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OVERVIEW OF MAIN EVENTS AND DECISIONS
(Kampala, 31 March - 5 April 2012)
1. Inaugural ceremony
The 126th IPU Assembly was inaugurated on 31 March 2012 at a ceremony held at the Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala with H.E. Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda, in attendance. Inaugural addresses were delivered by Ms. Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, Mr. Zachary Mburi-Muita, Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union and Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, and Mr. Abdelwahad Radi, IPU President. The ceremony concluded with a statement by the President of Uganda, who declared the 126th Assembly officially open.
2. Election of the President and keynote addresses
The 126th Assembly opened at the Kampala Serena Conference Centre in the morning of Sunday, 1 April, with the election by acclamation of Ms. R. Kadaga, Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda, as President of the Assembly.
The President said that it was a great honour for her to preside over the Assembly's work. She underscored the relevance of the overall theme for the Kampala Assembly, and invited all participating parliaments to share their experiences and perspectives in the General Debate on Parliaments and people: Bridging the gap.
UNICEF and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) presentations
At noon that same day, the Assembly engaged in an open debate with Dr. Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, and Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the UNFPA. The debate was held at a time when international attention was starting to focus on the next generation of sustainable development goals and the central role of child and maternal health.
Mr. Lake’s presentation focused on three main points. He started by presenting the severe form of malnutrition known as stunting, which had a devastating impact on child health and all of society. Stunted children lagged far behind others in terms of physical growth and neurological and cognitive development. That made them less productive when they reached adulthood, placing a burden on society as a whole.
According to Mr. Lake, the remedy for that disastrous condition was to pay closer attention to the first 1,000 days in every child’s life, from the prenatal period to the age of two, during which the brain developed. Good nutrition during that period was crucial. Nutrition therefore had to play a paramount role in development programmes and required investment.
Mr. Lake concluded by presenting the Scaling Up Nutrition initiative a coalition of public and private entities launched in 2010 to eradicate malnutrition by providing governments with support for the development of policies and programmes to combat malnutrition and undernutrition. He advocated the initiative’s expansion and asked parliamentarians to relay his appeal to the executive authorities in their countries. Parliamentarians should encourage the initiative by promoting pro-nutrition legislation, increasing budget allocations for nutrition programmes and holding governments and partners to account for implementation of the programmes and policies developed.
Picking up where Mr. Lake had left off, Mr. Osotimehin underscored how vulnerable children were in the first few months of life, during which special attention had to be paid to their nutrition. Through the United Nations Secretary‑General’s initiative, Every Woman Every Child, which linked maternal to child health, UNFPA and UNICEF were mobilizing in the cause, in respect of which a high‑level commission had been established the previous week.
According to Mr. Osotimehin, parliamentarians could further the cause by making sure substantial funds were allocated to maternal and child health, ensuring governments honoured their commitments and promoting gender equality partnerships. He considered it particularly important to ensure the health and education of young people, in particular girls, as those dynamics were a determining factor of progress. To that end, action was required to strengthen reproductive health and promote sex education among young people; those were crucial factors of sustainable development that had already been mentioned in 1994, in the Action Programme adopted by the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development.
Address by the Vice-President of the Republic of Uganda
In the morning of Monday, 2 April, the Vice‑President of the Republic of Uganda, Mr. E. Kiwanuka Ssekandi, addressed the Assembly. He was very proud that his country was hosting a major IPU Assembly, the eighth African country to do so in over 120 years of the IPU’s existence.
Sir Winston Churchill had once described Uganda as the "Pearl of Africa". Since then the country had achieved independence from Britain in 1962. The first 25 years of Uganda's post-independence existence had been turbulent, including economic decline, social problems and political turmoil. Over the past two decades, however, democratic institutions had been established, and good governance and policies had promoted economic growth. In October 1995, a new constitution had formally established the separation of the powers of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The Government was committed to meeting challenges by promoting the interests of young people and women. Women were represented in key areas of government and held important positions in society. Uganda had a woman Speaker of Parliament and had been the first African country to have a woman Vice-President.
Parliament had worked hard to enhance citizens’ engagement with its activities. It had achieved that through public meetings, workshops and hearings across the country and in a variety of locations. Uganda was also committed to playing a role on the international stage. The country had not stood by idly during the apartheid era in South Africa. In the 1990s Uganda had worked to end the genocide in Rwanda. Uganda was at the forefront of efforts by the African Union to improve the situation in Somalia. Uganda would always consider its neighbour's problems to be its own. Global challenges required coordinated solutions. Parliaments should work together effectively on the world stage and the IPU had provided a good example of what could be achieved.
Delegations from the parliaments of the following 120 countries took part in the work of the Assembly: Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Luxembourg, Malawi, Maldives, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Rwanda, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, 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, the Latin American Parliament and the Transitional Arab Parliament.
