23 September 2016
Children are the most vulnerable to the devastating effects of malnutrition. ©Nicolas Cégalerba/Biosphoto
Malnutrition is a silent emergency that affects billions of people. The United Nations estimates that one in three people are impacted with some 156 million children suffering from stunted growth and 99 million from underweight. No country is spared from the problem.
Since 2010, the Scale Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement (scalingupnutrition.org) has been leading a global push to build a world free of malnutrition by 2030. It is based on the principle that everyone has the right to adequate, safe and nutritious food. It brings together the United Nations and government officials, civil society, donors, businesses and scientists from 57 countries to engage, inspire and invest in collective actions to achieve its goal.
Recently, IPU Secretary General, Martin Chungong, became one of 29 global leaders appointed by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to shape and direct the efforts of the SUN Movement and its mission to eliminate malnutrition by 2030.
“Good nutrition is essential to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted a year ago, and we have an unprecedented opportunity to transform the ways we work together. There is no better time than the present to bring together such an exciting group of nutrition leaders,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Members of the Lead Group include current and former Heads of State and national and international leaders on the issue. During their inaugural meeting on 21 September, the Lead Group set the road map for the Movement’s objectives and priority actions over the next four years.
“Parliamentary action on malnutrition is critical to achieving the goal”, explains Martin Chungong. “At IPU’, we concentrate our efforts on ending malnutrition in our maternal and child health initiatives. We believe children in particular bear the most enduring consequences of this problem.”
“For IPU and for me, becoming a member of the Lead Group is another vital way for the Organization to advocate for and drive global efforts to eradicate malnutrition and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,”.
21 September 2016
Demonstrators gather in front of a burning car in Kinshasa on September 19, 2016. ©AFP/Eduardo Soteras
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) condemns the violence and loss of life following clashes between protestors and security forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 19 September. IPU urges all sides to refrain from further violence and to engage in fully inclusive talks on a transparent and fair electoral process, in line with the country’s Constitution.
Police and demonstrators clashed following the Electoral Commission’s announcement that presidential and legislative elections scheduled for later this year would be delayed.
IPU deplores the attacks that took place on 19 September against the members and offices of different political parties. It also expresses deep concern about the injuries which opposition MP Fayulu suffered in the course of these events.
IPU calls for authorities to protect human life, respect people’s right to peaceful assembly, to investigate fully the recent violence and hold those responsible to account. As underscored by IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong, “all parties must allow Parliament and MPs to carry out their constitutional mandates, freely and fairly”.
6 September 2016
IPU is marking International Day of Democracy 2016 on 15 September with the theme ‘Democracy 2030’ – an invitation and challenge to all parliaments to think about the future of democracy.
This includes from the perspectives of young people – the 20 / 30 years old- and regarding the United Nations’ groundbreaking 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development .
Imagining the future is fundamental for building strong democracies that contribute to achieving sustainable development. International Day of Democracy is a key opportunity to challenge ideas, allow diverse voices to be heard and engage the general public. The IPU is inviting all parliaments to mark the day with specific activities and actions.
Key questions for International Day of Democracy 2016 include:
* How will the institutions of democracy – parliament, political parties and elections – change between now and 2030?
* Will the existing political processes be sufficient to enable young people to express their aspirations – or do new processes need to be invented?
* What new forms of collaborative, participative decision-making will emerge in the digital era?
* How will parliaments connect the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the concerns and hopes of their citizens?
To be successful, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development requires engaged and committed parliaments that can enable governments to act, while holding them accountable to their commitments.
For the International Day of Democracy , IPU will also be highlighting how young people have a key role to play in democracy’s present and future. Engaging youth in their own spaces – while at the same time creating spaces for young people in parliaments – is a core part of any effort to re-imagine parliaments and democracy for the future.
See www.ipu.org/idd and follow #DemocracyDay on social media.
5 September 2016
Leaders pose for a family photo during the 11th G20 Leaders’ Summit in Hangzhou, China on September 4, 2016. ©Turkish Presidency/Yasin Bulbul/Anadolu Agency
IPU welcomes the announcement made by China and the USA over the weekend of their decision to formally ratify the Paris climate change agreement. The announcement was made at the G20 meeting, taking place in Hangzhou, China. The move is significant as both countries together account for nearly 40 per cent of the world's carbon emissions. The Paris deal is the world's first comprehensive climate agreement. It will only come into force after it is ratified by at least 55 countries, producing together 55 per cent of global carbon emissions. Before China and the USA made their announcement, the 23 nations that had ratified the agreement accounted for just over 1 per cent of emissions.
IPU has been mobilizing parliaments since the historic deal was signed in Paris back in December 2015. It has underscored the crucial role played by parliaments in ratifying international commitments made by governments and in overseeing their implementation nationally, including by allocating sufficient funds from the national budget. IPU recently adopted the Parliamentary Action Plan on Climate Change. The document sets out guidelines for national parliaments, proposing concrete action in the international response to the climate change challenge.
In a statement issued today, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong urged “the parliaments of other countries that have not yet done so to work towards speedy ratification of the Paris climate change agreement in order to make it fully operational as soon as possible”.
22 July 2016
On 21 July, a new IPU-UN Agreement was signed. ©IPU/Kim Haughton
IPU President Saber Chowdhury has welcomed a new UN-IPU cooperation agreement signed yesterday at UN Headquarters in New York. Building on the growing partnership and interaction between the two organizations, the agreement places the relationship on a stronger footing and will facilitate greater cooperation at the political and operational levels on behalf of “we the peoples”.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development needs parliamentarians engaged fully to ensure its success. This ambitious world agenda, which includes urgent action on climate change, disaster risk reduction and enhanced governance worldwide, requires effective national SDG plans, adequate resources, enhanced oversight and strong support from the world’s 45,000 parliamentarians.
“I am pleased to see this agreement signed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong, and look forward to deeper and more frequent engagement between the UN and IPU,” said IPU President Chowdhury. Among other things, the new agreement will ensure enhanced information exchanges and sharing of best practices in strengthening parliamentary capacity worldwide.
IPU Secretary General Chungong said the new agreement marked a significant step forward in relations. “As the world organization of parliaments, IPU works to ensure parliaments are engaged in the major UN processes, bringing a parliamentary perspective on global issues and mainstreaming international commitments into the day-to-day work of parliaments, with a view to ensuring peace, dignity and prosperity for all.”
On many occasions, UN Secretary-General Ban has expressed his steadfast support for the engagement of parliaments and parliamentarians in support of the far-reaching UN agenda. “I sincerely hope that with this cooperation agreement we will strengthen much more our cooperative partnership between IPU and the United Nations”.
Mr. Ban noted that this was a new agreement for a new era. “Let’s work together, working closely to meet the expectations and aspirations of many people”. He added, “We are working for the people, our planet, peace, prosperity and partnership”, known as the 5 “Ps”.
Following the signing ceremony, Mr. Chungong and his senior team held a meeting with the UN Secretary-General.
18 July 2016
People hold Turkish flags in Taksim square in Istanbul on July 16, 2016 during a demonstration in support to Turkish president. ©AFP/Yasin Akgul
IPU has condemned the attempted military coup and attack on Parliament that took place over the weekend in Turkey, strongly deploring the loss of innocent lives during the events. In a statement issued today, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong expressed condolences to the families of the victims and solidarity with the Turkish people. He appealed for calm and restraint, saying that IPU would continue to closely monitor events in the country. Mr. Chungong added that “any attempt to accede to power through force runs contrary to all democratic principles”. He underlined the need for a swift return to constitutional order and for the rule of law and fundamental freedoms to prevail.
15 July 2016
An attack in Nice where a man rammed a truck into a crowd of people, leaving 84 dead and another 18 in a "critical condition". ©AFP/Anne-Christine Poujoulat
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has condemned the attack that took place yesterday in the southern French city of Nice during the 14 July celebrations marking Bastille Day. An armed assailant ploughed a truck through the crowd enjoying the festivities. At least 84 people have been killed, including several children. Many more are seriously injured. The Nice incident is the third major terrorist episode to hit France in less than two years, following the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan/Stade de France attacks.
A condolence message sent by the IPU President and Secretary General to the Speakers of the French Parliament today stated that “such attacks must encourage parliaments the world over to call for collective action against terrorism”. IPU has responded to the growing threat of terrorism by placing this issue high on its agenda, recently developing a parliamentary counter-terrorism strategy and building partnerships with relevant UN agencies to combat this scourge that transcends all borders. IPU has always stood for the peaceful resolution of differences through political dialogue and parliamentary diplomacy and condemns violence in any form. The Organization expresses its solidarity with the people of France and extends its condolences to the families of the victims.
24 June 2016
Laura Rojas outlined IPU’s commitment to global implementation of Resolution 1540.
The President of IPU's Committee on Peace and International Security, Mexican Senator Laura Rojas, has told a UN review of global efforts to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) that MPs, through the IPU, are committed to these efforts. She was speaking in New York at the Comprehensive Review of UN Resolution 1540, which calls on States to take steps to prevent non-government forces getting hold of nuclear, chemical or biological arms. Senator Rojas said IPU had begun galvanizing MPs in 2013, identifying a lack of awareness, and had co-organized a ground-breaking seminar for African MPs held in Côte d'Ivoire in February, which made a number of recommendations. These included the need for MPs to develop specific laws and strong verification regimes as set out in the resolution, with monitoring of government policies and actions; and the need for parliaments and governments to work more closely together to achieve effective implementation of Resolution 1540. The three-day UN review, which ended on 22 June, will be followed by a new Security Council Resolution. IPU’s delegation to the review also included MPs from Côte d'Ivoire and Chad.
24 June 2016
The panel discussion was only the second of its kind to be organized by the Human Rights Council. ©IPU/R. Rodriguez Valencia
The world’s parliaments and their members play a critical and growing role in ensuring citizens’ rights are upheld, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has told a UN Human Rights Council discussion on parliaments’ role in the Council’s work. Mr Chungong underscored the progress made since the Council started looking at the question of parliamentary engagement in 2013. Increasingly, he said, parliaments around the globe were taking notice of the Council’s work and wanted to ensure its recommendations led to real impact. Mr Chungong made a series of recommendations which would enable the Council to take the work of parliaments into account more systematically, and explained how parliaments could contribute to the Council’s work. IPU Programmes Director Kareen Jabre set out how cooperation between IPU, parliaments and the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women could serve as a template for better inclusion of parliaments in the Council’s work. The event also showcased how the parliaments of Morocco, Ecuador and the Philippines have worked for human rights and embraced the Council’s Universal Periodic Review recommendations for their countries.
23 June 2016
The programme is helping equip parliamentary staff to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals. Picture courtesy of Zambian Parliament.
IPU has deployed a mission to help the Parliament of Zambia develop an electronic database or e-repository to store and share information on behalf of the country's National Assembly. It is part of IPU's undertaking to guide the world's parliaments towards being fully prepared with appropriate systems making them fit to implement the new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A series of workshops organized by the IPU took place in Lusaka in mid-June, bringing staff from different departments of the Assembly together to focus on the design of the new system as well as tackling technical issues and building on work already under way. The aim was to assist in the design of the new system, recommend how it might best be integrated into existing systems and to provide staff with sufficient grounding for them to continue training others. Following the five-day mission a roadmap was also produced setting out the next steps for the National Assembly to further development of the database.
23 June 2016
Mr Chungong and Dr Šimonović explored avenues for closer cooperation. ©IPU/Jorky
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has held talks with the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Dr Dubravka Šimonović, on possible cooperation in supporting parliaments to safeguard the lives and well-being of women and girls. During the talks at IPU headquarters in Geneva, Dr Šimonović suggested there was a need to connect and harmonize various fragmented tools and standards around the world. She believed it was essential to plug gaps in the implementation of laws in some regions as well as to strengthen links between the role of her office and that of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). She and Mr Chungong discussed specific areas of potential cooperation such as including the rapporteur in relevant IPU activities, exchanging information on sexism and violence against women MPs and encouraging MPs to meet the rapporteur. Mr Chungong reminded Dr Šimonović of IPU's tireless work to stop violence against women and girls and its support for parliaments and MPs to develop and enforce targeted legislation. He cited recent IPU work including a workshop in Mauritania for female MPs and NGOs, and training and outreach efforts in Sierra Leone equipping hundreds of traditional leaders and local officials with a better understanding of their role in implementing laws against domestic and sexual violence. Mr Chungong also stressed IPU's work to stop child marriage and female genital mutilation.
20 June 2016
Mr Chungong met the ambassadors at IPU Headquarters in Geneva. ©IPU
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has received a high number of visits from new permanent representatives to the United Nations in Geneva over recent weeks. The ambassadors have included Ma Zhaoxu of China, Vaqif Sadiqov of Azerbaijan, Kinga Singye of Bhutan, Carla María Rodríguez Mancia of Guatemala, Daniiar Mukashev of the Kyrgyz Republic and Anna Korka of Greece. In welcoming them to IPU Headquarters, Mr Chungong restated his commitment to reach out to the Geneva-based diplomatic community in a bid to strengthen relations with their respective parliaments.
20 June 2016
Jo Cox's husband has called for a united fight against hatred. ©AFP/Daniel Leal-Olivas
IPU is shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic killing of British MP Jo Cox, who was attacked last week in her constituency.
Secretary General Martin Chungong said: “Like many MPs around the world, Jo Cox has worked tirelessly for democracy, peace and human rights. With her background in development work, she has been a strong advocate for refugees, those suffering poverty and injustice, and victims of conflict. It is heartbreaking to learn that she has been killed while carrying out her democratic mandate. Violence has no place in any democracy.
“On behalf of IPU and the global parliamentary community, I would like to pay tribute to a woman who embodied all that a parliamentarian should be – compassionate, courageous and committed.
“Her death is a tragic reminder that many of the world’s 45,000 MPs put themselves at risk by making a stand for justice and democracy. A great many have suffered harm in the course of their work.
“We urge all citizens to recognize with gratitude the risks taken and sacrifices made by parliamentarians in the cause of democracy. We urge all MPs to live up to the example set by Jo Cox, a role model for parliamentarians across the world.
“Our thoughts remain with Jo Cox’s family, friends and colleagues and we are deeply sorry for their loss.”
15 June 2016
Mr Chungong praised Ms Thinh for the country’s progress on gender equality and other issues. ©IPU/Jorky
The Vice-President of Viet Nam has stressed IPU’s critical role in delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), during talks in Geneva with Secretary General Martin Chungong on 13 June. Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh also highlighted IPU’s part in ensuring the climate change deal agreed by world leaders last year is put into practice. During the meeting at IPU Headquarters, Mr Chungong hailed Viet Nam’s progress on many issues, including gender equality. Nearly 27 per cent of the country’s MPs are women – against a global average of 22.3 per cent – and the Vietnamese Parliament has its first female Speaker, Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan. Mr Chungong thanked Viet Nam for its successful hosting of last year’s IPU spring Assembly, which adopted a major declaration on turning the SDGs into action. He also expressed gratitude for the country’s commitment to promote stronger ties between the UN, parliaments and IPU during related discussions in New York in July.
13 June 2016
IPU’s Permanent Observer to the UN, Paddy Torsney, delivered the conclusions to the UN High-Level Meeting. ©IPU/Aleksandra Blagojevic
IPU's Permanent Observer to the United Nations, Paddy Torsney, has stressed to the UN’s High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS the essential role of MPs and national parliaments in combating the disease. Presenting the conclusions of IPU’s parliamentary meeting, she said MPs had emphasized their critical role linking national strategies, communities and individuals. Ms Torsney said the MPs had highlighted the persistence of stigma and legal discrimination some 35 years after the epidemic started, continuing to form an immense barrier to voluntary testing and treatment. MPs had stressed their role in fighting stigma and discrimination at the national policy level as well as in their constituencies, she said. Ms Torsney highlighted the tools developed by IPU and UNAIDS to support MPs and parliaments, including a guide on fast-tracking HIV treatment. Ms Torsney was a panellist at the parliamentary meeting alongside UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Jan Beagle, former US Congresswoman Donna Christian-Christensen, Austrian MP Petra Bayr of IPU’s HIV/AIDS advisory group, and Benin’s Foreign Affairs Minister Aurélien Agbenonci.
The High-Level Meeting, attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft, focused on the importance of accelerating the HIV response over the next five years, setting the world on course to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
13 June 2016
Mr Chungong made his own pledge to empower women in all their diversity. ©IPU/Mariana Duarte
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has emphasized his personal commitment to gender equality – alongside that of IPU as a whole – at an event on the theme of “The power of empowered women” (#PoEW). It was held under the auspices of the International Geneva Gender Champions initiative and involved US Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto, UK Minister of State Baroness Anelay and other high-level delegations from countries including Australia, Afghanistan, Iceland and Sierra Leone. The event, at Geneva’s Palais des Nations on 16 June, was addressed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of Jordan. It brought together men, women, youth, businesses and international organizations, calling on them to recognize they were all agents of change and asking what each of them would do to make equality a reality at home, at work and in wider daily life. The spotlight was on areas including gender-equal roles in parenting and the promotion of women into decision-making positions. IPU is strongly committed to gender equality and Mr Chungong has already signed up to be a Geneva Gender Champion. At the mid-year review of the Gender Champions initiative in May, Mr Chungong outlined strategic steps necessary for progress in parliaments and politics, including the setting of targets and monitoring.
9 June 2016
MPs from 16 countries agreed to step up work against the scourge of child trafficking and labour. ©AFP/Junior Kannah
MPs from across West and Central Africa have agreed to cooperate more closely to combat large-scale child trafficking and labour. A seminar in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, focused on ways of stepping up action, including strategies to work more effectively across national boundaries. Root causes such as poverty were examined alongside practical solutions and rehabilitation programmes for victims. The event, hosted at the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), was jointly organized by IPU and the International Labour Organization (ILO), with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The MPs agreed a series of priority areas, such as ensuring better co-ordination between parliaments, regional organizations and civil groups; working towards harmonized laws across States; encouraging States to enforce international conventions; and developing guidelines for MPs. Follow-up steps may also include information and training sessions for parliamentarians on the relevant ILO conventions, and field visits to a number of countries to raise awareness of the use of child labour in gold mining, stone quarrying, cocoa farming and other industries. Around 100 people took part, including nearly 80 MPs from 16 countries.
9 June 2016
Participants set out priorities for protecting women, including new laws and greater public awareness. ©IPU/Brigitte Fillon
An agreement has been reached in Mauritania on action necessary to protect women and girls from child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM) and other violence. The priorities set by women MPs include robust new laws and other measures targeted at prevention, legal enforcement and punishment of perpetrators, with support for victims. The framework was agreed in May at a two-day seminar organized with IPU support in the capital, Nouakchott. It includes banning FGM and launching a programme to educate people about its consequences. Proposals to end child marriage include abolishing a statute under which it is permitted in certain circumstances, and setting up systems to make sure girls remain at school until at least the end of their secondary education. Domestic violence would also be targeted and steps taken to ensure that laws on rape and other sexual attacks match international standards. Mauritania currently has no laws on domestic violence, rape and other forms of sexual violence. The plan, spearheaded by the country's caucus of female MPs, calls for partnerships involving parliament, government, civil society and the media. First steps include activities to raise awareness in a move to help create a new political and social context for the changes.
8 June 2016
The Kyrgyz delegation discussed child marriage and other key issues with Mr Chungong. ©IPU/Jorky
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has met a cross-party parliamentary delegation from the Kyrgyz Republic to discuss avenues for closer cooperation. The visit marks a new chapter in the relationship between IPU and the Kyrgyz Parliament, which has expressed a strong desire to take a more active role in the Organization, having been a Member for 20 years. The delegation, led by the Speaker, Chynybai Akunovich Tursunbekov, confirmed that the Parliament was committed to strengthening its cooperation with IPU.
Issues covered during the talks included early and child marriage in the Central Asian country, where the legal age for marriage is 18 years but some exceptions occur under Sharia law. IPU offered to help the Parliament to raise public awareness on the negative consequences of such practices, a proposal which the Speaker readily accepted. An IPU-WHO study on child marriage legislation in the Asia-Pacific region is due to be launched shortly.
Also on the agenda was a bill being considered by the Kyrgyz Parliament. IPU and UNAIDS as well as other organizations have expressed concern that the so-called “gay propaganda” law is discriminatory in nature. The Speaker assured the IPU Secretary General that the bill had little chance of being passed by Parliament and that even if it was, the Kyrgyz President - who holds veto power - was strongly opposed to it.
8 June 2016
The visit by IPU President Saber Chowdhury coincided with the country’s independence celebrations. ©Lietuvos Respublikos Seimo archyvas
IPU President Saber Chowdhury has made a speech to the Lithuanian Parliament in the capital Vilnius, calling on MPs to ensure that the country produces a robust plan to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. He said parliamentarians had a duty to their constituents to improve living standards in a world that was currently uncertain, unsustainable and unsafe. Mr Chowdhury's visit to Lithuania on 7 June came as the country celebrated the 26th anniversary of its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He pointed to actions in the region in recent years which he said were reminiscent of the Cold War - and stressed that IPU was ever ready to offer any help it could to mediate and facilitate dialogue in the search for lasting peace.
6 June 2016
Mr Chungong stressed the key principles of diverse parliaments and dialogue during his meeting with Mr Demirtas. ©IPU/Jorky
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong stressed the importance of a diverse parliament that is representative of all groups and views in the country as a fundamental principle of democracy, at a meeting with the Turkish opposition MP Selahattin Demirtas in Geneva. Demirtas heads the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP).
During discussions at IPU Headquarters held on 3 June, Secretary General Chungong said it was critical that in a multi-ethnic State such as Turkey, parliament must not only reflect that fact but should also ensure that all political voices were able to exercise their parliamentary rights safely.
Reiterating concern at the recent vote in the Turkish Parliament on a constitutional amendment that would allow the wholesale lifting of parliamentary immunity of MPs, the IPU Secretary General stated that the international parliamentary community became preoccupied whenever and wherever the integrity of parliament was threatened.
If the constitutional amendment is signed off by President Erdogan, it will trigger a blanket removal of immunity for 138 MPs, the vast majority of them from opposition parties, facing allegations ranging from supporting terrorist organizations to insulting the President. IPU believes parliamentary immunity should only be lifted on a case-by-case basis when supported by credible evidence, to avoid politically-motivated legal proceedings.
Underscoring the importance of political dialogue and other non-violent means of resolving political differences as core principles of democracy, Mr Chungong said it was important to convince those groups that used arms for political objectives, to drop them and to bring them to the dialogue table. Demirtas, who is among the 138 MPs who would be affected by the lifting of immunity and would subsequently face 87 charges, stated his party condemned violence and advocated an alternative to violence in the quest for greater political and cultural autonomy for Kurdish people.
