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(Addis Ababa, 5 -10 April 2009)
1. Inaugural ceremony
The 120th IPU Assembly was inaugurated on 5 April at a ceremony held at the Millennium Hall, Addis Ababa, in the presence of H.E. the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Mr. Meles Zenawi, and the First Lady. Inaugural addresses were delivered by Mr. Teshome Toga, Speaker of the Ethiopian House of Peoples’ Representatives, Mr. Defege Bula, President of the Ethiopian House of Federation, Mr. Abdoulie Janneh, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Dr. Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, and Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, IPU President. The ceremony concluded with a statement by the Prime Minister, who declared the 120th Assembly officially open.
2. Election of President and keynote addresses
The 120th Assembly opened at the United Nations Convention Centrein Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the morning of Monday, 6 April 2009, with the election by acclamation of Mr. T. Toga, Speaker of the House of Peoples’ Representatives, as President of the Assembly.
After opening the general debate on the overall theme of Parliaments: Building peace, democracy and development in times of crisis, the President had the honour to welcome the President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, H.E. Mr. Girma Woldegiorgis, who delivered a keynote address to the Assembly.
President Woldegiorgis expressed satisfaction that the 120th IPU Assembly was being held in Ethiopia and was particularly honoured, as a former member of parliament with a long experience of the IPU, to address it. During the 1980s, the outlook for Africa’s future had been fairly bleak, but the many recent changes had given hope to the people of Africa. He hoped the global economic crisis would not jeopardize the gains already achieved.
The new Ethiopia offered lasting peace and sustainable development and was a pillar of stability; the people of the region needed hope, however, in the face of the conflicts that continued to destabilize it. Lasting peace and prosperity had to be based on the rule of law. The IPU’s support was and remained important throughout Africa, and particularly in the subregion, during the current economic downturn. It was no longer credible to say that peace, prosperity and progress were divisible; the global village could not be stable if one part of it was on fire or drowning.
President Woldegiorgis concluded by wishing the Assembly every success in its deliberations.
The improved economic situation in Africa was in part due to greater security. Developments in Ethiopia in the past five years were a useful example: its double-digit economic growth would not have been possible without peace. The transition to democracy was a foundation to build on; civil rights were necessities, not options. A reversal of the democratic process would have incalculable repercussions for peace on the continent. No region was more vulnerable than the Horn of Africa. The economic downturn must not slow the momentum towards progress.
The time had come to ensure that the developing world, Africa in particular, was treated fairly. Africa had not started the crisis but it had been badly affected by it.
On Thursday, 9 April, Mr. Walter Kälin, the Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons, addressed the Assembly. He began by recounting the harrowing experiences of several internally displaced persons, including women who had been raped in camps. Internal displacement was among the most serious humanitarian issues but had been largely forgotten. Twenty-six million people had been displaced within more than 50 countries by either conflict or human rights violations. Nearly 50 million had been displaced by natural disasters and non-conflict-related causes. Parliaments and parliamentarians should address this challenge; in donor countries, parliamentarians should ensure funds were available for emergency assistance, and in affected countries they should protect the rights of internally displaced persons and ensure that those rights were incorporated into domestic law.
The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement adopted by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in 1998 were based on international human rights and international humanitarian law. It did not always suffice, however, to incorporate the Guiding Principles into domestic law. The United Nations had developed a manual for legislators and policymakers that he hoped would be of assistance to parliamentarians when they drafted laws to mitigate the effects of displacement.
In conclusion, Mr. Kälin thanked the IPU for its very encouraging commitment to this cause and hoped that it marked the beginning of fruitful cooperation between the IPU and the United Nations on internally displaced persons.
At the closing session of the 120th Assembly, on 10 April, Mr. S. Nash (New Zealand) reported briefly on the field visits carried out in Addis Ababa on Tuesday, 7 April. Organized in cooperation with UNICEF, the visits had focused on projects for adolescent girls. His report described the work carried out in the areas of education, health and nutrition, and the social cash transfer programmes to support vulnerable children and adolescents. Mr. Nash concluded by expressing renewed appreciation for the excellent cooperation between the IPU and UNICEF.
Delegations from the parliaments of the following 123 countries took part in the work of the Assembly: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, 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, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Rwanda, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, 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 East African Legislative Assembly, the Inter-Parliamentary Commission of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), the Latin American Parliament, the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Observers included representatives of: (i) the United Nations system: United Nations, International Labour Office (ILO), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO); (ii) the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the League of Arab States; (iii) the African Parliamentary Union (APU), the AMANI Forum, the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union, the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA), 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 Association of the Eurasian Economic Commission, the Maghreb Consultative Council, the Nordic Council, the Pan-African Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, 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, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Furthermore, a delegation from the United States Congress participated as observers with a view to considering future affiliation.
Of the 1,193 delegates who attended the Assembly, 597 were members of national parliaments. The parliamentarians included 28 presiding officers, 35 deputy presiding officers and 165 women (27.6%).
