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129th IPU ASSEMBLY
1. Opening of the Assembly
The 129th Assembly opened at the Centre international de Conférences de Genève (CICG) on the morning of Monday, 7 October 2013. The President of the IPU, Mr. Abdelwahad Radi, welcomed the participants and declared the Assembly officially open. He then chaired the Assembly’s deliberations.
In his opening statement, the President, referring to the terrorist attack perpetrated in Kenya and to the Syrian conflict, recalled that the IPU had "always taken an unequivocal stance on all conflicts: only dialogue and negotiation can bring lasting peace". He then referred to the subjects on the agendas of the Assembly’s various bodies, in particular the Committee on United Nations Affairs, which would discuss the recently adopted Arms Trade Treaty and the implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Referring to the Treaty, he said: "[t]his Treaty goes to the very heart of the IPU’s work to further dialogue, peace and cooperation. Parliaments and parliamentarians thus have a particular responsibility to ensure its early entry into force and implementation." Turning to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be defined by the international community beyond 2015, he said: "Since the adoption earlier this year of the Quito Communiqué – a novel communication tool for the IPU – we have been working hard to press for governance to be part of the future SDGs, the successors of the current MDGs. We have been lobbying at the United Nations and other international forums on the post-2015 development agenda for democratic governance to be a stand-alone goal and to permeate all the other SDGs. Just two weeks ago, at the United Nations, Heads of State issued a declaration […] pledging to discuss democratic governance in the new development framework. We said loud and clear that mere talk will not do this time. Governments will need to agree a goal with clear targets and measurable indicators." President Radi concluded by remarking that, in order to improve the way the IPU functioned, the Assembly would be voting on a series of amendments to the Statutes and Rules.
Delegations from the parliaments of the following 132 countries took part in the work of the Assembly: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Turkey, 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 Arab Parliament, the East African Legislative Assembly, the European Parliament, the Inter-Parliamentary Committee of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Latin American Parliament and the Parliament of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC).
Observers comprised representatives of: (i) the United Nations system: the United Nations, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Women, International Labour Office (ILO), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank, Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), World Trade Organization (WTO); (ii) African Union; (iii) African Parliamentary Union (APU), Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union (AIPU), Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA), Association of Senates, Shoora and Equivalent Councils in Africa and the Arab World (ASSECAA), Inter‑Parliamentary Assembly of the Eurasian Economic Community (EURASEC), 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 Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE PA), Parliamentary Assembly of the Turkic-Speaking Countries (TURKPA), Parliamentary Assembly of the Union of Belarus and the Russian Federation, Parliamentary Union of the OIC Member States (PUIC); (iv) Socialist International; and (v) Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH).
Of the 1,191 delegates who attended the Assembly, 539 were members of national parliaments. The parliamentarians included 40 presiding officers, 36 deputy presiding officers and 168 women (31.2%).
3. Choice of an emergency item
On 7 October, the President informed the Assembly that the following eight requests had been received for the inclusion of an emergency item:
The delegations of France, Haiti, Kenya and Mexico decided to withdraw their proposals. Following a roll-call vote, the item put forward by Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden was adopted and added to the agenda as Item 6.
4. Debates and decisions of the Assembly and of the IPU Committee on United Nations Affairs
(a) Debate on the emergency item
The role of parliaments in supervising the destruction of chemical weapons and the ban on their use (Item 6)The debate on the emergency item was held in the morning of Tuesday, 8 October, with the President of the 129th Assembly and of the IPU, Mr. A. Radi, in the Chair.
The debate was preceded by a brief introduction by the delegation of Finland, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries that had submitted the draft resolution deploring and condemning the established use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic. That incident confirmed that there continued to exist stockpiles of chemical weapons that some parties were willing to employ and had prompted the delegations from the Nordic countries to ask the following question: What could parliaments do to support and guarantee the goals of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention), and to completely eliminate chemical weapons?