27 MAY 2016
Martin Chungong of IPU and Flavia Bustreo of the WHO were delighted at the success of the first-ever WHA parliamentary meeting. ©IPU/Enico Iaia
In a historic double-first at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has delivered a speech committing IPU to mobilizing parliaments for more successful outcomes on health, and has attended the first-ever parliamentary event at the gathering. In his Assembly address, Mr Chungong made clear IPU's commitment to working alongside the World Health Organization (WHO) to enable parliaments to contribute to universal health coverage and to ensure access to health care for people who are vulnerable and marginalized. He pointed out that health had gained increased prominence on IPU's agenda at its Assemblies for the past 10 years and said a clear link had been established between health and human rights. Mr Chungong said the partnership between IPU and the WHO had already achieved remarkable results in the area of HIV/AIDS and women's and children's health. He called on delegates to work for effective national parliaments to pass legislation, approve budgets and hold ministers accountable so that the new Sustainable Development Goals could be met. Attending the parliamentary meeting the following day, Mr Chungong joined WHO head Dr Margaret Chan, Assistant Director General Flavia Bustreo and other key speakers to stress the centrality of parliaments to delivering on health goals. The event heard practical examples of parliamentary successes on health and how MPs and other key players could work together to deliver improved care.
The main contributors included Lesotho Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai, Tanzanian MP Faustine Ndugulile, who chairs IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, and advisory group members Pia Locatelli of Italy and Dr Habibe Millat of Bangladesh. Ian Askew of the WHO and Betsy McCallon on behalf of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health also took part. IPU has thanked Bangladesh, Italy and Lesotho for sponsoring the event and all the participants for making the debut event such a success. Both WHO and IPU have expressed the commitment to making this event a permanent feature of the WHA.
25 MAY 2016
The participants focused on human rights and gender equality during the three-day seminar. ©Namibia Parliament
The Namibian Parliament has produced an action plan to promote gender equality through new and revised laws, and enhanced parliamentary oversight of the country’s international human rights commitments. The proposals follow a seminar attended by the Ministers of Justice and Gender Equality, MPs and other officials and stakeholders in the capital, Windhoek. The discussions focused both on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and human rights issues highlighted by the UN in its Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
Participants identified as main challenges long-awaited laws aimed at underpinning equality in marriage, insufficient implementation of legislation on violence against women, and persisting gender stereotypes and harmful practices. Particular emphasis was placed on the role of parliament and MPs in bringing about change. Participants at the event, organized with the help of IPU, heard from Ugandan and Croatian MPs on their experiences in tackling the issues. The seminar was also part of IPU’s longstanding collaboration with the UN CEDAW Committee and growing efforts to promote parliament’s participation in UPR reporting and follow-up. Priority areas for action include enhancing the role of parliament in State reporting before the UN – especially on CEDAW – allocating resources to ensure enforcement of existing legislation and strengthening the capacity of parliament to deliver on gender equality.
25 MAY 2016
The SDGs aim to eradicate AIDS by 2030. ©Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar
Members of Parliament from around the world will meet at UN Headquarters in New York on 7 June to drive forward work to tackle HIV/AIDS. The event coincides with the UN’s High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS, which will adopt a new declaration to guide global policy in the light of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). MPs will play a critical role in the SDGs target of eradicating AIDS by 2030 - shaping policies, passing laws, overseeing government action and authorizing financial resources. At the parliamentary meeting, they will be able to exchange views and experiences of successful practices, and clarify how they can fast-track effective policies to ensure everyone can access the health services they need. IPU is organizing the meeting in close cooperation with UNAIDS, building on the two organizations’ partnership to combat the disease through parliamentary action. The event is open to all MPs and parliamentary staff attending the High-Level Meeting. The United Nations is encouraging all States to include in their delegations MPs with health experience, in recognition of the vital role they play in confronting the issue.
25 MAY 2016
The Swaziland delegation set out the country’s preparations for the full review this autumn. ©UNTV
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has praised Swaziland for including an MP in its delegation to a UN hearing on human rights in the country. The decision to include Marwick Khumalo followed an initiative by IPU, urging greater parliamentary involvement in the Universal Periodic Review of human rights in UN Member States. The preliminary hearing in Geneva was told of Swaziland's efforts to prepare for the full review by the UN Human Rights Council, which meets from 31 October to 11 November. Mr Khumalo later held talks with Mr Chungong, stressing that his country was already addressing a call by the Council for action to end violence against women by restarting legislation interrupted by elections. Mr Chungong offered help in organizing national workshops for MPs in this field. He expressed satisfaction with ongoing efforts for Swaziland to re-engage with the global parliamentary community through IPU.
23 MAY 2016
Danilo Türk (right) and Martin Chungong agreed on the key role parliaments need to play in delivering the global development agenda. ©IPU/Jorky
Former Slovenian President Danilo Türk, who is among the nine candidates to become the next UN Secretary-General has paid a courtesy call on IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong. Their discussions at IPU Headquarters in Geneva covered a range of topics including the need to strengthen the parliamentary dimension to all major UN processes and the new IPU-UN cooperation agreement that is being finalized. Both men agreed on a robust role for parliaments in the implementation of the new global development agenda. Mr Chungong explained what IPU was doing to help parliaments become fit for purpose. Mr Chungong referred specifically to a toolkit, currently being developed, which will enable parliaments to assess their readiness to translate the Sustainable Development Goals into practical action. He also outlined IPU’s other priorities in respect of co-operation with the UN, which he hoped whoever the next UNSG is will support. Mr Türk and the other eight UN Secretary-General candidates have answered three key questions from IPU on their views on working with parliaments, delivering the SDGs and the UN selection process.
19 MAY 2016
Successfully tackling diseases like malaria needs the engagement of parliaments and MPs. ©Reuters/Sukree Sukplang
The power of parliaments and MPs must be harnessed nationally and globally to deliver better health outcomes for citizens, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has told the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In the first address of its kind, Mr Chungong stressed the vital role of parliaments and parliamentarians within their own countries in areas such as devising policies, allocating resources and holding governments to account. Globally, it was also key for bodies such as the Global Fund to work with parliaments, linking the political community with the technical community to ensure the best possible results, he told the meeting in the Côte d’Ivoire capital, Abidjan. Mr Chungong urged governments to include MPs in all delegations to the Global Fund board and similar high-level events, as well as country co-ordination mechanisms, to maximize parliamentary engagement and partnership. He invited the Fund’s senior leadership to the next IPU world Assembly. The Global Fund is already a technical partner on IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. The board thanked Mr Chungong for his inspiring speech, and stressed its commitment to an ongoing partnership with IPU. It pledged to initiate greater parliamentary involvement in country co-ordinating mechanisms and relevant processes, to maximise the impact on the ground.
19 MAY 2016
Malnutrition blights millions of lives around the world, causing death, illness and stunted growth. ©Reuters/Andreea Campeanu
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong is to play a significant role in the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, which is catalyzing the global fight against malnutrition. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited Mr Chungong to join the movement’s Lead Group in recognition of his strong commitment to improving the lives of people who are poor, hungry and vulnerable. The Lead Group supports countries as they step up their work to end malnutrition, as well as providing strategic oversight and ensuring accountability. Fifty-six countries, as well as hundreds of civil society, business and UN organizations, have so far signed up to support the movement’s work to cut the devastating toll of malnutrition and reduce its impact on peace and prosperity. Undernutrition is responsible for the deaths of more than three million children aged under five every year. Almost 800 million of the world’s citizens are undernourished and two billion are deficient in key vitamins and minerals.
18 MAY 2016
IPU President Saber Chowdhury visited Moscow and St Petersburg during his three-day trip. Picture: Russian Council of the Federation
IPU President Saber Chowdhury has visited Russia, thanking MPs there for inviting the organization to hold its autumn 2017 Assembly in St Petersburg and stressing the role of parliaments in creating and maintaining a peaceful world. In a speech to the Council of the Federation, the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament, Mr Chowdhury praised Russia's longstanding membership of IPU and urged MPs to continue working for peace. He pointed to the crucial role of parliaments in delivering a better world by framing appropriate laws and undertaking proper oversight of measures such as those aimed at achieving the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Mr Chowdhury also stressed IPU's commitment to democracy, the rule of law, good governance and human rights. Highlighting IPU Assemblies as a valuable platform for parliamentary diplomacy, and discussing and responding to topical issues, Mr Chowdhury reminded the Russian Parliament of IPU's role in fostering the first meeting between the then British Prime Minster, Margaret Thatcher and the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, at the height of the Cold War. He said IPU continued to tender its good offices to parties in conflict as an honest broker with no hidden agenda.
During his three-day visit, Mr Chowdhury also met ministers and officials and attended a full session in St Petersburg of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The Assembly is a consultative body which discusses parliamentary cooperation within the CIS - the association of countries formed by former member states of the USSR. The Parliamentary Assembly has been granted Associate Membership of IPU, having formerly held Permanent Observer status.
18 MAY 2016
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has already signed the pledge to become a Geneva Gender Champion. ©IPU/Zeina Hilal
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has stressed the organization's commitment to working for gender equality and has outlined strategic steps necessary for progress. In an address to the mid-year review of the International Geneva Gender Champions initiative, Mr Chungong described equality as a key component of better parliaments. He said IPU's strategy to achieve it was focused on setting targets, monitoring and providing support for women's participation in politics, building the capacity of parliaments and helping them with advice and training. With gender equality among the UN's Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030, the Gender Champions project encourages all international organizations based in Geneva to commit themselves to working for equality. Mr Chungong has signed the organization’s pledge, committing to a series of steps including striving for gender parity on IPU panels and boosting women's involvement in IPU Assemblies and decision-making processes. He said it was essential to go beyond quotas in order to reach true parity and gave a warning that “naming and shaming” single sex delegations at Assemblies would be a key weapon in the fight.
17 MAY 2016
All nine candidates have set out their positions on parliamentary engagement.
Candidates hoping to succeed Ban Ki-moon as Secretary-General of the United Nations have stressed their commitment to engaging with IPU and the world’s parliaments – and to helping deliver the new global development agenda - in their responses to three questions put to them by IPU. All nine contenders responded and set out their positions on parliamentary engagement in implementing the SDGs, strengthening the UN’s relationship with IPU and parliaments, and the role of MPs in the Secretary-General selection process. The current contenders are Srgjan Kerim of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Vesna Pusić of Croatia, Igor Lukšić of Montenegro, Danilo Türk of Slovenia, Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, Natalia Gherman of Moldova, António Guterres of Portugal, Helen Clark of New Zealand and Vuk Jeremić of Serbia. Mr Ban’s term of office as eighth Secretary-General ends on 31 December 2016. His successor will be appointed later this year by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council.
13 MAY 2016
The delegation spent three days at IPU headquarters in Geneva. ©IPU/Jonathan Lang
A delegation of Afghan officials has focused on the next steps for the country’s parliament on its journey towards greater democracy and self-sufficiency. The group - including the Secretaries General of both chambers of parliament – completed a three-day workshop at IPU’s headquarters in Switzerland. The training was the latest stage in a parliamentary strengthening process driven by the Afghan Parliament itself, supported by IPU and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). During the workshop, the delegation drafted a Parliamentary Service Act, which would give the parliament greater autonomy in its day-to-day work. IPU has been supporting the Afghan Parliament since 2004, in partnership with the UNDP. The programme ensures local ownership, with the parliament setting its own priorities for development in line with IPU’s Common Principles for Support to Parliament (PDF).
10 MAY 2016
The Assembly agreement was signed at the UK Parliament in London. ©Paul Milsom/Lightning Photography Ltd
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has signed an agreement with the Speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament, Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, finalizing the decision and process for next spring’s IPU Assembly to take place in Dhaka. The 136th Assembly, from 1-5 April 2017, will be the first in IPU’s history to take place in Bangladesh. The signing ceremony was hosted by the British Group of IPU (BGIPU) at the House of Lords in London. BGIPU Chair Nigel Evans attended the event, alongside Vice-Chair and IPU Vice-President Ian Liddell-Grainger and BGIPU Vice-Chair Lord Anderson of Swansea. IPU Assemblies bring together hundreds of MPs, including Speakers and Deputy Speakers, to define and drive parliamentary responses to key global issues such as terrorism, climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals. Before the Dhaka Assembly next year, world MPs will gather in Geneva, Switzerland, for the 135th IPU Assembly from 23-27 October 2016.
9 MAY 2016
The CEDAW Committee is urging Namibia to tackle discriminatory customs and practices and clamp down on violence against women. ©AFP/Antoine Lorgnier
MPs in Namibia are set to take part in a three-day seminar aimed at reinforcing efforts to promote equality between the sexes. The event in the capital, Windhoek, from 12-14 May, is being organised by the country's parliament with support from IPU. Namibia has demonstrated its commitment to equality since its independence in 1990 by ratifying and implementing several international and regional treaties, like the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). However, a review by the international committee overseeing the Convention says more needs to be done by Namibia to reach its targets. Issues identified include gaps in equality laws and insufficient resourcing of the country's legal aid fund for women. The Committee is also calling for action to reinforce measures to stop violence against women and outlaw discriminatory customs and practices. The seminar will give MPs the technical knowledge they need to frame, scrutinise, pass and monitor effective legislation and policies. It will also take in the Universal Periodic Review of Namibia – a UN process which reviews the human rights records of all UN Member States. The seminar is part of IPU’s work, alongside the CEDAW monitoring committee, to enhance the role of parliaments in implementing the Convention in individual countries. A handbook offering MPs guidance on CEDAW is also available.
27 APRIL 2016
President Chowdhury discussed a series of key issues including Europe’s refugee crisis during his talks with President Iohannis. ©Romanian Presidency
During his official visit to Romania, IPU President Saber Chowdhury met President Klaus Iohannis in the capital, Bucharest. The two men discussed a wide range of issues, including the role of parliaments in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the new UN climate change agreement, the critical contribution of parliamentary diplomacy to world peace, and the refugee crisis affecting Europe. IPU's cooperation with the UN and European Parliament was also covered. President Chowdhury’s visit, marking the 125th anniversary of Romania’s IPU membership, included separate talks with Speaker Valeriu Stefan Zgonea, Environment Minister Cristiana Pasca-Palmer and Foreign Affairs Minister Lazar Comanescu. As well as addressing a joint sitting of the Romanian Parliament, President Chowdhury held an interactive debate with students at the Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies, and travelled to Brasov in Transylvania to meet local authorities and civil society representatives - focusing on the sustainable development of cities and communities in light of the SDGs.
27 APRIL 2016
The parliamentary meeting follows Dr Margaret Chan’s historic IPU Assembly address last October. ©IPU/Lucien Fortunati
MPs will meet alongside the World Health Assembly later this month in the first event of its kind. It follows WHO Director-General Margaret Chan’s historic first address to an IPU Assembly in Geneva last October, in which she exhorted MPs to fulfil their unique and powerful role in delivering better health care to citizens. The meeting will strengthen parliamentary involvement in the World Health Organization and help ensure its decisions are translated into practical action by parliaments. MPs will be able to share and hear ideas on delivering the ambitious targets set under Sustainable Development Goal 3 on health - including universal health coverage – and the new Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. The event, co-sponsored by Bangladesh, Italy and Lesotho, takes place on 26 May from 12:15 to 13:45 in Room 7 of the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The event is open to parliamentarians attending the 69th World Health Assembly as members of their national delegation.
27 APRIL 2016
The review will assess if there are any gender equality gaps in Turkish labour law. ©AFP/ Kerem Kocalar/Anadolu Agency
A series of meetings is being held in Turkey to review the country’s labour laws, analysing whether they match up to world standards on gender equality. International experts will join members and staff of the parliamentary commission on equal opportunities, senior officials from the Prime Minister’s office and other key departments who are responsible for reviewing draft legislation, and MPs from parliamentary committees dealing with labour, social affairs and justice. The meetings will highlight international conventions on gender equality – such as the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) – before examining Turkish laws to identify areas where amendments may be needed.
CEDAW committee members Feride Acar and Pramila Patten will help lead the events, alongside Radiye Sezer Katırcıoğlu, who chairs the parliament’s equal opportunities commission, and Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, the regional director for UN Women. The meetings are part of a major project led by IPU and UN Women to boost the Turkish parliament’s commitment to gender equality. Fewer than 15 per cent of Turkey’s MPs are women - well below the global average of 22 per cent.
27 APRIL 2016
The series of events gave MPs and community officials the chance to discuss key messages on Ebola and equality. ©Mohamed Momoh Ngevao
MPs in Sierra Leone have received in-depth training at a workshop on ending the stigmatization of survivors of the deadly Ebola outbreak. A survey has found that 96 per cent of survivors had experienced some form of discrimination. The workshop, held in the capital, Freetown, also provided key information on tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG) and improving their health.
Forty MPs took part in the workshop, before taking the messages on Ebola and violence out into the community at two-day events in Freetown and the eastern town of Kenema. More than 80 people took part in each event, including local leaders, police and legal officials, health, education and social workers, civil society organizations, groups representing women and youth, and constituents. The events were organized by the Parliament of Sierra Leone with IPU assistance.
Community engagement is at the core of the new Global Strategy for Women's, Children's and Adolescents' Health 2016-2030, which aims to end preventable deaths and enable people to thrive. IPU - in collaboration with the World Health Organization and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health - is at the forefront of work to ensure that national parliaments continue to play a critical role in improving women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health at the national, regional and global levels.
27 APRIL 2016
Research suggests that a significant majority of Mauritanian women experience rights abuses such as FGM, violence and child marriage. ©AFP/Georges Gobet
Female genital mutilation, child marriage and other forms of violence against women in Mauritania will be the focus of a workshop in the capital, Nouakchott, on 18 and 19 May. More than 120 MPs, civil servants and other officials are expected to attend the event, which is being co-organized by IPU, the country's National Assembly and the women’s parliamentary caucus.
Research suggests that some 69 per cent of women in Mauritania have suffered genital mutilation and that other infringements of women's rights are widespread, including domestic violence and child marriage. The workshop will raise awareness of the issues among parliamentarians and equip them with knowledge of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and other international standards. The discussions will prepare the MPs for their role in examining and passing a new law tackling violence against women which the Mauritanian Government is expected to submit to parliament later this year.
27 APRIL 2016
The SDGs aim to transform the lives of world citizens, leaving no-one behind. ©AFP/Hector Retamal
IPU is developing a toolkit to help MPs and parliaments around the world fulfil their role in achieving the groundbreaking Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is inviting parliamentarians to comment on the draft. The 17 SDGs and 169 actionable targets were endorsed by governments at a UN Summit in September 2015 and achieving them would transform not only the lives of the global population but also the world itself. The toolkit, which includes a self-assessment questionnaire, is designed to enable MPs to identify good practice in order to mainstream the various goals in their parliaments. It is currently being tested and MPs can get a copy by writing to postbox@IPU.org. The draft toolkit, in English, French and Spanish, is divided into eight sections each targeting a key function such as lawmaking and oversight. IPU is inviting comments, ideas and suggestions by 15 May 2016 on how it might be improved.
27 APRIL 2016
The community events enabled MPs to identify gaps in the registration system. ©Jean-Marie Mbonyintwali
Rwandan MPs have taken part in a series of community visits to see how civil registration is working at the grassroots level. The group of nearly 30 MPs visited 14 national districts in March, meeting officials and citizens to hear their insights and concerns. Efficient civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) are key to long-term planning and budgeting for social development programmes, especially those promoting the health of mothers and their children. The MPs communicated the importance of boosting registration services and ensuring they were accessible and well-run. They also stressed the vital need for citizens to be better informed about the benefits of registering events such as births and deaths. The MPs were able to identify gaps in the system, and drafted questions to be put to relevant government institutions. District officials and civil registration officers committed themselves to improving registration rates. The events took place with the support of IPU.
19 APRIL 2016
The roadmap includes action to avert the potentially devastating impact of climate change. © AFP/Guenter R Artinger/APA
MPs from seven countries and the European Parliament have pledged at a meeting in Romania to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) using an inclusive approach focusing on “People, Peace, Prosperity, Planet and Partnerships”. The Central and Eastern Europe regional seminar in Bucharest on 18 and 19 April was organised by the Romanian Parliament and IPU. In a closing statement, delegates stressed the role of good governance in implementing the SDGs and urged all parliaments to make use of the new toolkit being developed by IPU to help determine whether their working processes are capable of delivering the goals.
The statement highlighted that the universal nature of the SDGs meant that all parliaments should play a role in promoting them nationally. It suggested that the unique position of MPs gave them a key role in explaining to citizens the importance of the changes in the drive to promote a culture of environmental responsibility through education. Parliaments were urged to ensure they had appropriate laws to protect the environment and sufficient funding set aside for measures to prevent natural disasters and reduce the impact of climate change. The need to consult marginalized groups was stressed, alongside the importance of collecting and interpreting appropriate data.
The seminar included parliamentarians from Austria, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Poland, Moldova and Romania. Progress will be reviewed when the group meets again in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, early next year.
The meeting coincided with the 125th anniversary of Romania's membership of IPU. To mark the occasion, IPU President Saber Chowdhury addressed a special joint session of the Romanian Parliament, highlighting the country's valuable contribution to the organization over the years. He also praised the Romanian Parliament for adopting a comprehensive declaration on the SDGs – the first of its kind anywhere in the world. To mark the anniversary, Romania has also issued a commemorative stamp.
11 APRIL 2016
The IPU strategy will work to help parliaments deliver on people's expectations of sustainable development. © Reuters/R.Ranoco, 2014
IPU is inviting feedback from Members on its draft strategy for 2017-2021. The document, Strong democratic parliaments serving the people sets out a vision of a world where every voice counts, and where democracy and parliaments are at the service of citizens for peace and development. The strategy is built on the principles of equality, inclusiveness, respect, integrity and solidarity. It sets out IPU’s commitment to gender equality, youth empowerment, human rights, the global development agenda, peace-building, fostering stronger relationships between parliaments, and bridging the democracy gap in international relations by bringing a parliamentary perspective to global decision-making. IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong told delegates at IPU’s Lusaka Assembly that the strategy would continue to promote strong parliaments and would help them deliver on the expectations of citizens. Please send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org by 15 July 2016.
31 MARCH 2016
The 17 SDGS commit countries to act on a huge range of development issues including climate change. ©AFP/Attila Kisbenedek
MPs from Central and East European Parliaments will continue work on defining opportunities and challenges they and their parliaments face in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) when they meet in Romania next month. The gathering on 18-19 April follows on from a similar sub-regional meeting in June 2015 at which parliamentary action on a number of key areas, including addressing environmental risk and climate change, was called upon. Participating parliaments will report on what action they have taken on the SDGs since the 2015 meeting.
This year’s event will lay emphasis on SDG 16, which highlights the importance of effective institutions, including parliaments, in implementing all 17 goals through coherent policies that capture and build on synergies. Key issues such as effective governance, citizen engagement on the SDGs, inclusive political participation, as well as ways to tackle the risk to environmental security by reducing disaster risk and switching to green energy, will also be addressed. The session in Bucharest coincides with celebrations marking the 125th anniversary of the Romanian Parliament’s membership of IPU. The Romanian Chamber of Deputies and the Senate will hold a joint sitting to mark the anniversary at which they will adopt a declaration on the SDGs. IPU is committed to helping parliaments become fit for purpose in delivering the SDGs by strengthening and adapting their decision-making processes, translating the SDGs into enforceable domestic laws, holding governments to account and providing the necessary funding.
