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(Cape Town, 13 -18 April 2008)
1. Inaugural ceremony
The 118th IPU Assembly was inaugurated on 13 April at a ceremony held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, in the presence of His Excellency the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr. Thabo Mbeki. Inaugural addresses were delivered by Ms. Baleka Mbete, Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa, Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, and Ms. Katri Komi (Finland), acting President of the IPU Executive Committee. The ceremony concluded with a statement by the President of the Republic, who declared the 118th IPU Assembly officially open.
2. Election of President and keynote addresses
The 118th IPU Assembly opened at the Cape Town International Convention Centrein Cape Town, South Africa, on the morning of Monday, 14 April 2008, with the election by acclamation of Ms. B. Baleka Mbete, Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa, as President of the Assembly.
The President said that she was honoured to have been elected to preside over the Assembly's work and thanked the Governing Council for having nominated her, adding that this was a great honour, not only for her personally but also for her country. She asked the Assembly to observe a minute of silence to honour the memory of several political leaders killed in recent months as a result of political violence.
After opening the general debate on the overall theme of Pushing back the frontiers of poverty, the President introduced the two keynote speakers, Ms. Y. Fall, Senior Economist at the United Nations Development Fund for Women, and Mr. D. Payne, United States Congressman and Chairman of the House Sub-Committee on Africa and Global Health.
Ms. Y. Fall said that poverty was a complex topic and a great challenge. It was women worldwide who bore the brunt of and were responsible for dealing with the consequences of food, water and other shortages. At no time in history had so many resources been available to end poverty, and although some countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America were experiencing growth, millions of people were not benefiting. Fighting poverty was a partnership and required justice and global governance. She urged the Assembly to view poverty as the responsibility of parliaments as well as governments. Fighting poverty involved fighting inequality and upholding the rights of individuals.
Mr. D. Payne said that he was grateful for the opportunity to address the Assembly and conveyed the good wishes of Ms. N. Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, for a successful meeting. Three billion people were living on less than two dollars a day; the rich were getting richer and the poor becoming more impoverished. The richest 20 per cent accounted for three quarters of world income. Children were the most vulnerable to poverty, disease and hunger, and this contributed to instability worldwide. He expressed the hope that a world with so much wealth would distribute its riches more equitably and stressed the responsibility of parliamentarians in attaining this goal. The IPU’s work in that cause was most helpful. The Millennium Challenge Act, adopted by the United States in 1993, was tailored to recipient countries’ direct needs. Moreover, it had set aside several million dollars in its appropriations bill after Archbishop D. Tutu had urged it to increase its support for the fight against drug-resistant tuberculosis. Free trade must serve to increase market access to products from African nations; subsidies must be reduced and the capacity of African farmers increased.
On Tuesday, 15 April, the Assembly heard addresses by HRH Prince of Orange, Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, Chair of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB); and Mr. V. Moosa, President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
HRH Prince Willem-Alexander recalled that ten years ago the IPU had adopted a resolution on water and the means required to make the best use of that resource for sustainable development. UNSGAB had been set up to work on the same issue. Seven thousand five hundred people were still dying every day because they lacked access to clean water and sanitation. African ministers had made concrete commitments on sanitation and hygiene, but awareness-raising was still required so that issues relating to water and sanitation remained on the local, national and international agenda. There was still a long way to go. Even if the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were achieved, more than one billion people would still have no access to basic sanitation. In 1998, the IPU had passed a resolution urging governments to provide better water and sanitation, and he suggested that it build on the resolution by promoting cooperation on transnational river system and watercourse management and by helping to reduce the administrative burden of donating aid. The United Nations Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes had not been ratified by a sufficient number of States, despite its importance. He was confident that the challenges could be met by working together.
Mr. V. Moosa said that all parliamentarians should ask themselves whether they were enacting the legislation required to prevent climate change. The impact of global warming was already being felt, and by 2020, according to the 2007 Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, between 75 and 250 million people in Africa would suffer water shortages as a result of climate change. Twenty million people could already be called "environmental refugees", and two hundred million could be displaced by 2015. The rural poor, including many indigenous peoples, were particularly affected by declining access to natural resources. Their elected representatives had to legislate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, it was accurate to say that many parliaments had abdicated their responsibility in this area. He called on them to hold governments to account and assume responsibility.
