03 OCTOBER 2017
Participants at the parliamentary session, WTO Public Forum. © IPU/A. Afouda
Although many countries and people have benefited from global trade, work still remains to be done to make sure that these benefits are equally distributed and that no one is left behind. How can parliaments ensure this?
To look at how parliaments can contribute to more sustainable trade, the IPU and the European Parliament organized a parliamentary session during the 2017 World Trade Organization (WTO) Public Forum on 26 September. The session—which took place in the framework of the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO (PCWTO)—focused on “Making trade fair: The contribution of parliaments”.
The parliamentary session was part of a series of interactive debates that allowed parliamentarians to interact with government officials, civil society representatives, the private sector and other stakeholders. Speakers included Malik Pervez, Minister of Commerce and Textiles of Pakistan; Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); Joseph Hyacinthe Owona Kono, an MP from Cameroon; Helmut Scholz, a Member of the European Parliament; and Sergi Corbalán, Executive Director of Fair Trade Advocacy.
Participants discussed the concrete actions parliaments could take to make global trade more sustainable, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals; reversing the growing mistrust of global trade that is fuelling populism; and making sure that trade can help respond to the major challenges facing economies, such as poverty and climate change. They emphasized the importance of a common understanding of fair trade and political commitment on the part of politicians to make fair trade a reality.
On 27 September, the Steering Committee of the PCWTO convened at IPU Headquarters to discuss preparations and possible outcomes for the 2017 Parliamentary Conference on the WTO, to be held in Buenos Aires during the WTO Ministerial Conference on 10-13 December.
29 SEPTEMBER 2017
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister Abdel Malik Al-Mikhlafi. © IPU/Jorky
Yemen’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Abdel Malik Al-Mikhlafi, visited IPU HQ on 25 September. He met with IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong with whom he discussed the current situation in Yemen. The SG briefed him on the Organization‘s efforts to mobilize more resources for humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people. The Organization was also working to promote dialogue within the Yemeni parliament to help it forge a unified response to the challenges facing Yemen.
“I urge the Yemeni Parliament to form a united front in defence of the Yemeni people. The Yemeni people need and deserve this”, said Mr. Chungong.
Mr. Al-Mikhlafi expressed his appreciation for the efforts of some parliaments to pressure their governments to increase humanitarian assistance to Yemen, a direct result of an emergency item emergency item on the famine in Yemen and parts of Africa adopted at the last IPU Assembly in April this year. The Deputy Prime Minister pledged his government's commitment to allowing humanitarian access to all Yemenis irrespective of their political allegiance.
The problem in Yemen, Mr. Al-Mikhlafi said, was one of legitimacy, which should soon be resolved once the parliament is convened in Aden in late October. He stressed that the first session would be open to all members of parliament who had been elected in 2003, regardless of their political affiliation. The question of the parliament’s status within the IPU would thus be resolved and the IPU would no longer have to deal with two factions but a single legitimate institution.
28 SEPTEMBER 2017
Women MPs attending seminar on legislative drafting. © Ibrahima Niane
The IPU held a seminar for the Parliament of Benin to help strengthen the legislative drafting capacity of parliamentary staff and Members of Parliament. The seminar, attended by about 40 staff, took place on 26 and 27 September 2017. It was followed by an information session for Members of Parliament on 28 September at the National Assembly in Porto-Novo.
The seminar was given by Ibrahima Niane, Parliamentary Law and Practice Consultant and formerly head of the legislative services of the National Assembly of Senegal, and Alphonse Nombre, MP and former Secretary General of the National Assembly of Burkina Faso. This approach is in line with the IPU’s encouragement of peer-to-peer support and exchanges between national parliaments.
Participants learned about the process of drafting legislation and amendments: identifying the problem to be resolved, researching the subject and reconciling divergent positions. They practiced drafting legislation and amendments, taking into account the need for clarity, cohesion and accessibility of language.
The IPU organized the seminar in response to a request from the National Assembly of Benin, and it took place within the framework of the Common Principles of Support to Parliament, to which Benin signed up in January 2016 and the National Assembly's strategic plan issued in 2016.
28 SEPTEMBER 2017
Participants working in groups at the seminar. ©IPU/M. Duarte Mutzenberg
Women account for one third of the Members in Tanzania’s National Assembly, making it one of the global leaders in women’s representation. The Tanzania Women’s Parliamentary Group, a women’s parliamentary caucus, is working with the IPU on advancing gender equality through the work of the National Assembly.
As part of this partnership, the IPU organized two events in Dodoma in September. The first was a workshop to develop a mentorship programme for women MPs. The s second event was a parliamentary seminar on implementing the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
As most Tanzanian women MPs are newcomers, mentoring is a particularly effective way to build capacity through the support of more experienced MPs. The activity aims to support new women parliamentarians in developing their own network and in strengthening their knowledge and skills as MPs.
The workshop concluded that the mentoring programme should include parliamentary, party and constituency work. Monicah Amoding, the Chair of the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA), said that the UWOPA also involved male colleagues, an idea that TWPG said it would follow up on. Participants agreed to start a pilot project for six months with 20 women MPs as mentees and 20 mentors.
The parliamentary seminar on the implementation of CEDAW aimed to sensitize MPs on the principles and commitments of gender equality, and to take stock of how Tanzania was doing on these commitments. It also aimed to help the National Assembly identify its own strategies with respect to CEDAW implementation, by applying the IPU gender-sensitive parliament framework and assessment methodology.
Margaret S. Sitta, Chairperson of TWPG, who opened the meeting, stressed the importance of CEDAW as a powerful mechanism for enforcing women’s rights, facilitating their empowerment and promoting gender balance. The meeting was also addressed by the Ministers of Gender (Mainland and Zanzibar), the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, a member of the CEDAW Committee, Hilary Gbedemah from Ghana, and a member of the Ugandan Parliament, Winifred Masiko.
Participants pointed out that although Tanzania had done a lot of work on gender equality, much still remained to be done. For example, the Law of Marriage Act, 1979, discriminates against girls: boys have to be 18 before they can be married, whereas girls can be married off at a younger age. The importance of sexual and reproductive education for children was also emphasized.
Recommendations from the thematic group discussions included setting up a system that would ensure that gender issues are taken into account in bills, policies, guidelines and laws; learning from best practices of other parliaments, including through setting up a parliamentary committee on gender equality; and having gender-balanced committees.
25 SEPTEMBER 2017
African and Asian MPs meet to discuss the implementation of SDGs. © IPU/I. Obadiaru
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide parliaments with a plan of action towards coherent and inclusive development. To foster interregional exchanges between African and Asian parliaments, the IPU and China’s National People’s Congress organized a seminar in Beijing from 5 to 7 September. Participants included parliamentarians from Benin, Cameroon, China, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Laos and Viet Nam; and experts from research institutes and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The seminar aimed to reinforce South-South development cooperation on SDGs, with special emphasis on climate change, and agricultural and industrial modernization, as critical preconditions for achieving the goals. The seminar was an important platform for parliamentarians to share experiences and reflect on concrete strategies, actions and recommendations to advance parliamentary engagement on, and reinforce its oversight of, the implementation of the SDGs.
Participants agreed that climate change was an issue caused by progress that needed an innovative and sustainable development approach that took into account low-carbon initiatives and the use of renewable energies. They stressed the importance of interregional and global parliamentary cooperation to tackle climate change.
Participants shared their experiences and challenges on engaging with the SDGs and debated on the importance of strengthening the rule of law; building effective, accountable, inclusive and transparent institutions; and improving public participation.
In a message to the seminar, Zhang Dejiang, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, said: “We live in a world full of challenges. We have to find new engines of growth, ensure that development is more inclusive and more equal, and reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. Accelerating development and improving people's living conditions is the mission for developing countries.”
“South-South cooperation is an essential component in the fight against climate change”, said IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong. He went on to say that: “The sharing and transfer of experiences, knowledge, and of joint research in different sectors (for example, agriculture, technology, science) are also highly recommended as they impact substantially the process of poverty reduction and the implementation of Agenda 2030. As a leading country in these fields, China has the responsibility to facilitate and strengthen inclusive cooperation to be able to establish a sustainable model of development.”
The seminar was followed by a field trip to familiarize the parliamentarians with Chinese climate change mitigation models and developments in technology.
The Interregional Seminar on Parliamentary Capacity Building and the further Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals is the second in a series of IPU regional seminars in China aimed at advancing the work and contribution of parliaments to the SDGs.
20 SEPTEMBER 2017
It is vital to involve young people in decision-making at all levels. © Reuters/Finbarr O’Reilly
In Africa, young people under 30 make up approximately 70 per cent of the population. Yet IPU research shows they make up less than 1.5 per cent of all MPs. Although this is often due to perceptions such as a lack of experience, a more concrete barrier in many African countries is the age limit for holding elected office.
For democracy to be effective, decision-making must be inclusive. Involving young people gives them a sense of ownership of public affairs and strengthens public policy. To galvanize action for youth political participation, the IPU and the Parliament of Nigeria convened the Regional Conference of Young Parliamentarians of Africa, the first of its kind, on 27 and 28 September in Abuja, Nigeria.
Young MPs at the conference will come together to find solutions to the obstacles preventing youth participation in Africa. Participants will also look at the link between political participation and the prevention of violent extremism.
The conference aims to empower young Africans through legislative reforms and to enhance partnerships between MPs and young people. This is particularly important as young people do engage with politics but often not through formal channels, which means that there is a lack of engagement in the processes and institutions responsible for their own development. However, young people are not only tomorrow’s leaders, they are leaders and stakeholders of today and it is vital to involve them in decision-making at all levels now.
Registration is still open! If you would like to participate, please send us your information as soon as possible, at the latest by Friday this week (22 September). For more details and to download the registration form, go to http://www.ipu.org/splz-e/abuja17.htm.
14 SEPTEMBER 2017
The IPU is concerned about the forced displacement of the Rohingya people. ©Citizenside/Parvez Ahmad/Citizenside
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is gravely concerned about the continuing violence, intimidation and forced displacement of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
Reports of documented widespread cruelty against Rohingya children, women and men and the ensuing massive exodus into neighbouring Bangladesh are very disconcerting. The IPU is particularly worried about the dire conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh.
In a joint statement, the President, Saber Chowdhury, and Secretary General, Martin Chungong, condemn these human rights violations and stress the Myanmar State authorities’ responsibility to protect all the people living in the country. They call for an end to the violence and the immediate start of a dialogue to ensure that more lives are not lost or people displaced. They further ask that the parliament of Myanmar, a member of the IPU, make every effort to help bring this crisis to an end.
31 AUGUST 2017
We are gearing up for the International Day of Democracy. © S_K_S (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Marking the 2017 International Day of Democracy (IDD) on 15 September, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is celebrating two important milestones: the 10th anniversary of the IDD and the 20th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Democracy. The IPU has placed this year’s IDD under the banner of “In defence of democracy”.
At the IPU, we are gearing up for IDD. We will be hosting holding two events on 15 September, one in Geneva on the current state of democracy and one in New York on putting the core values set out in the Universal Declaration into practice. We are also making available resources such as posters, videos and an exhibition that you can download and use.
Many parliaments will be hosting their own celebrations. You can find selected events on our website.
On 8 September, we will be launching an online petition in support of stronger democracies. The petition will be presented to political leaders from 173 parliaments and the United Nations.
Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to find out how you can sign the petition and for information on the IDD.
30 AUGUST 2017
The Chief Librarian of the Zambia’s National Assembly presenting a paper on digital repositories. © IPU/ Laurence Marzal
The IPU provides technical support to parliaments, including on information and communication technology (ICT) projects. Over the last few months, the IPU has worked with the Parliaments of Sri Lanka, Zambia and Vanuatu to set up digital repositories for their respective parliamentary libraries. The projects encourage parliamentary staff to transfer their newly acquired knowledge to other parliaments.
As part of this, the Chief Librarian of the Zambia’s National Assembly presented a paper on digital repositories to parliamentary librarians from 42 countries at the 33rd IFLAPARL Pre-Conference. The event, which was organized by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) on 15-18 August 2017 in Warsaw, aimed to allow parliamentary librarians to share their experiences. The IFLA also organized training for the librarians before and after the event.
Two staff members of the Vanuatu Parliament also took part in the pre-conference and the training programme. The IPU has been working with the Parliament of Vanuatu to plan strategically its IT modernisation with a focus on strengthening digital storage to help preserve institutional digital assets.
The support provided by the IPU to these parliaments has led to cooperation between them. For example, after the completion of a technical support mission to Sri Lanka, the Assistant Librarian of the Sri Lankan Parliament participated in an IPU mission to enhance the digital library of the National Assembly of Zambia. This peer-to-peer support was beneficial for the National Assembly of Zambia as well as the Parliament of Sri Lanka, which was able to enrich its own knowledge with comparative experiences. In turn, the Chief Librarian of the National Assembly of Zambia passed on her expertise to parliamentary librarians, including from Vanuatu, at the IFLA pre-conference.
The IPU hopes to replicate this experience-sharing in future projects.
The cooperation between parliaments is not only building partnerships but changing the way effective parliamentary support is conceived.
23 AUGUST 2017
The IPU condemns the military lockdown of the Maldives Parliament. © Natalia Seliverstova/Sputnik
The IPU condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the military’s interference in the business of the Maldives Parliament. The IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and the IPU President Saber Chowdhury have called for calm and for the Parliament to be allowed to carry out its functions without intimidation.