31 MARCH 2016
Female MPs have been meeting formally since the 1980s to empower, encourage and work for change. ©IPU/Jeremy Mukumbuta
IPU’s Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, which for more than 30 years has been a unique opportunity for women MPs globally to meet in person and provide input into international decision-making, has a new name – the Forum of Women Parliamentarians. Its organizing body, the Co-ordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians will now be known as the Bureau of Women Parliamentarians. The changes were agreed by MPs attending the 134th IPU Assembly in Lusaka and were aimed at better communicating the remit and functioning of the group. The Women MPs’ Forum will continue to meet at IPU’s twice-yearly assemblies to build on work to empower and encourage women MPs and ensure that their voices are heard in the wider work of IPU. With latest figures showing that only 22.6 per cent of the world’s 45,000 MPs are women, IPU remains committed to achieving gender equality both within its own structures and in the world’s parliaments.
31 MARCH 2016
The debate tackled the obstacles to women's participation - from stereotypes to social media abuse. ©IPU/Jeremy Mukumbuta
MPs from across the world called for a paradigm shift in attitudes to women’s participation in political processes within parliaments, political parties and society. The call came at the 134th IPU Assembly in Lusaka last week during a session on women’s freedom to participate in politics and how genuine partnership with men can contribute to this. The debate, organized by IPU’s Committee on Democracy and Human Rights, explored the current obstacles to women’s participation, including discriminatory stereotypes, patriarchal culture and party concerns about whether seats are “winnable” with women candidates. The MPs addressed issues such as reconciling family and political life, the risk of suffering abuse on social media and traditional social views suggesting politics is not an appropriate career choice for women. Possible solutions were proposed, including education on gender equality, quotas, financial support, change of practice within parties, access to leadership positions, and strong action against those who intimidate or harm female politicians. The session will inform a resolution to be adopted at the 135th IPU Assembly in Geneva this autumn.
14 MARCH 2016
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and Egyptian Speaker Ali Abd Elall Sayed Ahmed have signed an agreement on future cooperation. ©IPU/Jorky
An IPU team has completed a mission to Egypt, assessing the needs of the country’s parliament for the next phase of its development. The team explored a wide number of areas, including how to strengthen MPs in all aspects of their work, how to empower female and young members and the establishment of a parliamentary training institute. The institute would boost good procedure by improving staff efficiency and increasing MPs’ knowledge of parliamentary techniques and topical themes, as well as improving cooperation with other parliaments. While in Egypt, the mission also looked at how to further improve key parliamentary services such as library facilities, documentation and Information and Communications Technology (ICT), as well as the parliament’s structure and its relationships with the executive, citizens and outside organizations. The team members, who included Australian, British, Egyptian and French experts, will discuss their findings at the forthcoming IPU Assembly in Zambia, before releasing a full report in April. A fully-fledged programme of assistance will then be developed. Last month the Egyptian Speaker, Ali Abd Elall Sayed Ahmed, signed an agreement with IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong, under which IPU will continue to provide assistance to the Egyptian Parliament. IPU has been working with Egypt since 2014, delivering priority assistance during the run-up to the establishment of a fully-fledged parliament. Activities have included training for parliamentary staff, advisory support and recently an induction programme for the new MPs after their election. The new parliament has nearly 600 members, 15 per cent of them women and 29 per cent aged between 25-45 years.
9 MARCH 2016
MPs from 18 different countries gathered in Côte d'Ivoire to take part in the seminar. ©KOUA Messou Laurent
Members of Parliament from across Africa have recommended fresh action to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), after a seminar in Côte d’Ivoire. More than 70 MPs from 18 countries took part in the seminar, the first event to bring together MPs from one continent to discuss the implementation of UN Resolution 1540, which deals with the threat posed by WMDs especially when they are in the hands of non-State actors. The event was jointly organized by IPU and the Parliament of Côte d’Ivoire, in partnership with the 1540 Committee and the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs. It delivered practical information on the risks posed by WMDs, and how parliaments can act by implementing Resolution 1540. A roadmap will be developed in the light of the seminar’s conclusions, with MPs proposing that this should include practical tools on how to implement the resolution.
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong told the seminar: “The danger of terrorist groups making use of weapons of mass destruction to advance their criminal causes is very real… It really takes an effort in global cooperation for MPs in every country to realize that they have an obligation to act and to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” Other speakers included Isidor Marcel Sene of the 1540 Committee; Jean Albert Agbre, Delegated President of the IPU national group; and Olatokunbo Ige, Director of the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC), who was also representing the UN Office for Disarmament affairs (UNODA). The Speaker of the National Assembly of Côte d’Ivoire, Guillaume Soro, opened the seminar.
WMDs are most likely to spread in areas of conflict and terrorist activity. Resolution 1540 (PDF) obliges governments to implement effective laws, rules and regulations to prevent terrorists and other non-State actors from acquiring them.
3 MARCH 2016
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong attended a signing ceremony in Ottawa with Canadian International Co-operation Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau. ©Global Affairs Canada
Canada has signed an agreement with IPU to provide two million Canadian dollars in funding to help women parliamentarians in developing countries play a stronger leadership role. The grant from Global Affairs Canada will be used by IPU to help increase the number of women in parliament, support female MPs in their work and help to equip national assemblies to promote gender equality and respect for women's rights. IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong, who signed the agreement, said: “Canada has always been a strong supporter of the work and values of IPU. This funding agreement is another example of its commitment to our work to promote and develop democracy and equality of opportunity.” Mr Chungong attended a signing ceremony in Ottawa with the Minister of International Development and la Francophonie, Marie-Claude Bibeau, and later met the Foreign Affairs Minister, Stéphane Dion. The project is aiming over the next three years to offer some 500 women MPs training on how best to carry out their role and will develop an online database of research, statistics and evidence on women in politics for policymakers. “The promotion of the equal rights of women and men in parliaments around the world improves inclusive and accountable governance,” said Minister Bibeau.
29 FEBRUARY 2016
Engaging young people in formal politics is crucial to building strong democracies. ©REUTERS/Anis Mili
IPU Members attending the 134th Assembly in Zambia (19-23 March) will address the critical question of how to rejuvenate democracy and give voice to youth. The Assembly will seek ways to reverse waning youth interest in formal politics - a critical step towards safeguarding and strengthening democracy in all cultures. It will also be an opportunity to explore innovative ideas that enhance and modernize democratic culture, institutions and practice. Other debates will focus on preventing child and forced marriage, environmentally sustainable parliaments, and more open and accountable parliaments. Resolutions on boosting global cooperation to combat terrorism and protecting the world’s cultural heritage are expected to be adopted at the Assembly. As usual, the event will provide the forum for women MPs to hold their twice-yearly meeting as part of IPU’s ongoing work to empower and strengthen women parliamentarians. IPU bodies such as the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, the Committee on Middle East Questions and the Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, will also meet. Hundreds of MPs from around the world, including close to 75 Speakers and Deputy Speakers of Parliament will attend the 134th Assembly, which is being hosted by the Zambian Parliament. The Assembly will take place on the heels of IPU’s third Global Conference of Young MPs, which has a specific focus on the youth role in delivering the new generation of development goals agreed by world leaders in 2015. IPU Assemblies, held twice a year, bring together MPs from the Organization’s 167 Member Parliaments to define policy on key international issues. Follow or take part in discussions on Twitter using #IPU134. Photos of the event will be made available on Flickr . For those Member Parliaments who still have to register, our online registration system is open until 1 March.
29 FEBRUARY 2016
The young MPs will analyse how to deliver sustainable development to all the world’s citizens. ©REUTERS/Andrew Biraj
Young Members of Parliament are set to define their role in delivering the new generation of development goals when they meet at their annual Global Conference in Zambia next month. Agenda 2030: Youth leading the way, leaving no-one behind, jointly organized by IPU and the Zambian Parliament, will identify the groups most at risk of being excluded in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and what action is needed. Critical policy areas, including climate change, sustainable development and global economic models, will be highlighted in the programme of discussions and other interactive events. The Conference is being organized with support from the Japanese non-profit organization Worldwide Support for Development (@support4dev) and is open to young members of national parliaments as well as IPU Observers and selected youth organizations, networks and associations. Participants can register using this form. Speakers will include IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong, the UN Secretary-General’s Youth Envoy Ahmad Alhendawi, and Zambian Government Minister Greyford Monde – himself a young MP. Vinay Nayak, a specialist in the use of modern technology in politics, will deliver the keynote address.
IPU young MPs’ conferences enable participants to address issues of global significance, as well as facilitate international cooperation and networking. Led by young MPs themselves, the conferences are part of the work of IPU’s Forum of Young Parliamentarians, which works to empower MPs and encourage youth engagement in formal politics. Decisions from the Young MPs’ Conference will be fed into the 134th IPU Assembly, which also takes place in Lusaka a few days later from 19-23 March, and which will focus on rejuvenating democracy and giving voice to youth. Join the debate on Twitter using #YoungMPs.
29 FEBRUARY 2016
IPU believes male and female MPs must work together to achieve gender equality in parliaments and legislation. ©IPU
An international meeting of MPs at UN Headquarters next month will focus on the ability of legislation to empower women and deliver sustainable development. The event on 15 March will look at the many forms of legal discrimination that persist around the world and how they hamper delivery of the sustainable development agenda. Participants will discuss the best routes to enacting, implementing and enforcing equality laws. Sessions will focus on the role of parliaments in ending discriminatory laws and the importance of women’s political leadership and representation in legislative bodies. The event is being hosted by IPU and UN Women to coincide with the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, the main global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment. It will be webcast live via a link on the IPU website. IPU is also organizing a panel discussion with the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia and the Office for North Africa of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, on 14 March on how UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security can be implemented in Arab countries. IPU is strongly committed to working for gender equality in the world’s parliaments, empowering female MPs, and strengthening parliamentary work to achieve gender equality.
29 FEBRUARY 2016
The conference recommended practical steps to maximise migration's benefits, protect people's rights and combat human trafficking. ©AFP/Citizenside/Antonio Melita
Members of Parliament at a conference on African migration have recommended a series of steps to help ensure the maximum benefit migrants could provide to their countries of origin and destination. The MPs from 15 African countries proposed action, including safeguarding migrants’ rights, combating racism and intolerance, supporting victims of forced migration, reducing the risk and impact of natural disasters and enforcing existing policies and laws on migration. They also suggested reducing the cost of remittance transfers, boosting migrants’ economic literacy, promoting equality of opportunity for men and women, and improving international cooperation, such as using existing African Union mechanisms fully and creating systems to exchange information to combat human trafficking. The benefits of educating people on the good practices and risks of migration were also highlighted. Participants at the event in Djibouti, organized by the African Parliamentary Union and supported by IPU and others, shared their experiences, examples of good practice, and views on the governance of migration in promoting the sustainable development agenda.
29 FEBRUARY 2016
MPs from around the world travelled to Myanmar to take part in the induction week. ©IPU/Norah Babic
Members of Parliament in Myanmar have taken part in a five-day induction programme intended to equip them to perform their roles. The programme, backed by IPU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), focused on the MPs’ three main areas of responsibility – passing laws, overseeing the work of government and representing citizens. Current and former MPs from nine countries around the world travelled to Myanmar to share their experiences during the induction, which included specific input for the Asian country’s female MPs. The MPs gained an understanding of their role and functions, including committee work, and the knowledge and practical skills needed to carry them out. Sessions covered diverse topics including the law and practice of the parliament (Hluttaw), key areas of engagement for MPs, and the need for ongoing professional development of their skills. Nearly 460 MPs from all political parties and both houses of parliament took part in the programme. The induction was part of a longer-term plan, led by the parliament and supported by IPU and the UNDP, to ensure the MPs are fully equipped and that the fundamental skills gained during the induction are built on in the future. Many of Myanmar’s 657 MPs elected in November 2015 are first-time parliamentarians.
The induction programme was carried out with generous support from the governments of Finland Sweden and the UK, and the Worldwide Support for Development (WSD)
29 FEBRUARY 2016
MPs, academics and other experts are invited to have their say in the e-discussion.
Politicians, academics, civil society representatives and other experts are being invited to take part in an e-discussion on the oversight role of parliaments in achieving gender equality. Participants can submit recommendations and concrete examples of their own experiences to help establish best practice. Some parliaments now have dedicated mechanisms to ensure the goal of gender equality is reflected in all policy areas. Other parliaments have continued to rely on informal monitoring, traditionally by female MPs. The conclusions of the discussion will be incorporated into the second Global Parliamentary Report, to be published by IPU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) later this year. The Report will focus on the power of parliaments to hold governments to account. The debate is being hosted by the International Knowledge Network of Women in Politics (iKNOW Politics).
8 FEBRUARY 2016
Anda Filip of IPU was among the speakers to address the summit. ©IPU/Enico Iaia
Speakers of Parliament from across South Asia have pledged to step up action to curb tobacco use, which kills more than 1.5 million people in the region every year.
The commitment is part of a comprehensive declaration by the Speakers after a summit on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), internationally agreed targets which include ending extreme poverty and hunger and improving global health by 2030.
The Speakers, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, pledged wide action to advance the SDGs, reflecting the crucial role of parliaments in making the goals a reality through their key functions of passing laws, overseeing the work of government, allocating budgets and representing citizens.
They urged parliaments to adopt national sustainable development plans and strategies, and to ensure that all the necessary policies, legislation and budgets were put in place to implement them, as well as introducing systems to monitor progress. “We believe South Asia could be a role model for the world in achieving the SDGs,” the Speakers said. “Parliaments and parliamentarians have an important leadership role to play in this regard. Parliamentary action on the SDGs is urgently needed. We pledge to advocate for and ensure appropriate budget allocations that will enable our countries to fully implement the SDGs."
The Speakers said millions of lives across South Asia could be saved if parliaments took action to curb the use of tobacco - a major factor in non-communicable diseases (NCDs). They called for the formulation of policies, including higher taxes, simplified tax structures and the use of tax revenues, to support tobacco control and sustainable development.
With more than one third of the world’s tobacco users - an estimated 384 million people - in South Asia, the Speakers stressed the importance of fully incorporating the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) into parliamentary action across the region.
“Tobacco use is unique in the magnitude of the harm it causes in South Asia,” said the Speakers. “Unlike many causes of disease, we know how to reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco use. The tobacco control policies in the FCTC are evidence-based, affordable, and cost effective. They have been proven to produce measurable, significant and verifiable reductions in tobacco use in every country in which they have been both adopted and effectively implemented.”
The Speakers also urged parliaments to step up their work to achieve universal health coverage, reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality, and end all preventable deaths before 2030.
The summit, organized by IPU, was hosted by the Bangladesh Parliament in the capital, Dhaka, with technical support from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an international non-profit organization.
3 FEBRUARY 2016
Terrorist groups are operating across national borders in parts of Africa, adding to fears about the possible spread of WMDs. ©AFP/Brahim Adji
IPU and the Parliament of Côte d’Ivoire are organizing a workshop to deliver vital information on how parliaments can stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). The event will give MPs from across Africa practical training on the risks posed by WMDs, the role of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 in dealing with the threat, and the pivotal role of parliaments in implementing the resolution. It is being organized in partnership with the 1540 Committee, which oversees implementation of the resolution, and the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs.
WMDs are most likely to spread in areas of fighting and terrorist activity, making this a key issue for a number of countries across Africa which are dealing with the challenges of conflict and terror groups operating across national borders.
Resolution 1540 (PDF) obliges governments to implement effective laws, rules and regulations to prevent terrorists and other groups from acquiring WMDs. The seminar will include information on practical steps to achieving this, such as closing loopholes in national laws and regulations, and will examine the strengths and weaknesses of existing laws. It aims to strengthen parliaments’ ability to assess and lower the risks posed by WMDs, and to trigger informal cross-border networks and contacts between the MPs who attend.
The event, to be held in Abidjan on 22 and 23 February, will include a keynote address by the 1540 Committee chair, Román Oyarzun Marchesi of Spain.
28 JANUARY 2016
The Speaker of Rwanda’s Chamber of Deputies, Donatille Mukabalisa, was among senior figures who addressed the meeting. ©Jean-Marie Mbonyintwali
MPs in Rwanda have held a meeting with leaders of key government ministries as part of a drive to improve healthcare for women, children and adolescents. The country has made progress in cutting some maternal deaths, but more needs to be done in other areas such as reducing the number of children dying. The meeting discussed the urgent need for new and efficient systems to collect accurate information on births, marriages and deaths. It followed visits by MPs to areas around the country to see for themselves the nature of the problem. The MPs say a nationwide campaign is needed to make the public aware of how the information is used to plan medical and social services. The Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health identifies civil registration and vital statistics as a key issue in order for women, children and adolescents to have access to services and entitlements and realize their rights to proper health care, education and basic social benefits. The meeting was the latest in a series of steps set out in an agreement with IPU to provide technical and financial support to Rwanda's Parliament in its efforts to build the capacity of MPs to fully exercise their oversight of laws and budgets and to raise awareness among the public of maternal, newborn and child health issues. The agreement also supports the creation of new and efficient systems for collecting national statistics.
28 JANUARY 2016
REFPAM President Meriem Baba Sy (r), Vice-President Loula Mint Zerough (c) and Moroccan MP Nouzha Skalli helped lead the event. ©Djigo Amadou Djiby/REFPAM
Women MPs in Mauritania have created an action plan to push forward work on gender equality. It followed training in Nouakchott on strategic planning on the work of the women’s caucus in parliament involving about 40 female MPs, civil society organizations and government officials. Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Mohamed Ghoulam Ould Hadj Cheikh addressed the opening and closing sessions with male MPs joining the occasion. The workshop, jointly organized by the parliamentary women’s group REFPAM, IPU and the National Assembly, included training on frameworks for protecting women’s rights. There were also open discussions, and women MPs from Morocco and Côte d’Ivoire shared their experiences of promoting gender equality reforms in parliament and running caucuses of female MPs. IPU support for this activity was funded by the UAE Federal National Council.
The workshop led to a fully-fledged strategic plan for 2016-2018 with three main focuses: strengthening REFPAM and its members; ensuring parliament delivers on gender equality through studies, proposed laws and awareness-raising workshops; and building alliances and reaching out to civil society and other relevant groups. IPU will continue working with REFPAM to ensure the plan is implemented. Priority areas for 2016 include promoting new laws to combat violence against women and girls, and strengthening female MPs through study visits, training activities and other projects. IPU promotes the creation and strengthening of women’s caucuses in parliaments to help female MPs increase their political impact by sharing common goals beyond party lines.
28 JANUARY 2016
The benefits of boosting gender equality within parliament will flow out to the wider community. ©Jean-Paul Schaaf
Promoting gender equality in the work of Côte d’Ivoire’s Parliament has received a major boost, with the staging of a workshop for parliamentary staff. Fifty employees, including 18 women, took part in a three-day event, which equipped staff to integrate gender issues into the work of parliament. It focused on building a common understanding of what a gender perspective means for women and men, and devising ways to implement this approach in the day-to-day work of parliament. The event included training on the main concepts of a gender-sensitive parliament . The workshop was followed by the creation of a gender committee of National Assembly staff members, which IPU will support as it defines its working methods and priorities.
Participants in the workshop also suggested developing tools for integrating gender issues into all parliamentary work, organizing further training for staff and MPs, and creating a nursery or children’s area inside parliament, all measures and strategies promoted by IPU to make parliaments more gender-sensitive institutions.
28 JANUARY 2016
Thabitha Khumalo (l), Beeban Kidron (c) and Safak Pavey will share their inspiring stories
Eleven inspiring speakers with powerful stories to tell are preparing to share their ideas on Transforming Lives at a TEDx event in Geneva on 11 February. The event will celebrate and spread the word about the global impact of Geneva-based international organizations. It is being organized and hosted by colleagues from the UN Office at Geneva and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, with support from nine other associated agencies, including IPU. The speakers include innovators, public health and energy specialists, human rights defenders and humanitarians, all of whom have made a real difference in people’s lives around the world. Among them are three parliamentarians: Zimbabwean democracy advocate Thabitha Khumalo, Turkish inclusion champion Safak Pavey, and UK iRights campaigner Baroness Kidron. The event takes place at the Palais des Nations - home of the UN in Geneva. It will be webcast live via www.tedxplacedesnations.ch from 1500 to 1900 CET.
TEDx Talks showcase ideas or arguments worth spreading in talks that have to be less than 18 minutes. Official viewing parties can also be staged, where events are streamed live onto a large screen to an audience of 100 people or fewer. The TEDx Place des Nations event is the second of its kind.
28 JANUARY 2016
The gender equality message has been spread to community groups and local leaders across 12 counties. ©KEWOPA
Hundreds of citizens and local leaders around Kenya have attended community outreach events to promote awareness and support for the constitutional requirement of women MPs accounting for at least one third of all MPs in the country, and proposals to achieve this.
Kenya currently ranks joint 74th in IPU’s world rankings of women in parliament with less than 20 per cent of women in the National Assembly and nearly 27 per cent in the Senate. Backed by IPU and led by the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association, the outreach underscored that constitutionally, no more than two thirds of parliament can be made up of the same gender. Several Bills on meeting the target are now before parliament but no consensus has been reached on the best way forward. Informing the public and decision-makers on the issues and the added value of gender-balanced institutions is, therefore, a national priority. More than 1,000 people, nearly half of them men, took part in 17 community events held in 12 counties at the end of 2015. Young people made up nearly 40 per cent of those taking part. Local advocacy teams were also formed and will continue to promote the issue.
Public debate on the two-thirds gender rule has been on-going for some months, with new laws needed in time for the 2017 general election. IPU has contributed to this debate through an advisory mission in July 2015. In recent years, IPU has provided support to legal reforms in Egypt and Tunisia to increase women’s participation in parliament.
28 JANUARY 2016
Radiye Sezer Katırcıoğlu, who chairs parliament’s Equal Opportunities Commission, was among those addressing the project launch. ©IPU/Zeina Hilal
A project to ensure gender equality is placed at the heart of Turkey’s parliamentary work has been launched. Working alongside IPU and UN Women, Turkey’s Grand National Assembly will support women’s leadership and ensure equality becomes a mainstream issue in all parliamentary business. Through the project, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Grand National Assembly is aiming to become a role model on gender equality, with changes benefiting not just female MPs but also their male counterparts, parliamentary staff and commissions.
“Making equality a reality is everyone’s responsibility, both men’s and women’s,” said IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong. “It requires the full respect for women’s rights, backed up by solid action on women’s empowerment and equal participation at all levels of decision-making across every sector in society. Parliaments, with the power to change social and economic norms through political representation, legislation and oversight of government, are the obvious place to start.” The project in Turkey is part of IPU’s global commitment to working for gender equality with parliaments around the world.