Thirty speakers took the floor during the debate. They underscored the importance of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which enjoyed quasi universal support; it had been ratified by 189 States Parties, whose combined populations accounted for 98 per cent of the world’s people. With regard to the draft resolution, some delegations expressed reservations about preambular paragraph 7, which referred to the IPU resolution entitled Enforcing the responsibility to protect: The role of parliament in safeguarding civilians’ lives.
The Assembly referred the emergency item to a drafting committee made up of representatives of Belarus, Burkina Faso, Finland, Germany, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Uruguay and Zambia.
The drafting committee appointed Ms. M. Lohela (Finland) as its chair and rapporteur. It met on 8 October to finalize the draft resolution.
At its last sitting on 9 October, the Assembly adopted the resolution by consensus. The delegations of Algeria, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Lebanon, Nicaragua, Palestine, Peru, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic and Venezuela expressed reservations on preambular paragraph 7. In their view, the concept of responsibility to protect was not clearly defined, leaving the door open to interference in the internal affairs of other States, selective and abusive implementation, and violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States.
(b) Panel discussion (First Standing Committee subject item at 130th Assembly):
Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: The contribution of parliaments (Item 3(a))The panel discussion was held in the afternoon of 8 October 2013, with the President of the First Standing Committee, Mr. S.H. Chowdhury (Bangladesh), in the Chair.
Before starting the discussion, the participants watched a documentary on the history of the nuclear arms race made available by the delegation of Kazakhstan and providing a clear presentation of the subject. The documentary was followed by keynote addresses by the Ambassador of Costa Rica, Mr. M. Dengo, Chairperson of the Open-ended Working Group on Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations, Baroness Miller, a member of the House of Lords, and Mr. A. Ware, Global Coordinator of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND). Lastly, the co-Rapporteurs, Ms. Y. Ferrer Gómez (Cuba) and Mr. B. Calkins (Canada), presented their draft reports, which focused on the dangers of nuclear weapons and the need for parliamentarians to make sure that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was applied so as to ensure general and comprehensive nuclear disarmament in the long term.
Taken together, the presentations provided an accurate picture for the ensuing debate on the need to work towards nuclear disarmament, given the obvious health and security risks involved. Delegates from 31 parliaments and one Observer organization took the floor. With very few exceptions, they underscored that, despite the international commitments made, nuclear weapons continued to proliferate and several countries were pursuing, strengthening and even modernizing military nuclear programmes. Some delegates pointed out that countries that had previously possessed nuclear weapons had got rid of them, showing that it was possible to dismantle nuclear arsenals. The establishment of denuclearized zones, covering a country or a region, was among the best practices to be encouraged. Several speakers reaffirmed that only determined political will would prompt military powers worldwide to control, limit and reduce their nuclear arsenals, and that the fact that negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament had been blocked for over 10 years showed that such determination was lacking.
Some speakers pointed out that it was perfectly possible to produce nuclear energy under controlled conditions and for non-military purposes, and that, in any event, States had to work as transparently as possible with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in particular to ensure that nuclear weapons did not end up in the hands of terrorist organizations. It was also crucial to protect the planet and shield future generations. The participants highlighted the health implications of using nuclear energy, whether for military or civilian purposes. They also considered the financial aspect of a nuclear policy. The participants outlined the economic argument against the development of arsenals, especially in the current period of crisis, which they considered as wasteful given that funds were needed to finance the MDGs and the future SDGs.
When it came to the role of parliaments, many delegates gave examples of best practices and suggested ways in which parliamentarians could advance global nuclear disarmament. They all agreed that the IPU-PNND Handbook entitled Supporting Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament was one of the best instruments they had at their disposal. They also stressed the need for concerted action and proposed that it be organized within the IPU. In conclusion, they emphasized the need to resume negotiations and asked parliamentarians to exert pressure on their respective governments to sign the NPT and to pledge, for their part, to ratify it.