On 22 August, the military in Maldives locked down the Parliament in what appears to have been yet another attempt to block a motion to impeach the Speaker of the House. MPs were reportedly prevented from entering the chamber, and when they were finally allowed in, the Speaker closed the session before they could raise the motion.
This is the third time this year that the military has prevented Parliament from considering a motion to impeach the Speaker by locking down the premises. There have also been increasing concerns at alleged violations of the rights of opposition MPs. The IPU Secretary General confirmed today that he intended to bring this matter before the IPU governing bodies when they meet in St Petersburg in October.
11 AUGUST 2017
The IPU supports measures to increase the numbers of young MPs worldwide. © UK Parliament
Data from the IPU shows the worrisome lack of representation of young people in parliaments. To commemorate International Youth Day 2017 (12 August), the IPU asked young MPs worldwide to share their views on how to increase youth engagement in politics.
We are sharing these views through a social media campaign on Twitter and Facebook. Young MPs provide examples of how they have reached out to youth in their communities, and ensured that their concerns and actions are integrated into parliamentary debates. This campaign is part of the IPU’s work in helping to increase the number of young MPs in parliaments worldwide. This year also marks the 20th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Democracy (UDD), adopted by IPU Member Parliaments in September 1997. Young MPs have played a pivotal role in advancing its principles.
IPU data from the 2016 Report on Youth Participation in National Parliaments shows that although those under 30 years of age make up half the world population, the number of parliamentarians in that age group is below 2 per cent. IPU data also shows that there are no MPs aged under 30 in nearly one-third of the world’s single and lower houses of parliament. In 73 per cent of countries, someone who is old enough to vote is not old enough to run for public office.
To address this, the IPU is promoting measures to increase the numbers of young MPs and empower youth to have more of an impact on parliamentary work. An example of this is through the Not Too Young to Run campaign, which the IPU launched with the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and other partners in 2016. The IPU also provides platforms for young MPs to become engaged in global youth issues and coordinate action, such as the IPU Forum of Young Parliamentarians, and the Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians. The next Global Conference will take place in Ottawa, Canada on 17-18 November 2017.
09 AUGUST 2017
Participants at the seminar. © Amanda Riley
The IPU presented a “sneak preview” of the forthcoming Global Parliamentary Report (GPR) on parliamentary oversight to a group of scholars and parliamentarians at a two-day workshop in Wroxton College, United Kingdom. The GPR will be co-published by the IPU and the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) and presented at the 137th IPU Assembly in October 2017. The IPU also presented its work on strengthening parliaments.
The Thirteenth Workshop of Parliamentary Scholars and Parliamentarians took place from 29 to 30 July. It is part of a series of workshops held every two years. The workshops are co-sponsored by the IPU and the Centre for Legislative Studies at the University of Hull. At the workshops, researchers share findings that would be of practical use to parliamentarians.
Participants from over 20 countries attended the workshop, including MPs and parliamentary staff from Argentina, Bahrain, Benin, Cambodia, Greece, Kenya, Madagascar, Mongolia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Portugal, Turkey and Zambia. Among the topics discussed were the challenges of strengthening legislatures, public engagement in parliaments, corruption in legislatures and capacity building.
04 AUGUST 2017
Speakers at the seminar in Bamako. © IPU/I. Obadiaru
Malian MPs from across all political parties gathered at an IPU seminar in Bamako, Mali, to discuss their role in advancing gender equality and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The seminar, which was co-organized with the Parliament of Mali, took place on 25 and 26 July.
It aimed to sensitize Malian MPs to their role in promoting the SDGs and gender equality and to help them to identify strategies to better integrate these two issues into public policies and laws. Among the subjects discussed were: the role of parliaments in realizing the SDGs; the empowerment of women; gender equality as a key factor in the realization of the SDGs; and access to quality health services for all, especially women and children.
On the second day, participants broke up into groups to discuss, among other things, parliamentary mechanisms that would allow MPs to discuss issues related to the SDGs; the oversight role of parliamentary commissions; how best to connect with citizens, civil society representatives and academics; the mechanisms for integrating gender equality in the work of the Parliament; and opportunities to play a leadership role in the region in SDGs and gender equality. Mr. Amadou Cissé, President of the Committee on the SDGs and Vice-President of the IPU Standing Committee on Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade, and Mr. Maleye Diop, UNDP Mali, presented the IPU’s self-assessment toolkit on SDGs.
In the outcome document, the Parliament said it would help to achieve the SDGs through oversight and budget allocation; effective communication on the goals with citizens; by mainstreaming gender in its structures, promoting women’s participation in decision-making posts, sensitizing men and boys to gender-based violence; and by ensuring budget lines for the delivery of basic health services.
03 AUGUST 2017
MPs at the Hearing, 26 July. © IPU/A. Motter
Migration is one of the biggest challenges in recent years, transcending questions of sustainable development, human rights, peace and security. In September 2016, the UN General Assembly hosted a High-Level Summit during which Member States committed to negotiating a “Global Compact on Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration”. The IPU is closely following this process, which will conclude with a major conference in September 2018.
As part of the negotiating process, the IPU facilitated the participation of a group of 17 MPs from 11 parliaments in two meetings at UN Headquarters from 24 to 26 July that allowed them to contribute to the process: a thematic session primarily on the economic aspects of migration, led by governmental representatives, and a multistakeholder hearing designed to allow parliamentarians, civil society representatives, academics and other experts to review the main issues that may be part of the global compact. The meetings underlined the complexity of the migrant experience both for countries of origin and destination, and the need for global cooperation as the only way to achieve the agreed objective of making migration a choice, rather than a necessity.
Particularly active among the group of MPs were Mr. Georgios Psychogios (Greece), Senator Ekwee Ethuro (Kenya), Ms Maria Teresa Morais (Portugal), Mr. Aytug Atici (Turkey), Mr. Lars Castellucci (Germany) and Mr. Komakech Lyandro (Uganda), all of whom provided comments and questions in response to the various panels. Their interventions underscored the salience of this issue to different national contexts. At the close of the meeting, the President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson, and the co-facilitator, Ambassador José Gomez-Camacho, acknowledged the contribution of parliamentarians and the IPU and encouraged them to continue to engage in the process.
More consultations on specific topics are on the calendar this year, which will culminate with a stocktaking meeting in Mexico from 4 to 6 December. In addition to contributing to some of these consultations, the IPU will work with the President of the General Assembly to organize a Parliamentary Hearing on migration in February 2018, just weeks before the start of negotiations of the global compact.
28 JULY 2017
Members of the Opposition clash with security forces. ©Efron Diaz
Both the IPU President and Secretary General have expressed serious concern about the continuing violence and bloodshed in Venezuela. The situation escalated further as Venezuelan President Maduro decided to go ahead with the vote on 30 July to elect a Constituent Assembly to redraft the country’s Constitution. The IPU condemns any attempts to undermine the National Assembly in Venezuela.
In the interest of peace, the IPU calls on the authorities to reconsider the 30 July vote. "As the country is increasingly falling apart, the vote on Sunday can only further damage the prospects of finding a peaceful solution to the current crisis”, said IPU President Saber Chowdhury.
MPs have been increasingly targeted and have not been allowed to carry out their functions, a situation that is inadmissible. No effort should be spared in finding a peaceful solution.
"We regret that the Venezuelan Government has not seen it fit to take up the IPU’s offer of mediation,” said Martin Chungong. “The IPU’s offer nevertheless is still available in a bid to help resolve the crisis with the cooperation of all sides.”
28 JULY 2017
Participants at the workshops in Lusaka. © Edmund Balnaves
The IPU has been assisting the National Assembly of Zambia develop a digital library to improve information management and sharing with MPs and the public. As part of this ongoing work, the IPU just completed a technical support mission to Lusaka.
During the mission, workshops were held for parliamentary staff to resolve technical issues and enhance the library’s digital interface. The workshops also bolstered the process for submitting documents to the library.
The workshops strengthened staff ability to drive and sustain the continued development of the digital library and position the National Assembly of Zambia as a regional leader in the field. A roadmap was produced, setting out next steps before the digital library’s official launch to parliamentarians.
The mission, which followed up from an earlier one in June 2016 to help staff design the new system, was carried out in accordance with the Common Principles for Support to Parliaments which Zambia endorsed in 2015.
25 JULY 2017
The panel at the side event, Democratic Accountability for Gender Equality. © IPU/A. Motter
A record number of MPs from 36 parliaments participated in the 2017 High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on sustainable development, from 10 to 19 July, in New York. The HLPF is the platform where governments and other stakeholders, including parliaments can monitor progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This year, 44 countries presented national progress reports.
In his address to the HLPF, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong noted that the Dhaka Communiqué from the 136th IPU Assembly on Redressing inequalities: Delivering on dignity and well-being for all was a fitting political contribution to this year’s HLPF, whose main debate was on poverty eradication. He pointed out that the Communiqué’s “real sub-text is that poverty and attendant inequalities are not an economic problem, strictly speaking: they are a political problem requiring a political solution.” After noting that economic growth alone will not suffice to reduce inequality, Mr. Chungong said, “What is needed most urgently is a pro-active effort at redistribution—of wealth, and with that, of power—which can only happen if parliaments and indeed all other decision-making centres at national and global levels represent more effectively all people in our societies, including the poor and the marginalized.”
On 17 July, the IPU organized a side event for parliamentarians attending the HLPF. It was an opportunity to review parliamentary action on the SDGs and exchange experiences on oversight practices and legislation. The discussion revealed growing awareness of the SDGs in parliaments worldwide. Many parliaments are retooling, establishing structures and processes to mainstream the SDGs. MPs noted that the interconnected nature of the SDGs requires an all-of-parliament approach to overcome silos and a multi-perspective review of every issue. Institutionalizing the SDGs in parliament requires engaging all members, not just those of committees focused on development. Mr. Anti Avsan, President of the IPU Committee on UN Affairs, encouraged all parliaments to carry out self-assessments using the IPU-UNDP toolkit.
Despite growing parliamentary presence at the HLPF, an IPU survey conducted in the run-up to the 2017 session shows that only nine parliaments out of 44 were consulted to some degree in the preparation of national reports, suggesting that their ownership has yet to fully filter to the parliamentary level.
A second side event, Democratic Accountability for Gender Equality in Service Delivery and Poverty Eradication, took place on 18 July. It was co-organized with the Mission of Peru to the United Nations, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO). In his address to this forum, Mr. Chungong stressed that “Gender equality is not an add-on element when it comes to combatting socio-economic inequalities and poverty, or ensuring universal access to basic services. Gender equality is a sine qua non for achieving progress in all these areas.” Participants discussed the practical instruments and analytical tools essential to achieve the gender equality goal of the SDGs (Goal 5) at the country level.
Also on 18 July, Every Woman Every Child (EWEC) launched its 2017 Progress Report. IPU President Saber Chowdhury, a member of the EWEC High-Level Steering Group, noted that: “Parliaments have a key role to play to unlock and leverage the full potential of women, children and adolescents. They are the bridge between citizens and their government.”
For complete coverage, watch the IPU press conference at the UN with Saber Chowdhury, Martin Chungong and Petra Bayr, MP, National Council of Austria.
24 JULY 2017
Protesters argue with security forces outside parliament in Male. ©STR/AFP
The IPU is extremely concerned about the worsening political situation in the Maldives and the undue interference in the parliament’s work. The Organization reiterates its commitment to preserving the integrity of the People’s Majlis and protecting its members from reprisals for carrying out their parliamentary duties.
Opposition MPs claim to have been subjected to a campaign of intimidation and coercion in the lead-up to a vote of no-confidence against the Speaker of the People’s Majlis. There has been recent legal action against three prominent MPs, including, opposition Jumhooree Party Leader, Qasim Ibrahim, who has been prevented from travelling abroad for medical care and is in a critical condition. In addition, six MPs have reportedly been stripped of their seats by the Elections Commission, a decision with apparently no legal basis. The IPU is deeply worried that these actions are seemingly intended to take away the small majority in Parliament that wanted to dismiss the Speaker in today’s vote of no-confidence, which was thwarted as a result.
The IPU, as the world organization of national parliaments, is deeply committed to upholding the integrity and independence of the institution of parliament. It calls on the executive and judiciary of the Maldives to fully respect the institution of parliament and to ensure that individual parliamentarians are able to carry out their work effectively and without fear of reprisals in accordance with the Constitution. The IPU Secretary General, Martin Chungong, said today that he was in touch with the Maldives authorities, was monitoring the situation and would bring the matter to the attention of the IPU’s governing bodies.
18 JULY 2017
The five-year pipeline project will move water to the occupied West Bank and Gaza. ©Philippe Roy/Aurimages
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) applauds the new agreement between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan to deliver water to drought-stricken Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza. We acknowledge the contributions of all participating governments, including the US, to address this longstanding humanitarian issue.
The five-year pipeline project will move water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. It will deliver 22 million cubic metres of water to the occupied West Bank, and some 10 million will go to Gaza. This agreement builds on the 2013 memorandum of understanding between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians to construct a water desalination plant at the Red Sea.
This recent water-sharing deal comes on the heels of the Second Roundtable on water organized by IPU’s Committee on Middle East Questions. Areas designated for action following the roundtable include: increasing regional water supply through science and technology, mapping communities most threatened by water scarcity, establishing a regional parliamentary network on water governance and supporting MPs’ on shaping equitable and sustainable legislation on water management.