28 JANUARY 2016
IPU President Saber Chowdhury will promote the key role of parliaments in delivering on health targets. ©IPU/P. Albouy
IPU President Saber Chowdhury has accepted an invitation to join a high-level group on Every Woman Every Child, a global movement led by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The initiative champions the health of women, children and adolescents. The group will advise the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Global Strategy on Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. The group’s members comprise leaders from governments around the world, the international business community, philanthropists and prominent young people.
The Global Strategy includes a roadmap aimed at ending all preventable deaths within a generation and ensuring the well-being of everyone at risk. It highlights that the health of women, children and adolescents is critically important to almost every area of human development and progress and has a direct impact on the successful attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders in 2015. IPU has made a strong commitment to the Global Strategy to build on and further expand the contribution of parliaments in improving women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health everywhere. “I am delighted to have been invited to join the High Level Advisory Group to the UNSG and look forward to contributing to its work,” said President Chowdhury. “Parliaments and their members are key to delivering on the health challenges which Every Woman Every Child is addressing. I look forward to promoting their role in this critical issue.”
28 JANUARY 2016
More than one third of the world’s tobacco users are in South Asia. ©AFP/Belal Hossain Rana/Nur Photo
A summit of Speakers of Parliament from South Asia will explore practical ways to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a particular focus on improving health by cutting tobacco use. The Speakers will aim to identify ways to cut deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) from the current annual toll of 38 million people by one third by 2030. Tobacco is a leading cause of NCDs such as cardiovascular and lung diseases, cancer and diabetes. It is used by an estimated 384 million people in South Asia with at least 1.1 million people killed annually by its use in India and Bangladesh alone. Obstacles to cutting its use include low taxation, lack of funding for prevention and health care, weak implementation of laws and strong tobacco industry influence. The summit is expected to highlight governance gaps, develop a national and regional roadmap for action, and put systems in place to monitor progress and establish accountability. It will also put the spotlight on SDG 16, through which countries committed themselves to building transparent and effective institutions. As key institutions of democracy, parliaments will be encouraged to examine whether they are fit for purpose to implement the SDGs by assessing the way they pass laws, oversee the work of governments, set budgets and represent citizens.
The event, in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on 30-31 January, is being organized by IPU and the Bangladeshi Parliament in cooperation with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an international non-profit organization.
13 JANUARY 2016
The MPs will review the success of attempts to cut the supply of drugs including cocaine. ©AFP/Luis Robayo
The world drug problem and how to address it will be the focus of a major parliamentary hearing at the United Nations in New York on 8-9 February. The event is being jointly organized by IPU and the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly. Hundreds of MPs from around the world, as well as IPU President Saber Chowdhury, President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Executive Director Yuri Fedotov, will attend.
The hearing, “The World Drug Problem: Taking Stock and Strengthening the Global Response”, will review progress parliaments made on the issue since a plan of action on illegal drugs was adopted by governments in 2009. The plan set 2019 as a target date for eliminating or significantly reducing supply, demand and associated criminal activity such as money laundering.
MPs, experts and representatives from international organizations and civil society will examine the problem and the global response, focusing on key areas such as finding the most effective solutions to new and existing challenges, increasing international cooperation, and identifying the links between drug trafficking, organized crime and corruption. They will address the underlying question of whether the so-called “war on drugs”, which relies on a law-enforcement solution to the problem of illicit drugs, is working as intended. The MPs will also explore whether drug policy needs rethinking in light of the new people-centred Sustainable Development Goals.
The impact of the global problem can be felt in many areas, including the diversion of resources from healthcare to law enforcement, the displacement of people affected by drug production and the criminalization and marginalization of drug users.
IPU-UN parliamentary hearings enable MPs to feed their views and experiences into UN work and decision-making processes, as well as increasing their understanding of those processes.
The conclusions and recommendations of this hearing will be fed into a UN General Assembly special session on the world drug problem, UNGASS 2016, in April.
4 JANUARY 2016
The number of parliaments and other bodies to formally endorse new guidelines on the best ways of supporting parliaments has passed the 100 mark.
The 100th endorsement for the Common Principles for Support to Parliaments came from UN Women, which works for gender equality and the empowerment of women. The nine principles include a specific call for parliamentary support to address the needs and potential of both men and women in the way parliaments are structured and run.
The formal backing from UN Women was followed by endorsements from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). A total of 80 national parliaments, five parliamentary assemblies and 17 partner groups have now endorsed the principles. IPU is urging other parliaments to follow suit and add their own endorsements, which can be done by means of a simple letter to the IPU Secretariat from relevant parliamentary authorities.
The principles, which highlight the importance of diversity and equality, are designed to help parliaments become more effective. The guidelines stress that parliaments must play a central role in their own development, and set out ways to ensure more effective cooperation with partners, including those from the UN system.
21 DECEMBER 2015
Martin Chungong Secretary General of the IPU, Saber H. Chowdhury President of the IPU ©IPU/DIXON
As the curtain draws on another year, we would like to extend to you and yours our best wishes for the season. 2015 has been a memorable and eventful year for us at the IPU and for the global parliamentary community at large. As an organization, we are pleased to have been a prime mover in a number of international processes, culminating in the adoption of the far-reaching post-2015 development agenda. It is no small feat that the parliamentary community was able to help fashion that agenda, which will be a roadmap for the entire world for the next 15 years. We also welcome the ground-breaking agreement that has been reached in Paris on climate change and trust that the parliamentary plan of action that accompanies it will go a long way towards turning words into action.
The highlight of the year was undoubtedly the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament held in New York in late August-early September. Through the ambitious and forward-looking Declaration they adopted on that occasion, the Speakers of the world’s national parliaments were able to articulate their vision of parliamentary solidarity and cooperation in order to build the world the people want. But the year was not only filled with achievements and successes. It was also marked by tragedy and loss in various regions of the world. One of the greatest human tragedies witnessed over the past several months has been the plight of hundreds and thousands of migrants and refugees fleeing conflict-ridden zones and difficult living conditions and making the often perilous journey to what they hope will be a less hostile environment. Migration has taken on untold proportions recently and has brought out both the very best and the very worst in human beings. The IPU and its Member Parliaments are pleased to have been at the forefront of the global reflection on this matter.
Terrorism is rearing its ugly head and is becoming a daily reality for people everywhere. Recent events have shown that no country can claim to be immune or beyond the reach of this scourge. It perpetrators have no other goal but to cower people, stifle freedoms and impose their world view. We must not succumb to this threat, but must rather redouble our efforts to protect and promote the values and fundamental freedoms we all hold so dear.
2016 promises therefore to be no less eventful. The global parliamentary community will be judged by its readiness and ability to take on these challenges. It will need to show that it can walk the talk and endeavour to turn words into action as we embark on the implementation of the new development agenda along with other stakeholders. We are committed to working with our Members and partners, including the United Nations, to deliver on the promises made in that agenda.
We wish you a peaceful holiday season and much success in 2016.
Martin Chungong, Secretary General and Saber Chowdhury, President
17 DECEMBER 2015
Tensions remain high in Burundi as the violence escalates. ©AFP/Anadolu Agency/Yvan Rukundo
The Inter-Parliamentary Union is gravely concerned about the worsening violence in Burundi, which has left hundreds of people dead and has forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. IPU is urging the authorities to do their duty to protect human life and prevent further bloodshed. The Organization has made clear its readiness to work with the Parliament of Burundi to foster inclusive dialogue. It has urged Parliament to ensure it is part of the solution and not part of the problem. IPU has been particularly concerned by reports of incitement to violence against the opposition, especially the bloody confrontation during the weekend of 12 – 13 December. IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong said urgent work was needed to heal Burundi’s divisions before the situation deteriorated further.“It is not too late to prevent this unfolding tragedy becoming a catastrophe if all those in positions of leadership and authority commit themselves to a swift return to peace and security for all citizens,” he said. “We urge the Parliament of Burundi and its members to place themselves at the heart of this process of peacemaking and dialogue, and to lead by example at this critical point in their country’s history. “MPs have a unique position as influencers of opinion and representatives of all sectors of society, and that influence must be used for peace. The importance of finding a resolution to this crisis cannot be overstated,” Secretary General Chungong added.
16 DECEMBER 2015
Dr Amal Al Qubaisi is the first female Speaker of Parliament in the Arab world. ©IPU/P. Albouy
IPU has welcomed a series of breakthroughs for female MPs who have become Speakers or Deputy Speakers of parliament. Dr Amal Al Qubaisi is the first female Speaker of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Parliament and the first woman to hold the position in any Arab national parliament. Dr Al Qubaisi is a long-standing major contributor to IPU’s work, particularly on gender, youth and peace issues. In neighbouring Oman, another milestone was reached when Dr Suad Mohammed Al Lawatiar became the first female Deputy Speaker after a vote by members of the State Council. In another first, Margaret Mensah-Williams, President of IPU’s Coordinating Committee of Women MPs, was named as Speaker of Namibia’s upper house of parliament, the National Council. She is the first woman to hold the post. Her election takes the global total of women Speakers of Parliament in the world to 49, representing close to 18 per cent of all Speakers, according to IPU figures. Mensah-Williams has demonstrated strong leadership in combating violence against women, boosting women’s rights and empowering women, and has for many years played an active and leading role in IPU’s work.
16 DECEMBER 2015
The brief coup in Burkina Faso has not halted progress to democracy and legal reforms, including the new law on violence against women. ©AFP/NurPhoto/Arne Gillis
IPU has welcomed a new law aimed at combating violence against women and girls, passed by the National Transitional Council in Burkina Faso before the recent crisis. The legislation outlaws all forms of violence against women, including physical, sexual, psychological, economic and cultural, and provides for systems to support and protect victims. Courts will have the power to jail or fine perpetrators. IPU has been working for a number of years to support MPs and civil society in Burkina Faso in their efforts to combat violence against women, including in raising awareness and providing expertise on legal reforms. More than a third of the country’s female population are believed to experience physical violence, most of it committed by spouses or other family members. Many girls are married before the age of 18, some still undergo FGM (female genital mutilation) and a significant number of elderly or widowed women are victims of mistreatment and exclusion.
16 DECEMBER 2015
Uganda is committed to even greater progress on health for women, children and adolescents. ©AFP/Michele Sibiloni
The Ugandan Parliament has begun setting its priorities for improving women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health after reviewing its 2012-2015 parliamentary advocacy strategy. The issues identified to carry forward include seeking a clause in the constitution on the right to healthcare for women, children and adolescents; tabling bills on health and a national health insurance scheme; taking more steps to improve birth registration; and trying to ensure the recruitment of extra health practitioners, especially in rural areas. Launching the review process, Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga praised MPs and others who had contributed to the progress already made. “I want to thank the partners for all the support rendered to us for advocacy; I also thank the IPU for its support.” she said, adding that maternal health had been given the importance it deserved. Since the launch of the strategy, progress has been made on drafting bills on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) and national health insurance, birth registration and on efforts to ensure budgetary allocation for health is increased to 15 per cent. IPU has fully supported Uganda in its efforts to improve MNCH, including accelerating the reduction in maternal and newborn death rates. Uganda’s advocacy strategy was developed after the adoption of IPU’s landmark resolution on Access to Health as a basic Right: The role of parliaments in addressing key challenges to securing the health of women and children (PDF) at its 126th Assembly in Kampala in 2012.
14 DECEMBER 2015
The Paris agreement is the first in history to unite all the world's nations in a commitment to tackling climate change. ©François Guillot/AFP
The Inter-Parliamentary Union has hailed as a huge breakthrough the accord reached at the UN climate change summit (COP21/CMP11) in Paris.
The historic agreement unites the world’s nations in their shared commitment to limit the rise in global temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius. Its provisions include specific targets – such as achieving a balance between greenhouse gas emissions and their natural absorption rates by the end of this century; climate-related financial and technological support for developing nations from their richer counterparts; and a system of measuring whether States are honouring their commitments.
“We are thrilled that world leaders in Paris have not side-stepped their responsibilities, and have not squandered this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set the world on the right course,” said IPU President Saber Chowdhury. “This agreement reflects the aspirations of world citizens and future generations who will live with the impact of climate change. Our legacy as parliamentarians must be to safeguard the future of our planet by honouring this agreement.”
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong said: “It is now imperative for parliaments around the world to step up to the challenge of enacting the Paris Agreement and turning its provisions into concrete action. The time for action has come. Parliaments and their members must be at the very centre of that action, using their powers to become champions of the climate change fight and ensuring all necessary laws and budgets are put in place to honour this historic accord.”
During the summit in Paris, the IPU and the French Parliament organized a parallel parliamentary event, which adopted a political statement on the need to step up climate action. The meeting, held on 5 and 6 December in the French National Assembly and the Senate, committed MPs from nearly 90 countries to vigorous action.
The parliamentary meeting also considered a Parliamentary Action Plan providing a roadmap for MPs, with clear targets on enacting the Paris Agreement and introducing or amending other laws as necessary. The action plan makes recommendations on mechanisms for overseeing government policies, as well as on ensuring adequate financing for the implementation of the Paris Agreement as key aspects of parliaments’ responsibilities in ensuring the climate change targets are met.
The Action Plan, which also maps out IPU’s role, will be formally adopted by the Organization’s next Assembly in Lusaka in March 2016. It builds on IPU’s on-going work to raise parliamentary awareness of the issue of climate change and will also develop relevant international partnerships and coalitions.
14 DECEMBER 2015
The agreement signed in Geneva will boost IPU’s work to strengthen parliaments in the developing world. ©IPU/Jorky
An agreement for China to provide US$ 1.5 million in new funding for IPU has been signed at the Organization’s headquarters in Switzerland by IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and China’s Ambassador to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, Wu Hailong.
The funds will support IPU activities over the next five years, with a focus on enhancing the capacity of parliaments in developing countries. A number of different fields of IPU’s work will be boosted, including the critical task of preparing parliaments to implement the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by world leaders in September.
“We welcome this generous contribution from China, which will allow us to widen our vital work with parliaments in developing countries,” said Secretary General Chungong. “This funding will ensure they are stronger and better equipped for the many challenges that lie ahead.”
Ambassador Wu said it was a great honour to sign the agreement on behalf of the National People's Congress of China. “China attaches great importance to the IPU and would like to enhance its cooperation and communication with the organization. Through this donation, China will support the IPU in its efforts to play a greater role on the international arena," he said.
The donation marks a strengthening of relations between IPU and the Chinese Parliament, which joined the global organization of national parliaments in 1984. It also underscores the growing Chinese involvement in strengthening IPU’s role and influence on the global agenda.
9 DECEMBER 2015
Zimbabwe’s Thabitha Kumalo is among the MPs speaking on the theme of Transforming Lives. ©IPU/A. Blagojevic
If you want to know what other people, including MPs are doing differently to make a difference to people’s lives, then sign up to be a viewing partner of a TEDx event. The TEDx Place des Nations on 11 February 2016 will bring together 11 diverse and inspiring people from a range of disciplines who will share their ideas on “Transforming Lives”. Among the speakers are three MPs: democracy advocate and Zimbabwean MP Thabitha Khumalo, inclusion champion and Turkish MP Safak Pavey, and iRights campaigner Baroness Kidron from the UK’s House of Lords.
Zimbabwe MP Thabitha Khumalo is a former member of IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. Her talk will focus on political representation and democracy. Safak Pavey, who became Turkey’s first female disabled MP in 2011, is known for her international work in the field of human rights, humanitarian aid and peace-building. Baroness Kidron is a British film-maker who is heavily engaged in promoting a rights-based approach to children and young people online, and founded the iRights campaign which works to achieve this.
Organized and hosted by the UN Office at Geneva and the UN Refugee Agency, with support from nine other associated agencies, including IPU, the TEDx event will take place at the Palais des Nations, home of the UN in Geneva. IPU is encouraging MPs and parliaments to become an official viewing partner of the event by staging events at which the TEDx talk is webcast live from Geneva.
TEDx Talks showcase ideas or arguments worth spreading in talks that have to be less than 18 minutes. Official viewing partners must agree to set up a large screen, stream the live webcast, and invite a maximum of 100 people to join the event. They can add their own speakers and hospitality if they wish, but the event must be free of charge to the guests. Parliaments should complete this form http://tedxplacedesnations.ch/parties. if they want to take part. The TEDx Place des Nations is the second such event organised by the UN and supported by IPU. Some 5,000 people watched the first event live in the venue and at viewing partner events in December 2014.
9 DECEMBER 2015
Micronesia’s support will help IPU’s work to tackle the unprecedented global refugee and migration crisis. ©IPU/J. Pandya
The Speaker of the Micronesian Congress Wesley W. Simina handed over a cheque of US$100,000 to IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong as a practical first step in his parliament’s support for IPU’s work on migration. The funds, which had been pledged during the recent 133rd IPU Assembly in Geneva, will help support implementation of IPU’s follow-up to a declaration on migration adopted at the Assembly. This will include parliamentary field missions to regions affected by migration and refugee crises. Presenting the cheque during an IPU-French Parliament organized global parliamentary conference on climate change in Paris, Speaker Simina said that as his people were already facing the possibility of becoming climate refugees, Micronesia could be counted on to help in whichever way it could. IPU Secretary General Chungong said the Micronesian Parliament’s generous contribution will serve as an example to others that no country is too small to contribute to efforts to protect the rights and dignity of people everywhere. It also showed that parliaments were willing and able to walk the talk when it came to delivering on people’s expectations.
3 DECEMBER 2015
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong (right) signed the agreement with Speaker of Parliament Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos. ©Angolan National Assembly
IPU has welcomed a donation of 200,000 Swiss francs from the Angolan Parliament to support the Organization in its key areas of work as a sign of closer engagement between the two and of Angola’s growing participation on the international stage. Although one of the world’s least developed countries, Angola has seen significant economic growth since the end of nearly three decades of civil war. The funding, to cover one year in a two-year agreement, will primarily be used to work together on promoting gender equality and youth participation in parliament but also on maternal, newborn and child health and HIV/AIDS. IPU and the Angolan Parliament will continue to strengthen ties through collaboration on parliamentary diplomacy to resolve conflicts and on developing skills and knowledge of parliamentary staff.
Signing the agreement in Luanda with the Speaker of Parliament Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong underlined the importance of the donation. “This funding by the Angolan Parliament is an illustration of the economic and social development strides the country has made since the end of the conflict, and Angola’s increasingly important role in the region. It’s also an expression of the on-going commitment of the parliament to work to improve the lives of people,” he said.
During his visit, Mr Chungong also met Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, who undertook to work with Parliament to ensure implementation of the new post-2015 development agenda agreed by world leaders in September.
In an address to the Forum of Parliaments of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (FP-ICGLR), Mr Chungong highlighted the region’s many challenges, including conflict, post-conflict and post-election crises, and stressed the central role of parliamentarians in bringing peace.“I cannot overemphasise the importance of Parliament as the preeminent platform for dialogue and the mediation of differences,” he told the meeting in Luanda.
“As leaders, it is your bounden duty to be the torch bearers of peace, to be the voice of moderation and to serve as role models in your societies. The instant nature of communications today is a powerful tool for conveying the message of peace and dialogue in lieu of hatred and violence. “Every word you utter, every action you take is heard and witnessed almost instantaneously across the country, region and world, and has the potential to heal just as it can fan the flames of conflict.”
1 DECEMBER 2015
Inhabitants of 162 enclaves inside Bangladesh and India had been stateless for nearly 70 years until the two countries finally resolved their situation this year. ©Shariful Islam/Nurphoto
MPs from 40 national parliaments have agreed to push for more concerted efforts to address statelessness at the end of a global conference in South Africa. A problem which has a devastating impact on the lives of more than 10 million people globally, statelessness is an often under-reported and growing issue with one child born every 10 minutes without a nationality. MPs at the conference organized by IPU, the South African Parliament and the UN refugee agency UNHCR in Cape Town, agreed to work to resolve statelessness in their own countries through a wide range of measures. These included reviewing national legislation to ensure international standards on preventing and resolving statelessness were met, advocating reform of laws that discriminated on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or gender, and the strengthening of parliamentary oversight of government policies on the issue. The MPs also agreed to work towards accession to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions and called for more regional initiatives to end the phenomenon. The need for greater parliamentary awareness of the issue was highlighted with some MPs committing to forming a group of parliamentary champions to end statelessness and promote UNHCR’s #IBelong campaign on Twitter. IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong told the conference that solutions to the problem existed and lay in the hands of States. He stressed that MPs had a responsibility to act – and could not choose who to protect and who not to.
Statelessness is caused by a variety of factors including discrimination, poor documentation and the redrawing of national boundaries. Most stateless people live in the territory in which they were born, but the dramatic rise in forced displacement across national borders is adding to the problem. Women and children are particularly vulnerable. In addition to not “belonging” anywhere, stateless people are denied basic rights such as education and health, but the issue can be resolved with relatively simple changes to laws and practices.
30 NOVEMBER 2015
IPU President Saber Chowdhury and Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly Láslo Kövér discuss IPU's many achievements throughout its history. ©Shaikh Asaf Ud Dullah
The Hungarian Parliament celebrated the 120th anniversary of the creation of the Hungarian National Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union on 30th November with a look at both the past and the future. IPU President Saber Chowdhury officially opened a photo exhibition on the Organization and its work since 1889 as part of a series of high-level events to mark the occasion. The exhibition, originally produced for IPU’s 125th anniversary in 2014 and reproduced in Hungarian, charts the evolving nature of parliamentary action on peace and democracy and IPU’s role as a pioneer and innovator on gender equality, human rights, arbitration and parliamentary development. Hungary’s engagement with IPU goes back to the Organization’s inception, with MP Count Albert Apponyi having attended the very first IPU conference in 1889. He was also actively involved in IPU’s work that led to the creation of the International Court of Arbitration. During a commemorative three-day visit to Hungary that ends 2 December, President Chowdhury held meetings with high-level government and parliamentary figures including the Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén, Minister for Family and Youth Affairs Katalin Novák, the Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly Láslo Kövér and President of the Hungarian Group of IPU, Mihály Balla. In addition to celebrating the past collaboration, the visit will pave the way for strengthening future collaboration on tackling the many key global issues the world is facing.
27 NOVEMBER 2015
IPU President meets the Speaker (left) and Secretary General of Parlatino and the Panamanian Deputy Foreign Minister (second from right). ©Parlatino
IPU President Saber Chowdhury is seeking to strengthen the partnership between IPU and the parliaments of the Latin American region during a visit to Panama on 25-28 November. Addressing the 31st General Assembly of the Latin American and Caribbean Parliament (Parlatino) on 27 November, President Chowdhury urged the representatives of 23 national parliaments from the region to work more closely with IPU in dealing with the global issues of the day, and on the impact of political violence on the safety of citizens, a major concern for Latin America. Parlatino is one of the 10 regional parliaments that have Associate Membership with IPU. The President, who held meetings with the Speaker of Parlatino, Blanca Alcalá and Deputy Foreign Minister María Luisa Navarro during his visit, also discussed strengthening the Panamanian Parliament’s engagement on international affairs with the Speaker of Parliament Rubén de León Sánchez. With the adoption of the new global sustainable development agenda in September, including one on strong, inclusive and effective institutions to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, there were discussions on the need to interlock and integrate action on sustainable development, climate change and disaster risk reduction in national development plans. Partnerships at national and international levels would be key to success.