4. Choice of an Emergency Item
On 6 April, the President informed the Assembly about developments with regard to possible requests for the inclusion of an emergency item in the Assembly agenda. The delegation of Mexico had withdrawn its proposal on “The global fight against organized crime”, and requested that it be included in the agenda of the next Assembly.
Mr. K. Singh Yadav (India) stated that his delegation, which had submitted a proposal on cross-border terrorism, had agreed to withdraw it and asked the relevant Standing Committee to consider the subject at the earliest opportunity.
Mr. A.M. Al-Issai (Oman), speaking on behalf of his delegation, those of the United Arab Emirates and Iran (Islamic Republic of), and of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union, denounced the situation in Gaza. However, as African parliamentarians had preferred to focus on the negative consequences of the financial and economic world crisis, these delegations had agreed to withdraw their proposal in the hope that it would be considered at the next Assembly.
Mr. D. Vivas (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of his delegation, those of Canada and the Twelve Plus Group, and of the Group of Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC), submitted a proposal entitled The role of parliaments in mitigating the social and political impact of the international economic and financial crisis on the most vulnerable sectors of the global community, especially in Africa.
The President of the Assembly noted that all other proposals had been withdrawn, leaving only that submitted by the delegations of Venezuela and Canada, and called on the Assembly to adopt it as an emergency item. The proposal was adopted and included in the Assembly agenda.
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 Parliaments: Building peace, democracy and development in times of crisis, took place in the mornings and afternoons of 6, 7, and 9 April. A total of 112 speakers from 104 delegations took part in the debate, which was chaired by the President of the Assembly. During the sittings, the President invited several Vice-Presidents, members of the delegations of Bangladesh, Congo, Malta, Mauritius, Morocco, the Netherlands, Portugal and the Republic of Korea, to replace him in the chair.
(b) First Standing Committee (Peace and International Security)
(i) Advancing nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and securing the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty: The role of parliaments (Item 4)
The Committee held two sittings: one on 6 April and another on 8 April, with Mr. B. Boutouiga (Algeria), Vice-President, in the chair. In addition to reports and a preliminary draft resolution prepared by the co-Rapporteurs, Mr. R. Price (Australia) and Mr. J. Mwiimbu (Zambia), the Committee had before it amendments and sub-amendments to the draft resolution submitted by the delegations of China, Congo, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom.
The first sitting began with the presentation of the individual reports and the joint preliminary draft resolution by the two co-Rapporteurs. A total of 49 speakers from 43 parliaments and one international organization took the floor during the debate, after which the Standing Committee appointed a drafting committee composed of representatives from Australia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, France, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Kenya, Palestine, Russian Federation, Syria, United Kingdom and Uruguay. The co-Rapporteur from Zambia was invited to participate in the work of the drafting committee in an advisory capacity.
The drafting committee met in the afternoon of 6 April and the morning of 7 April. It appointed Mr. R. Price (Australia) as its president and Mr. N. Abdi (Kenya) as its rapporteur. It examined 84 amendments and sub-amendments submitted by 16 delegations, and adopted 26 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 in the afternoon of 8 April. Several delegations took the floor, seeking clarification on or expressing support for the text. Four delegations expressed reservations on certain paragraphs of the text. The Committee Chair proposed a compromise wording to meet the concerns expressed by several delegations. The Committee adopted the draft resolution by consensus and requested the rapporteur of the drafting committee to present it to the Assembly.
The draft resolution was submitted to the plenary sitting of the Assembly in the afternoon of 10 April and adopted by consensus, with reservations expressed by four delegations.
(ii) Selection of subject item and co-Rapporteurs for the First Standing Committee at the 122nd Assembly
The Bureau of the First Standing Committee met on 8 April with Mr. B. Boutouiga (Algeria), Vice-President, in the chair. It examined proposals submitted by IPU Members for the item to be debated by the First Standing Committee at the 122nd Assembly. The Bureau approved the subject item proposed by Mexico on the global fight against organized crime. Following further discussions in the First Standing Committee, it was agreed to incorporate elements from another proposal made by India. The Committee hence agreed to propose the following subject item to the Assembly for inclusion in the agenda of the 122nd Assembly: Cooperation and shared responsibility in the global fight against organized crime, in particular drug trafficking, illegal arms sales, human trafficking and cross-border terrorism. The Assembly subsequently approved that item and appointed Ms. M.T. Ortuño (Mexico) and a member of parliament from Thailand (to be appointed) as co-Rapporteurs.
(c) Second Standing Committee (Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade)
(i) Climate change, sustainable development models, and renewable energies (Item 5)
The Committee held sittings on 7 and 9 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. Á. Lins (Brazil) and Mr. H.-J. Fuchtel (Germany), the Committee had before it amendments to the draft resolution submitted by the delegations of Belgium, Canada, China, Cuba, France, Indonesia, Japan, Morocco, Philippines, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and United Arab Emirates. Two sub-amendments were submitted by the delegation of Suriname. A separate set of amendments was submitted by the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians.
