The drafting committee was chaired by Mr. T. Ben Gurirab (Namibia), and Mr. F.M. Vallersnes was appointed rapporteur.
The Report of the Committee on United Nations Affairs, prepared by the drafting committee, was subsequently discussed by the full Committee, which made a number of minor amendments. The report was approved by acclamation in the Assembly.
(c) Panel discussion (First Standing Committee subject item at 118th Assembly):
The role of parliaments in striking a balance between national security, human security and individual freedoms, and in averting the threat to democracy (Item 3(a))
In accordance with the new format of the second Assembly of the year, a panel discussion took place in the morning of 9 October 2007 on this item. It was chaired by Mr. T. Boa, President of the Standing Committee on Peace and International Security. The co-Rapporteurs of the above-mentioned item, Ms. H. Mgabadeli (South Africa), Mr. L.M. Suklabaidya (India) and Mr. M. Pritchard, speaking on behalf of Lord Morris (United Kingdom, who was unable to be present for health reasons), informed participants of progress made in the preparation of their reports on the item. Participants also heard keynote presentations from Mr. M. Scheinin, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, and Mr. C. Cordone of Amnesty International. They briefed participants on the interplay between security and individual freedoms and identified action that parliaments and parliamentarians should take to guarantee respect for human rights in parallel with ensuring national security. Twenty-two delegates also took the floor to address those issues.
(d) Panel discussion (Second Standing Committee subject item at 118th Assembly):
Parliamentary oversight of State policies on foreign aid (Item 3(b))
A panel discussion on this subject took place in the morning of 9 October 2007. It provided an opportunity for IPU Members to deepen their understanding of the subject item to be debated in South Africa. It also provided the co-Rapporteurs, Mr. F. X. de Donnea (Belgium) and Mr. E. Quenum (Benin), with a midpoint review of the drafting process. The panel included two non-parliamentary experts: Mr. C. Gore of UNCTAD Secretariat and Mr. M. Halle of the International Institute for Sustainable Development. Following introductory statements by the panellists, a lively exchange of views took place, with a total of 26 delegates taking the floor. The debate focused on quality and quantity of foreign aid and on the respective roles of parliamentarians of donor and recipient countries in overseeing aid flows.
(e) Panel discussion (Third Standing Committee subject item at 118th Assembly):
Migrant workers, trafficking in persons, xenophobia and human rights (Item 3(c))
A panel discussion took place in the afternoon of 9 October 2007 on this item. It was chaired by Mr. E. Rodriguez Zavaleta (Peru), President of the Standing Committee on Democracy and Human Rights. The co-rapporteurs of the above-mentioned item, Mr. A. Dismore (United Kingdom) and Mr. C. Camacho (Mexico), informed participants of progress made in the preparation of their report and draft resolution. Participants also heard keynote presentations from Ms. R. Puttonen of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Ms. J. Redpath of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). They briefed participants on the current state of play with regard to migration and human trafficking and identified action that parliaments and parliamentarians should take to improve the lives of migrant workers and stamp out the scourge of human trafficking. Some 30 delegates also took the floor to address those issues.
5. Amendments to the Statutes and Rules of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (Item 5)