In the afternoon, Dr. F. Songane, Director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, which was cooperating with the Countdown to 2015, addressed the Assembly and recalled that the MDGs set various targets to be reached by 2015; he would concentrate on Goals 4 and 5, which related to women and children. Countdown to 2015: The 2008 Report, which was to be launched on 16 April, tracked the progress of 68 developing countries that accounted for 97 per cent of maternal and child deaths; these countries were mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The Millennium Development Goals Progress Report 2007 showed that progress was slow on Goal 5, relating to women’s health, and that only 16 of the 68 countries were on track to meet Goal 4, relating to child health. Eighty-two per cent of those countries had high or very high maternal mortality rates. That should not be the case: pregnancy was not a disease and deaths in childbirth were inhumane and needed urgent attention. Present funding levels were insufficient to maintain progress in health systems, which should give priority to three areas: ensuring universal availability of proven health activities, adopting a life-cycle approach, and leadership. It was in respect of leadership that IPU Member Parliaments had a substantial role to play. He invited delegates to attend the joint special session with Countdown to 2015 in the afternoon of 17 April.
Delegations from the parliaments of the following 130 countries took part in the work of the Assembly: Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 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, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Madagascar, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, 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, Syria, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, 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 Inter-Parliamentary Committee of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), the Latin American Parliament, and the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Observers included representatives of: (i) Palestine; (ii) the United Nations system: United Nations, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO); (iii) the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the League of Arab States; (iv) the African Parliamentary Union (APU), the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union, the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA), the Assembly of the Western European Union (WEU), the Association of Senates, Shoora and Equivalent Councils in Africa and the Arab World (ASSECAA), the Confederation of Parliaments of the Americas (COPA), the Association of European Parliamentarians for Africa (AWEPA), the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Eurasian Economic Community, the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO), the Maghreb Consultative Council, the Pan-African Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty (OSCT), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union of Belarus and the Russian Federation, the Parliamentary Union of the Organization of Islamic Conference Members (PUOICM), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum, the Transitional Arab Parliament (TAP); and (v) Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Furthermore, delegations from the parliaments of Malawi, Swaziland and the United States of America participated as observers with a view to considering future affiliation. International IDEA, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime were invited to follow the work of the Assembly as observers in the light of the items on the agenda.
Of the 1,467 delegates who attended the Assembly, 700 were members of national parliaments. The parliamentarians included 51 presiding officers, 42 deputy presiding officers and 196 women (28%).
4. Choice of an Emergency Item
Before turning to the proposals for an emergency item, the President of the Assembly referred to the concern expressed by many delegations regarding the situation that had arisen in Zimbabwe due to the fact that the results of the recent elections had not yet been released in their entirety over two weeks after the people of Zimbabwe had cast their votes. This matter had been discussed in the Steering Committee, which had recommended that a declaration be prepared and read out to the Assembly for its endorsement. The Assembly approved this suggestion.
The President announced that the Assembly had before it six proposals for an emergency item. Following consultation, the delegations of Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran and South Africa withdrew their original proposals and submitted a new one entitled The role of parliaments and the Inter-Parliamentary Union in ensuring an immediate halt to the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in conflict areas, in facilitating the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, particularly by ending the blockade in Gaza and in accelerating the creation of a Palestinian State through viable peace processes.
Ms. E. Papadimitriou (Greece) announced that she would be willing to withdraw the Greek delegation’s proposal in favour of the proposal from Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran and South Africa, on the understanding that the co-sponsors would introduce an environmental dimension.
Mr. J. Bernal (Colombia) said that he was ready to withdraw the proposal submitted by the Venezuelan delegation with the support of Latin American and Caribbean countries, on the understanding that the situation of Colombia would be covered by the proposal submitted by Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran and South Africa.
Mr. O. Dulic (Serbia), after explaining the reasons behind the Serbian delegation’s proposal, announced that he was willing to withdraw it.
Mr. J. Carter (New Zealand) said that he would withdraw his delegation’s proposal after having heard that the Assembly Steering Committee had approved a proposal that a declaration be issued on behalf of all delegates on the subject of the elections in Zimbabwe and that a small working group would be set up to draft it.
Mr. B. Thioubé (Senegal) announced that his delegation would withdraw its proposal in favour of the one submitted by the delegations of Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran and South Africa.
The President of the Assembly noted that all other proposals had been withdrawn, leaving only that submitted by the delegations of Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran and South Africa. She invited Mr. Z. Madasa (South Africa) to present it. After Mr. Madasa had spoken, Mr. S. Shalom (Israel) expressed his delegation’s opposition to the proposed emergency item. He regretted having to do so, but considered the item to be unacceptable and unbalanced, and deplored the fact that nobody had seen it fit to consult with the delegation of Israel on the proposal.
In response to the requests of the delegations of Greece and Venezuela, and after hearing the views of several other delegations and recalling the provisions of the IPU Statutes, the Secretary General suggested that the words "and their environmental dimension" be inserted after "conflict areas" in the title of the emergency item, and that the text of the resolution refer to the need to reach a humanitarian agreement in areas of conflict but not mention any specific country.
