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(Bangkok, 27 March - 1 April 2010)
1. Inaugural ceremony
The 122nd IPU Assembly was inaugurated on 27 March 2010 at a ceremony held at the Centara Grand and Bangkok Convention Centre (CGBCC) in Bangkok, Thailand, in the presence of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. Inaugural addresses were delivered by Mr. Chai Chidchob, President of the National Assembly, Mr. Prasobsook Boondech, President of the Senate, Mr. Trairong Suwankiri, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), on behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, IPU President. The ceremony concluded with a statement by Her Royal Highness Princess Sirindhorn, who declared the 122nd Assembly officially open.
2. Election of the President and keynote addresses
The 122nd Assembly opened at the CGBCC on the morning of Sunday, 28 March 2010, with the election by acclamation of Mr. Chai Chidchob, President of the National Assembly of Thailand, as President of the Assembly.
The President said that it was a great honour for him to have been elected to preside over the Assembly's work. After opening the general debate on the overall theme of Parliament at the heart of political reconciliation and good governance, he invited Dr. Supachai and the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Mr. Michel Sidibé, to deliver keynote addresses.
Dr. Supachai said that following the Asian financial crisis, Asian economies had learned not to borrow in foreign currencies. Asia had accumulated foreign reserves and was determined not to slip back into crisis, but international trade linkages meant that the recent financial turbulence had affected all economies. The statistical recession might be over but the human recession was not, because unemployment was still climbing. Wages in poor countries were falling as commodity prices dropped. UNCTAD and the G20 were looking to create greater international financial discipline in the face of multilateral resistance to the enforcement of regulations. Unless that resistance was overcome, the financial crisis would return.
Mr. Sidibé said that parliamentarians were at the heart of governance and social transformation. Although in 2009 and so far in 2010 much energy and time had been spent dealing with climate change and the financial crisis, HIV/AIDS remained a vital issue. The epidemic had been accompanied by growing inequality between the rich and the poor. He appealed to the Assembly to remove the barriers to medical services for those with HIV in the developing world. In Africa, 400,000 babies had been born with HIV in 2009 and women were forced to choose between food and treatment, between education for their children and treatment for the virus. The IPU Assembly, and the entire world, should not accept such inequality just because of the financial crisis described by Dr. Supachai.
In the afternoon of 28 March, a special presentation was made on the nuclear security agenda during the IPU Assembly general debate. Speaker H. Jenkins of Australia’s House of Representatives, Ambassador A. Rodríguez on behalf of Foreign Secretary A. Romulo of the Philippines (which currently holds the presidency of the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on Nuclear Non-Proliferation) and the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Tibor Toth referred to the growing political momentum for disarmament and a world free of nuclear weapons, and to the crucial role and responsibility of parliaments and parliamentarians in this regard. The 2009 IPU resolution, Advancing nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and securing the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: The role of parliaments, represented a significant step in that direction and needed to be accompanied by concrete parliamentary follow-up, action and engagement at both the national and the international levels.
Mr. Jenkins drew the participants’ attention to the UN Secretary-General’s endorsement of the efforts of parliamentarians and civil society activists to promote nuclear non-proliferation. He recalled that IPU meetings had often discussed non-proliferation and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in particular; the Assembly needed to maintain the momentum thus generated. While the recent news of an agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation on decommissioning was welcome, there was no room for complacency on the part of parliamentarians. Steps should be taken to ensure that nuclear material intended for civilian use was indeed utilized exclusively for peaceful purposes. The 2010 Review Conference had to be more effective than that of 2005, and parliamentarians needed to work towards that goal.
Mr. Rodríguez said that the slow pace of disarmament by nuclear-weapon States had frustrated non-nuclear-weapon States; the Russian Federation and the United States should show the way by moving ahead with nuclear disarmament. A follow-on agreement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty was eagerly awaited. Parliamentarians played a critical role in deciding how taxes were spent; they should channel them from nuclear weapons towards social and economic issues.
Mr. Toth said that the IPU’s 2009 resolution had set out the best way towards a safer world. He was gratified that the IPU had remained focused on the issue. The CTBT was one of the most effective measures to ensure world peace. A pillar for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, the CTBT was within political reach but political will was needed to go the last mile. At its 120th Assembly, the IPU had pledged fuller parliamentary involvement and urged governments immediately to sign and ratify the treaty, which remained nine ratifications away from entering into force.