Observers comprised representatives of: (i) the United Nations system: United Nations, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Millennium Campaign, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); (ii) African Union and League of Arab States; (iii) African Parliamentary Union (APU), Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union (AIPU), Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA), Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Confederation of Parliaments of the Americas (COPA), Inter‑Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States (IPA CIS), Inter-Parliamentary Union of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IPU-IGAD), Maghreb Consultative Council, Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (PABSEC), Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM), Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Parliamentary Assembly of the Turkic-Speaking Countries (TURKPA), Parliamentary Union of the Organization of the Islamic Conference Members (PUOICM), South African Development Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum; (iv) Socialist International; and (v) Amnesty International, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Human Rights Watch, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), International IDEA, Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), and Penal Reform International.Of the 1,212 delegates who attended the Assembly, 607 were members of national parliaments. The parliamentarians included 40 presiding officers, 37 deputy presiding officers and 180 women (29.7%).
4. Choice of an emergency item
On 1 April, the President informed the Assembly that seven requests for the inclusion of an emergency item had been initially received. The delegations of Canada, Egypt, France, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom had subsequently decided to present a joint proposal entitled "Inter-parliamentary Union initiative for an immediate halt to the bloodshed and human rights violations in Syria, and the need to ensure access to humanitarian aid for all persons in need and to support implementation of all relevant Arab League and United Nations resolutions and peace efforts". In view of the importance of the joint proposal, the delegation of Argentina decided to withdraw its proposal before the agenda item was raised in the Assembly. That had left two proposals to be considered by the Assembly: "The need to support national reconciliation for building democratic institutions in the countries gripped by unrest and turmoil, particularly in Syria and Bahrain" proposed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the above‑mentioned joint proposal.
After taking the floor, the delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran withdrew its proposal in favour of the joint one presented by Canada, Egypt, France, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, which was adopted by acclamation and added to the agenda as Item 8.
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 and people: Bridging the gap, took place in the morning and afternoon of 1 and 2 April and in the morning of 4 April. A total of 113 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 Andorra, Benin, Chile, Finland, France, Lesotho, Malawi and Mozambique to replace her in the chair.
(b) First Standing Committee (Peace and International Security)
(i) Promoting and practising good governance as a means of advancing peace and security: Drawing lessons from recent events in the Middle East and North Africa (Item 4)
The First Standing Committee held two sittings, one on 1 April and one on 3 April, with its President, Mr. S.H. Chowdhury (Bangladesh), in the chair. In addition to the report and preliminary draft resolutions prepared by the co-Rapporteurs, Mr. M. Gyöngyösi (Hungary) and Mr. J.J. Mwiimbu (Zambia), the Standing Committee had before it amendments to the draft resolution submitted by the delegations of Argentina, Canada, China, Congo, Egypt, France, Germany, India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, the Philippines, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.
At the start of the first sitting, the two co‑Rapporteurs submitted the report and preliminary draft resolution they had drawn up together. Mr. M. Chungong, Director of the IPU Division of Programmes, also made a presentation. In all, 46 speakers from 44 parliaments took the floor. After the debate, the Standing Committee appointed a drafting committee made up of representatives of the following parliaments: Algeria, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Chile, Egypt, South Africa, Switzerland and Uganda. The co‑Rapporteurs took part in the drafting committee’s work in an advisory capacity.
The drafting committee met in the afternoon of 1 April and the morning of 2 April. It appointed Ms. C. Schmidt-Liermann (Argentina) as its president and Mr. L. Ramatlakane (South Africa) as its rapporteur. It examined 95 amendments submitted by 16 delegations and adopted a number of them.
The First Standing Committee considered the summary text in the afternoon of 3 April. Several delegations took the floor to express support for the text and to propose that it be adopted by acclamation. The Standing Committee accepted that proposal and adopted the draft resolution by acclamation. It also endorsed the proposal made by one delegation and its President that the drafting committee rapporteur also report to the Assembly.
The draft resolution was submitted to the Assembly plenary in the afternoon of 5 April and adopted by consensus, reservations having been expressed with regard to the resolution as a whole by one delegation (Venezuela).
(ii) Selection of subject item and co-Rapporteurs for the First Standing Committee at the 128th Assembly
The Bureau met on 3 April with the Committee President in the chair. It examined five proposals submitted by Member Parliaments for the subject item to be debated at the 128th Assembly and heard two delegations wishing to express themselves in greater depth on the subject item proposed.
The Bureau suggested that two subject items be merged and proposed a joint subject item to two delegations. However, one of the delegations having withdrawn, the Standing Committee proposed that the Assembly include on the agenda of the 128th Assembly the subject item initially proposed by the remaining delegation, entitled: The responsibility to protect: The role of parliaments in safeguarding citizens’ lives. The Assembly subsequently approved that subject item and appointed Mr. L. Ramatlakane (South Africa) as a co-Rapporteur. The President and the IPU Secretary General were invited to pursue negotiations on the appointment of a second co-Rapporteur.