On 14 April, the proposal, its title amended to The role of parliaments and the Inter-Parliamentary Union in ensuring an immediate halt to the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in conflict areas and its environmental dimension, in facilitating the Palestinians’ right to self-determination - particularly by ending the blockade in Gaza - and in accelerating the creation of a Palestinian State through viable peace processes, was submitted to a vote and included in the agenda of the 118th Assembly.
5. Debates and decisions of the Assembly and its Standing 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, under the theme of Pushing back the frontiers of poverty, took place in the mornings and afternoons of 14, 15, and 17 April. A total of 106 speakers from 98 delegations took part in the debate, which was chaired by the President of the Assembly. During the sittings, the President invited various Vice-Presidents, who were members of the delegations of Austria, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gabon, Lebanon, Mexico, Namibia, Pakistan, Sweden, Thailand and Uruguay, to replace her in the chair.
At the closing sitting, the President of the Assembly read out the declaration on the situation in Zimbabwe, which had been prepared by a working group set up by the President and composed of delegates from Botswana, Egypt, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom and Uruguay. The Assembly endorsed the statement by acclamation.
(b) First Standing Committee (Peace and International Security)
(i) The role of parliaments in striking a balance between national security, human security and individual freedoms, and in averting the threat to democracy (Item 4)
The Committee held three sittings on 14 and 16 April, with Mr. T. Boa (Côte d’Ivoire), President, in the chair. In addition to reports and a preliminary draft resolution prepared by the co-Rapporteurs, Mr. L.M. Suklabaidya (India), Ms. H. Mgabadeli (South Africa) and Lord Morris of Aberavon (United Kingdom), the Committee had before it amendments and sub-amendments to the draft resolution submitted by the delegations of Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Canada, China, Congo, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Japan, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Romania, South Africa, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland and Venezuela.
The first sitting began with the presentation of the individual reports and the joint preliminary draft resolution by the three co-Rapporteurs. A total of 56 speakers from 42 parliaments and two international organizations took the floor during the debate, after which the Standing Committee appointed a draft committee composed of representatives from Belgium, Canada, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Kenya, Mexico, Syria and Turkey. The three co-Rapporteurs were invited to participate in the work of the drafting committee in an advisory capacity.
The drafting committee met in the afternoon of 14 April. It appointed Mr. P. Moriau (Belgium) as its president and Mr. J.D. Seelam (India) as its rapporteur. It examined 116 amendments and sub-amendments submitted by 24 delegations, and adopted 38 of them in full or in part. A number of other amendments were accepted, if not in letter, then in spirit, as many were similar in content to the initial draft or to other amendments that had been adopted.
The First Standing Committee considered the consolidated draft on the afternoon of 16 April. Several delegations took the floor, seeking clarification of or expressing support for the text. The Committee adopted the draft resolution by acclamation and requested that the drafting committee rapporteur present it to the Assembly.
The draft resolution was submitted to the plenary sitting of the Assembly in the afternoon of 18 April and adopted unanimously.
(ii) Selection of subject item and co-Rapporteurs for the First Standing Committee at the 120th Assembly
The Bureau of the First Standing Committee met on 16 April with Mr. T. Boa (Côte d’Ivoire), President, in the chair. It examined proposals submitted by IPU Members for the item to be debated by the First Standing Committee at the 120th Assembly. The Bureau approved the subject item Advancing nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and securing the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: The role of parliaments, which it subsequently submitted to the First Standing Committee. The Committee agreed to propose that subject item to the Assembly for inclusion in the agenda of the 120th Assembly. The Assembly subsequently approved that item and appointed Mr. R. Price (Australia) and Mr. J.J. Mwiimbu (Zambia) as co-Rapporteurs.
(c) Second Standing Committee (Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade)
(i) Parliamentary oversight of State policies on foreign aid (Item 5)
The Committee held two sittings on 15 and 17 April, with its President, Mr. P. Martin-Lalande (France), in the chair. In addition to a report and a preliminary draft resolution prepared by the co-Rapporteurs, Mr. F.-X. de Donnea (Belgium) and Mr. P.B. Quenum (Benin), the Committee had before it amendments to the draft resolution submitted by the delegations of Algeria, Armenia, Canada, China, Cuba, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Japan, Jordan, Morocco, Philippines, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Sweden, and Venezuela.