On Monday, 29 March, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, the Secretary General of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), addressed the Assembly. He began by saying that ASEAN pursued economic prosperity but also counted among its priorities the development and consolidation of democracy, the protection of human rights and the creation of equitable and inclusive societies. The ASEAN Charter was founded on three pillars, political development and security, economic prosperity and identity, and it was important that the region’s people felt that they belonged to ASEAN. The Association had received significant support from countries outside the region, and its continued success was dependent on that support being maintained. It faced several challenges. Democracies in the region, even in Thailand, were not perfect and many member States were struggling to determine how young democracies could be developed and consolidated without triggering instability. The IPU had to concern itself not just with the establishment of democracy in areas where it did not exist but also with democratic development and consolidation in areas where the democratic process was vulnerable to money, politics and cronyism. In conclusion, Dr. Pitsuwan appealed to the IPU’s Member Parliaments to focus on the substance rather than the appearance of democracy.
On 29 March, the Assembly also heard a special presentation on parliamentary action to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5 on child survival and maternal health. The presentation followed up on the first IPU-Countdown to 2015 event, held in Cape Town in 2008, and a panel discussion held in tandem with the 120th IPU Assembly in Addis Ababa in 2009. It aimed to provide further examples of successful engagement by parliamentarians in overseeing supportive policies and investments to promote MDGs 4 and 5 and reduce child deaths by two thirds and maternal deaths by three quarters by 2015. The Countdown to 2015 initiative is a multi-partner project that tracks coverage levels of health interventions proven to reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality, identifies knowledge gaps and proposes new actions to achieve MDGs 4 and 5.
The debate was chaired by Senator P. Punyaratabandhu of Thailand. Ms. F. Bustreo, Director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), gave the keynote address. Ms. L.S. Changwe, a member of the National Assembly of Zambia, made a presentation on capacity- and relationship-building opportunities enabling parliaments to enhance accountability for financial flows to the areas of maternal, newborn and child health. Ms. J. Hall, a member of the House of Representatives of Australia, shared her country’s experience of aligning health-targeted official development assistance with the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda for Action. She spoke of strengthening national health programmes and gave examples of Australia’s efforts to support implementation of MDGs 4 and 5. Ms. K. Pancharoenworakul, a member of the National Assembly of Thailand, shared her parliament’s recent experience in using social insurance to spearhead improvements in maternal, newborn and child health outcomes.
At the closing sitting of the 122nd Assembly, on 1 April, Ms. A. Foya (Sierra Leone) reported briefly on the field visits carried out in Bangkok on Monday, 29 March. Organized in cooperation with UNICEF, the visits had focused on child protection, early childhood and maternal health. Ms. Foya concluded by expressing renewed appreciation for the excellent cooperation between the IPU and UNICEF.
Delegations from the parliaments of the following 124 countries took part in the work of the Assembly: Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The following Associate Members also took part in the Assembly: the East African Legislative Assembly, the Inter-Parliamentary Committee of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
Observers comprised representatives of: (i) the 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), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), World Health Organization (WHO), Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO); (ii) the International Organization for Migration (IOM); (iii) the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA), the African Parliamentary Union (APU), the Amazonian Parliament, the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union, the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA), the Assembly of 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 Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Eurasian Economic Community, the Inter-Parliamentary Commission of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), the Maghreb Consultative Council, the Pan-African Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (PABSEC), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty (OCST), 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 (iv) Socialist International, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), Human Rights Watch, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Furthermore, a delegation from the United States Congress participated with observer status with a view to considering future reaffiliation. The Parliamentary Forum on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) were invited to follow the work of the Assembly as observers in the light of the items on the agenda.
Of the 1,248 delegates who attended the Assembly, 621 were members of national parliaments. The parliamentarians included 36 presiding officers, 47 deputy presiding officers and 178 women (28.7%).
4. Choice of an emergency item
On 28 March, the President informed the Assembly that two requests for the inclusion of an emergency item remained to be examined. One was entitled The role of parliaments in strengthening the solidarity of the international community towards the people of Haiti and Chile in the wake of devastating major disasters, and urgent actions required in all disaster-prone countries to improve disaster-risk assessment, prevention and mitigation and had been submitted by Cuba, France, Uganda, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.
A second proposal, Israeli violations of the religious and cultural rights of the Palestinian people, in particular in and around Jerusalem, rejection of Israel’s announcement to include the Haram al-Ibrahimi and Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosques, in addition to the walls of the old city of Jerusalem, in its list of national heritage sites, and the need to reverse all Israeli settlement activities, particularly in East Jerusalem, had been submitted by Palestine on behalf of the Arab Group and by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Ms. Y. Regueiferos Linares (Cuba) spoke on the first proposal, underlining that given the number of people left unemployed as a result of the tragic earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, goodwill alone did not suffice. That was particularly true of Haiti, where the number of unemployed had soared and the population was living in extremely precarious conditions. In those circumstances, multilateral aid had to be organized in cooperation with the governments of the countries concerned.