“As we stated during our Roundtable, water should not be used as a weapon in regional conflicts,” explained IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong. “By depoliticizing access to safe water, we hope that this new deal reinforces other peace-building initiatives such as the one we are leading at the IPU. Together we can reach our common goal to transform factors of conflict into elements of co-existence, cooperation, reconciliation and prosperity.”
17 JULY 2017
Discussing human rights at the seminar. ©Parliament of Myanmar.
Fair and democratic societies are built on human rights and the rule of law, and MPs have a vital role in ensuring that these rights are upheld. However, MPs can only take up this role if they are allowed to work without fear of reprisal. Between 1991 and 2017, the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians examined over 260 cases of violations of the rights of Myanmar MPs. These cases were closed in January 2017.
To raise awareness on the role of Parliament to promote and protect human rights, the Parliament of Myanmar (Hluttaw) and the IPU, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), organized an introductory seminar on the role of Parliament to promote and protect human rights. The seminar, held on 5 July in Naypyitaw as part of the Hluttaw Learning Centre’s series of professional development programmes for MPs, was delivered to over 300 parliamentarians and formed the first step of their engagement with human rights issues. The seminar helped familiarize them with key human rights principles, international agreements and national legislation and mechanisms.
The Deputy Speaker of the Amyotha Hluttaw, H.E U Aye Thar Aung, opened the seminar, emphasizing that “MPs are the ones who have to serve the people, [and] are responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights”. He shared his personal experience as a political prisoner and reflected on the impact of a lack of protection for human rights. He said human rights issues were important for national reconciliation and that “we have to assure that all the ethnic groups will be respected with equal rights”.
Presenters at the seminar included former MPs from Australia and the Philippines, a UNDP expert and a Myanmar National Human Rights Commissioner. Presenters used their experience to demonstrate MPs’ key role in ensuring that the promotion and protection of fundamental freedoms are reflected in legislation and spending in the national budget; and in using their oversight function to ensure that the government upholds its human rights commitments.
The Learning Series continued on 6 July, with Myanmar MPs meeting in small groups with the international MPs in the Learning Centre. On 7 July, a master class developed MPs’ skills to support government reporting on key international conventions. On 13 July, a roundtable discussion was held on parliamentary committees and human rights.
In collaboration with UNDP, the IPU supports the Parliament of Myanmar as part of our work on building strong parliaments. See more on our work with the Parliament.
5 JULY 2017
Participants at the Regional Seminar on promoting child nutrition in Burkina Faso. © IPU/A. Afouda
An estimated one million children under five die annually from causes related to undernutrition in the Western and Central African Region (WCAR). MPs from the region met in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, from 27 to 29 June, to discuss how parliaments could contribute to improving maternal and child nutrition. The regional parliamentary seminar was co-organized by the IPU, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Alive & Thrive with support from the Parliament of Burkina Faso.
Children who do not get enough nourishment during the crucial first 1,000 days are in danger of being stunted—smaller, more vulnerable to disease and unable to develop their full intellectual potential. In 11 WCAR countries, under-five mortality rates are among the highest in the world, while in eight countries, 40 per cent or more children are stunted.
Discussions centred around the significance of nutrition security for development and economic growth; the problems of undernutrition and the emerging concern of childhood overweight and obesity in the region; overcoming structural and environmental barriers to nutrition and how parliaments can leverage their powers to effect legislative, budgetary and policy advances in promotion of maternal and child nutrition; and creating a political commitment to take a pro-nutrition agenda forward.
The outcome document lists priority actions for parliamentarians. These include reviewing existing legal and policy frameworks through a nutrition-sensitive lens; allocating sufficient funds to key ministries responsible for child nutrition; scheduling annual full-fledged debates on the national status of nutrition; and undertaking to make data collection and interpretation an inclusive and transparent process. MPs also pledged to use their positions to draw attention to and take action on malnutrition.
The Scaling Up Nutrition Movement offered to facilitate, in collaboration with the IPU, UNICEF, Alive & Thrive, civil society organizations and development partners, the establishment of a global community of parliamentarians active on nutrition issues. The community would provide support to parliamentarians and provide a platform to share experiences across countries and regions.
A delegation of participants called on the Head of State of Burkina Faso, Mr. Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, who committed to working closely with the National Assembly, to advance nutrition in his country. Mr. Kaboré also agreed to join the group of African Leaders for Nutrition.
4 JULY 2017
Religious leaders in Rwanda are important partners in socioeconomic development because of their wide reach. © Jean-Marie Mbonyintwali
Rwandan parliamentarians met with religious leaders on 24 June to sensitize them to their role in civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS). The outreach activity covered all 30 districts in the country and involved 65 MPs. It was supported by the IPU as part of its work with the Parliament of Rwanda on maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH).
During the outreach activity, religious leaders agreed to hold regular forums to discuss the importance of CRVS in sexual and reproductive health, as well as gender-based violence, illegal marriage and adolescent pregnancies. For their part, MPs will continue to involve more partners to help deal with these issues. Both religious leaders and MPs showed a strong commitment to helping to raise awareness.
Religious leaders were targeted because they are often partners in socioeconomic and development programmes. They own about 40 per cent of all health facilities in Rwanda and over 60 per cent of schools. The Rwandan Parliament is working with the Rwandan Interfaith Council on Health (RICH), which brings together Christian and Muslim leaders and collaborates with the government on health and population issues.
According to the last Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey, the birth registration rate for children under five was under 56 per cent. Based on discussions between the MPs and religious leaders, it was found that unregistered children often belong to single or adolescent mothers, polygamous couples and migrant workers who enter into temporary unions. As some people in remote areas were not aware of the new family law and its provisions on CRVS, one of the recommendations was to design a summary booklet about key provisions to inform people about the law.
In 2015 the parliament had conducted outreach activities to see how local leaders were using CRVS data in their socioeconomic planning and how administrative data, including CRVS, could contribute to better maternal and child health outcomes. Based on the findings, in December 2015 the parliament organized a consultative meeting with government institutions, senior officials and other national stakeholders, as well as international development partners, to look at how they could improve CVRS data.
30 JUNE 2017
Participants at the gender mainstreaming workshop. ©Parliament of Kenya
The IPU held a capacity-building workshop for staff of the Kenyan Parliament on mainstreaming gender into parliamentary work. The workshop, co-organized with the Parliament of Kenya on 19-23 June in Nairobi, was a follow-up of a self-assessment exercise conducted in 2016 on the Parliament's gender-sensitivity. One of the recommendations from the self-assessment was to ensure that staff have strengthened capacities and tools to mainstream gender into parliamentary work.
The seminar in Nairobi looked at the key concepts and definitions of gender, analysing bills from a gender perspective, and gender-responsive budgeting. Participants analysed, through a gender lens, the proposed Breastfeeding Mothers Bill 2017 as well as existing legislation: the Employment Act 2007, the Community Land Act 2016 and the Matrimonial Property Act 2013. Recommendations included establishing a sub-group to make sure that legislation is gender-sensitive; promoting equality in recruitment, promotion and training opportunities; integrating a gender perspective in all policies and training activities; and creating a gender desk.
On 15 June, the report of the Parliament’s self-assessment was tabled in parliament and should continue to inform the work of parliament on gender-sensitive reform. Additional activities co-organized by the IPU and the Parliament of Kenya will take place following the August 2017 elections.
29 JUNE 2017
Participants brainstorm at the Expert Group Meeting. ©Socé Sene
Five years ago, the IPU adopted its Plan of Action for Gender-Sensitive Parliaments at its 127th Assembly in Quebec. Since then, the IPU has helped parliaments become more gender sensitive and has developed a self-assessment toolkit self-assessment toolkit to allow them to examine their strengths and challenges in embodying gender equality and delivering on it.
The five-year anniversary provides an opportunity to reinvigorate the strategy and take stock of lessons learned from gender assessments of parliaments. To this end, the IPU organized an Expert Group Meeting, which brought together researchers, experts and practitioners involved in parliamentary gender assessments or audits. The meeting took place at IPU headquarters in Geneva on 11-12 June.
Recommendations of the Expert Group include developing new tools, expanding the group of parliaments that carry out gender assessments, and providing further support to parliaments to reinforce their gender mainstreaming strategies and actions.
The concept of gender-sensitive parliaments was first developed by the IPU in 2011. A gender-sensitive parliament is one that embodies gender equality and delivers on it, and also responds to the needs and interests of both men and women in its structures, operations, methods and work.
28 JUNE 2017
The IPU was actively involved in the 35th session of the Human Rights Council. © UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
The IPU was actively involved in the 35th session of the Human Rights Council, which was held in Geneva from 6 to 23 June 2017. We organized three side events and made two contributions, one oral and one written. On 23 June 2017, the Council adopted a resolution supporting stronger cooperation with parliaments.
On 12 June, the IPU, the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) and the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy organized a side event on the relationship between parliaments and the judiciary. The event revolved around the report presented to the Council by the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Diego Garcia-Sayan. Participants discussed ways to safeguard the uniquely different but complementary role of parliaments and the judiciary in promoting human rights and the rule of law. The event was sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Italy, Japan, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
On 16 June, the IPU and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) organized a discussion on reporting violence against women in politics. The aim of the discussion was to highlight the need for stronger tracking and reporting mechanisms regarding violence against women in politics, including in parliament; such, information is sensitive and therefore not easy to access. The key role of UN special rapporteurs was highlighted. Discussions focused on how the various stakeholders could better use their respective platforms to gather information. Speakers at the event included Ambassador Veronika Bard, Permanent Representative of Sweden and Co-Chair of International Gender Champions, Geneva; Ambassador Yvette Stevens, Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone and Member of International Gender Champions, Geneva; and HMs. Dubravka Šimonović, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences.
On 20 June, the IPU and Universal Rights Group organized a side event on the role of parliaments in ensuring effective national implementation of UN human rights recommendations. Participants—mainly diplomats and civil society representatives—underscored the need for stronger parliamentary capacity building on human rights, systematic collection of good parliamentary practices, and enhanced engagement with parliaments by the UN Human Rights Council and other UN human rights mechanisms. The event was organized with the support of nine countries and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The IPU also made two contributions to the Council. An oral contribution was delivered to the Interactive dialogue with the Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and in Practice, regarding ways to increase women’s participation in politics. The second was a written statement concerning the IPU’s work on ensuring access to health services for all without discrimination, which was submitted to the Panel Discussion on Enhancing Capacity Building in Public Health.
22 JUNE 2017
Participants at the seminar on CEDAW listening to Dr Olive Sentumbwe, WHO (Uganda). ©IPU/ Mariana Duarte Mutzenberg
Dealing with gender inequalities in the economy and family; improving the health of women and girls; and encouraging bills by private members to tackle sexual offences and amend discriminatory legislation: these were some of the priorities identified during a seminar on Uganda’s implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The focus of the seminar—organized by the Parliament of Uganda and the IPU and held from 14 to 15 June—was parliament’s role in the implementation of CEDAW.
Uganda has not submitted a report to the CEDAW Committee concerning the status of its implementation of the Convention since 2010. As a result of the seminar, the Ministry of Gender committed to sending the country’s report to the Committee by the end of 2017, after consulting with Parliament.
Participants discussed issues such as gender-based violence, equality in the law, girls’ right to education, the health of women and girls, and women’s economic empowerment. They highlighted priorities, including sexual and reproductive health education, policies on women’s ownership of land, and oversight of implementation of the country’s Domestic Violence Act. Ugandan MPs also called for ratification of the Optional Protocol to CEDAW, which would enable the CEDAW Committee to receive individual complaints on breaches to the Convention.
The seminar comprised a training component and focused discussions on developing an action plan on designated priority areas. It provided a forum for an exchange of knowledge and experience between Ugandan men and women legislators, parliamentary staff, international and regional experts, civil society and other concerned national and international institutions. The seminar was led by Ms. Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of the Uganda Parliament, with the participation of Mr. Ekwee Ethuro, Speaker of the Kenya Senate, Mr. Phillipus Katamelo, an MP from Namibia, and Ms. Hilary Gbedemah, a CEDAW expert from Ghana.
Click here for more information on the IPU’s work on CEDAW.
19 JUNE 2017
Participants at the Regional Conference. © Parliament of Romania/Violina Cracana
Preventing violence against women and girls (VAWG) requires more than adopting laws—they need to be effectively implemented. Parliamentarians, NGOs and legal officers met to discuss the issue at a regional conference for Eastern and Central Europe on Making Laws Work to End Violence against Women and Girls. The conference, held from 12 to 14 June, was co-organized by the IPU, Vital Voices, Global Rights for Women and the Romanian Chamber of Deputies, with the support of the Senate of Romania.
“At the IPU, we believe that monitoring and evaluation mechanisms should be based, at least in part, on parliamentary oversight,” said IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong in his opening remarks. “In accomplishing that task, parliamentarians must work hand in hand with civil society organizations and governments to access information and data, and prioritize measures and policies rooted in the reality of their countries.”
He also called on the “silent majority of non-violent men” to assume their responsibilities alongside women. “We have to count on men and boys to embody a new social construct of non-violent men and relationships built on respect.”
The outcome document outlined several strategies for ending VAWG. These include: multisectoral collaboration for a strong community-coordinated response; a focus on the victims in terms of providing them with a safe space to report violence, an array of services to meet their needs, and tools to counter victim intimidation; placing the burden of holding abusers accountable on the criminal justice system; educating children on human rights and gender equality; and engaging men.
At the conference, country delegations composed of parliamentarians, NGOs and government officials formulated action plans to apply the knowledge gained at the conference to their respective countries.