A total of 45 speakers from 40 countries and one international organization took the floor during the plenary debate, following which the Standing Committee appointed a drafting committee composed of representatives from Argentina, Australia, Cameroon, Kenya, Mauritania, Morocco, Namibia, Panama, Republic of Korea, Switzerland and United Kingdom.
The drafting committee met in the morning of 16 April. It appointed Ms. N. Schimming-Chase (Namibia) as its president and Ms. D. Vale (Australia) as its rapporteur. The committee examined 80 amendments to the preliminary draft resolution and adopted 35 of them either fully or in part. A number of other amendments were accepted, if not in letter, then in spirit, as many were similar in content to those that were adopted. The amended draft was adopted by the drafting committee by consensus.
On the morning of 17 April, the Second Standing Committee considered the consolidated draft and adopted it unanimously, without making any further changes).
The draft resolution was submitted to the Assembly, which met in plenary in the afternoon of 18 April, and was adopted unanimously.
(ii) Selection of subject item and co-Rapporteurs for the Second Standing Committee at the 120th Assembly
The Bureau of the Second Standing Committee met on 16 April with the Committee's President, Mr. P. Martin-Lalande, in the chair. It examined proposals submitted by IPU Members for the items to be debated by the Second Standing Committee at the 120th Assembly. The Bureau approved the subject item Climate change, sustainable development models, and renewable energies, which it subsequently submitted to the Second Standing Committee. The Committee agreed to propose that subject item to the Assembly for its inclusion in the agenda of the 120th Assembly and nominated Mr. H.-J. Füchtel (Germany) and Mr. A. Lins (Brazil) as co-Rapporteurs for that item. The item and the co-Rapporteurs were subsequently approved by the Assembly.
(d) Third Standing Committee (Democracy and Human Rights)
(i) Migrant workers, people trafficking, xenophobia and human rights (Item 6)
The Committee held three sittings, on 14, 15 and 17 April, with its First Vice-President, Mr. Y. Zhumabayev (Kazakhstan), in the chair. It had before it a report and a preliminary draft resolution drawn up by the co-Rapporteurs, Mr. C. Camacho (Mexico) and Mr. A. Dismore (United Kingdom), along with amendments to the draft resolution submitted by the delegations of Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Canada, China, Cuba, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Morocco, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa, United Kingdom, Venezuela and the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians. It also heard a presentation on the draft Handbook for Parliamentarians on Trafficking in Persons by Ms. R. Putonen of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
In all, 44 speakers took part in the debate, after which the Committee designated a drafting committee composed of representatives of Algeria, Australia, Bahrain, Congo, Costa Rica, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan, Peru, Switzerland and Turkey.
The drafting committee met on 16 April. It appointed Mr. J.P. Winkler (Germany) as its president and Ms. D. Stump (Switzerland) as its rapporteur. It considered the draft resolution in detail and incorporated some of the amendments proposed.
On 17 April, the Third Committee considered the consolidated text of the draft resolution presented by the drafting committee and adopted it unanimously. The Assembly, meeting in plenary on 18 April, adopted the resolution by consensus. The delegation of Australia subsequently expressed a reservation in respect of operative paragraph 25. Australia was not in favour of banning political parties because transparent democratic processes and a robust institutional framework ensure an appropriate balance between freedom of expression and racially offensive behaviour.
(ii) Selection of subject item and co-Rapporteurs for the Third Standing Committee at the 120th Assembly
The Bureau of the Third Standing Committee met on 16 April with the Committee's First Vice-President in the chair. It examined proposals submitted by IPU Members to be debated by the Committee at the 120th Assembly. At its sitting on 17 April, the Third Standing Committee decided to place the subject item Freedom of expression and the right to information on the agenda of the 120th Assembly. It also appointed Mr. K. Malaisamy (India) and Mr. A. Dismore (United Kingdom) as co-Rapporteurs. The item and the proposed co-Rapporteurs were subsequently approved by the Assembly. Lastly, the Third Committee elected Mr. D. Cánepa (Uruguay) as its President
(e) Emergency item
The role of parliaments and the Inter-Parliamentary Union in ensuring an immediate halt to the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in conflict areas and its environmental dimension, in facilitating the Palestinians’ right to self-determination - particularly by ending the blockade in Gaza - and in accelerating the creation of a Palestinian state through viable peace processes (Item 8)
The Assembly referred the emergency item it had adopted on 14 April to a drafting committee composed of representatives of Algeria, Belgium, China, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Morocco, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Venezuela. The drafting committee appointed Mr. S.J. Njikelana (South Africa) as its president and Mr. G. Versnick (Belgium) as its rapporteur. It met on 15 and 16 April, and drafted a resolution that was adopted unanimously by the Assembly on 18 April.