Mr. B. Boutouiga (Algeria), speaking against the adoption of that proposal, explained that both earthquakes had been due to the movement of a fault line which, although it had virtually destroyed Haiti, had existed before the earthquakes and would continue to exist in the future. The fault line threatening the Middle East was of a completely different nature, and the international community as a whole stood to be affected by the threat of an imminent eruption that hung over the region.
Mr. A. Al-Majali (Jordan) said that Israel’s continued colonization of the Palestinian territory was a flagrant violation of people’s rights, and now it wanted to annex Muslim and Christian holy sites. Israel made no effort to achieve a just peace and ignored both the appeals of the international community and the conclusions of the Goldstone Report. He called on the Assembly to adopt the proposal submitted by Palestine, as it would help ease the tension. The Assembly should adopt a clear and equitable position reflecting the rights of the people of all three religions and cultures.
Mr. M. Whbee (Israel) said that the delegation of Israel supported the first proposal as the international community should express its solidarity with the countries recently devastated by earthquakes. As a member of the opposition, he did not represent the Government of Israel. He explained that he himself was not Jewish, and said that three religions were practised in the region. Those who practised them had the right to co-exist in peace and not in a context of violence. He invited all interested persons to visit the holy sites mentioned in the proposal and asked all delegations to reject the proposal and to cooperate on the holding of direct negotiations with a view to lasting peace.
The President of the Assembly asked for a roll-call vote. The proposal submitted by Cuba, France, Uganda, the United Kingdom and Uruguay 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 Parliament at the heart of political reconciliation and good governance, took place in the mornings and afternoons of 28, 29 and 31 March. A total of 103 speakers from 92 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 Andorra, Botswana, Croatia, India, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Qatar and Uruguay, to replace him in the Chair.
(b) First Standing Committee (Peace and International Security)
(i) Cooperation and shared responsibility in the global fight against organized crime, in particular drug trafficking, illegal arms sales, human trafficking and cross-border terrorism (Item 4)
The Committee held three sittings: two on 28 March and another on 30 March, with Mr. B. Boutouiga (Algeria), Vice-President, in the Chair. In addition to reports and a preliminary draft resolution prepared by the co-Rapporteurs, Ms. M.T. Ortuño (Mexico) and Mr. A. Wiriyachai (Thailand), the Committee had before it amendments to the draft resolution submitted by the delegations of Canada, China, Congo, Cuba, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Morocco, Norway, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.
The first sitting began with the presentation of the joint report and preliminary draft resolution by the two co-Rapporteurs. A presentation was also made by the regional representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and a video projection showcased Thailand’s experience in alternative crop production. In all, 49 speakers from 40 parliaments and two international organizations took the floor during the debate, after which the Standing Committee appointed a drafting committee composed of representatives from Cambodia, India, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Russian Federation, Switzerland, Thailand, Uganda and Uruguay. A UNODC expert was also invited to participate, in an advisory capacity.
The drafting committee met in the afternoon of 28 March and the morning of 29 March. It appointed Ms. L. Bennani Smires (Morocco) as its president and Mr. J.D. Seelam (India) as its rapporteur. It examined over 100 amendments submitted by 19 delegations and by the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, and adopted several of them. A number of other amendments were accepted, if not in letter, then in spirit, as they 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 30 March. Several delegations took the floor, seeking clarification, proposing minor amendments, or expressing support for the text. Two delegations expressed reservations on specific paragraphs. The Standing Committee adopted the draft resolution by consensus and requested the drafting committee rapporteur to present it to the Assembly.
The draft resolution was submitted to the plenary sitting of the Assembly in the afternoon of 1 April and adopted by consensus, with a reservation expressed by one delegation.
(ii) Selection of subject item and co-Rapporteurs for the First Standing Committee at the 124th Assembly
The Bureau of the First Standing Committee met on 30 March with Mr. B. Boutouiga (Algeria), Vice-President, in the chair. It examined seven proposals submitted by IPU Member Parliaments for the subject to be debated by the Standing Committee at the 124th Assembly, and approved the subject proposed by Belgium, with an amendment from the President. The subject was then submitted for consideration to the First Standing Committee, which agreed to propose it to the Assembly for inclusion in the agenda of the 124th Assembly. The subject, Providing a sound legislative framework aimed at preventing electoral violence, improving election monitoring and ensuring the smooth transition of power was subsequently approved by the Assembly, which appointed Mr. J.D. Seelam (India) and Mr. W. Madzimure (Zimbabwe) as co-Rapporteurs.
(c) Second Standing Committee (Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade)
(i) The role of parliaments in developing South-South and Triangular Cooperation with a view to accelerating achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (Item 5)
The Second Standing Committee held sittings on 29 and 31 March, 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. G. Lubinda (Zambia), the Committee had before it amendments to the draft resolution submitted by the delegations of Canada, China, Congo, Cuba, France, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Morocco, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.