(c) Panel discussion (Second Standing Committee subject item at 130th Assembly):
Towards risk-resilient development: Taking into consideration demographic trends and natural constraints (Item 3(b))The panel discussion took place in the afternoon of 7 October, with Mr. R. León (Chile), President of the Standing Committee, in the Chair. For a part of the session, he was replaced in the Chair by Mr. F. Bustamante (Ecuador), a member of the Standing Committee Bureau.
The two co-Rapporteurs appointed at the 128th Assembly, Mr. P. Mahoux (Belgium) and Mr. S.H. Chowdhury (Bangladesh), presented their joint background note. Ms. M. Wahlström, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, and Ms. M. Temmerman, Director of the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at the World Health Organization (WHO), renowned experts in the fields of disaster risk reduction and reproductive health, respectively, provided additional insight. Those introductory statements were followed by an exchange of views, with a total of 34 delegates from 32 countries taking the floor.
The background note prepared by the co‑Rapporteurs offered a broad overall framework for the debate on the need for sustainable patterns of production and consumption and for action on population dynamics. Within this broad context, the co-Rapporteurs paid particular attention to the cost-effectiveness of policies governing risk preparedness and response, reproductive and sexual health and the promotion of access to family planning services, and to the need for disaster risk reduction to be mainstreamed into overall development planning, policy and programmes.
The ensuing discussion focused on disaster risk reduction and how population growth, inadequate planning, unpredictable weather and climate change patterns, and urban development heightened the risk of disasters. The delegates made a number of proposals concerning issues that the future draft resolution should address, including the question of political responsibility for risk governance, the importance of gender-sensitive risk-resilient policies, the role of local governments, and the need for formal and informal education at all levels.
The panel discussion also recalled that parliaments had an important role to play in fostering the sustainable development agenda that would be agreed by the international community in 2015. It drew particular attention to the concept that a holistic approach to development was needed – one that strengthened vital synergies between development economics, social protection and democracy – if sustainable development was to be successful and deliver results.
(d) Panel discussion (Third Standing Committee subject item at 130th Assembly):
The role of parliaments in protecting the rights of children, in particular unaccompanied migrant children, and in preventing their exploitation in situations of war and conflict (Item 3(c))The panel discussion took place in the morning of 8 October, with Mr. O. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu (Ghana), President of the Standing Committee, in the Chair. The two co-Rapporteurs appointed at the 128th Assembly, Ms. G. Cuevas (Mexico) and Ms. J. Nassif (Bahrain), presented their background papers on the subject.
Two experts also made introductory statements. Ms. L. Aubin, Coordinator of the Global Protection Cluster led by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), provided an overview of the risks faced by children on the move. She underlined how important it was to ensure that children had proper documentation, starting with birth records. An integrated national child protection system and child-friendly migration and asylum policies were other key tools for reducing the vulnerability of children. Professor M. Mattar, Executive Director of the Protection Project based at The Johns Hopkins University, presented a model law on child protection developed through extensive research into national legislation and expert consultation. He proposed constitutional protection for vulnerable children as a good starting point for addressing the issues, and called on parliaments to review existing legal mechanisms in order to identify gaps in implementation or coverage.
These introductory statements were followed by an exchange of views, with 43 delegates taking the floor. Many delegates referred to the vulnerability of children who had been displaced by conflict, for example in the Syrian Arab Republic. Such children often lacked access to basic rights, such as education, and were at greater risk of physical and sexual abuse. Many delegates also highlighted the risks faced by children migrating between countries. Migrant children might not be accompanied or might become separated from their parents, exposing them to a variety of dangers and preventing them from fulfilling their potential. Many parliaments had enacted child protection laws, but their implementation remained a challenge.
Adequate funding for implementation and suitable training in child protection issues for law enforcement agencies were just two of the issues highlighted. The participants showed that they had the political resolve to bring about an appropriate parliamentary response to the challenges.