19 NOVEMBER 2015
IPU is committed to the concept of women and men working together for equality. ©IPU
IPU’s Meeting of Women Parliamentarians has launched a new drive in its campaign to build support for gender equality in parliaments around the world. The women MPs have adopted an action plan (PDF) to help implement the My Power for Women’s Power campaign - which encourages MPs of both sexes to sign a commitment to working for gender equality. Many hundreds of male and female MPs have joined the campaign since its launch in March 2015 and more signatures are encouraged. The new plan of action suggests a range of follow-up initiatives for MPs who have already signed up, including publicizing the campaign through social and traditional media, passing or amending equality legislation, and pressing governments to deliver action and financial resources. MPs are also encouraged to support women running for public office and to ensure parliaments are gender-sensitive. Meanwhile, IPU pledges to support MPs and parliaments wishing to advance gender equality in a variety of ways, including through legal advice, technical assistance and financial support. The world’s parliaments have an average female membership of only 22.5 per cent. IPU has long promoted equality in parliaments and wider society, as well as within the Organization, and its meetings and events. The Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, formed 30 years ago, is a unique forum for women MPs to plug into and participate in international political decision-making.
19 NOVEMBER 2015
he MPs held lively and detailed discussions on how to step up the protection of women in North Africa and the Middle East. ©Zeina Hilal
The challenge of addressing the needs of women and girls during conflict in the Arab region has been put under the spotlight at a parliamentary workshop in Tunisia. Focusing on the landmark UN resolution 1325, which recognizes the disproportionate and unique problems faced by women in conflict and calls for their protection, MPs, parliamentary staff and representatives from Ministries for Gender Affairs, institutions and organizations in Arab countries explored how the resolution could be put into full effect across North Africa and the Middle East. The region has in recent years been particularly hit by crises, conflict and violent extremism that continue to impact on millions of lives. Parliaments and their members can and must protect women and girls by legislating, budgeting and overseeing implementation of international commitments on rights and equality. The meeting examined how Resolution 1325 could be integrated into parliamentary work, including through the passing or revision of laws, raising awareness and coordinating work with relevant government machinery and NGOs. Issues such as marital rape, child marriage and protecting female refugees were put on the table, with MPs highlighting both current challenges and progress made in their own countries. The workshop was organized by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA) in cooperation with the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and IPU. The participants will meet again early next year.
19 NOVEMBER 2015
Bangladesh's Parliament is trying to accelerate the downward trend in child marriage. ©AFP/Lalage Snow
A concerted push is being made to cut the rate of child marriage in Bangladesh - one of the highest in the world – through a series of events targeting a wide range of groups, including MPs. Figures suggest 66 per cent of Bangladeshi girls are married before reaching the age of 18, the internationally recognized age for reaching adulthood. Although national figures are on a downward trend, the Bangladesh Parliament is trying to accelerate progress. Workshops for MPs, local officials and NGOs will aim to strengthen their work and help build birth and marriage registration systems - vital tools in the fight against child marriage. An event to raise awareness among the general public is also taking place. Later on, MPs will also assess what further practical steps can be taken on the issue. The events, organized by the Bangladesh Parliament and IPU, are being supported by the Japanese foundation Worldwide Support for Development and the World Health Organization. Child marriage is regarded internationally as a breach of human rights. Child brides are at high risk of complications or even death in pregnancy and childbirth, HIV infection and domestic violence, and often lack access to health care and education. World leaders have for the first time prioritized the elimination of child, early and forced marriage under the Sustainable Development Goal of achieving gender equality.
19 NOVEMBER 2015
The Nigeria chapter will work to empower young MPs and boost youth participation in democracy.
IPU’s Forum of Young Parliamentarians is inspiring the establishment of youth caucuses within national parliaments. A Nigeria chapter of the Forum has been set up on the initiative of the Speakers of Parliament and MP Raphael Igbokwe, a board member of the IPU Forum. The caucus aims to support youth participation in politics, empower young MPs and ensure there is a youth-led platform of influence in parliament on youth-related matters. IPU is working to re-engage young people in formal democratic processes, both by supporting young MPs and increasing youth engagement in politics and in voting. In 2014 only 1.7 per cent of the world’s MPs were aged under 30. IPU believes the under-representation and under-engagement of youth are a threat to democracy and represent a loss of critical input to public life.
19 NOVEMBER 2015
Aung San Suu Kyi led her National League for Democracy to a landslide victory. ©AFP/Ye Aung Thu
With about 400 of the 664 MPs in the new parliament in Myanmar being first time parliamentarians, efforts are under way to ensure they are ready for the challenge of political life when they take up their seats in February 2016. The new MPs will have in hand a members’ handbook and guide prepared by parliamentary staff with the backing of an IPU-UNDP parliamentary support programme. Each House will have a handbook that sets out parliament’s mandate and operational procedures to help the MPs carry out their duties in both the House of Representatives and House of Nationalities. A guidebook provides practical information on navigating parliament, including the services provided by the parliamentary administration. The IPU-UNDP programme is also supporting a formal induction programme for the MPs, as well as providing help on Information and Computer Technology, infrastructure, training and development. Since 2012, IPU has been working with the Myanmar Parliament to support development of its functions and processes, and to build a parliamentary culture.
17 NOVEMBER 2015
The attacks in Paris have prompted an outpouring of grief and solidarity from around the world. ©Citizenside/Cesar Dezfuli
IPU President Saber Chowdhury and Secretary General Martin Chungong have condemned the horrific terror attacks in Paris and Lebanon last week which have left more than 170 people dead. Expressing solidarity with the French and Lebanese people and parliaments in a letter to their Speakers, they have pledged to continue mobilizing the parliamentary community on concerted and effective measures to counter terrorism in all its forms. The IPU flag was flown at half-mast as a mark of respect for and solidarity with the people of both countries.
12 NOVEMBER 2015
Newly-elected MPs have been officially welcomed and given key information by parliamentary staff. ©Khaled Mashaal
More than 250 parliamentarians elected in October in the first phase of a two-stage election, have so far undergone a formal process of registration and welcome by Egypt’s parliamentary secretariat, giving them key practical information about the institution. The process has been led by parliamentary administrative authorities, in line with guidance from IPU teams during several consultations over the past two years. The same process will be used to register and welcome MPs elected in the second stage of voting. This is due to take place in the coming weeks. IPU has been working alongside the parliament to ensure that MPs are fully equipped for their role as the country continues on its roadmap to democracy.
11 NOVEMBER 2015
IPU is already deeply committed to promoting gender-equality at its events, in parliaments and in wider society. ©IPU/Jorky
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has pledged support for a new initiative on gender equality, building on his and the Organization’s ground-breaking record in the field. The initiative – International Geneva Gender Champions – invites organizations to specify practical steps they will take to break down gender barriers, and sign a “Gender Parity Pledge”, committing them to work for equality in all Geneva-based discussions.
Secretary General Chungong vows that all IPU debates will include both male and female panellists, and that “parity debates” on a variety of topics, with equal gender representation on the panel will be held during IPU Assemblies. His other pledges includes ensuring that at least 30 per cent of MPs attending Assemblies are women, and that decision-making structures will comprise at least 30 per cent women by 2017, rising to 40 per cent by 2020. He also promises to ensure that all IPU’s parliamentary support programmes will not only promote gender equality but that equality will be put at the heart of all the Organization’s work. IPU’s work environment will also be assessed from a gender perspective by 2016.
“Gender equality is the responsibility of all and progress will only be achieved if we all play our part. We need to challenge those who have not been playing theirs,” says the Secretary General.
IPU is already a strong advocate of gender equality and is working to increase both the number of women in parliaments around the world from its current level of 22.5 per cent and to strengthen gender equality across society through more effective national legislation. The Organization also strongly encourages gender-balanced delegations to Assemblies and on its governing bodies, using measures including quotas and the loss of some voting rights for single-sex delegations.
10 NOVEMBER 2015
The devastating effects of climate change will include worsening droughts, floods and other extreme weather events. ©Reuters
MPs from around the world will meet in Paris in December to galvanize action on the global threat posed by climate change, and influence the major UN summit being held simultaneously in the city. The MPs will urge world leaders at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, commonly known as the COP21/CMP11 summit, to agree specific means by which their pledges will be turned into reality. They will stress the urgency with which the climate change threat must be addressed and the vital role of parliaments in delivering change.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Hollywood star and Founding Chair of R20 – Regions of Climate Action Arnold Schwarzenegger, are among a wide range of key speakers at the event in both Chambers of the French Parliament, with IPU President Saber Chowdhury, National Assembly Speaker Claude Bartolone and Speaker of the Senate Gérard Larcher opening the meeting.
The programme also includes a wealth of other guests, among them COP21/CMP11 chair Laurent Fabius, Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria, climate change experts such as Professor Hoesung Lee, Nicholas Stern, French government ministers as well as parliamentarians from around the world attending COP21/CMP11. MPs at the meeting organized by IPU and the French Parliament will gain first-hand information on the summit’s main issues and be able to interact with government negotiators involved in the process.
IPU’s existing recommendations on tackling climate change will be highlighted, alongside how the summit’s decisions can be put into practice by parliamentary action. A parliamentary action plan on climate change is expected to be adopted at the conclusion of the meeting which takes place on 5-6 December. Full details, including on registration, can be found here.
9 NOVEMBER 2015
Parliamentary committees are critical to effective oversight of government. ©Parliamentlive.tv
IPU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have issued a call for written input to the second Global Parliamentary Report, which will focus on the power of parliaments to hold governments to account. All parliaments, organizations and individuals with an interest in parliamentary oversight are invited to share their views in writing, to help to shape the content and direction of the report. Submissions can focus on good practices, challenges and proposals for how to improve parliamentary oversight and government accountability. More than 300 parliamentarians have already taken party in surveys and interviews for the report, and a series of thematic debates is underway. Written input can be made in English, French, Spanish or Arabic. Submissions should be no more than 1,500 words in length and should state clearly who the submission is from. The deadline is 30 November 2015.
29 OCTOBER 2015
The meeting called for a series of steps to ensure that Resolution 1325 takes effect in every country. ©IPU/Pierre Albouy
MPs have called for fresh action to help ensure that UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security is more widely implemented and respected as they marked its 15th anniversary. Their recommendations, aimed at boosting parliamentary involvement in promoting the women, peace and security agenda, include speeding up the adoption of National Action Plans on 1325; increasing the participation and leadership of women in parliaments, particularly in work relating to peace and security; and ensuring that 15 per cent of peace and security funding is dedicated to gender-related issues such as boosting women’s political participation and protecting women and girls from violence. The recommendations followed a discussion by IPU’s Meeting of Women MPs on gender equality as an indispensable element of sustainable peace and security. The Meeting of Women MPs, a permanent fixture of IPU Assemblies, works to advance gender equality and women’s rights. This includes promoting the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and working alongside the CEDAW Committee.
29 OCTOBER 2015
Dr Chan told MPs: “Above all, fight against tax policies, or trade policies, or insurance policies that punish the poor.” ©IPU/Lucien Fortunati
World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr Margaret Chan has urged MPs around the world to step up their efforts to improve the health of their citizens, stressing the importance of political solutions in a new generation of complex challenges. In her first address to an IPU assembly, Dr Chan stressed the vital role of MPs in a wide range of strategies including delivering universal health coverage, taxing tobacco, improving food labelling and fighting tax, trade and insurance policies which impacted on the poor. She warned of new threats including drug-resistant pathogens, the globalized marketing of unhealthy products, and the growing rates of chronic non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes – which have overtaken infectious diseases as the world’s biggest killers. Dr Chan also offered to strengthen WHO’s collaboration with IPU through structured technical support to IPU’s advisory bodies and confirmed a new role for parliamentarians in jointly organized side events at WHO assemblies, the organization’s supreme decision-making body. Her address builds on the existing cooperation between WHO and IPU in fields including women’s and children’s health, family planning, violence against women and girls and harmful traditional practices.
29 OCTOBER 2015
The guidelines were launched at the 133rd IPU Assembly by IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. ©IPU/Pierre Albouy
New guidelines on how parliamentarians can speed up HIV treatment have been published by IPU and UNAIDS. Fast-tracking HIV treatment: Parliamentary action and policy options defines a range of measures parliaments can take to try and ensure all citizens with HIV have access to treatment. HIV treatment is a cornerstone of the AIDS response - helping prevent deaths and new infections – but is still not accessible to all who need it. Vital agents of change, MPs have a pivotal role in delivering social justice and human rights, including access to HIV treatment. The guidelines provide examples of good practice by parliaments and individual members on the issue. The wealth of information in the publication includes details of the fast-track targets the world must meet to end the AIDS epidemic as a global health threat by 2030, the human rights-based approach to HIV, the patenting of drugs and ensuring it does not restrict access to treatment, and how to mobilize resources and finance treatment of the disease.
29 OCTOBER 2015
Micronesia Speaker Wesley W Simina said the donation was an expression of solidarity. ©IPU
Micronesia’s parliament has pledged to introduce legislation to appropriate up to US$100,000 to give to IPU towards a response to the global migration crisis that has seen the arrival of more than 680,000 people in Europe by sea alone this year and the loss of nearly 3,200 lives in the Mediterranean. The announcement was made during IPU’s 133rd Assembly, which focused on parliamentary action for a fairer, smarter and more human migration and which adopted a resolution on greater protection for refugees worldwide. The Speaker of Micronesia’s Congress, Wesley W. Simina, said such action from a small country with few resources and facing many of its own challenges would be an expression of solidarity for all those forced to take drastic and life-threatening action in search of security or the hope of a better life. It would also show what parliaments can do to help find solutions to major issues. Should the funds be appropriated, they could be used towards an IPU fact-finding mission to refugee camps, among other projects left to IPU’s discretion. IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong warmly welcomed the move as a commitment to concrete action on an IPU resolution by an IPU member. Follow up action to IPU Assembly decisions by individual parliaments can collectively be a major force for change, he said.
29 OCTOBER 2015
A new Handbook for Parliamentarians giving vital guidance to MPs and parliaments on migration has been published by IPU and partners, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Handbook no.24 “Migration, human rights and governance covers the issues and provides the tools and policy responses to the international movement of people. A complex and highly divisive issue, international migration is motivated by a range of economic, political and social factors. With xenophobia growing and the migration debate predominantly negative, parliamentarians must help ensure there is a meaningful, balanced and informed response to migration through fair and effective policies that maximize the benefits of human mobility whilst addressing the challenges that origin, transit and destination countries and migrants face. This latest Handbook for Parliamentarians offers policy responses to questions such as root causes for migration, social cohesion and migration governance.
29 OCTOBER 2015
Malnutrition blights the lives of many children and impacts on the economic success of countries. ©AFP/Albert Gonzalez
MPs from nine countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) pledged parliamentary action to tackle malnutrition, which affects more than 180 million of the world’s under-fives, during a meeting in Namibia earlier this month. The MPs examined issues such as the stubbornly high rates of malnutrition as well as the emerging challenge of obesity in their region. They recognized the critical importance of food and nutrition security to economic development, the survival and healthy growth of children, and breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty. The MPs made a commitment to ensure that the necessary laws and budgets on nutrition were in place, to scrutinize government policies, galvanize action by raising awareness of the unacceptably high malnutrition rates, and work in cooperation with other groups and bodies. The meeting, hosted by the Namibian Parliament, was organized by IPU and UNICEF.
29 OCTOBER 2015
Many stateless people lose access to basic rights including education and health care ©AFP/Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/NurPhoto
A conference in South Africa will explore how parliaments can combat statelessness, which deprives many people of basic rights but which can be solved with relatively simple changes to laws and practices. Statelessness, caused by a variety of factors including discrimination and the redrawing of national boundaries, affects some 10 million people around the world. MPs attending the conference on 26-27 November in Cape Town, organized by IPU, the South African Parliament and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, will learn more about the impact of legal reforms such as changes to the law in Senegal and Algeria that have enabled women to transfer their nationality to their children and end a major cause of statelessness. They will also learn more about promoting accession by their States to two UN conventions on statelessness which provide the framework for a united international response. The conference is expected to result in a parliamentary action plan to end statelessness.
16 OCTOBER 2015
International cooperation is increasingly important in the fight against terrorism. ©AFP/Adem Altan
With terrorism remaining a priority concern for the global parliamentary community, MPs from across the world will be focusing on what actions national parliaments can take or are taking to meet international commitments to counter it when they meet at the 133rd IPU Assembly in Geneva.
Since 1996, IPU members have adopted 12 resolutions related to terrorism, the most recent at the Hanoi Assembly in March 2015, and have also committed to backing the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and all relevant UN resolutions which underscore the important role of parliaments in ensuring States comply with international law in efforts to combat the crime.
To make progress on these commitments, better understand how the Global Strategy is being implemented and identify legislative gaps on countering terrorism, MPs will engage in various discussions with key experts during the Assembly.
Executive Directors from the UN Security Council Committee on Counter Terrorism Directorate (CTED) Jean-Paul Laborde, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Yuri Fedotov and the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, Khalid Koser, will provide expert input on how the UN is countering terrorism into a panel discussion on 20 October on parliamentary action on meeting international commitments on counter-terrorism.
The Speaker of Pakistan’s Senate Mian Raza Rabbani and parliamentarians from France and Cameroon will also provide input on their parliamentary experience in combating and preventing terrorism. The Panel aims to strengthen coordination between IPU and the relevant UN organizations in efforts to counter terrorism.
In addition, an experts hearing on enhancing global cooperation on terrorism and protecting democracy and individual rights will take place under the aegis of IPU’s Committee on Peace and International Security. The hearing will inform an expected resolution to be adopted at the 134th IPU Assembly in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, in 2016.
29 SEPTEMBER 2015
IPU President Saber Chowdhury (right) and UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson took part in the ceremony. ©UN Photo/Mark Garten
IPU President Saber Chowdhury took part in a ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York to dedicate a plaque commemorating the end of World War II in Asia and the Pacific. The plaque was placed beneath the UN’s “Tree of Peace and Unity”, a weeping cherry planted to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe. “This tree will remind not just us, but future generations, that as with peace, a tree needs to be looked after,” President Chowdhury told guests at the ceremony. “That’s the message we bring to the citizens of the world as the UN tries to strike a brave new world vision, a vision that’s not going to leave anyone behind.” He also underlined IPU’s and the UN’s shared focus on the wellbeing, security, dignity, peace and prosperity of the world’s citizens.
29 SEPTEMBER 2015
Speaker Donald F. Capelle endorsed the Common Principles at the Speakers Conference, one of the seven Pacific Parliaments to do so. ©IPU
Seven parliaments from the Pacific Island countries – Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu - have provided a regional impetus to the Common Principles for Support to Parliament with a formal endorsement. Their backing, and that of the Israeli Knesset now brings the number of endorsements by national parliaments, parliamentary assemblies and partner organizations to 96. The Common Principles, aimed at improving the quality of parliamentary development support, were put together by a group of parliaments and parliamentary development entities and are the result of more than four decades of experience on parliamentary development. Coordinated by IPU, they encourage the parliamentary community to work together more effectively when planning, designing and providing support. Parliaments and organizations wishing to add their endorsement can notify the IPU Secretariat.
29 SEPTEMBER 2015
Boosting nutrition for young children helps end the cycle of poverty for communities and countries. ©Reuters/F. Omar
The fight against malnutrition and its devastating effects was under the spotlight at a regional seminar in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, on 28 and 29 September. MPs and parliamentary staff from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region received training on promoting child nutrition. Expert contributors provided information on malnutrition, detailing the damaging impact not just on individuals but also on communities and the economic development of entire countries. More than 180 million of the world’s under-fives are affected, including up to 40 per cent of children in sub-Saharan Africa. Many suffer stunted development and growth and life-long impacts on their health, learning and earnings potential. The seminar, hosted by the Namibian Parliament and organized by IPU and UNICEF, highlighted the action MPs can take to combat this cycle of poverty, in particular by improving nutrition programmes and policies. Concrete recommendations made at the end of the event will help strengthen parliamentary responses on nutrition. Combating malnutrition has been shown to be cost-effective as well as being a moral imperative and is also a vital step towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals and their successors, the Sustainable Development Goals.
29 SEPTEMBER 2015
The new agreement is aimed at speeding up the movement of goods around the world. ©Reuters/Nguyen Huy Kham
The ratification of an international agreement which could benefit the global economy by up to US$ 1trillion a year is the subject of the parliamentary session of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Public Forum this year on 30th September in Geneva. Organized by IPU and the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Session will help MPs attending the event to learn more about underlying issues related to global trade and the key role of parliaments in ratifying the agreement. The Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) aims to speed up the movement of goods around the world and is perceived as the most important outcome of the 9th WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali.However, it can only come into force when two thirds of the members of the WTO have ratified it and so far, only 20 of 164 countries have done so. The parliamentary session is part of a series of public events being organized by the WTO from 30 September-2 October. The annual events bring together participants from government, parliament, civil society, the business sector, academia and the media to examine the world trade system and the WTO itself.
29 SEPTEMBER 2015
IPU has welcomed the return to civilian rule in Burkina Faso. ©AFP/S. Kambou
The resumption of civilian rule and democratic process in Burkina Faso has been welcomed by IPU. The Organization is urging authorities to ensure the now delayed presidential and parliamentary elections are held as soon as possible to consolidate the West African country’s transition to democratic rule. Elections had been due to take place on 10 October but plans were thrown into disarray 16 September by a coup d’état carried out by leaders of the presidential guard loyal to former President Blaise Compaoré.
29 SEPTEMBER 2015
The focus on migration comes amid a major refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East. ©AFP/E. Barukcic
Against the backdrop of an unprecedented flow of people into Europe and displacement crises around the world, MPs will examine the moral and economic imperative for fairer, smarter and more humane migration at IPU’s 133rd Assembly in Geneva from 17-21 October. Rising xenophobia combined with the ongoing impact of the global economic crisis continue to be at odds with the reality of regional demographics, skills shortages and an increasingly mobile workforce when defining national policies on migration. With nearly 60 million people either a refugee, asylum-seeker or displaced by the end of 2014 according to UNHCR, thought will be given to how best to handle large flows of asylum-seekers and ensure protection.
IPU Members will also adopt a resolution on democracy in the digital era and the threat to privacy and individual freedoms at the conclusion of the Assembly. Other major issues under the spotlight include counter-terrorism, protecting cultural heritage and discussions on how to strengthen parliament’s oversight capacities. This will be particularly relevant given the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the recent UN Summit that includes targets on the building of accountable and inclusive institutions needed to ensure peace, justice and the effective implementation of 17 SDGs.