A total of 38 speakers took the floor during the plenary debate, after which the Standing Committee appointed a drafting committee composed of representatives from Algeria, Australia, Belgium, Cambodia, Indonesia, Mexico, Sudan, Uruguay and Zambia.
The drafting committee met all day on 30 March. It appointed Ms. J. Troeth (Australia) as its president and Ms. S. Tioulong (Cambodia) as its rapporteur. It examined 101 amendments to the preliminary draft resolution and adopted one third of them either fully or in part. A number of other amendments were accepted, if not in letter, then in spirit, as they were similar in content to those that had been adopted.
In the afternoon of 31 March, the Second Standing Committee considered the consolidated draft resolution and unanimously adopted it in its entirety, without any changes.
In the afternoon of 1 April, the draft resolution was submitted to the Assembly, which adopted it by consensus . Following the adoption, the delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran expressed reservations on preambular paragraph 24 in relation to the concept of gender equality.
(ii) Selection of subject item and co-Rapporteurs for the Second Standing Committee at the 124th Assembly
The Bureau of the Second Standing Committee met on 31 March with the Committee President in the Chair. It examined proposals submitted by IPU Member Parliaments for the item to be debated by the Second Standing Committee at the 124th Assembly. The Bureau approved the subject item The role of parliaments in ensuring sustainable development through the management of natural resources, agricultural production and demographic change, which it subsequently submitted to the Second Standing Committee. The Committee agreed to propose that subject item to the Assembly for inclusion in the agenda of the 124th Assembly. The item was subsequently approved by the Assembly, which appointed Ms. K. Ferrier (Netherlands) and Mr. A. Cherrar (Algeria) as the co-Rapporteurs for that item
(d) Third Standing Committee (Democracy and Human Rights)
(i) Youth participation in the democratic process (Item 6)
The Third Standing Committee held three sittings, on 28, 29 and 31 March, with its Vice-President, Mr. J. Fairooz (Bahrain), in the Chair. The Committee had before it a report and a preliminary draft resolution drawn up by the Rapporteur, Ms. M. Lugarić (Croatia), along with amendments to the draft resolution submitted by the delegations of Bahrain, Canada, China, Congo, Egypt, France, Greece, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Morocco, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.
In all, 62 speakers took part in the debate on the draft resolution. Many young parliamentarians contributed and made recommendations.
The Committee designated a drafting committee composed of representatives of Australia, Canada, Croatia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Mali, Netherlands, Palestine, Panama, Russian Federation, South Africa, Switzerland and Uruguay. The drafting committee met on 30 March. It began its work by appointing Ms. M.T. Kubayi (South Africa) as its president and Ms. M. Lugarić (Croatia) as its rapporteur. It considered the proposed amendments in detail, incorporating many of them into the draft resolution.
On 31 March, the Third Standing Committee considered the consolidated text of the draft resolution presented by the drafting committee. Following a debate on the paragraph on alignment of the age of eligibility with the voting age, it adopted the amended resolution. The delegations of Algeria, India and Yemen expressed reservations on that paragraph.
The Assembly, meeting in plenary on 1 April, adopted the resolution by consensus. The delegation of India expressed its opposition to operative paragraph 14. It was not in a position to agree with the recommendation that parliaments align the voting age with the age of eligibility, which ran counter to India’s Constitution.
(ii) Selection of subject item and co-Rapporteurs for the Third Standing Committee at the 124th Assembly
The Bureau of the Third Standing Committee met on 30 March with the Committee Vice-President, Mr. J. Fairooz, in the Chair. It examined various proposals submitted by IPU Member Parliaments for inclusion in the agenda of the 124th Assembly. At its sitting on 31 March, the Third Standing Committee decided to place the subject item Transparency and accountability in the funding of political parties and election campaigns on the agenda of the 124th Assembly. It also took note of the nomination of Mr. A. Destexhe (Belgium) and Ms. M.T. Kubayi (South Africa) to serve as co-Rapporteurs. The item and the proposed co-Rapporteurs were subsequently approved by the Assembly.
(e) Emergency item
The role of parliaments in strengthening the solidarity of the international community towards the people of Haiti and Chile in the wake of devastating major disasters, and urgent actions required in all disaster-prone countries to improve disaster-risk assessment, prevention and mitigation (Item 8)
The Assembly referred the emergency item it had adopted on 28 March to a drafting committee composed of representatives of Belarus, Cuba, France, Netherlands, Uganda and the United Kingdom. The committee was assisted in its task by a representative of the secretariat of the UN International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. It appointed Ms. Y. Regueiferos Linares (Cuba) as its president and Ms. K. Ferrier (Netherlands) as its rapporteur. It met on 29 March, and drafted a resolution that was adopted unanimously by the Assembly on 1 April.