(e) Report of the IPU Committee on United Nations Affairs (Item 4)
The Committee on United Nations Affairs met in Geneva on 7 and 9 October, with three full sittings devoted to cooperation at the national level between parliaments and UN country teams, the implementation of major commitments in the area of arms control, and the human rights of vulnerable groups.
All three sittings enjoyed strong and active participation by IPU Members and benefited from valuable input provided by senior UN officials. These included the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Mr. G. Acharya, the UNDP Resident Coordinator in Burkina Faso, Mr. P. Karorero, the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Disarmament, Mr. J. Sareva, and experts from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). A number of ambassadors leading important UN processes also contributed to the discussions: Ambassador J.M. Ehouzou of Benin, in his capacity as Representative of the African Union to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Ambassador P. Woolcott of Australia, who had served as President of the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, Ambassador Oh Joon of the Republic of Korea, in his capacity as Chair of the UN Security Council 1540 Committee, and Ambassador L. Gallegos of Ecuador, who had spearheaded negotiations on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Committee also welcomed the substantive contributions of a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and leading academic institutions, including Amnesty International, the World Future Council, New York University and the Verification, Research, Training and Information Centre (VERTIC). Through their expertise and field work, many of those organizations not only provided parliamentarians with information and analysis, they also forged a valuable link between citizens and parliamentarians and could serve as an engine for progress and change.
The outcome of the Committee’s deliberations, which included a number of findings and recommendations for follow-up action by the IPU and its Member Parliaments, was presented to the Assembly at its closing sitting in the afternoon of 9 October. At that time, the Committee President, Mr. M. Traoré (Burkina Faso), set forth a number of proposals to bridge existing gaps and further enhance interaction between national parliaments and UN country teams, including in terms of implementing international commitments such as the 2011 Istanbul Programme of Action.
Mr. E. Ethuro, President of the Senate of Kenya, after referring to the devastation caused by the unregulated flow of conventional weapons in his country and throughout Africa, firmly urged all parliaments to give due consideration to and lend their support for the enforcement of major arms control and non-proliferation instruments, including the newly adopted Arms Trade Treaty and Security Council resolution 1540.
Mr. M. Tomassoni (San Marino) and Mr. D. Sánchez Heredia (Bolivia), speaking on behalf of parliamentarians with disabilities and indigenous peoples, respectively, presented the outcome of the Committee’s session on defending the rights of vulnerable groups and urged all parliamentarians to take the action needed for the relevant international commitments to be translated into national realities.
In tandem with the Assembly, the Advisory Group of the Committee on United Nations Affairs also met on 8 October, to review the status of IPU reform, in particular from the perspective of the Committee’s transformation into the fourth IPU Standing Committee. This would mean that, as of March 2014, the Committee would have its own expanded Bureau, which in turn would replace the current Advisory Group. Several members of the Advisory Group expressed an interest in continuing to support the Committee’s work and encouraged other colleagues to do likewise. The Advisory Group decided to meet again on 15 November in New York, on the occasion of the annual Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations. Among other things, it would then discuss future operational activities, including a possible field mission to Uruguay in early 2014.
(f) Presidential Statement on the terrorist attack in Kenya
At the closing sitting of the Assembly, the President read out a statement expressing deep concern at the recent terrorist act on Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, and extending the sympathy of the IPU and its Members to the Parliament and people of Kenya in the face of that national tragedy. The statement also expressed deep concern at the rise in terrorist acts plaguing Kenya and other East African countries, and strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms. The Assembly endorsed the statement.
5. Amendments to the Statutes and Rules
During its last sitting on Wednesday, 9 October, and in keeping with Article 28.3 of the Statutes, the Assembly unanimously approved a set of amendments to the Statutes relating to the new format of the IPU Assemblies, the functioning of the Standing Committees and their Bureaux, and the status of the IPU Committee on United Nations Affairs. In so doing, the Assembly followed the favourable opinion expressed by the Governing Council concerning the proposed amendments to the Statutes. On the same occasion, the Assembly approved a set of related amendments to its own Rules.