Watch the video of the Inaugural Session.
16 JUNE 2017
The IPU condemns in the strongest terms the recent attack on US Congressman Steve Scalise and three other individuals. © Samuel Corum / Anadolu Agency
The IPU condemns in the strongest terms the recent attack on US Congressman Steve Scalise and three other individuals, including a congressional staff member. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families as they struggle to deal with the tragic consequences.
The IPU condemns in the strongest terms the recent attack on US Congressman Steve Scalise and three other individuals, including a congressional staff member. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families as they struggle to deal with the tragic consequences.
The IPU works tirelessly to promote and protect the human rights of MPs, including their right to work and live without fear of violence. We deplore all acts of violence, attacks or threats against parliamentarians and their staff wherever they may take place.
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong emphasized that political dialogue must never lead to extremism and conflict. "Every citizen should ensure that political dialogue is constructive and without intimidation. The future of democratic governance depends on it."
16 JUNE 2017
Sculptures made of garbage from the beaches in Oregon. ©IPU/Paddy Torsney
Vital to our survival and providing livelihoods for millions of people, the Ocean is severely threatened by climate change, pollution and unsustainable practices. The United Nations held a five-day conference on the Ocean from 5-9 June to begin to address these issues and, at the end of the Conference, Member States adopted a Call to Action to protect the ocean.
In February, the IPU and the United Nations held an Annual Parliamentary Hearing that focused on the ocean. The hearing provided a parliamentary component to the preparatory process for the conference; several of its recommendations were included in the Call to Action. The UN document asks parliamentarians, as stakeholders, to help integrate Sustainable Development Goal 14 (Life Below Water) and its interrelated targets into national development plans.
“This conference has helped raise awareness of the ocean, and the need to act as part of the Sustainable Development Goals”, said Paddy Torsney, IPU Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York, addressing the conference. “In particular, it has brought the issue closer to the hearts and minds of parliamentarians all over the world. At the end of the day, parliamentarians are first in line to adopt the laws, approve regulatory changes, and make budgetary allocations that are required to advance SDG 14 and the Call to Action.”
In the Call to Action, countries acknowledged “the need to address the adverse impacts that impair the crucial ability of the ocean to act as climate regulator, source of marine biodiversity and as key provider of food and nutrition, tourism and ecosystem services and as an engine for sustainable economic development and growth”. It recognized the importance of implementing the Paris Agreement.
31 MAY 2017
IPU President Saber Chowdhury is the recipient of this year’s World No Tobacco Day award. ©IPU/P. Albouy
IPU President Saber Chowdhury is the proud recipient of this year’s World No Tobacco Day award. The award, given by the World Health Organization (WHO), recognizes Mr. Chowdhury's contribution to tobacco control at the local, national, regional and international levels.
Mr. Chowdhury has been at the forefront of efforts to make his country, Bangladesh, tobacco-free by 2040. His advocacy work has had a strong impact both at the grassroots/constituency and national levels in his country. As President of the IPU, he has been successful in placing the issue on the organization’s agenda, having convened in 2016 the South Asian Speakers’ Summit that discussed tobacco control.
Upon hearing the news of the award, Mr. Chowdhury reiterated his long-term commitment to curbing tobacco use and its negative health consequences. He encouraged his parliamentary colleagues and other partners to join him in this noble ambition.
30 MAY 2017
A full room at the IPU side event. © IPU/Aleksandra Blagojevic
As part of our work on health and development, the IPU participated in the World Health Assembly (WHA).
On 24 May, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong addressed the WHA plenary debate for the second consecutive year. He spoke about the cooperation between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the IPU in strengthening links between the parliamentary and scientific communities to realize the right to health and contribute to shaping healthier societies. As a result of this cooperation, an increasing number of parliamentarians were participating in the WHA. Mr. Chungong emphasized the MPs’ contribution to the global health agenda and their key role in achieving the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“I am mindful of the cross-cutting nature of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and how improving health systems is dependent on many factors outside the health sector. I am also aware that Agenda 2030 reminds us all that to continue business as usual is not an option,” said Mr. Chungong. “It is in this spirit that the IPU will support parliaments to deliver on the targets of SDG3 and, therefore, build better national health systems.”
In this context, on 29 May, the IPU—with Austria, Bangladesh, Cameroon, the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), and the WHO—organized a parliamentary side event at the WHA, “Bridging the Gap between Evidence and Policy: The Role of Parliamentarians in Advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. The side event focused on how parliamentarians could use scientific evidence to inform national decision-making and oversight. Participants included MPs, ministers of health, representatives from the health community and non-governmental organizations, and WHO officials.
WHO Director General Margaret Chan stressed the IPU’s critical role in helping to translate science into policy and legislation, a sentiment echoed by other participants. Ian Askew, Director of Reproductive Health and Research at the WHO, highlighted the importance of presenting evidence in a way that the general public could understand it and said that the IPU provided guidance on this, quoting the joint IPU-WHO report on child marriage.
MPs spoke of the importance of evidence and how they used it in their fight against myths and misconceptions and illegal health practices. They said it was important to continue the dialogue between the health community and MPs, and called for a regular space for this at the WHA.
19 MAY 2017
© IPU/Jorky 2017
Every year, we hold an information seminar for senior parliamentary staff who serve as Secretaries of IPU Groups within Member Parliaments or are otherwise actively engaged in inter-parliamentary work. The seminar aims to provide the staff with an in-depth knowledge of the IPU, its functioning and main activities. It facilitates their work in assisting their parliaments on all matters relating to the IPU and inter-parliamentary cooperation.
The seminar took place from 16 to 19 May at the IPU headquarters in Geneva. Parliamentary staff from a total of 27 countries attended. Sessions included an overview of the IPU’s history and key developments, the Organization’s main bodies and areas of work, the communications strategy and the presentation of the budget. Participants engaged in inter-active discussions on ways to enhance political dialogue, follow up on global parliamentary commitments, and generally strengthen the work of the IPU.
17 MAY 2017
Climate change is one of the most serious threats to sustainable development. © Issouf Sanogo/AFP
Parliaments should take stronger action on climate change through their legislative and oversight roles. This was one of the conclusions of a high-level regional seminar, which was jointly organized by the IPU and the National Assembly of Viet Nam in Ho Chi Minh City from 11 to 13 May. The seminar aimed at helping parliaments in the Asia-Pacific region achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The discussions focused on climate change, which according to Tòng Thị Phóng, Vice Chairperson of the National Assembly, is one of the most serious threats to sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region. She said that environmental degradation and disaster risk need to be part of parliamentary engagement on climate change.
“Climate change is not going to wait for us. It will continue to cause destruction,” said the IPU Secretary General, Martin Chungong. He added that: “Well-being for all is key.”
Parliamentarians play a crucial role in translating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into legislation and policies, and in integrating them into national development plans with country-specific goals. Participants stressed the importance of involving citizens, especially vulnerable groups—who are disproportionately affected by climate change—in the development of such plans.
Moreover, participants discussed the impact of climate change on women—who tend to be more adversely affected by it than men—and on public health. The outcome document calls on parliaments to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment to help achieve sustainable development. It also calls on parliaments to ensure that affordable and quality health care is available for all citizens, especially those adversely affected by climate change.
The IPU’s role in helping to integrate the SDGs into legislation was highlighted. Parliaments were urged to use the IPU/UNDP self-assessment tool on the SDGs to advance on implementing those goals.
15 MAY 2017
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong at the Climate Change Conference in Bonn. © James Dowson/UNFCCC
Countries across the globe have adopted more than 1,200 laws to limit climate change—an impressive rise from only 60 laws two decades ago. Low-income countries have been particularly active on the issue. Courts are complementing the actions of legislators through rulings on the implementation of existing climate laws, and two-thirds of their rulings have either strengthened or maintained climate change regulation.
These are some of the key findings from a study entitled Global trends in climate change legislation and litigation, launched on 9 May during the Conference on Climate Change in Bonn. The study reviewed climate-related laws and executive actions in some 164 countries.
In the foreword to the report, IPU Secretary General Mr. Chungong writes, “This study comes at a critical time as policy-makers and practitioners seek to implement and put into practice the transformative Paris Agreement on climate change. Parliaments are at the heart of this response. They…should make sure that the provisions of the Paris Agreement are translated into national legislation and that adequate budget allocations are made to support implementation of relevant laws and policies.”
During a side event at the Conference, entitled “Implementation of the Paris Agreement and NDCs—New tools for developing climate legislation”, the report’s finding were examined and debated. The event was organized jointly by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in partnership with UN Environment, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Grantham Research Institute. The IPU Secretary General was among the speakers.
Many countries have introduced legislation to support their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement. At the side event, experts, using the report as a starting point, highlighted the importance of adopting legislation and policies that embed NDCs, monitoring their implementation, and finding ways to achieve the targets through the creation of institutions, incentives and ratchet mechanisms.
The study has been co-published by the Grantham Research Institute, the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law of the Columbia School of Law, the IPU and The Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy.
8 MAY 2017
Scientific findings should be used to guide national health policies. ©AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy
Translating findings from scientific research into policy actions is a challenge, especially in public health. The gap between evidence and its use in policy seems to be growing, given the current sociopolitical situation and the myriad sources of information. These can lead to myths and misconceptions about health, for example on issues such as immunization, and the relation between climate change and health. Parliamentarians have a key role in ensuring that health laws and policies—and their implementation—are continuously informed by robust scientific findings.
To address this, a parliamentary side event, "Bridging the Gap between Evidence and Policy: The Role of Parliamentarians in Advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" will be organized at the 70th World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva on 29 May. Organized by the IPU and WHO under the sponsorship of Austria, Bangladesh and Cameroon, the side event aims to facilitate dialogue between MPs and the health community, and allow MPs to contribute to the global health agenda.
The World Health Assembly provides MPs with a unique opportunity to acquire the latest information on global health priorities, and learn how it can be used to guide national policies and decisions on resource allocation. Parliamentarians have the authority to enable the highest standards of health and well-being for their constituents through their role in legislation, oversight, budgeting, accountability and advocacy.
The side event will take place from 18:00 to 19:30 in room VII of the Palais des Nations. It is open to parliamentarians attending the WHA as members of their national delegations. The event will be conducted in English, French and Spanish.
5 MAY 2017
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong with Vietnamese Ambassador Duong Chi Dzung. ©IPU/Jorky
Mr. Duong Chi Dzung, Ambassador of the Social Republic of Viet Nam, paid a courtesy call on IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong today.
They discussed the upcoming conference for parliaments of the Asia-Pacific region on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, which has been organized by the IPU and the National Assembly of Viet Nam. The focus will be on climate change, an issue that Viet Nam is very active on. Mr. Duong said that he was happy that the conference would be bringing together parliaments from the region so that they could strategize and inspire country-level work on the issue.
The conference is part of the continuing cooperation between the National Assembly and the IPU. In 2015, the IPU Assembly held in Hanoi adopted the Hanoi Declaration on Sustainable Development Goals: Turning Words into Action.
The regional conference will be held in Ho Chi Min City on 11-13 May. It will focus on the role of different stakeholders in the responses to climate change and how national parliaments can contribute, through legislation, budget allocation and oversight, to national efforts to fulfil international commitments. It will also address gender equality, health and resource mobilization.
4 MAY 2017
The Speaker of the Finnish Parliament, Ms. Maria Lohela. ©IPU
The IPU developed both the concept and definition of gender-sensitive parliaments and has been at the forefront of supporting gender-sensitive parliamentary reform. On 20 April, the Feminist Group of the Finnish Parliament held a meeting in Helsinki on gender equality in parliaments. At the meeting, Ms. Zeina Hilal from the IPU gave a presentation on the Plan of Action for Gender-Sensitive Parliaments and Evaluating the Gender Sensitivity of Parliaments: A Self-Assessment Toolkit. The Plan of Action was adopted by IPU Members at the 127th Assembly in Quebec, and 2017 marks five years since its adoption.
Participants at the Helsinki meeting included MPs, NGOs and academics. In her opening speech, the Speaker of the Finnish Parliament, Ms. Maria Lohela, said that Finland was among the most gender-equal countries in the world. Even so, Finland had to wait 40 years after the creation of its first unicameral parliament for the first woman to be named committee chairperson, and 90 years for the first woman Speaker of Parliament to be elected.
In the outcome document of the Summit of Women Speakers of Parliament organized by the IPU and UAE’s Federal National Council in Abu Dhabi in December 2016—which Ms. Lohela attended—participants resolved to attain gender equality in politics and parliaments by 2030 and to assess the gender-sensitivity of their respective parliaments.
The IPU encourages the Finnish Parliament to conduct a self-assessment using IPU’s Toolkit.
3 MAY 2017
IPU Secretary General, Martin Chungong, and Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Farukh Amil. © IPU/Jorky
Ambassador Farukh Amil, the new Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN and other International Organizations in Geneva, called on IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong on 2 May. He had just presented his letters of credence the day before.
Discussions focused on democracy in Pakistan. Mr. Amil stressed that Pakistan had been able to achieve progress, despite a difficult history, thanks to democracy. His government was the first to complete a five-year mandate. The current Prime Minister, Mr. Nawaz Sharif, believes that the role of parliament, especially of women MPs, is critical. That was one of the reasons that Mr. Chungong was the first head of agency that Mr. Amil called on.
Emphasising the importance of democracy, Mr. Chungong said, "Democracy is the only self-correcting system. Democracy must be able to put food on the table. Its growth in Pakistan is evidence of this."