A total of 52 speakers took the floor during the plenary debate, following which the Standing Committee appointed a drafting committee composed of representatives from Cambodia, Germany, Jordan, Monaco, Morocco, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, Sudan, Switzerland, Uruguay, Venezuela and Zambia.
The drafting committee met all day on 8 April. It appointed Ms. N. Kaye (New Zealand) as its president and Ms. S. Tioulong (Cambodia) as its rapporteur. The committee examined 180 amendments and sub-amendments to the preliminary draft resolution and adopted 90 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 had been adopted.
On the morning of 9 April, the Second Standing Committee considered the consolidated draft and made a few further changes to it, following which the amended draft was adopted by consensus. Following its adoption, the delegation of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya took the floor to express its concern over biofuels.
In the afternoon of 10 April, the draft resolution was submitted to the Assembly, which adopted it by consensus. Following its adoption, the delegation of the Russian Federation expressed reservations on preambular paragraphs 36, 38 and 40, as well as on operative paragraphs 20 and 38. The delegation of Iran (Islamic Republic of) expressed reservations on preambular paragraph 25.
The President of the Second Standing Committee, Mr. P. Martin-Lalande, took the floor to request that, in the future, the time allocated to the Committee's deliberations be increased so as to allow all delegates wishing to contribute to the debate to do so and the drafting committee to deal with particularly lengthy drafts and numerous amendments, as had been the case at the present Assembly.
(ii) Selection of subject item and co-Rapporteurs for the Second Standing Committee at the 122nd Assembly
The Bureau of the Second Standing Committee met on 9 April with the Committee President in the chair. It examined proposals submitted by IPU Members for the items to be debated by the Second Standing Committee at the 122nd Assembly. The Bureau approved the subject item The role of parliaments in developing South-South and Triangular Cooperation with a view to accelerating achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, 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 122nd Assembly. The item was subsequently approved by the Assembly, which appointed Mr. F.-X. de Donnea (Belgium) and Mr. G. Lubinda (Zambia) as the co-Rapporteurs for that item
(d) Third Standing Committee (Democracy and Human Rights)
(i) Freedom of expression and the right to information (Item 6)
The Committee held three sittings, on 6, 7 and 9 April, with its President, Mr. D. Cánepa (Uruguay), in the chair. The Committee had before it a report and a preliminary draft resolution drawn up by the co-Rapporteurs, Mr. K. Malaisamy (India) and Mr. A. Dismore (United Kingdom), along with amendments to the draft resolution submitted by the delegations of Belgium, Canada, China, Congo, Cuba, France, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Morocco, Philippines, Spain, Switzerland and United Arab Emirates.
In all, 59 speakers took part in the debate, after which the Committee designated a drafting committee composed of representatives of Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, Congo, Germany, Iraq, Mali, Mexico, Switzerland and Zimbabwe.
The drafting committee met on 8 April. It began its work by naming Mr. J.P. Winkler (Germany) as its president and Ms. B. Bishop (Australia) as its rapporteur. It considered the draft resolution in detail and incorporated some of the amendments proposed.
On 9 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 10 April, adopted the resolution by consensus. The delegation of Australia expressed a reservation in respect of operative paragraph 23. In its view, ensuring access to information is primarily the responsibility of the government authorities. That responsibility should not be extended to non-State actors.
(ii) Selection of subject item and co-Rapporteurs for the Third Standing Committee at the 122nd Assembly
The Bureau of the Third Standing Committee met on 8 April with the Committee's President in the chair. It examined various proposals submitted by IPU Members for debate by the Committee at the 122nd Assembly. At its sitting on 9 April, the Third Standing Committee decided to place the subject item Youth participation in the democratic process on the agenda of the 122nd Assembly. It also appointed Ms. M. Lugarić (Croatia) and Mr. A.K. Bagbin (Ghana) as co-Rapporteurs. The item and the proposed co-Rapporteurs were subsequently approved by the Assembly.
(e) Emergency item
The role of parliaments in mitigating the social and political impact of the international economic and financial crisis on the most vulnerable sectors of the global community, especially in Africa(Item 8)
The Assembly referred the emergency item it had adopted on 6 April to a drafting committee composed of representatives of Bahrain, Canada, Colombia, Congo, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Namibia, Spain, Switzerland, Uganda and Venezuela. The drafting committee appointed Mr. J. Moscoso del Prado (Spain) as its president and Ms. R. Kadaga (Uganda) as its rapporteur. It met on 7 and 8 April, and drafted a resolution that was adopted unanimously by the Assembly on 10 April.
6. Amendments to the Statutes and Rules of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
At its last sitting on Friday, 10 April, the Assembly had before it a proposal, previously endorsed by the Governing Council, to amend Articles 4 and 5 of the Statutes in order to enhance the clarity of the text relating to the suspension of membership. The Assembly adopted the amendments to Articles 4.2 and 5.3 of the Statutes unanimously.