The 133rd Assembly will also convene the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, IPU’s Forum of Young Parliamentarians, the Committee on Middle East Questions and the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, which will hold several hearings and examine cases involving the violations of the rights of MPs. The 2015 Future Policy Award on best policies on protecting children will also be presented at an award ceremony on 20 October.
Online registration for the 133rd Assembly is open until 2 October. To take part in the debates on social media, use #IPU133 on Twitter. Photos from the Assembly will be available for use on Flickr from 18 October.
14 SEPTEMBER 2015
Dozens of Geneva students will visit IPU headquarters in Geneva as part of the week's events. ©IPU
The Swiss canton of Geneva, home to IPU’s headquarters, is celebrating International Day of Democracy on 15 September with a week of events that includes bringing Swiss youth together with young MPs. It is the first time that any Swiss canton has officially marked the occasion.
The events, organized by canton and city authorities in partnership with Geneva University and Youth Parliament, as well as IPU, kick off on 14 September with a “speed debating” session with the Youth Parliament.
On Democracy Day itself, secondary school pupils will debate and hold a ballot on lowering the minimum voting age to 16 in an event at Geneva’s Grand Conseil. Later, about 50 students, representatives of youth wings of political parties and members of Geneva’s Youth Parliament, will join young MPs from Switzerland and other countries at IPU headquarters. They will debate democracy and youth participation as well as ways to engage Geneva’s youth in the democratic process. The event at IPU is being organized with the backing of the Japanese foundation Worldwide Support for Development (WSD). Debates later on in the week will include ways to increase public participation in democracy and how to engage young people in politics. More information can be found at www.semaine-democratie.ch
9 SEPTEMBER 2015
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong stressed the key role of parliaments in eliminating weapons of mass destruction. ©IPU
IPU is strengthening its collaboration with the UN on the elimination and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as part of the Organization’s work to promote peace and security in the world. Addressing the UN 1540 Committee, set up to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1540 on WMD, IPU Secretary General, Martin Chungong, outlined how parliaments and MPs could be mobilized on the issue and ensure greater coherence between IPU and the UN Committee in their work.
In addition to several IPU resolutions on nuclear non-proliferation and a nuclear weapons free world already adopted by IPU members in recent years, the Organization’s 133rd Assembly in Geneva in October 2015 will hold expert hearings on enhancing global cooperation to counter the threat of terrorism to democracy and individual rights. These will inform the preparations for a new resolution on the issue.
As part of an initiative to more directly engage MPs on WMD, a regional seminar in Algeria in December is aimed at helping African parliaments to implement the 1540 UN resolution nationally. The seminar, organized by IPU with support from the UN’s Office of Disarmament Affairs will help create awareness of the resolution and provide technical assistance to strengthen the parliaments’ legislative and oversight capacities and responsibilities later on. A handbook for parliamentarians to inform and provide practical guidance on action that could be taken on WMD is also being planned.
3 SEPTEMBER 2015
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and Ugandan Speaker Rebecca Kadaga signed the agreement. ©IPU
A new agreement between IPU and the Ugandan Parliament will build on efforts to improve maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) in the East African country. The agreement, signed by IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament Rebecca Kadaga in New York during the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, will continue to strengthen the parliamentary response to a priority issue for the country.
Although progress has been made since 1990 when 780 women out of every 100,000 died giving birth and 178 out of every 1,000 children under five died, the Millennium Development Goal targets set for maternal and child mortality rates have yet to be achieved.
IPU has been working with Uganda since 2012 when it developed a national strategy with goals and objectives to accelerate the reduction of maternal and child mortality rates. This included drafting and tabling renewed legislation on MNCH, advocacy training for Ugandan MPs, strengthening parliamentary committee capacity on tracking MNCH budgeting and accountability, and working with various other African parliaments on the issue.
IPU and the Ugandan Parliament will kick-start this new phase with a review of the national strategy and make recommendations on what actions to take during the 10th Ugandan Parliament (2016-2021).
28 AUGUST 2015
by Martin Chungong, Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)
When more than 180 parliamentary leaders from across the globe meet in New York later this month, the unique gathering will have the potential to kick-start wide-ranging political action to bring dramatic change to our world for generations to come.
As the heads of national parliaments, Speakers of Parliament are also the official voice of all the people in their countries. Among the most senior political leaders nationally, they also have the power to do politics differently.
That political muscle and a will to effect political reform that empowers all, especially the poor, the marginalized, women and youth, will be needed now as never before.
An agreement to be adopted at the UN in September to eradicate poverty in 15 years and to leave no-one behind in the quest for peace and prosperity through 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) will be the most ambitious global effort yet to achieve what has proved impossible so far.
With three billion people still living on less than US$ 2.50 a day, according to the UN, it is clear that business-as-usual politics, unreformed economies and infrastructures, and inadequate responses to corruption will not deliver the goals. The SDGs provide a mandate to tackle these obstacles to progress head-on.
Parliaments are powerful agents of change. It is by ratifying international agreements, passing budgets and legislation, monitoring their implementation and ensuring government is accountable to the people, that parliaments can drive that change. Their engagement on national development plans that put the well-being of the people up front and centre can make parliaments the linchpin for success in driving development forward.
This will require the buy-in of 45,000 parliamentarians in the world, representing virtually the totality of the global population.
In recent history, one African parliament’s refusal to adopt the national budget unless more resources were allocated to maternal and child health is a good case in point. It shows that where there is a political will, there is a way. It is also an all-too rare illustration of the power parliamentarians have to hold governments to their word. They must never be afraid to wield that power.
Reforming economies to prioritize the well-being of people will also go a long way to win back trust in parliamentarians and the public’s faith in politics. This is a real challenge facing democracy today.
Clearly, the political leadership required to fulfil this vision of a brave new world will have to be as much in the hands of the world’s parliamentary leaders as in those of heads of government. Speakers of Parliament will de facto be in the vanguard of parliamentary action. After their quinquennial World Conference on key global issues ends in New York, their individual leadership in mobilizing parliaments will help determine how each country fares in the long run.
However, we know that progress on development is built on solid foundations of peace and democracy. Both are under assault today. Our world continues to be threatened by conflict, terrorism, abuses of human and political rights and inequality. A parliament that is representative of all voices in society and which unabashedly acts to protect them, is a fundamental pillar of the rule of law and good governance. These are also prerequisites for sustainable development.
But not all parliaments have the capacity to take on the heavy demands of the SDG baton. Countries in conflict, post-conflict, in transition, and with weak or fledgling democracies will need help to prepare their parliaments to fulfil their role. Equal attention will have to be paid to fulfilling SDG 16 on building effective, accountable institutions as to the other goals. Governments must not renege on their commitment. Without this essential cog in the machinery of implementation, the SDGs will remain laudable but unattainable ideals.
The impetus for change, including of mindsets, must be there at the starting blocks. There is no time to waste. Politicians the world over must fulfil their responsibilities and deliver on the demands of their people. It is what the people expect of them.
24 AUGUST 2015
Speakers of Parliament will lead the challenge set by the SDGs of ending extreme poverty by 2030. ©Reuters/R. Rojas
Speakers of Parliament from around the world have a unique opportunity to launch a new era of political leadership when they meet for a conference at UN Headquarters in New York. About 140 parliamentary leaders from 138 countries taking part in the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament (31 August-2 September) will examine ways to effectively tackle global challenges to peace and democracy. Forest Whitaker, artist, humanist and UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, will deliver a keynote address to the conference, which will be officially opened by IPU President Saber Chowdhury and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The world’s parliaments and their members will be urged to engage in concerted dynamic action on issues such as conflict, terrorism, migration, discrimination and climate change. The conference is expected to place particular emphasis on achieving 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) due to be adopted at a UN Summit in September. Acknowledged in the outcome document on the SDGs, parliaments’ role in translating the goals into concrete action through passing legislation, making budget allocations and holding governments accountable to the people will be critical. The Conference, organized by IPU every five years and supported by the UN, will adopt a declaration which will feed into the SDGs Summit.
21 AUGUST 2015
Public participation is vital for strong democracies and good decision-making. ©Reuters/N. Chitrakar
IPU and its Members will this year mark International Day of Democracy on 15 September with a call for "Public participation for democracy". The theme has been chosen to reflect the critical importance of public engagement in democracy to help ensure better political decision-making and politicians’ accountability to the people. The focus will not only be on the rights and responsibilities of individual citizens to engage in democracy, but also why it is important for civil society to actively participate. The theme will encompass both formal and informal ways to engage in democracy, such as voting and petitioning, and the dynamic use of social media for political conversations. IPU is urging parliaments to seize the opportunity to engage with citizens and civil society groups to explore key questions, including how to widen existing opportunities for interaction and how to draw in groups currently less engaged – such as women, young people and minorities. Join the conversation on Twitter using #democracyday or on the International Day of Democracy Facebook page.
21 AUGUST 2015
The Common Principles place national parliaments at the heart of their own development programmes.
Two more parliaments – Italy and Burkina Faso -have formally endorsed the internationally-agreed guidelines on parliamentary support adopted by IPU Members last October. The Common Principles for Support to Parliament have now received more than 67 endorsements from national parliaments, as well as five from parliamentary assemblies and 14 from partner organizations. IPU is encouraging other parliaments to add their endorsement through a simple letter to the IPU Secretariat in the lead-up to the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament in New York (31 August-2 September).
21 AUGUST 2015
Myanmar is making practical preparations for the new MPs who will join after elections later this year. ©Parliament of Myanmar
Parliamentary staff in Myanmar are pressing ahead with preparations for the arrival of a new wave of MPs due to take up their role in 2016 following the general election later this year. IPU is working alongside the Myanmar Parliament on key areas, including producing new handbooks which will help the newly elected MPs participate effectively in proceedings as soon as possible. The handbooks will provide information on procedures, services and allowances in a single place for the first time. An IPU team visited Myanmar in the past few months to support the staff and finalize preparations. The IPU team will also support the parliamentary staff as they find ways of committing procedures and practices to writing during the ongoing development of the parliament. ICT (Information and Computer Technology) activities are meanwhile continuing, with a full-time project officer supporting the parliament’s infrastructure, training and development, and a mission to offer support with the development of an intranet and with setting other priorities.
21 AUGUST 2015
The 48-page guide is packed with practical information on how to create, run and expand research services.
New guidelines produced by IPU and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) have been published, offering parliaments information on how to strengthen their research services. Library and research services play a pivotal role in the development of democracy by promoting better access to information and increasing comprehension of the impact of legislation and proposed public policies. The new guidelines provide a wealth of practical information, including how to create or expand research services, how they can be funded, how to ensure impartiality, what services should be offered and how the services can be staffed and run. There is also guidance on useful partnerships and feedback on lessons learnt by other parliaments. The guidelines are available for download in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.
23 JULY 2015
Speakers and their delegations still have time to register for the global conference. ©UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
Preparations are in full swing for the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 31 August-2 September. The Conference, which will focus on placing democracy at the service of peace and sustainable development and building the world the people want, is part of a series of high-level meetings leading up to the UN Summit in September and the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals. As well as discussing the role of parliaments in implementing the SDGs, the Speakers will debate the challenges and opportunities faced by parliaments in holding governments to account, and continuing efforts to ensure that gender equality is placed at the heart of parliamentary work. More than 130 Speakers have so far confirmed they will be attending, along with hundreds of other participants. Speakers and their delegations have until 21 August to register for the event. The opening session will take place in the presence of the IPU President, United Nations Secretary General and President of the UN General Assembly, and will feature a keynote address by Mr. Forest Whitaker, artist, humanist and UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation. The Conference, convened by IPU every five years, provides a unique global forum for dialogue and cooperation between parliaments at the highest level. Follow the Conference build-up on Twitter using the hashtag #Speakersconf
23 JULY 2015
How parliaments hold governments to account is the focus of the 2nd Global Parliamentary Report.
The vital role parliaments play in holding governments to account will be the focus of the second Global Parliamentary Report, a major research project led by IPU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The report will explore the many different forms the role of parliamentary oversight takes, and whether parliaments have access to the information, tools and strategies they need to carry it out effectively. It will also investigate the central role of MPs, and ways to ensure they are fully engaged in the process, as well as the relationship which effective oversight has with gender equality and the representation of minorities in parliament. Work on the project was launched with an experts’ meeting at IPU headquarters in June, bringing together MPs, practitioners, researchers, IPU and UNDP. Research will begin in the second half of 2015, involving parliaments, MPs and other relevant parties. Participants at major events including the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, UNDP meetings on governance and IPU Assemblies in Geneva will also be asked to give their input. The report, due to be published in 2016, will include recommendations for both parliaments and their members to strengthen them in their oversight roles. The first Global Parliamentary Report, published in 2012, explored the changing nature of parliamentary representation, delivering crucial research on the challenges parliaments face in meeting the needs of citizens and maintaining their trust.
23 JULY 2015
Improving gender balance in parliaments is one of the topics to be discussed at the 10th Meeting of Women Speakers. ©Andreas Solaro/AFP
Female Speakers from around the world will discuss how parliaments can empower and support women and promote gender equality, when they gather for the 10th Meeting of Women Speakers of Parliament. Delegates at the meeting in New York on 29-30 August will search for innovative ways to speed up the process of achieving gender equality. Their discussions will include improving gender balance in parliaments, ending violence against women and securing sufficient means to achieve gender equality. The Speakers will also assess the progress made over the decade since the first meeting of women speakers was held, and debate how frameworks and mindsets can be changed to enhance progress. Only 15 per cent of the world’s Speakers, 17 per cent of ministers and 22 per cent of MPs are women, despite growing acknowledgement that democracy and development benefit from gender balance. The annual meetings of women Speakers, organized by IPU, aim to provide women in the highest decision-making positions of parliament with a regular forum to exchange ideas and experiences on gender issues which are of interest to their national and international agendas. The Women Speakers’ event will be followed by the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, which takes peace, democracy and development as its theme.
23 JULY 2015
The IPU mission to Kenya held meetings with Speakers, MPs, government officials and a number of groups. ©IPU
An IPU mission to Kenya has recommended the introduction of formal mechanisms to ensure the country meets the constitutional requirement for at least one third of its MPs to be women. Current figures are only 19 per cent in the lower house and 26 per cent in the upper house. The mission proposals include laws requiring political parties to field a minimum percentage of female election candidates. The visit came ahead of a Supreme Court deadline of August 2015 for parliament to confirm how it intends to achieve the one-third target at the 2017 elections. The IPU team, which included a Ugandan MP from IPU’s Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians, along with other experts in women’s participation, met the Speakers of both houses, male and female MPs, the women’s caucus KEWOPA, government representatives and other officials and groups. The delegation was welcomed at a plenary session of the Senate and acknowledged by the Speaker. A number of Senators, both men and women, thanked the team and acknowledged that fair representation was an issue for the whole nation, not just for women. They urged IPU’s continued support in implementing the constitution and promoting gender equality. The team drew from the Atlas of Gender Electoral Quotas and the database on quotas, which set out good practices and show their impact. The team also recommended ways of boosting youth involvement in Kenyan politics.
23 JULY 2015
Addressing the drastic toll conflict takes on civilians is part of the Sustainable Development Goals. ©Firat Yurdakul/Anadolu Agency
IPU President Saber Chowdhury has highlighted the need for parliamentary reforms to enable the future Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets to be integrated into a coherent policy framework in each country as well as globally. Participating in a panel at the end of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) session in New York, Mr Chowdhury argued that many obstacles stood in the way of implementation of the SDGs. The biggest hurdle was political, he said, requiring reforms which allowed all people to be effectively represented and all groups in society to work together for the common good. Mr Chowdhury also called for institutional reforms to enable coordinated action on the SDGs across traditional parliamentary structures. He suggested the creation of special parliamentary committees, caucuses or advisory groups to oversee implementation. The ECOSOC talks followed a two-week session of a new high-level political forum (HLPF) on sustainable development, in which a number of MPs participated as part of national delegations, including active IPU members Laszlo Borbely of Romania and Petra Bayr of Austria. Various IPU interventions stressed the need for each country to develop or review a national plan to translate the global goals into specific action. UN member states are encouraged to include MPs in future sessions of the HLPF - the UN’s main global hub to assess progress on the SDGs - in line with a General Assembly resolution.
23 JULY 2015
Former Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim received hospital treatment after an IPU call. ©Samsul Said/Reuters
IPU has welcomed the news that jailed former Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been sent for hospital treatment, less than a week after an IPU human rights team called for him to receive prompt medical care as and when needed. The IPU delegation visited Anwar in late June in prison, where he is serving a five-year jail term after losing a lengthy legal battle to clear his name of sodomy charges. It is understood he will receive all the follow-up care requested by doctors after previous hospital treatment in June. The three-member delegation from IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians also called for the dismissal of sedition charges and investigations against eight opposition MPs, including Anwar’s daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar. The delegation will present its full report to IPU Members in October. Read the full press release on the IPU team’s visit to Malaysia.
23 JULY 2015
IPU is urging all parliaments to endorse the Common Principles.
Guidelines setting out how to provide support to national parliaments have been published online in Arabic, adding to the English, French and Spanish online versions. The Common Principles for Support to Parliament were adopted by IPU members last October, distilling more than 40 years of experience into a single, accessible document. The principles stress that parliaments must play a central role in their own development, and set out examples of good practice and ways to ensure more effective cooperation between parliaments and their partners, including those from the UN system. A total of 64 national parliaments, three parliamentary assemblies and 14 partner organizations have already formally endorsed (PDF) the Common Principles. In the lead-up to the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament in New York at the end of August, IPU is again encouraging other members to add their endorsement, which can be done through a simple letter to the IPU Secretariat.
23 JULY 2015
MP Chloe Smith urged greater visibility of youth in politics during the debate hosted by the British group of IPU. ©IPU
Young MPs from the UK have stressed the vital importance of boosting youth engagement in politics and parliament, and the key role of IPU in making this a reality. The British Group of IPU hosted an event to debate IPU’s commitment to advancing the political engagement of young people. Gavin Shuker, who represented the UK at IPU’s Global Conference of Young MPs (PDF) in Tokyo in May, highlighted the key role the Organization plays in collecting data from parliaments on youth representation, measures to promote participation, and regulations on the age at which young people can vote and run for political office. A benchmark IPU report in 2014 found that fewer than two per cent of the world’s MPs were under 30. Chloe Smith, who attended the first IPU global youth conference in 2014, urged action including party reforms, changes in attitude, and greater visibility of youth in the media. Both speakers urged a strong attendance at the third Global Conference of Young MPs next year, to support IPU’s continuing commitment to re-engage young people in formal politics. IPU’s key work in transforming youth representation includes its Forum of Young MPs, a global youth-led platform.
23 JULY 2015
The agreement also aims to improve the health of mothers and their children. ©Shannon Jensen/AFP
An agreement between Rwanda and IPU has opened the way for new measures and activities to promote sexual and reproductive health, especially among adolescents. The agreement focuses on making parliament better equipped to pass relevant legislation, developing strategies for it to engage fully in the budget process to ensure funding is in place, and promoting statistics systems to accurately measure ongoing progress on maternal, newborn and child health. A range of activities supported by IPU will begin soon, focusing particularly on adolescents and increasing their awareness of access to sexual and reproductive services. Strategies include creating strong links between education and health, and encouraging MPs to hold consultative meetings with students, teachers and others involved in education. The agreement renews a partnership which began last year, aimed at strengthening MPs in their work of promoting sexual and reproductive health. The results have already included a boost in MPs’ interest in and ability to advocate on the issue, and first-hand information on unmet rural health needs.
14 JULY 2015
Niger's former Speaker of Parliament Amadou Hama, who insists baby trafficking charges against him are groundless, remains in exile. ©Amadou Hama
IPU has called for due process to be observed in the case of the former Speaker of the Niger Parliament, Amadou Hama, after an Appeal Court ruling which is likely to result in him standing trial on charges relating to baby-trafficking. The ruling on 13 July reversed a decision by the Criminal Court that Amadou Hama had no criminal case to answer over the baby-trafficking allegations as parentage had not been contested civilly. Amadou Hama, his wife Adizatou Amadou Dieye and more than 20 other people are accused of offences relating to Nigerien women allegedly travelling to Nigeria to pay for babies that were then passed off as their own. Defence lawyers are reported to be planning an appeal against the latest ruling. Amadou Hama, who has sought refuge abroad, was Speaker of Parliament and a senior opposition figure when his immunity was lifted and the National Assembly authorized his arrest and prosecution in August 2014. The post of Speaker was later declared vacant and he was replaced. Amadou Hama insists that the charges against him are groundless and were fabricated to remove him as Speaker and prevent him standing in presidential elections in 2016. The Niger parliamentary authorities deny that the case is politically motivated and say the judicial proceedings are being conducted independently and in compliance with the national constitution and laws. IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians has previously expressed concerns about a number of issues, including the procedure followed by the National Assembly to lift Amadou Hama's parliamentary immunity when the allegations were first made. The latest IPU call urges authorities to respect fair trial standards. The Organization, which sent a trial observer to an Appeal Court hearing in April, intends to do the same if the case does now go to trial.
7 JULY 2015
©National People’s Congress of China
The Chinese Parliament has committed to providing increased support to IPU as a sign of its greater engagement with the Organization. During high-level meetings last week between IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and parliamentary and government leaders in Beijing, including Speaker of the National People’s Congress Zhang Dejiang and deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, a commitment was made to provide additional financial resources for IPU’s work beyond the Asian country’s statutory membership contributions to the Organization.
The four-day visit, the first to China by Secretary General Chungong since he took up his post a year ago, is part of his efforts to forge stronger ties between IPU and its Members. The visit similarly generated Chinese support for IPU’s campaign for stronger recognition of the crucial role that parliaments and IPU will play in the implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) due to be adopted in September, and for the Organization’s various peace initiatives on Syria, the Middle East and the Koreas. Speaker Zhang also confirmed his intention to participate actively in the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament organized by IPU at UN headquarters in New York from 31st August to 2nd September. There were discussions too on the possibility of China once again hosting an IPU assembly, which it last did in 1996.
30 JUNE 2015
The National Assembly of the Seychelles is continuing efforts to harmonize relations and forge an ever more fruitful partnership with the Seychelles parliamentary media. Training organized last month by the National Assembly and IPU, in collaboration with Fondation Hirondelle, a Swiss organization that works to strengthen media and democracy, and Australia’s State Parliament of Victoria, resulted in identifying ways to improve reporting of the work of the National Assembly.