Mr. Chungong lauded the excellent relations the IPU enjoyed with the Pakistani Parliament and the Permanent Mission in Geneva. He hoped that the Parliament would support the IPU’s efforts to mobilize parliaments against terrorism.
28 APRIL 2017
Effective development aid is critical to achieving the SDGs. ©Alvaro Fuente/NurPhoto
Improving the quality and quantity of development cooperation is critical to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) was set up in 2011 to coordinate global action on development cooperation. The IPU represents the global parliamentary community on the Steering Committee of the GPEDC, which held its 13th session on 23-24 April in Washington, DC.
The meeting adopted an ambitious programme of work for 2017-2018, which includes more emphasis on implementing development cooperation commitments at the country level and greater engagement with the public sector.
The IPU will participate in the programme by strengthening parliaments’ capacities to oversee development cooperation and implement global commitments. This work will be informed by the Parliamentary Statement to the high-level meeting of the GPEDC in Nairobi in December 2016. The Steering Committee Meeting was a follow-up to the Nairobi meeting, where a new vision for development cooperation was adopted.
The GPEDC brings together all stakeholders of development cooperation—which includes all aid from public and private sources, financial and non-financial—to improve the effectiveness of aid from the point of origin to the point of delivery in developing countries. Other members of the GPEDC Steering Committee include representatives from governments, local authorities, civil society, private sector and foundations.
26 APRIL 2017
Martin Chungong, IPU Secretary General, and Viktoras Pranckietis, Speaker of Lithuanian Parliament. © IPU/Jorky
The new Speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament, Mr. Viktoras Pranckietis paid a courtesy call on the IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong at IPU Headquarters in Geneva on 25 April.
Mr. Pranckietis and Mr. Chungong discussed the current challenges facing the international community, including Syria and the migration crisis. They also spoke about priorities for IPU’s work, especially the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and gender parity in politics.
Mr. Pranckietis was elected as the Speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament in November 2016.
24 APRIL 2017
The Adolescent Development and Participation (ADP) club in Dhaka.© UNICEF Bangladesh
During the 136th IPU Assembly in Dhaka, 40 parliamentarians carried out a field visit to two facilities catering to the needs of adolescents and disadvantaged children. The facilities—the Adolescent Development and Participation (ADP) club and the Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre—were set up by UNICEF in collaboration with Bangladesh’s Ministry of Women and Children Affairs as part of UNICEF’s overall objective to promote the rights of the child. Both centres are located in Baunia Badh, Mirpur (Dhaka).
The ADP club informs adolescent girls and boys of their rights and provides a venue to discuss issues such as child marriage, human rights, transmission of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and drug abuse. The MPs were informed that the adolescents passed on what they learned to those who could not attend the club, including families, friends and neighbours. The ECD centre caters to 54 disadvantaged children, teaching them through playgroups, and developing their linguistic, social and cognitive skills.
The MPs felt strongly that these initiatives could easily be replicated in countries where social welfare services are lacking or need improvement, and do not reach disadvantaged children. As Speaker Peter Hitjitevi Katjavivi of the National Assembly of Namibia pointed out in his report to the Assembly, the initiatives illustrated how “significant actions” could be undertaken with few resources.
Following their visits, MPs made recommendations on how parliaments could contribute to promoting the rights of the child in line with the mobilization to tackle socioeconomic inequalities. Their recommendations included providing equal opportunities for boys and girls; and making the rights of the child—and children's well-being—a priority for action by parliaments.
The field visits, jointly organized by the IPU and UNICEF, took place on 3 April. The group included MPs from Brunei Darussalam, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Italy, Namibia, San Marino, Spain and Sweden.
13 APRIL 2017
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has been elected for a second term. ©IPU
Martin Chungong has been given a new four-year lease as Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). The decision was taken at the 136th Assembly of the IPU, which took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh, last week.
At the end of the five-day global parliamentary summit, the IPU Governing Council, its plenary decision-making body, decided unanimously to renew its confidence in Cameroonian-born Chungong. He was first elected Secretary General in March 2014 for a four-year term due to expire on 30 June 2018.
Accepting the new term, which will run from 1 July 2018, Mr. Chungong stated that he looked forward to working with the world parliamentary community to continue to modernize the IPU and firmly establish its relevance in addressing manifold challenges. These include implementing its strategy for 2017-2021, striving for stronger links between democracy and well-being, contributing to the 2030 development agenda and joining global efforts to stem the tide of terrorism and violent extremism. He pledged to help the IPU mobilize parliaments around these challenges. In his view, for parliaments to succeed, they need to be more inclusive in their processes and give more voice to marginalized groups such as women and the youth. The Secretary General’s priority will involve leaving no parliament behind in a bid to strengthen the hand of the IPU, the world organization of parliaments.
Mr. Chungong is the eighth Secretary General of the IPU and the first non-European to hold this office in the Organization's 128-year history.
4 APRIL 2017
Young people are needed to counter violent extremism. ©Bastiaan Slabbers/Nurphoto
In recent years, the world has witnessed waves of violent extremism. Preventing it will take more than short-term security-oriented strategies. Efforts to counter violent extremism cannot succeed without young people’s involvement; young parliamentarians, as representatives closest to a country’s youth populations, have a crucial role to play.
The lack of economic opportunities and the marginalization of sections of society create conducive environments for violent extremism, factors that any long-term solution should take into account. Prevention strategies must include: strengthening respect for human rights and the rule of law; including women, youth and excluded groups in decision-making and prevention strategies; eliminating discrimination and inequality; and engaging those at the mid- and grassroots levels to address extremism and societal divisions.
A regional meeting to look at the role of young parliamentarians in advancing inclusive and peaceful societies and preventing violent extremism in Asia-Pacific will take place in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 25 and 26 April. The Regional Meeting of Young Parliamentarians of the Asia-Pacific is being jointly organized by the IPU, the Parliament of Sri Lanka and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The meeting aims to empower young parliamentarians by building their capacities, offering them opportunities for networking and cooperation, and helping them plan action to prevent violent extremism. It will bring together young MPs, youth parliaments and organizations, specialists on preventing violent extremism (PVE), UN agencies, civil society and the private sector. The meeting is open to young men and women members of national parliaments in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as IPU observers and selected youth organizations, networks and associations. The President of the IPU, the Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka, and representatives of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) will join the deliberations of the young MPs. The deadline for registration is 5 April 2017; for further information and to register, go to the event website.
28 MARCH 2017
The Parliamentary Hearing at the 61st session of the CSW. © IPU/Joel Sheakoski
The IPU held several events during the first week of the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which took place in New York from 13 to 24 March.
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and the UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka held a joint press conference on 15 March to launch the 2017 edition of the IPU-UN Women Map on Women in Politics.
The IPU held its annual Parliamentary Meeting on 17 March, also co-organized with UN Women, focused on Empowering parliaments to empower women: Making the economy work for women. The event was attended by 139 members of parliament from 47 countries. Participants stressed that the elimination of gender discrimination in the law and ensuring women’s access to political decision-making were essential to creating a favourable environment for women’s economic empowerment. They also identified measures to ensure equality at work such as enacting and enforcing legislation in areas such equal pay and sexual harassment; and adopting social policies that facilitate work-life balance and equal share of unpaid care work. Finally, women need to be entitled to own property and obtain affordable credit if they are to be economically empowered. Building women’s capacity to access available opportunities was also identified as an area to be promoted by parliaments.
The parliamentary event’s conclusions will feed into the upcoming IPU 136th Assembly, when Member Parliaments will debate on a draft resolution on Promoting enhanced international cooperation on the SDGs, in particular on the financial inclusion of women as a driver of development and on Redressing inequalities: delivering on dignity and well-being for all.
Watch the webcast of the Parliamentary Meeting.
Read more on the IPU’s six side events. To get a feel of the events of the week, see the Storify piece.
28 MARCH 2017
Participants at the side event on Equality in Politics. © IPU/Mariana Duarte Mutzenberg
We also held six side events on 14 and 16 March during the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), held in New York. Each event had around 60 participants, including MPs, government officials and civil society.
Two were on violence against women in politics. Sexism, harassment and violence against women MPs, co-organized with the Permanent Mission of Canada, looked at ways to help women MPs carry out their work freely and securely. At the event on Violence against women in politics: Name it, investigate it, eliminate it, participants looked at the factors that influence violence against women MPs and how it fits into the larger picture of violence against women. Naming and shaming all acts that target women parliamentarians, countering them with a strong response on social media and online and passing legislation to stop such acts were among the key outcomes of both side events.
Rising extremism, macro-economic policies, and the relevance of gendered analysis, co-organized with UNDP, the Permanent Mission of Denmark and the International Civil Society Network (ICAN), called for a change in macro-economic policies to address inequalities, promote fair, equitable and sustainable development for all and sustain peace and security.
Equality in politics: another 50 years to reach 50-50?, co-organized with the Permanent Mission of Trinidad and Tobago and UN Women, called for policies and legislation and political will to overcome the stagnation in the number of women elected to public office. Discussions highlighted the importance of monitoring women’s participation at the level of local governance, an effort led by UN Women.
Gender equality in nationality laws, co-organized with UNHCR, looked at reducing statelessness by giving women equal rights to confer nationality to their children. This gender-based discrimination in the law has to be addressed by parliaments and other stakeholders.
Breaking the cycle of violence against girls and boys: The role of parliamentarians, co-organized with UNICEF and the Permanent Missions of Bulgaria and Panama. The participants flagged the importance of implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child and taking bold action to protect girls and boys from harm. This needs legislation, policies and political will.
Read about the launch of the Women in Politics: 2017 map and the Parliamentary Hearing. To get a feel of the events of the week, see the Storify piece.
27 MARCH 2017
The agreement was signed by Anda Filip, Director, IPU’s Division for Member Parliaments and External Relations, and Christoph Benn, Director of External Relations, the Global Fund. ©IPU/Jorky
The IPU and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on 23 March to increase efforts to engage parliamentarians in the fight against those three diseases. The MOU highlights knowledge exchange, advocacy, awareness raising and human rights as areas for future cooperation.
The MOU was signed by Ambassador Anda Filip, Director of IPU’s Division for Member Parliaments and External Relations and Dr. Christoph Benn, Director of External Relations at the Global Fund.
The IPU will involve technical experts from the Global Fund to help build parliamentary capacity in the global response to HIV/AIDS. The two organizations will also work together on advocacy to build resilient and sustainable systems for health and strengthen community systems, and country-level advocacy by parliamentarians to increase national financing for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. They will also engage parliamentarians in proposing and supporting legislation to remove barriers to health service, particularly concerning vulnerable populations and to fund measures that reduce stigma and prevent discrimination.
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong said that the IPU was looking forward to cooperating with the Global Fund and building a bridge between political leaders and the technical community. “Every life that can be saved or protected from the ravages of HIV/AIDS is worth the effort.”
Norbert Hauser, the Chair of the Board of the Global Fund, spoke about the “paramount role of parliamentarians” in the fight against the three diseases, emphasizing their ability to obtain information on the needs of the people.
The IPU promotes parliamentary action in support of the UN General Assembly Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS and UN Security Council resolution 1983. It also leads the global parliamentary dialogue through its Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.
23 MARCH 2017
The IPU condemns the attacks on the UK Parliament. © Justin TALLIS / AFP
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) strongly condemns the attack on the Parliament of the United Kingdom on 22 March. We deplore the senselessness of the violence and the extensive number of casualties. We also convey our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives.
In a letter to the Speakers of the UK House of Lords and House of Commons, IPU President Saber Chowdhury and Secretary General Martin Chungong have expressed deep dismay at this gratuitous attack on a bastion of democracy and conveyed the solidarity of the global parliamentary community.
In a tweet last night, Mr. Chungong said he was “appalled by the attack. I condemn it in the strongest terms.” “We stand in solidarity with the UK Parliament,” said Mr. Chowdhury. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”
The IPU is contributing to the United Nations plan of action to prevent violent extremism through action by parliaments. Our goal is to tackle the root causes of violent extremism that may lead to acts of terror.
14 MARCH 2017
Prime Minister of Djibouti Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed presents IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong with the National Order of 27th of June. © National Assembly of Djibouti.
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong visited Djibouti recently to discuss the collaboration between the IPU and the National Assembly to develop the capacities of the country’s Parliament. Earlier this year, the IPU had undertaken a mission to Djibouti to assess the Parliament’s needs. During his meetings with the authorities—including Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Ali Houmed and Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed—Mr. Chungong discussed the recommendations of the mission and stressed the IPU’s readiness to help with implementation of its recommendations.
The agreed goal is to build a strong parliament in Djibouti that is focused on improving its legislative, representative and oversight functions, and supporting the administration in building a stronger secretariat. The IPU’s assistance is based on the Common Principles of Support to Parliaments, which has been endorsed by the National Assembly.
The Secretary General expressed the IPU’s commitment to continue to reach out to all parliaments in its bid to promote democracy that delivers on the people’s expectations.
In recognition of the IPU’s contribution and ongoing engagement, President of the Republic Ismael Guelleh elevated Secretary General Chungong to the rank and dignity of Officer of the National Order of 27th of June. The award was delivered by the Prime Minister.