(c) Second Standing Committee (Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade)
(i) Redistribution of power, not just wealth: Ownership of the international agendas (Item 5)
The Second Standing Committee held sittings on 2 and 4 April, with its President, Mr. S.E. Alhusseini (Saudi Arabia), in the chair. In addition to reports and a preliminary draft resolution prepared by the co-Rapporteurs, Lord Judd (United Kingdom) and Mr. O. Benabdallah (Morocco), the Committee had before it amendments to the draft resolution submitted by the delegations of Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, Congo, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Japan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Spain, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and Senator Sonia Escudero of Argentina. In addition, the Committee received three amendments from the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians.
A total of 46 speakers took the floor during the plenary debate, after which the Standing Committee appointed a drafting committee composed of representatives of Australia, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ecuador, India, Italy, Mexico, Oman, Philippines, Sudan, United Kingdom and United Republic of Tanzania.
The drafting committee met on 3 April. It appointed Mr. D. Adams (Australia) as its president and Ms. S. Zubin Irani (India) as its rapporteur. It examined 93 amendments to the preliminary draft resolution, adopting some either in full or in part.
In the afternoon of 4 April, the Second Standing Committee examined the consolidated draft resolution and adopted it as a whole without making further changes.
In the afternoon of 5 April, the draft resolution was submitted to the Assembly, which adopted it unanimously.
(ii) Selection of subject item and co-Rapporteurs for the Second Standing Committee at the 128th Assembly
The Bureau of the Second Standing Committee met on 4 April 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 128th Assembly. The Bureau approved the subject item Fair trade and innovative financing mechanisms for sustainable development, which it subsequently submitted to the Second Standing Committee. The Committee agreed with the proposal, which was subsequently approved by the Assembly for inclusion in the agenda of the 128th Assembly. The Assembly appointed Mr. F.-X. de Donnea (Belgium) and Mr. R.K. Chitotela (Zambia) as co-Rapporteurs.
(d) Third Standing Committee (Democracy and Human Rights)
(i) Access to health as a basic right: The role of parliaments in addressing key challenges to securing the health of women and children (Item 6)
The Third Standing Committee held three sittings on 1, 2 and 4 April. The Committee President, Mr. O. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu (Ghana), chaired all three sessions. The Committee had before it a report and preliminary draft resolution prepared by the co-Rapporteurs, Ms. S. Ataullahjan (Canada), Mr. F. Sardinha (India) and Ms. P. Turyahikayo, along with amendments to the draft preliminary resolution submitted by the delegations of Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Congo, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Japan, Netherlands, Philippines, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Venezuela, and by the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians. In all, 52 speakers took the floor.
The Committee designated a drafting committee composed of representatives of Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Chad, Kenya, Uganda, United Kingdom, Sweden, Venezuela and Uruguay. It met on 4 April and began its work by appointing Lord R. Faulkner (United Kingdom) as president and Ms. P. Turyahikayo (Uganda) as rapporteur.
The drafting committee considered the amendments proposed by members and incorporated some of them into the draft resolution. On 4 April, the Third Standing Committee considered the consolidated text of the draft resolution presented by the drafting committee. It adopted the draft resolution by acclamation and without any reservations. The Assembly, meeting in plenary on 5 April, adopted the resolution unanimously.
At its sitting on 4 April, the Third Standing Committee elected its new Bureau.
(ii) Selection of subject item and co-Rapporteurs for the Third Standing Committee at the 128th Assembly
At its sitting on 4 April, the Third Standing Committee agreed to the subject item The use of media, including social media, to advance citizen engagement and democracy suggested by its Bureau for inclusion in the agenda of the 128th Assembly. On 5 April, the Assembly approved the subject item and appointed Ms. C. Charlton (Canada) and Ms. M.T. Kubayi (South Africa) as co-Rapporteurs.
(e) Emergency item
Inter-Parliamentary Union initiative for an immediate halt to the bloodshed and human rights violations in Syria, and the need to ensure access to humanitarian aid for all persons in need and to support implementation of all relevant Arab League and United Nations resolutions and peace efforts (Item 8)
The Assembly referred the emergency item it had adopted on 1 April to a drafting committee composed of representatives of Canada, Egypt, France, India, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. It appointed Mr. N. Evans (United Kingdom) as president and Mr. E. El-Erian (Egypt) as rapporteur. It met on 2 April and drafted a resolution. On 5 April the Assembly adopted the resolution by consensus. The delegations of Chile, Cuba, South Africa, Uganda and Viet Nam expressed reservations on operative paragraph 12, while the Syrian Arab Republic, Islamic Republic of Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Venezuela rejected the entire resolution, which, in their view, was unbalanced.
(f) Presidential Statement on Mali
At the closing session of the Assembly, the President referred to the crisis in Mali, where a military coup d'état had overthrown the legitimate authorities on 22 March 2012. The crisis had worsened in the course of the Assembly and the Executive Committee had approved the text of a presidential statement on the situation in that country. The President read out the statement to the plenary and it was endorsed by the Assembly.