30 JUNE 2015
MPs from nine countries recommended that each country devise its own sustainable development strategy. ©IPU/Enico Iaia, 2015
MPs from nine European and Central Asian countries gathered in the Romanian capital, Bucharest in mid-June to identify how parliaments can be most effective in implementing the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They recommended that each country should devise its own sustainable development strategy, identifying specific goals and the means of achieving them with input from relevant parties including women’s groups. MPs at the two-day regional seminar also urged parliaments to promote strong inter-parliamentary cooperation, including the development of joint projects between countries. It recommended IPU set up a global parliamentary mechanism to track and evaluate progress so that national and regional experiences can be fed back to the global level and encourage further progress. The seminar, jointly organized by IPU and Romania’s Chamber of Deputies, was attended by MPs from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Serbia and Romania.
30 JUNE 2015
Training for Egyptian parliamentary staff on information technology management, supported by WSD, is first step in putting in place a modern library. ©IPU, 2015
A three-month IPU programme to train staff at the Egyptian parliament is the first stage in efforts to establish a modern parliamentary library with full internet access and capable of meeting the needs of future MPs. The newly-launched programme, supported by the Japanese foundation Worldwide Support for Development (WSD), includes training 210 staff in information technology management relating to the provision of library, information and research services (LRIS) - one of the priorities identified during a needs-assessment mission to Egypt in late 2014. The training, together with a recently installed faster computer system, will enable staff to use IT and the internet more effectively.
30 JUNE 2015
IPU and partner organizations have joined forces to provide a series of orientation workshops for Tunisian MPs elected late last year to the country’s first parliament since the Arab Spring. In a first session organized by IPU and the UN’s Development Programme (UNDP), the MPs focused on standards for democratic parliaments based on IPU’s Parliament and democracy in the 21st century and measures to put in place a gender equal parliament using the Organization’s Plan of Action for Gender-sensitive Parliaments. The MPS are due to explore the essential functions of parliaments – law-making, oversight and representation at another session in September. Meanwhile, at an event organized by IPU and International IDEA and supported by the UAE’s Federal National Council, the MPs focused on increasing cross-party cooperation between female MPs through both formal and informal means. Tunisia is one of only two Arab countries where more than 30 per cent of the MPs are women through the use of electoral quotas. Algeria became the first Arab country to achieve this.
30 JUNE 2015
Caption: Training for women MPs in Mali is aimed at developing their leadership skills. ©IPU/Brigitte Filion
IPU and the National Assembly of Mali have launched a two-year initiative to improve the status of women and strengthen their rights. The project aims to support parliamentary bodies responsible for gender issues, and back parliamentary efforts to develop the legislative and political framework needed to improve women’s status. Training for MPs in late June will focus on developing the capacity and leadership skills of female MPs and on strengthening male and female MPs skills in advocating gender equality and fighting violence against women and girls. Priorities for parliamentary action include national reconciliation, gender equality, improvements in healthcare for women and children, better education for girls, combating violence, and women’s participation in decision-making. Women hold only 13 of the 147 seats in parliament – fewer than 9 per cent - although this represents a substantial improvement on previous figures.
30 JUNE 2015
Colombian MP Carlos Garcia Orjuela had been wrongly held and prosecuted on charges of links to paramilitary groups. ©Carlos Garcia Orjuela
A Colombian parliamentarian who was wrongly held and prosecuted on charges of links with members of paramilitary groups has received a formal apology from national authorities. IPU had expressed serious concerns about whether Carlos García Orjuela was receiving a fair trial during the proceedings against him. He was eventually acquitted in 2010 after a two-year fight to clear his name. An official ceremony has now been held during which the Colombian Prosecutor’s Office offered García Orjuela a formal apology for the unjust accusations, prosecutions and detention he suffered. As his case was being heard in the Supreme Court, he would have had no right of appeal had he been convicted. A former Speaker of the Colombian Congress and a Senator at the time of his arrest, García Orjuela also holds French nationality. His case was among those taken up by IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, which tackles human rights violations of MPs throughout the world. The Committee is currently working on 289 cases, including 59 murders.
30 JUNE 2015
Tsedal Yohannes, the sister of one of the G-11 appeals to IPU Members for urgent international action on their case. ©IPU 2013
The case of 11 Eritrean MPs detained 14 years ago and whose fate is of serious concern to IPU, has been highlighted by the UN Commission of Inquiry investigating the human rights situation in the country. The MPs were among 15 who signed an open letter supporting democracy in 2001. The Commission’s report, presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 23 June, calls for the MPs’ immediate and unconditional release. It accuses the government of systematically silencing all critics, describing the purge of the MPs as the most visible sign of this repression. The report also finds that widespread human rights violations, some of which may constitute crimes against humanity, continue to be committed. Unseen since their arrest and with no information on their whereabouts or condition, IPU has continued to express its grave concern over the fate of the 10 men and one woman whose case IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians has been working on. The Organization has called the failure by the Eritrean authorities to charge, try or release the MPs a flagrant breach of the national constitution and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. Most if not all the MPs are feared to have died in the harsh conditions of their imprisonment.
30 JUNE 2015
Senior Secretary of the Bangladesh Parliament Ashraful Moqbul and IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong formalize agreement on MNCH at a ceremony presided over by Speaker of Parliament Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury and attended by IPU President Saber Chowdhury. ©Bangladesh Parliament/M.Akhtaruzzaman
The Bangladesh Parliament and IPU have signed an agreement setting in motion a partnership aimed at developing the capacity of the country’s MPs to promote maternal and child health (MNCH), including efforts to end child marriage. The agreement, signed in Dhaka during an official visit to the country by IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and Senior Secretary of the Parliament Ashraful Moqbul, will focus on how parliament can improve its oversight and representation responsibilities on MNCH, develop strategies on strengthening parliament’s influence on the issue including community outreach and advocacy, and the importance of data collection on birth and marriage registrations, A range of activities supported by IPU will begin soon. Although Bangladesh is one of a few developing countries that have achieved the Millennium Development Goal on reducing child mortality, and made progress on maternal mortality, there is still work to be done to reduce maternal mortality to 140 per 100,000 live births. The persistence of harmful practices against women and girls, including child marriage and the lack of universal access to health are key challenges.
During a three-day visit to Bangladesh, the IPU Secretary General also held talks with the Speaker of the Parliament Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury and IPU President and national MP, Saber Chowdhury, during which Speaker Chaudhury expressed the full commitment of the parliament on the issue.
Sustainable development, including MNCH, also featured significantly during talks between the Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H Mahmood Ali and Secretary General Chungong. Bangladesh has assured all possible support to IPU’s initiative on enhancing parliaments’ role in the design and implementation of the new sustainable development goals due to be adopted later this year.
29 JUNE 2015
Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key and IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong meet for talks in Wellington. ©New Zealand Parliament
In a high-level and wide-ranging visit to Australia and New Zealand, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has pushed forward on ways to strengthen IPU’s engagement with Pacific parliaments. The mission, which included talks with the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, the Speakers of both houses of parliament in Australia and New Zealand, the Speakers from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, as well as government and human rights officials, was the latest step by the IPU Secretary General in efforts to achieve universality for the Organization, a priority for his mandate.
With seven Pacific parliaments currently non-members of IPU, there was agreement on the need to mobilize the region in its interaction with IPU. Ways to achieve this included creating a Pacific sub-group within the Organization to push forward a Pacific agenda, a tripartite arrangement between IPU and the Australian and New Zealand Parliaments to support Pacific island parliaments whilst discussions in Wellington with Speakers from the sub-region focused on better understanding their specific concerns and identifying how these could be factored into IPU’s programme work.
During a packed visit to New Zealand, the IPU Secretary General was also formally introduced to MPs in the parliamentary chamber, held talks with the Minister for Maori Affairs on tapping into the country’s positive experience in the representation of indigenous peoples and addressed a wide-ranging audience on the challenges faced by parliaments today. A similarly hectic agenda in Australia also included meetings with government officials on development and gender issues. With a new set of sustainable development goals to be adopted by the global community at a high-level summit at the UN in September, IPU is continuing its campaign to mobilize countries to include references to parliaments in final outcome documents. New Zealand expressed high-level support on this initiative.
24 JUNE 2015
Preparations for the Speakers' Conference were among the issues discussed when IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong (second from left) had a lunch meeting in Bern with the two Speakers of the Swiss Parliament - the first event of its kind in IPU history. Pierre-François Veillon, President of the Swiss IPU group (right) was also present, along with the Swiss ambassador to the UN in New York and other senior IPU officials. ©Swiss Parliament, 2015
Preparations for the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, taking place at UN Headquarters in New York from 31 August-2 September, are being finalized with a focus on placing democracy at the service of peace and sustainable development.
The Conference Preparatory Committee, comprising some 25 Speakers, members of the IPU Executive Committee and the representative of the UN Secretary General, met in Geneva in June to agree to the agenda, format and main documents of the Conference. The meeting provided an opportunity for dialogue with Michael Møller, Director General of the UN Office in Geneva, on avenues to further enhance the strategic partnership between the UN, parliaments and IPU.
The Conference is part of the series of high-level meetings leading up to the UN Summit in September, which is expected to adopt a new generation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition to the role of parliaments in implementing the SDGs, the Speakers will also discuss the challenges and opportunities faced by parliaments in exercising their oversight role, as well as ongoing efforts to ensure that gender equality is placed at the heart of the work of parliaments.
The Conference, convened by IPU every five years, provides a unique global forum for dialogue and cooperation between parliaments at the highest level. Speakers and their delegations still have time to register for the event.
Follow the Conference build-up on Twitter using the hashtag #Speakersconf
19 JUNE 2015
The five Libyan MPs were given a warm welcome at IPU Headquarters in Geneva ©IPU/Jorky
Five Libyan MPs, all women, have visited IPU Headquarters to revive cooperation between IPU and the internationally-recognized Libyan Parliament. The Parliament is currently operating with very limited means from the port city of Tobruk, after the security situation forced it to relocate from Benghazi. Some Arab countries are providing assistance to the Parliament, but the MPs stressed the need for assistance from IPU, including capacity-building activities for parliamentarians and parliamentary staff. Previous IPU assistance to the Libyan Parliament dates back to 2012-2013. It focused on parliamentary staff training, institutional development and reconciliation processes.
The Libyan representatives described the dire situation in the country, emphasizing the lack of stability and security, and the widespread suffering endured by Libyan citizens, especially children. The five MPs have come to Geneva, facing conditions of often considerable danger, to take part in a training seminar with Geneva Institute of Human Rights. They will continue to make every effort to bring to the forefront the plight of the Libyan people. They look forward to the Libyan Parliament attending the 133rd IPU Assembly to be held in Geneva from 17-21 October.
19 JUNE 2015
The discussion took place on the sidelines of the Human Rights Council, currently in session in Geneva. ©UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
Efforts to strengthen parliaments’ engagement on human rights will be examined next week in the latest measure to bridge the work of parliamentarians with that of the Human Rights Council. Diplomats, human rights officials and civil society representatives will meet on 22 June to assess what progress has been made on engaging parliaments in key UN processes and look at successful examples of parliamentary human rights work at an event held in parallel to the 29th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The meeting, organized by IPU and the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and supported by several countries (Romania, Philippines, Morocco, Uruguay and Ecuador), follows other similar events in recent years to enhance cooperation between parliaments, the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review of national human rights situations, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The event will reinforce the significance of parliaments’ role in promoting human rights by passing laws, setting budgets, holding governments to account on human rights commitments and protecting the rights of all citizens. Since the adoption of a Human Rights Council resolution in June 2014 encouraging governments to promote the involvement of parliaments in all stages of the UPR and greater collaboration between IPU and OHCHR, a series of regional seminars were held in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America to inform and engage MPs on human rights and the work of the Human Rights Council.
5 JUNE 2015
A workshop to encourage cross-party cooperation among female MPs in Tunisia is being held in the country on 6 and 7 June. IPU has organized the event in partnership with International IDEA, an intergovernmental organization which works to support and promote democracy around the world.
The event, focused on reinforcing women’s influence in parliament, will include discussions, information on informal ways of working together and details of more formal parliamentary mechanisms for promoting gender equality and women’s rights – for example, women’s caucuses and specialized committees. Guest speakers will include Awa Gueye, Vice-President of the Senegalese Parliament and President of the women's parliamentary caucus. There will also be a training session on team building.
IPU and International IDEA hope the workshop will give the MPs a better understanding of how they can work together across party lines, both formally and informally, to help promote gender equality and women’s rights. The event has been made possible by the generous support of the Federal National Council of the United Arab Emirates.
Tunisia is one of only two Arab countries where more than 30% of the MPs are women – the other being Algeria – as a result of the use of quotas. The female MPs are committed to ensuring that Tunisia’s new constitution, which will be enshrined in law over the next five years, reflects the needs and expectations of women.
After a previous workshop supported by IPU, which was organized by International IDEA and the Center of Arab Women for Training and Research, female MPs recommended a permanent commission to oversee gender equality and family affairs, as well as a women’s caucus. Neither idea has been adopted by the parliament, although a special commission on women, family, children, youth and elderly affairs was established.
International IDEA and the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy are also engaged in a programme aiming to identify and remove barriers to the involvement of more women in Tunisia’s political parties.
IPU has a set of guidelines on women’s caucuses (PDF), setting out key principles for how the groups can be set up and operated.
2 JUNE 2015
The new study has found that three-quarters of the world’s annual emissions of greenhouse gases are now limited by national targets. ©AFP/DYCJ/IMAGECHINA
Three-quarters of the world’s annual emissions of greenhouse gases are now limited by national targets, a new study from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science has found. The 2015 Global Climate Legislation Study, sponsored by IPU and GLOBE, the Global Legislators Organisation, covers 98 countries plus the European Union, which are together responsible for 93 per cent of global emissions. The study indicates that 75 countries plus the European Union have frameworks for limiting greenhouse gas emissions, while 64 countries have frameworks for adapting to the impacts of climate change. However, only 37 countries have completed a fully comprehensive national climate change risk assessment.
IPU President Saber Chowdhury has reiterated the importance of parliamentarians in addressing climate change. “We firmly believe that legislators are a central element of any successful strategy for tackling climate change and that they bear their own share of responsibility for its effective implementation. As mandated representatives of the people, parliamentarians are duty-bound to enact and amend laws, approve national budgets and hold governments to account. It is for that reason that we consider periodic reviews of climate change legislation to be so important.” Click here and find out more about the study and which countries are covered in the research.
2 JUNE 2015
Dr Haruhisa Handa, Chairman of WSD, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong, Emirati MP and President of IPU Forum for Young Parliamentarians, Faisal Al Tenaiji and Mokhtar OmarIPU Senior Adviser mark the end of the successful day-long event. ©IPU/Z. Hilal
Young MPs followed up on the IPU Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians in Tokyo with a second event in the city on 30 May on how development cooperation can better respond to young people’s needs.
Organized by IPU and Worldwide Support for Development (WSD), the meeting offered a platform for young politicians, as representatives of their communities, to illustrate how well-placed they are to help shape more effective partnerships to tackle the many challenges societies face today, such as poverty, migration, discrimination, climate change, access to health, conflict, as well as barriers to education and employment.
The young MPs highlighted the need to focus development cooperation on people, and in particular on young people’s specific interests, to create positive long-term outcomes. They stressed that it was critical to consult young people on development projects and called attention to the need for development cooperation to empower young people through investment in training, job creation, inclusive processes and responsive programmes.
Education was identified as one of the key areas in need of greater investment, including tertiary education and training in skills relevant to the job market. Other priority areas included increasing youth opportunities in the agricultural sector, and investing more in Information and Computer Technology (ICT) to boost knowledge, innovation and web entrepreneurship opportunities. The MPs also called for development cooperation to encompass enhancing young people’s engagement in politics and democracy.
With a high-level attendance, including Dr Haruhisa Handa, Chairman of WSD, IPU President Saber Chowdhury, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong, and Japanese Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Minoru Kiuchi, about 50 young MPs also had an opportunity to learn more about Japanese international cooperation, which aims to focus more on peace-building, inclusiveness, environmental sustainability and resilience. The afternoon sessions of the event were opened to the Japanese public and about 1,000 people attended.
Guidance on national aid policies
29 MAY 2015
Key questions such as why States should have a national aid policy and how to ensure that all participants in aid activities are held accountable are addressed in a new guidance note on development cooperation. Analysis by IPU, the United Nations Development Cooperation Forum (DCF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Action Aid shows that many aid-recipient countries either do not have a proper national aid policy, or have policies that are not strong enough to include strong accountability mechanisms. As a partner in the DCF, IPU commissioned the guidance note for development cooperation policymakers and practitioners as a tool to develop mutual accountability among all partners. The aim is to provide guidance on: working together to develop a clear set of commitments on aid management at the country level, become better advocates for the adoption or improvement of national aid policies, and how to effectively take part in their implementation. With parliaments insufficiently involved in the aid policy process, the note , which draws on a detailed review of 26 national aid policies, is also meant to support greater parliamentary engagement and is available online only on the IPU website.
Making progress on women's and children's health
29 MAY 2015
Newborn babies in a hospital in South Sudan are some of the lucky ones. Few births in the country take place in hospitals. African Parliaments call for continued efforts to improve women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health. ©REUTERS/A. Campeanu
Parliaments must be part of the efforts to improve women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health - that is the message sent by a meeting of African MPs in Johannesburg 5-7 May. The meeting was part of the consultation process on an updated Global Strategy on Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. The strategy, to be launched in September 2015, is a roadmap to end all preventable deaths of women, children, and adolescents by 2030 and improve their overall health and well-being. It supports the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and builds on the 2010-2015 Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health launched by the UN Secretary-General. The parliamentary session in Johannesburg strongly recommended that parliaments should be considered a vital participant in the strategy, that every effort should be made to strengthen parliamentary capacity to engage on issues linked to women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health, and that IPU should be part of the future global accountability mechanism.
This message was reinforced by the IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong during his participation in a high-level retreat hosted by the UN Secretary-General in New York on 14-15 May. The event gathered more than 100 senior leaders from a variety of sectors, including governments, UN agencies, the private sector and civil society, for a detailed conversation on the draft and direction of the strategy.
Central and Eastern European parliaments translate SDGs into action
29 MAY 2015
Sustainable development is on the agenda of Central and Eastern European parliaments. The elderly, one of the most vulnerable segments of the population in these regions, are part of these discussions. ©AFP/D. Mihailescu
Central and Eastern European parliaments will be looking at what concrete strategies and actions they can take to achieve the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At a meeting jointly organized by the Chamber of Deputies of the Romanian Parliament and IPU, on 15 and 16 June in Bucharest, participants will examine how the SDGs and their targets may apply to Central and Eastern Europe and advance its development when they are adopted in September this year. Special emphasis will be placed on the important role parliaments need to play in ensuring effective implementation of the SDGs.
Pakistan President calls for expanding partnership with IPU
29 MAY 2015
President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain (left), met with IPU SG, Martin Chungong. ©PPI
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong met the President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain, in Islamabad on 25 May. Their discussions centred on deepening the relationship between IPU and Pakistan. Areas considered for expansion are the strengthening of IPU capacity-building efforts with the national parliament and broadening Pakistani participation in IPU activities. President Hussain stressed that democracy was firmly entrenched in Pakistan, and that closer engagement with IPU could further strengthen democracy and democratic institutions in the country.
The IPU Secretary General also met Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, during his visit. They discussed the vital role of parliaments in helping to achieve the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Mr Aziz stressed the important role of IPU in helping parliaments to implement the SDGs, and their own importance for Pakistan, which is actively engaged in the process of defining them. During both meetings, the IPU Secretary General expressed his appreciation of Pakistan’s active role in IPU and its commitment to taking part in IPU Assemblies and specialized meetings.
Gearing up for the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament
29 MAY 2015
©UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata
Momentum is building towards the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, with the meeting of the Preparatory Committee in Geneva on 1-2 June. The Committee, composed of about 25 Speakers of Parliament, members of the IPU Executive Committee and a representative of the UN Secretary General, will examine the agenda, background reports and draft outcome documents for the Speakers’ Conference scheduled to take place at UN Headquarters in New York from 31 August-2 September.
Michael Moller, Acting Director General of the UN Office in Geneva, will meet the Committee to look at the linkages between the Conference and the subsequent UN Summit on the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As mandated by the UN General Assembly, the Speakers’ Conference is organized in close cooperation with the United Nations as part of the series of high-level meetings leading up to the UN Summit, and is expected to contribute in a significant way to the accountability and implementation of the post-2015 development agenda. IPU and its Member Parliaments have been bringing a comprehensive parliamentary perspective to the global talks, the most recent example being the Hanoi Declaration on the SDGs: Turning Words into Action. Follow the Speakers’ Conference build-up on Twitter using the hashtag #Speakersconf
Endorsing and implementing Common Principles for Support to Parliament
28 APRIL 2015
The number of endorsements to the Common Principles for Support to Parliament continues to grow. ©IPU, 2015
Nearly 80 national parliaments, parliamentary assemblies and partner organizations have now endorsed the ground-breaking Common Principles for Support to Parliament aimed at improving the quality of parliamentary development support. A formal endorsement ceremony at IPU’s 132nd Assembly in Hanoi last month witnessed a surge in endorsements. With an ever increasing level of support for the Common Principles, the challenge now is to ensure they are effectively put into practice. Put together by a group of parliaments and parliamentary development entities, and the result of more than four decades of experience on parliamentary development, the Common Principles offer clear guidelines for those receiving or providing such support. Coordinated by IPU, they aim to improve the quality of support available to parliaments and to encourage the parliamentary community to work together more effectively when planning, designing and providing support. Parliaments and organizations wishing to add their endorsement can notify the IPU Secretariat.
World’s young MPs to gather in Tokyo
28 APRIL 2015
n 2014 young parliamentarians joined forces to find new ways to increase youth participation in politics. ©IPU/L. Fortunati, 2014
An IPU conference in Tokyo next month that will bring together young MPs from around the world will focus on finding solutions to critical global issues that heavily impact on youth. About 130 young men and women MPs from Japan and elsewhere are so far expected to attend the IPU Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians in Tokyo at the Japanese parliament, the National Diet, on 27 and 28 May. The Conference, an annual event and the only one of its kind, was first held in Geneva in 2014. Jointly organized by IPU and the National Diet, the IPU Global Conference offers a political youth-led platform to define policies and action to successfully tackle challenges faced by young people. Issues under focus will include: the impact of the socio -economic crisis on youth; young people’s vision of a prosperous world and how it can be achieved and the role of youth in eliminating conflict. Specifically, the Conference will examine how young MPs in particular can empower young people in addressing socio-economic challenges, including unemployment and how young MPs can counter youth engagement in violence and conflict. Particular attention will be paid to the issue of violence against youth, including young women and girls. There will also be an interactive discussion on young people’s perception of violence and the possibility of growing up in a non-violent culture. The Global Conference is part of IPU’s efforts to increase youth political participation and input into political decision-making backed by its Forum of Young Parliamentarians.