10 MARCH 2017
Raising awareness on women’s issues was the focus of the REFPAM caravan. ©carlosoliveirareis (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
A group of women 12 MPs from the Réseau des femmes parlementaires mauritaniennes (Network of Mauritanian Women Parliamentarians/REFPAM) organized a “caravan”, or outreach visits, to provinces in the country to reach out to local and religious leaders, and the general public. The parliamentarians aimed to raise awareness about and advocate for women’s rights and ending violence against women and girls. The caravan took place from 12 to 21 February.
REFPAM held discussions on women's land governance, women's participation in decision-making positions, and how to combat violence against women. The caravan also consulted local leaders and the general public on their needs and expectations regarding the bill on violence against women before Parliament. The visits covered the wilayas (provinces) of Brakna, Tarza, Gorgol and Guidimagha.
REFPAM was created in December 2015 to provide a forum for women MPs—and their like-minded male colleagues—in Mauritania to come together across party lines on issues of common interest, such as violence against women. In 2016, IPU and the National Assembly helped REFPAM draw up a comprehensive advocacy plan to strengthen the legal framework on all forms of violence and harmful practices against women in Mauritania, including female genital mutilation and child marriage. IPU’s support to REFPAM is part of its work on encouraging the creation of women parliamentary caucuses.
Read more about IPU’s involvement with REFPAM.
8 MARCH 2017
Panellists at the SDG seminar. ©IPU/Isabel Obadiaru
Good governance and democratic institutions are fundamental to sustainable development. This was one of the conclusions of a regional seminar on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for parliaments of sub-Saharan Africa.
Members of 18 African parliaments attended the seminar, organized by IPU and the Parliament of Uganda in Kampala on 1-3 March. They discussed SDG 16 (Peace, justice and effective institutions), and governance, health, climate change and resources for implementing the SDGs.
In the outcome document, parliamentarians highlighted the role of parliaments in implementing the goals. The MPs said that, to be successful, they would need to work across party lines to build political will and to create parliamentary mechanisms. They called on all MPs to maintain a dialogue with key stakeholders, including the executive, citizens and civil society. They also advocated joint projects with parliaments from other countries to promote peace and stability.
Participants recognized the importance of achieving gender equality, which would also help to achieve several SDGs. They also stressed the need to involve youth in SDG-related national development plans. Young people are over 60 per cent of Africa’s population, and their lives would be directly affected by the success or otherwise of the SDGs.
The outcome document called for climate change challenges to be addressed by transposing international agreements into national legislation. Environmental degradation is a problem in much of Africa, and so MPs called for legislation that would provide incentives for behavioural change.
Representatives of IPU and UNDP presented the SDG Self-Assessment Toolkit for Parliaments. Participants were interested in learning to use the toolkit and signed a poster of the cover produced by UNDP.
6 MARCH 2017
Senator Célestin Sebuhoro, member of the IPU Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH), addresses young people. © Lucien Gatete
MPs in Rwanda visited youth-friendly health centres and universities to educate people, especially adolescents, on sexual and reproductive health. The visits were part of the collaboration between IPU and the Parliament of Rwanda on maternal, newborn and child health, as well as sexual and reproductive health.
The collaboration has resulted in nation-wide awareness campaigns on family planning and sexual and reproductive health; and the passing of the Reproductive Health Law that IPU supported and which calls, among other things, for the right to free, informed and responsible decisions concerning sexual and reproductive matters. The MPs visited health centres to oversee implementation of the law.
Through the tweets from the Rwanda Parliament Twitter account, we can follow the MPs as they engaged with adolescents and the general public.
27 February 2017
Participants at the Regional Seminar. © Zsuzsa PETHŐ.
Parliaments of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia met to discuss the next steps in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The seminar, which took place in Budapest on 23-24 February and co-organized by IPU and the Hungarian National Assembly, was a follow-up to previous meetings that had called for concrete parliamentary action in key areas, such as environmental risk and climate change.
Participants from 22 countries assessed their progress and developed further recommendations for parliamentary engagement with the SDGs. Experts addressing the seminar included staff from the United Nations Economic Commission of Europe and UNDP, Hungarian climate scientists and members of civil society who had productive exchanges with MPs. The IPU regional seminars in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia are becoming a forum for productive parliamentary exchanges on SDGs, climate change and related issues in the region.
The seminar focused on climate change and water as an enabler of sustainable development. The majority of the water resources in the area are transboundary, making countries dependent on water that is outside their boundaries, making cooperation among parliaments crucial. Participants discussed ways in which water could support the sustainable development of the region.
IPU President Saber Chowdhury presented IPU’s SDG toolkit and encouraged MPs to use it. He encouraged them to share their experiences in using the toolkit at the upcoming Assembly in Dhaka.
The seminar was also a follow-up to the 2016 Budapest Water Summit, which helped promote the early implementation of water-related targets under SDG6.
The next regional seminar for Eastern and Central Europe and Central Asia will be held in Belgrade in 2018.
21 February 2017
IPU President Saber Chowdhury addressing the Summit. © Asif Dullah
Speakers of Parliaments from South Asia met to discuss the implementation of the SDGs in the region. The South Asian Speakers’ Summit on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals further defined the opportunities and challenges facing South Asian parliaments in working to implement the SDGs.
Participants followed up on the Dhaka Declaration they adopted in in 2016 and shared their experiences on how parliaments in the region were institutionalizing the global goals and building coherence at the policy level. IPU President Saber Chowdhury presented the Self-Assessment Toolkit for Parliaments on the SDGs—co-produced with UNDP—as a tool to help parliaments support SDG implementation.
Participants adopted the Indore Declaration, which reflects on gender and other types of inequalities as major impediments to the achievement of the SDGs in the region. The declaration called for the creation of gender-sensitive bodies, especially at the grassroots level, and legislative measures to protect women against discrimination, sexual harassment and violence. The Declaration also recognized that achieving the SDGs was closely linked to addressing the challenge of climate change and called for more cooperation among South Asian countries on this. It also asked IPU to facilitate dialogue to achieve the goals and suggested that South Asian parliaments devote one day per session to deliberations on SDGs. Participants agreed to look into establishing joint parliamentary bodies to work on issues identified by the Summit as important for regional cooperation.
This was the first meeting of the South Asian Speakers’ Forum on Achieving the SDGs, which was formed at a meeting of Speakers of Parliament from South Asia in Dhaka in January 2016. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha of India, Ms. Sumitra Mahajan, took over as Chair of the Forum. The summit, which was co-organized by IPU and the Parliament of India, took place in Indore, India, from 18 to 19 February. It was attended by Speakers of Parliament from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The next summit will take place in Sri Lanka.
17 February 2017
Saving our oceans: The Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations. © UN Photo/Manuel Elias
The world’s MPs have called for decisive actions to stem the serious decline in the health of the oceans.
The theme of this year’s Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations in New York, which took place from 13-14 February, was A world of blue: Preserving the oceans, safeguarding the planet, ensuring human well-being in the context of the 2030 Agenda. Jointly organized by IPU and the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly, the meeting brought together around 200 MPs from across the globe to advance parliamentary action to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14: the conservation and sustainable use of oceans.
H.E. Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly, set the challenge and warned about the consequences of ignoring the decline of the world’s oceans. “To put it bluntly, without a healthy and sustainable ocean, humanity’s place on this planet will be in jeopardy.” He noted the invaluable role of parliamentarians in reversing the situation. “Your leadership in introducing policies and establishing legal frameworks will be critical in driving efforts to restore the sustainability of the ocean.”
IPU President Saber Chowdhury also emphasized MPs’ role in preserving oceans, saying that the hearing provided “a golden opportunity for parliamentarians to understand the many issues that affect the oceans—such as climate change, pollution, and overfishing—and share concerns and best practice”. He exhorted fellow MPs to pay more attention to this ecosystem that many take for granted on the false assumption that it can always regenerate itself.
Participants concluded that action to protect the oceans boils down to laws, rules and regulations that are well within their power to affect. These include establishing marine sanctuaries, regulating the fishing industry to protect artisanal fishing, banning plastic bags and Styrofoam, preventing all kinds of waste from going into the sea and imposing strict CO2 emission cuts.
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong reminded participants that the recently launched IPU toolkit produced in collaboration with UNDP, Parliaments and the Sustainable Development Goals, would “help parliaments assess their capacities to mainstream the SDGs through national legislation”.
IPU-UN parliamentary hearings enable MPs to contribute to the work of the UN and international decision-making processes, as well as increase their understanding of these processes.
16 February 2017
Speakers at the launch of the Roadmap for Substantive Equality 2030. © UN Women/Ryan Brown
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted in September 2015. But sustainable development cannot be achieved while half the population—women and girls—are legally discriminated against. Women worldwide face sex discrimination in law in political and public life, marriage and family life, access to justice, gender-based violence and economic access.
There is a need for substantive legal reform to ensure that laws are free of discrimination, especially for women and girls. The Roadmap for Substantive Equality: 2030 seeks to do this by promoting partnerships between international and regional organizations, governments, parliaments and civil society to implement legislative reforms based on gender equality, and international human rights and legal frameworks.
“The full realization of all women’s fundamental rights requires transforming power relations and addressing structural inequalities. It also means enabling women to take ownership of their lives, their bodies and their destinies,” said IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong, speaking at the launch of the Roadmap. “These rights have to be enshrined in properly enforced laws. This is where parliaments and members of parliament, have a key role to play.”
Speakers also included Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN Women, and Yasmeen Hassan, Global Executive Director, Equality Now.
The launch, co-hosted in New York by UN Women, IPU and Equality Now on 14 February 2017, brought together representatives of parliaments, governments, civil society and international organizations in an effort to promote partnerships to support gender equality by 2030.
15 February 2017
Participants at the Regional Conference for Parliamentarians. ©Khaled Mashaal
Terrorism is one of the biggest challenges of our time. Even though the United Nations and IPU have passed several resolutions, all of which set out a clear role for parliaments, there have been gaps in implementation.
To address these gaps, IPU and the UN Office for Drugs and Crime co-organized a two-day meeting with the Egyptian Parliament in Aswan, Egypt, from 31 January to 2 February. Thirty parliamentarians attended from the MENA region and the Gulf States to discuss the challenges that arise when extremism leads to terrorism.
“Terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group. I believe strongly that terrorism should be countered with legitimacy and justice,” said IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong in his opening remarks. He stressed how important parliaments were in preventing terror. “The success of preventive measures depends, among other factors, on the extent to which societies are fully represented by their parliaments, and on the ability of parliaments to help prevent conditions that are conducive to violent extremism.”
Participants discussed the reasons why people become radicalized. They considered how fully implementing the Sustainable Development Goals could help prevent terrorism by addressing the socioeconomic factors that enable radicalization, noting that societies with higher equality and inclusion tend to be less vulnerable to extremism.
Participants also identified regional and national strategies for effective criminal justice responses to counter terrorism.
Participants welcomed the draft of a member-driven plan of action on how parliaments can act to prevent terrorism. The plan was conceived to fill the implementation gaps of the UN resolutions.
Participants agreed on recommendations that included the development of national plans of action to counter terrorism, the involvement of youth and civil society and increased cooperation with the United Nations and with other parliaments. Participants highlighted the rule of law as the ruling principle in the fight against terrorism, and emphasized the importance of ensuring equality before the law and equal legal protection in relations between government and citizens. They also called for preventative criminal justice measures to tackle extremism.
Similar conferences in other regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa are planned to be carried out during the course of the year.
9 February 2017
Deputy Speaker Dr Tulia Ackson addresses the seminar. © National Assembly of Tanzania
At a seminar co-organized by IPU and the Parliament of Tanzania, parliamentarians learned how they could help national efforts to improve women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health. They were briefed on the core parliamentary prerogatives they could use to spearhead action on health; Tanzania's key commitments on health in the context of the SDGs; how to address the root causes of maternal, neonatal and child mortality, especially among the most vulnerable and marginalized populations; and budget advocacy, allocation and oversight.
The two-day inception seminar, held in Dodoma on 4-5 February, brought together members of parliament, government, civil society and international organizations. It was attended by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, 100 MPs, and experts from the Tanzanian Ministry of Health, WHO, UNAIDS, UNICEF, National Council for People living with HIV/AIDS in Tanzania and the White Ribbon Alliance. The MPs were also able to meet with the Minister of Health, who replied to their questions on government’s health priorities and actual health expenditure.
MPs agreed to strengthen their efforts to raise awareness among adolescents about sexual and reproductive health, and improve their capacity to track, analyse and advocate for increased health budget allocation. They promised to ensure that health spending was more equitable and effective, reaching remote areas, and build up domestic resource mobilization. They also agreed to train community workers to bring health services closer to the people.
Tanzania has made great strides on child survival: the under-5 mortality rate has gone down by two-thirds. However, similar gains have not been made for maternal and newborn survival. Root causes include lack of financial and human resources and adequate medical equipment.
3 February 2017
Young MPs at the ECOSOC Youth Forum. © Rania Elwany, MP from Egypt and Member of IPU Forum of Young Parliamentarians
The contribution of young people and their participation in decision-making is necessary if we are to eradicate poverty. That was one of the key points made by members of the IPU Forum of Young Parliamentarians at the United Nations ECOSOC Global Youth Forum, held this year on The role of youth in poverty eradication and promoting prosperity in a changing world.
The young MPs participated actively in the Forum and led debates on the crucial role played by parliaments in eliminating poverty and addressing youth-specific needs and interests.
Using data from IPU’s report on 2016 Youth participation in national parliaments, which shows that less than two per cent of world parliamentarians are under 30 years old, MPs called for enhanced youth representation and participation in parliament, including through the adoption of youth quotas and opening up political deliberations to young people.
“Young women and men face significant obstacles to achieving prosperous lives, such as unemployment, inequality, discrimination and lack of access to quality education,” said Saeed Alremeithi, President of the IPU Forum of Young Parliamentarians. “Through the IPU Forum of Young Parliamentarians, we have sounded the alarm on the need for greater investment in youth, as well as the need for greater inclusivity of youth in political processes to help spur this effort.”
The ECOSOC Forum, held in New York on 30-31 January, was also an opportunity for young MPs to advocate the lowering of eligibility ages to run for parliament through the Not Too Young to Run campaign led by the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), IPU, Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) and the European Youth Forum.
31 January 2017
IPU President Saber Chowdhury and Chairman of The Nippon Foundation Yohei Sasakawa at the launch of the 2017 Global Appeal. © The Nippon Foundation
The Global Appeal 2017 to End Stigma and Discrimination against People Affected by Leprosy was launched on 30 January in New Delhi by the Nippon Foundation with IPU’s support. The Appeal, endorsed by the IPU Executive Committee, emphasizes that solutions to the challenges faced by people with leprosy must be "firmly embedded in human rights" and urges all parliaments to "promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies".
Speaking at the launch, IPU President Saber Chowdhury said, "As parliamentarians, one of the principal tools at our disposal is legislation. We constantly review how it can be used to ensure a better life for the people we represent; we also have a responsibility to examine existing laws and amend or repeal any that are discriminatory."
The appeal was started by Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, and Japanese Government Goodwill Ambassador for the Human Rights of Persons Affected by Leprosy. An annual appeal has been launched around World Leprosy Day (the last Sunday in January) since 2006. It aims to raise awareness about leprosy among institutions, policy makers and the general public, emphasizing the fact that the disease is curable and that persons affected by leprosy and their family members need to be treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve.
31 January 2017
Participants at the workshop organized by IPU. © IPU/J. Lang
An IPU delegation, comprising parliamentarians from France and Burkina Faso, conducted a needs assessment mission to the Parliament of Djibouti to examine the functioning of the parliament and identify strategic areas of cooperation to strengthen the institution. The delegation met with the Speaker of the Parliament, parliamentary staff, leaders of political parties, women parliamentarians, the Executive branch, civil society and potential partners.
The visit also included a day-long workshop with the administration of the parliament aimed at exploring the challenges and making recommendations for enhanced efficiency in parliamentary work. The mission was guided by the Common Principles for Support to Parliament, which Djibouti endorsed in April 2015.
The mission took place from 8 to 12 January 2017. The delegation included French MP René Rouquet, Burkinabe MP Alphonse Nombre, Polish parliamentary expert Marcin Buzanski and Jonathan Lang, project officer from IPU.
25 January 2017
Martin Chungong, IPU Secretary General, and H.E. Mr. Naci Koru, Permanent Representative of Turkey to Geneva. © IPU/Jorky
H.E. Mr. Naci Koru, incoming Permanent Representative of Turkey to Geneva, paid a courtesy call on IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong on 25 January. Mr. Koru and Mr. Chungong discussed the strong cooperation between the Turkish Parliament and IPU, and expressed the hope of furthering such cooperation.
They also discussed the cases of Turkish MPs currently before the IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians. Mr. Chungong urged the Turkish authorities to continue to cooperate with the IPU for the resolution of those cases. He received assurances to this effect.
Mr. Chungong briefed Mr. Koru on the Organization’s Strategy for 2017-2021, which is underpinned by the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and focuses on the connection between stronger parliaments and democracy and better development outcomes for the people.
IPU has an ongoing programme of assistance to the Turkish Parliament and works closely in this regard with its Commission for Equal Opportunities.
24 January 2017
Gambians celebrate the peaceful transition of presidential power. ©XAUME OLLEROS / ANADOLU AGENCY
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is pleased the crisis in The Gambia was peacefully resolved following the departure of former President Yahya Jammeh. Mr. Jammeh left the country over the weekend after 22 years in power and went into exile in Equatorial Guinea.
IPU once again congratulates President Adama Barrow on his election victory. IPU also looks forward to his rapid return to the country, enabling him to proceed with the business of delivering on Gambians' expectations for a democratic future. IPU expresses its full support for the new President and offers its assistance as the country emerges from the crisis.
"I would like to recognize the important contributions of the Economic Community of West African States in bringing about this peaceful outcome", says IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong. "They ensured that democracy and respect for free and fair elections are undisputed pillars of The Gambia and the region's political systems. Now, as the country sets about rebuilding, I would like to let the Gambian leadership know that IPU stands ready to support them in ensuring that respect for the rule of law remains the foundation of the country's governance structure".
20 January 2017
Waves hit the Calella de Mar beach near Barcelona, after heavy rain caused flash floods in the east of Spain on 19 December 2016. Photo: ©JOSEP LAGO / AFP
Oceans and seas constitute a vital ecosystem, and millions of people depend on them for their livelihood and nutrition. The conservation and sustainable use of oceans affects economic, social and environmental policies both nationally and globally. However, acidification caused by CO2 emissions, pollution from plastics, fertilizers and waste, overfishing, and many other unsustainable practices are threatening marine habitats and coastal areas. As new opportunities for economic growth and development arise through the exploitation of oceans, the international community faces new environmental, political and legal challenges.
The 2017 Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations will focus on SDG 14 of the new Sustainable Development Goals: the conservation and sustainable use of oceans. A World of Blue: Preserving the oceans, safeguarding the planet, ensuring human well-being in the context of the 2030 Agenda will bring together parliamentarians, experts and UN officials and will make recommendations to restore the oceans to health.
Jointly organized with the President of the General Assembly, the UN-IPU Parliamentary Hearing will take place in New York from 13-14 February. It will provide a parliamentary component to the preparatory process for a major UN conference on oceans in June.
20 January 2017
A.A. Gueye (Senegal), presenting the report of the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians to the IPU Council in October. ©IPU/L. Fortunati
In the course of their duties, MPs sometimes face human rights violations, and the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians is the only international mechanism with the remit to protect them.
The Committee is meeting in Geneva from 23 to 26 January to examine all ongoing and new cases on file. Its current caseload concerns 157 MPs in 7 countries in the Americas, 107 MPs in 13 countries in Asia, 88 MPs in 10 countries in Africa, 62 MPs in 3 countries in Europe, 35 MPs in 7 countries in the MENA region and 3 MPs in 1 country in the Southern Pacific. At this session, decisions will be taken only in a small number of cases, which will be considered officially adopted on 3 February. The Committee will also discuss the planning and organization of its work for the year and elect a new President and Vice-President.
5 January 2017
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and IPU President Saber Chowdhury. ©IPU/L. Fortunati
The year 2016 is drawing to a close, and we are about to embark on a new one. In retrospect, we can say it has been an eventful and momentous year. We have witnessed the global community, including parliaments, position themselves to advance an ambitious new development agenda, one that the parliamentary community will be instrumental in implementing. We look forward to working with you in delivering on this.
Unfortunately, 2016 too has been replete with multifaceted crises, both intra-country and inter-country. These crises have challenged parliaments, diverting their attention away from improving the well-being of people to resolving conflicts.
2017 promises to be an even busier year for parliaments on both these fronts: development, and peace and security. We look forward to working with you all in meeting these challenges. The bold new strategy you adopted last November provides a robust roadmap for our common endeavours through 2021. It is a strong mandate for IPU and its Members to implement this two-fold agenda.
We wish you and your families a peaceful holiday season and much success in 2017.
Saber H. Chowdhury, President, and Martin Chungong, Secretary General.
20 December 2016
Members of the Kenyan Senate attending the seminar. ©Parliament of Kenya
The Kenyan Parliament was the first to use IPU’s new toolkit on evaluating the gender sensitivity of parliaments.
The toolkit is an outcome of the Plan of Action for Gender-Sensitive Parliaments adopted in 2012 by the 127th IPU Assembly. It is designed to help parliaments assess themselves on criteria such as women’s representation, the parliamentary culture and the ability to deliver on gender equality. It also assists them in determining how parliaments can be transformed into gender-sensitive institutions.
The seminar was opened by the Speaker of the Senate, the IPU Secretary General and the Chair of KEWOPA, the women’s parliamentary caucus. Participants included female and male members and staff from both houses of Parliament. Topics ranged from the numbers of women among senior staff and committee leadership to the parliament’s policies from a gender perspective.
“With such strong commitment, your Parliament can make a real difference to the women and men of this country and live up to their aspirations for equality, development and peace”, said IPU Secretary-General Martin Chungong in his opening remarks.
“Last Friday we celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This violence does not occur in a vacuum,” he added. “I strongly believe that Parliaments have a crucial role to play in building a culture of equality and of zero tolerance towards violence against women. To do so they must start by being models of what society should be like and look like.”
The exercise took place during in a four-day seminar, Evaluating the Level of Gender Sensitivity of the Parliament of Kenya, held in Nairobi from 28 November to 1 December and co-organized by IPU and the Kenyan Parliament.
The self-assessment report will include a summary of the stock-taking exercise and recommendations for further action. After the August 2017 elections, IPU and the Parliament of Kenya will undertake more activities to support the report's implementation and to help build a more gender-sensitive environment.
15 December 2016
Participants at the 2nd High-Level Meeting of the GPECD ©IPU/A. Motter
Public-private partnerships (PPPs) and other national and international commitments should be submitted to parliaments for review. This was one of the actions called for by parliamentarians attending the Parliamentary Forum at the Second High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC).
The statement of the Parliamentary Forum stressed that the negotiation of these commitments should be carried out with transparency and that, before entering into a PPP, all financing options should be considered. The statement also called for parliaments to have more oversight of public spending of foreign and domestic resources, and to ensure that aid allocation reached the poor and vulnerable rather than being tied to the economic and strategic interests of donor countries.
The second meeting of the GPEDC, which took place in Nairobi from 28 November to 1 December 2016, concluded with a declaration that reiterated the importance of parliamentary oversight of national and international commitments. It called for development partners to submit aid and development policies to parliaments for review; present regular progress reports on the policies’ implementation; and share information with parliaments so they could participate in developing and reviewing policies and modalities for development cooperation.
“I believe there is a consensus that development cooperation is no longer just about traditional aid in which a donor helps foot the bill of public service or infrastructure projects. Development cooperation today amounts to an effort by which all stakeholders—governments, parliaments, donor agencies, civil society, private sector, local authority and others—work together to mobilize all available resources for development, from domestic and international taxes, to foreign investments, remittances,” said IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong. He said that he worried that public money was being invested in private-public partnerships that could cost tax payers more or impose higher fees on consumers than if the services had been provided directly by the government. “Development cooperation must guard against all these dangers and help promote policy coherence across the board,” he stressed.
12 December 2016
The Parliamentary Meeting at COP 22 held in Marrakech, organized by IPU and the Parliament of Morocco on 13 November, brought together 300 delegates from more than 60 countries spanning five continents. The parliamentarians received first-hand information on the main issues and orientations of COP22/CMP12, gained better knowledge of the recommendations included in the IPU's Parliamentary Action Plan on Climate Change and discussed ways of ensuring speedy operationalization of the Paris Agreement.
The Meeting proved that awareness is high among parliamentarians everywhere about the need to take concrete action on climate change, in particular as it concerns legislating for the nationally determined contributions (NDCs), transition to renewable energy and transfer of technologies. What stands in the way in many countries is the capacity of parliaments to make effective and concrete contributions, help establish strategies and ensure their financing. Investing in building this capacity is a prerequisite for sound legislation and action.
The Parliamentary Meeting underscored that climate change is also an issue of social justice and equality and that effective action needs to take into account the issues of discrimination and human rights. The parliamentarians paid special attention to the social and health impacts of climate change, in particular on women, children and adolescents, as a vulnerable but often marginalized group. Laws and policies to combat climate change need to be inclusive of measures that specifically target these populations.
At the end of the meeting, parliamentarians adopted a forward-looking roadmap for their future action on climate change and implementation of the Parliamentary Action Plan on Climate Change.
12 December 2016
About 120 MPs from the Parliaments of Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in Panama City on 1 and 2 December 2016 at a Regional Seminar on the SDGs organized by IPU and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino). The IPU President, Saber Chowdhury, delivered the inaugural address.
The seminar provided a platform for MPs to exchange ideas about the opportunities and challenges associated with achieving the SDGs. The parliamentarians discussed how parliaments can effectively engage in policymaking to facilitate the implementation of the SDGs in the region and their own countries. Particular emphasis was placed on the issue of economic, social and environmental inequalities and how these impede progress towards sustainable development.
The IPU’s Self-Assessment Toolkit on the SDGs was launched on this occasion and immediately sparked a great deal of interest among parliamentarians. The outcome document of the seminar urges IPU and Parlatino to continue to promote parliamentary action on the SDGs, including through the Toolkit.
9 December 2016
©National Assembly of Serbia
On 5 December, IPU President Saber Chowdhury paid an official visit to Serbia at the invitation of the Speaker of Parliament, Ms. Maja Gojkovic, to participate in celebrations to mark the Parliament’s 125th anniversary of its membership of the IPU. The Serbian Parliament was one of the first Members of the IPU, having joined soon after the Organization’s inception, in 1891.
In his address to a special session of the National Assembly, Mr. Chowdhury paid tribute to the longstanding and loyal membership of the Serbian Parliament and its valuable contribution to the work of the IPU over the years. In 1963, the Serbian Parliament hosted the 52nd IPU Conference, which debated important issues of great relevance even today: equality between States as an essential basis for international cooperation, enhancing the effectiveness of the United Nations with a view to maintaining international peace and security, and the creation of denuclearized and limited armaments zones as a first step towards complete disarmament.
He saluted Serbia’s many achievements in the post-Cold War era and commended the country on its efforts to promote gender equality in all sectors. During his visit to Belgrade, Mr. Chowdhury also met other high-level parliamentary and government officials and interacted with students of the Political Sciences Faculty at Belgrade University.
29 November 2016
Martin Chungong and Ms. Gerda Verbung, Coordinator of SUN. ©IPU/Jorki
Malnutrition affects billions of people throughout the world, killing around three million children annually, according to UNICEF. The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement was set up to respond to this crisis, with a mission to eliminate malnutrition by 2030.
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong is one of the 29 global leaders appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to shape SUN's efforts to eradicate malnutrition. On 17 November, Mr. Chungong met with Ms. Gerda Verbung, Coordinator of SUN, to discuss how to translate the collaboration between the two institutions into action.
Mr. Chungong renewed his commitment to mobilize the global parliamentary community around the issues of malnutrition by raising awareness about nutrition and how it can contribute to national economic and social development.
IPU will use the global platform of its Assemblies to organize sessions on nutrition and look at ways in which it can be mainstreamed into national plans and policies. On the national level, IPU will build the capacity of parliamentarians to oversee both the implementation of government’s plans, strategies and programmes, and the effective use and significant increase of financial resources for nutrition. It will also help parliamentarians to improve legislation on nutrition, and to organize and participate in community campaigns to raise public awareness of the issue.
Mr. Chungong said that democracy and effective parliamentary action can bring about positive change in people’s lives, including by helping to eradicate malnutrition.
21 November 2016
Panellists at IPU event during Geneva Peace Week. ©IPU/Laurence Marzal
How can countries ensure that peace, once established, is sustainable? And what can be done about inequality, which, if allowed to persist, can be a threat to peace?
IPU co-hosted two events during Geneva Peace Week to look into these questions, bringing a parliamentary perspective to them.
The first of these was When Peace Agreements Fail to Secure Sustainable Peace: Learning from Yemen, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka. Participants discussed the factors due to which, in spite of negotiations and agreements, outbreaks of violence had broken out in these three countries. Ambassador Shukria Barakazai, former MP from Afghanistan, said that the conditions for a lasting peace should address these factors: stakeholders should fulfil their parts of the agenda; neighbours should be engaged and made responsible for the role they play; an economic plan should be put in place; the rule of law should be implemented fairly; and the rights of women and minorities should be taken into account. The event was co-hosted with the Inclusive Peace and Transition Initiative (IPTI) and the Mission of Germany to the United Nations.
The second event, Inequality as a Danger to Sustainable Peace – Converging Perspectives on Human Rights and Peacebuilding, brought together experts to discuss the impacts of societal inequalities on sustainable peace from human rights and peacebuilding perspectives. Sustaining peace should include political and economic structural changes to tackle the root causes of conflict and social cohesion. Participants emphasized the links between discrimination, human rights violations and inequality, and the role of the state in dealing with inequalities through laws and policies. Austrian MP Andreas Schieder said that parliamentarians can play a crucial role by transposing human rights obligations that promote equality into domestic legislation; involving all sectors of society in the decision-making processes; addressing growing gender inequalities through the empowerment of women and girls; and involving youth. MPs could set up early warning mechanisms, such as hotlines, that allow for tailor-made responses to existing inequalities. (See also Human Rights Abuses as Precursors of Conflict: Parliaments as Early Responders.) The event was co-hosted with the Quaker United Nations Office Geneva (QUNO) and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES).
Geneva Peace Week is a collective action initiative. It was set up in 2014 and is facilitated by the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies and the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform with the support of Switzerland. The initiative focuses on the cross-cutting nature of peace. IPU has been a partner of Geneva Peace Week since 2015.
8 November 2016
Riot police and demonstrators clash following the arrest of Turkish MPs from the HDP party. ©AFP/Adam Altan
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is concerned about the recent arrests and detention of parliamentarians from the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey. The Organization is particularly worried by the allegations that these MPs may have been targeted in response to their conduct of peaceful political activities.
IPU is in contact with the Turkish authorities to enquire into the exact circumstances of and justification for the arrests and detention. IPU President Saber Chowdhury and IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong urge the authorities to take every step to ensure respect for the rule of law. They stress that these MPs are entitled to due process and fair trial guarantees in any legal proceedings against them.
IPU recalls that the arrests of the MPs took place after their parliamentary immunity had been lifted earlier this year. IPU President Saber Chowdhury, during his visit to Turkey in October, reminded the authorities about the importance of parliamentary immunity to allow parliamentarians to do their job freely and securely and to safeguard the integrity of the parliamentary institution.
Regarding HDP’s decision to provisionally pull out from parliament, IPU calls upon the Turkish Parliament and the authorities to ensure that all conditions are met for MPs to freely work together to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis. It also calls for the respect, by all sides, of the constitutional order and the democratic integrity of parliament.
2 November 2016
Martin Chungong and Fabiola Gianotti with the signed agreement.©IPU/Jorki
The heads of IPU and CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) signed a cooperation agreement that aims to promote initiatives for peace and intercultural dialogue; facilitate exchanges between the scientific community and parliamentarians; and raise parliamentarians’ awareness of the importance of science for sustainable development. The event took place at IPU Headquarters in Geneva on 1 November 2016.
IPU recognizes that science and scientific education contribute to fostering inclusive dialogue and sustainable development. IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong said that he saw a strong case for collaboration. “Science doesn’t lie,” he said. “And MPs need accurate information and data to be able to do their work. Science not only brings food to the table but can also foster world peace.”
“This agreement establishes cooperation between CERN and IPU aimed at working on aspects of common interest,” said Dr. Fabiola Gianotti, the first woman Director-General of CERN. “In particular, it will support CERN’s advocacy of the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education for the sustainable development of society and for peaceful collaboration.”
SESAME, the first major international research centre in the Middle East, is a good example of how science can be used as an instrument of peace. The Centre, based in Jordan and set up on the CERN model, brings together scientists from the Middle East region, including from Israel and Palestine.
20 October 2016
Martin Chungong à prononcer un discours à l’Assemblée nationale du Bénin ©Benoit Koffi
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong was invited to address the opening ceremony of the second regular session of the National Assembly of Benin by the Speaker, Mr. Houngbédji, who is committed to strengthening cooperation between the Parliament and the IPU. Mr. Chungong commended Benin’s vibrant democracy and called upon the country’s parliamentarians to build a stronger, more effective parliament working in partnership with the Executive.
Mr. Chungong said that “freedom of expression, alternation of power, good governance, greater political representation of women, the smooth functioning of institutions in accordance with the rule of law, accountability, and a dynamic civil society are all essential for democracy to take root and flourish and are finding fertile ground in Benin through the efforts of political actors driven by a sense of responsibility and working for the common good.”
“This is the secret to the vitality of democracy in Benin; the success of recent electoral consultations is a good example of this,” he added.
However, Mr. Chungong expressed the need for ongoing efforts to strengthen democracy in Benin. “This is consistent with the very principle of democracy and will enable it to respond appropriately to the manifold challenges that are reflected in the many and pressing expectations of your voters,” he said.
In his speech, the IPU Secretary General emphasized the crucial role parliamentarians play in addressing some of the key issues at the forefront of the international agenda, such as human rights, gender equality, terrorism, the new sustainable development agenda and youth involvement in political life. He specifically highlighted the necessity to promote women’s rights and called for increasing the proportion of women MPs in the National Assembly, which currently stands at 7 per cent.
Mr. Chungong paid a courtesy visit to the Head of State, Mr. Patrice Talon, who appealed for IPU support for building the capacity of Beninese parliamentarians so they could successfully carry out their functions. The IPU Head pledged his support.
On the IPU Secretary General’s request to garner support of the executive related to issues like gender equality, combating terrorism and promoting democracy and development through the implementation of the new development agenda, Mr. Talon assured him of his full support, namely on gender equality “where Benin is not doing quite well”, he acknowledged.
During his visit to Cotonou, Mr. Chungong also met with Benin’s Ombudsan and former MP, Mr. Joseph Gnonlonfoun, who has been actively involved in IPU’s activities over the years. The IPU Secretary General stressed the IPU’s desire for Mr. Gnonlonfoun to continue to participate in the work of the Organization, particularly in terms of his expertise in conflict resolution.
19 October 2016
IPU President visits Turkey.
I am pleased to be in Ankara today, at the invitation of Mr. Ismail Kahraman, Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. We have had substantive and productive discussions, and I very much look forward to our cooperation ahead. I have also had the opportunity to exchange views with a number of other senior parliamentary officials, including the Chair of the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Men and Women, the Chair of the Committee on Human Rights Inquiry and the Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on the July 15 Coup Attempt.
I have used the opportunity to reiterate that the Inter-Parliamentary Union has condemned in the strongest possible terms the coup attempt in Turkey and the attack on Parliament on 15 July. Any attempt to interfere in the political process or accede to power through violence cannot be justified under any circumstances and should be clearly rejected.
The IPU expresses its solidarity with the people of Turkey as they recover from the trauma of the July 15 events. The IPU reaffirms its commitment to support Turkey in its efforts to strengthen constitutional order and uphold democracy and the rule of law. It underscores the critical role the Turkish Parliament plays in this process, including in terms of fostering an inclusive political dialogue in the country.
The IPU has a longstanding relationship with the Turkish Parliament, as evidenced through joint programmes and initiatives in a number of areas, including parliamentary capacity building, gender equality and human rights. I have agreed with the Turkish parliamentary authorities, to pursue our on-going co-operation to promote gender equality in partnership with the United Nations. The IPU and the Turkish Parliament are also exploring modalities to ensure follow up to the 2011 Parliamentary Action Plan for the Least Developed Countries.
During my visit to Ankara, I have also discussed with my Turkish hosts the situation of the nearly 140 Turkish MPs whose parliamentary immunity was lifted in May after a vote in Parliament amending the Constitution and who now face prosecution. The IPU reaffirms the importance of parliamentary immunity as a necessary mechanism to allow parliamentarians to do their job freely and safely, with the clear understanding that immunity should not be confused with impunity. I have stressed that the MPs in question should be entitled to due process and fair trial guarantees in any legal proceedings against them.
The IPU also welcomes the commitment of the Turkish Parliament to work closely with the IPU in finding a suitable solution to the cases currently under consideration by the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians.
13 October 2016
Martin Chungong speaking to the Presidents of the African and Arab Parliaments ©Sada El-Balad
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong congratulated the Egyptian Parliament on its 150th anniversary and called on all political stakeholders to reflect in this historical moment on the need to build a stronger and more democratic parliament.
Addressing a ceremony in Sharm El-Sheikh attended by President Abdel Fatah Al Sissi and MPs from African and Arab countries, Mr. Chungong stressed IPU´s resolute support to the democratic process in the country.
Mr. Chungong said it is time now in Egypt for “introspection and soul-searching, based on past achievements and the challenges ahead", and urged all Egyptians to build on this momentum to consolidate a parliament "that is representative, transparent, accountable, accessible and effective”.
“In sum, one that is better able to articulate the wishes of the people and deliver prosperity within the framework of the mandate prescribed in the Constitution. Taking this effort forward, the Parliament can count on IPU’s unflinching support”, he added.
During his visit to Egypt, the IPU Secretary General met with President Al Sissi, who committed to promoting inclusive democracy and working for a strong national parliament. Both agreed on the need to tackle the global threat of terrorism to democracy, peace and dialogue, and discussed priority issues on IPU's agenda, such as migration and the refugee crisis.
President Al Sissi thanked Mr. Chungong for participating in the event and noted the key role played by the Secretary General in strengthening relations between Egypt and IPU. He also stressed the need for IPU to continue to support the Egyptian Parliament in order to enhance its capacity and improve transparency.
Egypt has been a Member of IPU for 92 of its 150 years of existence, becoming the first Arab Member of the Organization in 1924.
A large-scale technical cooperation agreement is currently being implemented by IPU.
12 October 2016
Martin Chungong welcomes new ambassadors to IPU Secretariat ©IPU/Jorki
In a round of courtesy visits with new Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in Geneva, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong met with Ambassadors Deyana Kostadinova of Bulgaria, Aviva Raz Shechter of Israel and Yackoley Johnson of Togo.
“I am pleased to welcome the new ambassadors and express my commitment to continuing our work with them on the challenging issues facing their respective parliaments,” explained Mr. Chungong. As a Geneva Gender Champion, Mr. Chungong also applauded the fact that two out of the three permanent representatives he met last week are women, adding to the growing number of women ambassadors in Geneva.
“It is very encouraging to see more women taking up such high-ranking posts,” stated the IPU Secretary General, as he reiterated his personal commitment to gender equality.
The Israeli Ambassador expressed her appreciation for the outcomes of a recent roundtable organized by IPU with MPs from the Middle East, including Israel and Palestine. They examined ways to resolve the region’s critical water shortage.
Mr. Chungong and Ambassador Johnson discussed IPU’s efforts to end the child labour and trafficking in Africa while the meeting with the Bulgarian Ambassador focused on the parliamentary dimension of the work of the UN. They also discussed the empowerment of women and IPU’s initiatives to facilitate the sharing of experiences and best practices on this issue.