Young MPs can still register to attend. Take part in the discussions through Twitter using the hashtag #youngMPs
UN follow-up for Hanoi development declaration
28 APRIL 2015
Ensuring the finances are in place to resource national development plans will be critical to the success of new sustainable development goals. ©Reuters/N. Chitrakar
Wasting no time after the 132nd Assembly, IPU has introduced the Hanoi Declaration on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to UN Member States during a negotiation session on financing for development (FFD). During the session from 13-16 April, the first draft outcome document was discussed ahead of the international conference on FFD taking place in Addis Ababa in July. Financing will be critical to the implementation of the entire post-2015 development agenda and SDGs. In a letter to all UN ambassadors, IPU pledged that “parliamentarians will work to build national ownership of the SDGs by pro-actively engaging their constituents and by working to tailor the global goals to their countries’ specific circumstances”. During the FFD negotiations, IPU underscored the key role of parliaments in the monitoring and following-up of all commitments, and said it was regrettable that parliaments were not included in the first draft document. IPU called for a distinct paragraph in the text pointing up the legislative and oversight functions of parliaments, which are key to overseeing sources of finance and turning commitments into enforceable measures. Because of the non-binding nature of the Addis Ababa agreement, the future of its commitments will depend entirely on how they are translated into national laws and regulations. IPU will continue to follow this process closely to ensure the role of parliaments is reflected in all relevant UN agreements.
Call to action on harnessing MPs’ power for gender equality
28 APRIL 2015
Speaker of Vietnam’s National Assembly Nguyen Sinh Hung signs up to the Call for Action on gender equality. ©Vietnamese News Agency, 2015
IPU Members have endorsed a call by women parliamentarians urging the world’s MPs to harness their political power to create a gender-equal world. This will be critical as the global focus increasingly shifts to a new sustainable development agenda which will not succeed without the contribution gender equality makes to peace, well-being and human development. The initiative, “My power for women’s power”, commits MPs to passing laws which enshrine equality in their societies and to providing the necessary financing and oversight for the laws to become a reality. MPs also pledged to boost women’s roles in politics and wider society and to empower women and girls in all spheres of life. IPU believes MPs hold enormous potential to achieve a world free from gender discrimination and that it is critically important for male and female MPs to work together to achieve this. The call to action was initially made during IPU’s 132nd Assembly in Hanoi in April by the Meeting of Women MPs, which celebrated 30 years of its pioneering work in boosting the role of female parliamentarians. IPU data shows that the percentage of women MPs in the world has nearly doubled in 20 years, from 11.3 per cent to 22.1 per cent, but progress has remained slow and much work remains to be done.
Strengthening ties with Geneva
17 APRIL 2015
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and Member of the Geneva Grand Council, Magali Orsini at IPU’s House of Parliaments.
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and local MPs in Geneva, where the Organization is headquartered, have met to identify ways to strengthen interaction between IPU and the city and its population. At a meeting at IPU’s House of Parliaments, the IPU Secretary General and representatives to the Geneva Grand Council, Magali Orsini and Charles Selleger, discussed various possible initiatives to develop knowledge of IPU and its work among the community and local politicians. They also discussed the issue of political disenchantment among youth and ways to strengthen civic education in schools, including developing a specific module on parliaments. Such kinds of initiatives will be further explored with the authorities in Geneva.
IPU Assembly to lead on sustainable development
13 MARCH 2015
More than 600 MPs from 113 countries registered so far to attend the 132nd IPU Assembly in Hanoi, Viet Nam, will look at concrete ways parliaments can implement the new sustainable development goals (SDGs) when they are adopted later this year. The Assembly, which takes place on 28 March to 1st April, will adopt a declaration on this at the end of the gathering. During a charged five-day gathering, IPU Members will also make commitments on parliamentary action to shape a new system of water governance; on international law on national sovereignty and the non-intervention in the internal affairs of State and human rights, and on addressing the threat of cyber warfare to global peace and security. With terrorism very much on the global agenda, there have been two proposals made so far for an emergency debate and resolution. Australia and Morocco have respectively proposed taking a stand on parliament’s role in combatting the threat of terrorism by organizations such as Boko Haram and on ensuring enhanced protection for humanity’s cultural heritage from terrorist groups in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Hanoi Assembly will also mark the 30th anniversary of the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, which for most of its history has been a unique global gathering providing a valuable space for women MPs as well as a mechanism to provide input into the formal outcomes of the IPU Assembly. The Meeting will include a discussion on what needs to be done to fulfil the commitments made in the Beijing Platform for Action on gender equality and women’s empowerment 20 years ago.
IPU’s Forum of Young Parliamentarians will similarly be gathering ahead of a global conference of young MPs in Tokyo in May, organized by IPU and the Japanese Parliament, while the Committee on Middle East Questions will meet to examine next steps in efforts to facilitate dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian MPs. The Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians will also convene as usual to examine cases involving the human rights abuses of MPs and to hold hearings with national authorities or individuals to help make progress on individual cases.
You can take part in the debates or follow the Assembly through Twitter using #IPU132
. Photographs of the Assembly will be made available for download and free use through Flickr via http://www.ipu.org/132pics
. You can access the Assembly agenda and all documents here
Strongest political support needed for disaster risk reduction
13 MARCH 2015
IPU President Saber Chowdury and Japanese MP Mr Suzuki at the parliamentary meeting ahead of the Third UN Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. ©Japanese House of Councillors
MPs from across the world led by IPU President Saber Chowdhury have called for coherence among international agreements and action plans due to be adopted during the year on disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and climate change in order to make people and the planet more resilient. Taking part in a parliamentary meeting ahead of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan (14-18 March), the MPs took note of the progress that had been made since the 2005 Hyogo Framework for Action in reducing disaster risk, including the saving of lives in some types of disasters and a growth in national and regional legislation on the issue. They expressed support for the proposed focus of the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction aimed at tackling the underlying causes of disaster risk. Without reducing risks and preventing new ones from arising and strengthening both human and environmental resilience, sustainable development would not be possible. The MPs also called for laws to either be developed or amended to reflect these approaches to disaster management. In an agreed outcome of the meeting, jointly organized by IPU and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the MPs highlighted a range of measures aimed at strengthening governance of disaster management, including stronger parliamentary oversight of relevant laws, policies and programmes and better support for local government and communities in reducing risks. They also called for IPU and UNISDR to work to engage MPs and parliaments in the effective implementation of the post-2015 framework.
Sluggish progress on women in politics
13 MARCH 2015
Women’s political participation has made progress over the years, but just not enough and not at a fast enough pace, IPU’s Women in Parliament: 20 years in Review and the IPU/UN Women map of Women in Politics 2015 has shown. In the 20 years since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action on women’s empowerment and gender equality, the percentage of women in parliament has nearly doubled to 22.1 per cent today and that of women Speakers has reached 15.8 per cent, but in both cases, gender parity remains a long way off. For women in executive government, the situation is even worse. In the 10 years since IPU has released data on women ministers and heads of State/government, the percentage of women ministers has increased by only 3.5 points to stand at 17.7 per cent at the beginning of January this year. Meanwhile, women account for only 6.6 per cent of all heads of State and 7.3 per cent of all heads of government. Some countries and regions are doing better than others, with the Americas heading the IPU regional rankings for both women in parliament and in government. Electoral quotas in more than 120 countries have underpinned what progress there has been but the slow pace of positive change could be a signal that the impact of quotas is wearing off, requiring other complementary measures to dramatically increase women’s political participation. The success of the new sustainable development agenda to be adopted later this year will depend on getting more women involved in political decision-making.
Keep going on legislative efforts to end discrimination
13 MARCH 2015
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka take part in an event on women in leadership positions during the CSW. ©Swiss mission to the UN
More than 160 men and women MPs attending the annual parliamentary meeting in parallel to the 59th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), have reiterated the need to keep the pressure on efforts to end gender discrimination through laws which are in line with international commitments, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Recommendations from the meeting jointly held by IPU and UN Women will be presented to the CSW. These include the need for parliaments to embody and have the power to defend gender equality, which can only be achieved when there is a balanced dynamic between civil society, State and parliament. The women MPs also highlighted the importance of sufficient funding to ensure implementation and enforcement of gender equality laws and the key role of parliaments, MPs and men in changing attitudes and stereotypes that underlie discrimination.
Ahead of the parliamentary meeting, there were also two discussion events, with the first on countering cyber violence against women given its growing and more visible trend, and the challenges this poses for MPs, policymakers and internet service providers. The second event, organized with support from the Irish development agency, Irish Aid, focused on what needs to be done to get more young women into politics and how to ensure that the next generation of politicians are committed to a gender equality agenda that is transformational.
Reaching out to the Americas
13 MARCH 2015
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong in talks with Wade Mark, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. ©GRULAC
Authorities in Paraguay and Trinidad and Tobago have expressed their support and commitment to achieving full membership of IPU among Latin American and Caribbean parliaments and to enhance theirs and the region’s participation within the Organization. During meetings with IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong in early March, the Speakers of Parliament in both countries stated their keenness to host IPU events as a sign of more active engagement. With 12 parliaments from the Americas region who are not members of IPU, mostly in the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago leaders also committed to bringing their neighbours into the Organization and to make their country a hub for the Caribbean region.
The Speakers of both houses of parliament in Trinidad and Tobago also requested IPU support in implementing a strategic plan of action for their parliament, which will complement already ongoing collaboration.
Support for common principles on parliamentary development gathers pace
13 MARCH 2015
Forty-one parliaments and organizations have so far backed the Common Principles for Support to Parliament adopted at the 131st IPU Assembly last October. With a formal endorsement ceremony due to take place on 1st April during the 132nd IPU Assembly in Hanoi, more endorsements are likely. The Lithuanian, Niger and Swedish parliaments as well as the International Organization for Migration are the latest to back the Principles, which aim to improve the quality of support available to parliaments. The Common Principles are now available in a publication and online in English, French and Spanish. Parliaments and organizations wishing to add their endorsements can notify the IPU Secretariat.
New report on youth participation in national parliaments
13 MARCH 2015
With less than two per cent of all MPs in the world under 30 years of age, a new report by IPU on youth participation in national parliaments provides the first-ever world ranking of young MPs and examines the commonalities and differences among nations in measures to promote youth’s political participation. This includes statutory regulations on the right to vote or to run for political office and other measures such as quotas. The report found that only Norway breaks the 10 per cent barrier for MPs below 30 years of age. Different countries take the top spot if the age range increases to below 40 or 45. Based on responses from nearly 100 parliaments, the report also highlighted that although the voting age of 18 was more or less universal, the age for standing for political office varied enormously. The report’s data suggests a clear relationship between higher eligibility ages and low levels of young MPs, particularly in upper houses of parliament. Part of IPU’s growing work on increasing youth engagement in politics and decision-making, the report makes several recommendations to get more young people into parliament, including using quotas.
Viet Nam faces its challenges on HIV and AIDS
13 MARCH 2015
Like many countries, Viet Nam is facing formidable challenges in sustaining a response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic as international funding shrinks and national resources become limited. Nevertheless, it has announced new targets to rapidly expand HIV treatment by 2020. A field mission by IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal and Child Health looked at what Viet Nam is doing to make this happen and reported findings that may help other countries in a similar situation.
IPU Annual Report – Driving the next generation of change
13 MARCH 2015
IPU’s Annual Report 2014 provides up-to-date vital information on the Organization’s activities in its key areas of work, its membership, the composition of its key structures as well as the budget and expenditure during the year. Richly illustrated with images and graphs, it is a useful source of information for anyone wanting to have a better understanding of the remit and achievements of the world organization of national parliaments. The report is online and available in print in English, French and Spanish.
Preparing ground for future MPs in Egyptian Parliament
27 FEBRUARY 2015
Efforts to put in place a fully functioning parliament in Egypt ahead of elections in March have now begun to focus on providing support to newly-elected MPs, most of whom will be parliamentarians for the first time. As part of its programme to support Egypt on its roadmap to democracy, an IPU mission to the Arab country in February assessed requirements for an orientation package for new MPs aimed at helping them make their transition into parliamentary life and responsibilities smoother and to make them more effective representatives and legislators. The mission will result in a new training curriculum for MPs and an induction manual as well as recommendations on how parliamentary staff can best support MPs in doing their job. Throughout 2014 and with support from the Swedish development agency Sida and the Japanese Worldwide Support for Development, IPU carried out a series of initiatives at strengthening the human resourcing and skills of the Egyptian Parliament’s Secretariat as well as identifying IT solutions for information access and sharing. Although the Egyptian Parliament was dissolved in 2013, the Secretariat has continued to operate. However, with most of the 567 future MPs expected to be completely new to parliament’s work, the Secretariat faces a challenge in ensuring MPs quickly become familiar with their new role and the functioning of parliament.
Revitalizing parliamentary support programme for Equatorial Guinea
27 FEBRUARY 2015
An IPU mission to Equatorial Guinea led by Secretary General Martin Chungong has reactivated a support programme to its parliament with the signing of a new agreement. In parallel, an assessment was carried out on the parliament’s working methods and on the available human and material resources with recommendations on ways to strengthen the institutional functioning to be made in the coming weeks. Working together with the parliament and implementing the recently-adopted Common Principles for Support to Parliament, IPU will identify mid and long-term action to reinforce parliament through improved working methods and strengthening MPs’ and parliamentary staff’s capacity to do their work effectively. A technical work plan on implementing the activities will also be defined. Between 2003 and 2009, IPU carried out a range of activities aimed at strengthening the working modalities of the parliament, the skills and capacities of both MPs and parliamentary staff and parliament’s role in the protection of human rights. During the mission, the IPU Secretary General also held talks with President Mbasogo, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies and the Deputy Speaker of the Senate on other areas of collaboration and support.
Endorsements of common principles for parliamentary support rise
27 FEBRUARY 2015
The number of parliaments and organizations endorsing the Common Principles for Support to Parliament has been steadily increasing in the run up to the 132nd IPU Assembly in Hanoi where a formal endorsement ceremony will take place on 31st March. So far, 22 national parliaments, the Maghreb Consultative Council and ten partner organizations have endorsed the Common Principles, which were adopted at the 131st IPU Assembly in October 2014. Put together by a group of parliaments and parliamentary development entities, and the result of more than four decades of experience on parliamentary development, the Common Principles offer clear guidelines for those receiving or providing support to parliaments. Coordinated by IPU, they aim to improve the quality of the support available to parliaments and to encourage the parliamentary community to work together more effectively when planning, designing and providing support. Among the most recent to sign up include the Andorran, Australian, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indian, Latvian, Serbian, Seychelles and Spanish national parliaments. The German Bundesrat, Jordan’s House of Representatives, the Romanian Senate and the Swiss Federal Assembly have also backed the Common Principles as has the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Parliaments and organizations wishing to add their endorsement can notify the IPU Secretariat.
Engaging with Iraqi MPs and parliamentary staff on human rights
27 FEBRUARY 2015
More than 20 Iraqi MPs, parliamentary staff and representatives from civil society organizations took part in a study tour to IPU Headquarters on 24th February as part of training on parliament’s role in human rights protection, promoting inclusiveness and civil society’s participation in the legislative and oversight process. The training, part of a UN Development Programme project carried out by the Geneva International Centre for Justice, focused on IPU’s work and how partnerships between parliament and civil society can promote and protect human rights. It was also an opportunity for IPU to engage the Iraqi Parliament on its role in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN’s Human Rights Council, including implementing its recommendations on Iraq and on protecting the human rights of its MPs. The Iraqi group was also briefed on IPU’s work on gender equality and supporting parliaments to become effective institutions.
Strengthening parliamentary oversight on human rights in Asia
27 FEBRUARY 2015
MPs from 20 Asian parliaments looked at how to mobilize stronger parliamentary involvement in the work of the UN Human Rights Council and its evaluation mechanism, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), at a meeting in the Philippines capital, Manila. Organized jointly by IPU and the Philippines Senate with the support of Worldwide Support for Development and in collaboration with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the meeting on 26-27 February was part of a series of regional events aimed at providing MPs with a better understanding of the Human Rights Council and the UPR. Using national case studies, the Manila gathering examined how parliament was involved in reporting on human rights in individual countries and how UPR recommendations were implemented. The Asian MPs also identified strategies to enhance parliamentary involvement in human rights protection at national level. They also looked at human rights challenges that are common to the region. Specific sessions on the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality as well as on the human rights problems faced by minorities and indigenous groups were held. Asia is home to the largest number of the global population of indigenous peoples. Similar regional human rights seminars were held in 2014 for Africa, Europe and Latin America. Parliaments play a critical role in implementing UPR recommendations and in ensuring the protection of human rights through legislation, a role that was acknowledged by the Human Rights Council in a 2014 resolution that called on governments to more actively involve parliaments in all stages of the UPR.
SDGs must make clear commitment to parliaments, IPU President urges
13 FEBRUARY 2015
IPU President Saber Chowdhury reiterated calls for the post-2015 development agenda to include a strong commitment to parliaments during a high-level debate at UN headquarters on implementing the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Hosted by the President of the General Assembly Sam Kutesa on 9-10 February, the event included a debate on the role of parliaments, cities and local authorities in ensuring effective implementation of the SDGs. “2015 was a make or break year,” the President told participants, “ a once in a generation opportunity to make things right on poverty and sustainability”. Panelists, including Indonesian MP Nurhayati Ali Assegaf, sensitized the international community to the key role that parliaments and local authorities will have to play to carry forward the non-binding post-2015 development agenda. Parliaments’ role should extend beyond enacting legislation and ensuring national budgets on the issue were adequately resourced, the President said. Parliaments should also be involved in the design and monitoring of national sustainable development strategies that need to tailor the SDGs to national contexts. Parliaments from developing and developed countries will similarly need to help mobilize resources for development at national and international levels through tax reform, increasing investments and development aid to 0.7 per cent of GDP. President Chowdhury exhorted negotiators of the Declaration of the UN Summit in September 2015 to make good Goal 16 that specifically refers to the need “to develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels”. For parliaments to be “fit for purpose”, more resources will be required to strengthen their legislative, representative and oversight functions.
MPs urge redoubling of efforts to conclude Doha trade negotiations
18 FEBRUARY 2015
Parliamentarians from across the world have urged World Trade Organization (WTO) Members to step up efforts to successfully conclude the Doha Round of trade negotiations and to implement accords already made in order to bring tangible economic gains, particularly to the world’s poorest countries. At the end of a two-day Parliamentary Conference on the WTO organized by IPU and the European Parliament, more than 350 parliamentary delegates from nearly 65 countries underlined the pivotal role of the WTO in its 20-year history in establishing an inclusive world economic order and reiterated the belief that a fair and equitable international trading system was critical to peace, global economic growth and sustainable development. Adopting a series of recommendations, the MPs acknowledged that open trade had increased developing countries’ participation in the global economy and contributed to strengthening their constructive engagement in global governance. However, they urged WTO Members to speedily ratify the agreements made at the Bali Ministerial Conference in 2013 and implement the decisions so that significant benefits to the global economy could be realized. An agreement on trade facilitation should benefit the global economy between US$400 million and $US 1 trillion. Trade negotiators were also urged to intensify their efforts to convert the Bali decisions into concrete economic gains for least developed countries (LDCs) as WTO accords must bring tangible benefits to the poorest countries. This included the creation of new export opportunities for LDC service providers. The breakthrough on the Bali agreements underlined the importance of concluding the Doha Round, the longest running round of trade negotiations ever. WTO Members needed to seize the opportunity and draw up a “clearly defined” work programme to address the remaining issues blocking the conclusion of the Doha Round if they are to meet the end-July 2015 deadline. The MPs expressed concern that although the WTO’s AID for Trade initiative had shown a 20 per cent rise in donor commitments, contributions to LDCs had decreased slightly. They called on donors to maintain support for the initiative and to ensure a fair share of assistance is directed to LDCs. With sustainable development very much on the international agenda with a new set of goals to be adopted in September 2015 to replace the Millennium Development Goals, the MPs called for the closest possible cooperation between the WTO and specialized UN bodies to ensure the success of the new sustainable development agenda.
Access the full outcome document here: http://www.ipu.org/splz-e/trade15.htm
UN Post-2015 Declaration must make clear commitment to parliaments, IPU President urges
13 FEBRUARY 2015
IPU President Saber Chowdhury reiterated calls for the post-2015 development agenda to include a strong commitment to parliaments during a high-level debate on the means of implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Hosted by the President of the General Assembly Sam Kutesa at UN Headquarters on 9-10 February, the event included a debate on the role of parliaments, cities and local authorities in effective implementation of the SDGs. “2015 was a make or break year,” , the President told participants, “ a once in a generation opportunity to make things right on poverty and sustainability”. Chaired by President Chowdhury, panelists, including Hon. Nurhayati Ali Assegaf of Indonesia, sensitized the diplomatic and international community to the key role that parliaments and local authorities will have to play to carry forward the non-binding post-2015 development agenda. Beyond enacting legislation and ensuring national budgets were adequately resourced, parliaments should also be involved in the design and monitoring of national sustainable development strategies which need to tailor the SDGs to national contexts. Parliaments from developing and developed countries will similarly need to help mobilize resources for development at national and international levels, including by reforming tax regimes, raising domestic revenues, setting legal frameworks to spur productive investments, and increasing aid to the 07% of GDP. President Chowdhury exhorted negotiators of the Declaration of the UN Summit in September 2015 to make good Goal 16 that specifically refers to the need “to develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels”, as well as the need “to ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representatives decision-making at all levels.” For parliaments to be “fit for purpose”, they will need considerably more resources to build their own capacities for legislation, representation and oversight. “The goals will be nothing unless they are owned by the people.” More information about the meeting can be found at http://www.un.org/pga/090215_hl-debate-means-implementation-transformative-post-2015-development-agenda/
New partnership to develop research on democracy and world affairs
4 FEBRUARY 2015
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and Director of the Graduate Institute of International Development Studies Philippe Burrin sign a cooperation agreement. ©IPU/Jorky
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) today signed a cooperation agreement that will pave the way for new policy-relevant research to be developed on issues pertaining to democracy, development and international relations. The three-year agreement also provides for activities to enhance visibility and outreach to the global community. Interaction between IPU and the IHEID, which previously had been on an ad hoc basis, will now be on a regular basis, with the agreement also providing IPU with access to the Graduate Institute’s executive education programme. Students from the renowned academic institution will in turn have an opportunity to gain work experience at IPU through internships.
IPU teams up with British MPs in empowering Myanmar’s women politicians
29 JANUARY 2015
Aung San Suu Kyi, the most well-known of Myanmar’s 28 women MPs. ©Reuters/S. Sukplang
IPU will be part of a delegation led by the British Group IPU (BGIPU) to Myanmar on a project aimed at strengthening the political participation of women MPs in the Asian country and to promote a gender sensitive parliament. During training from 8-11th February, women parliamentarians from both chambers of the British Parliament, the British Foreign Office, the British development agency and an IPU expert will focus on overcoming hurdles to an inclusive and representative parliament. Sessions will look at women’s committees and caucuses, developing leadership and media skills, gender-budgeting, as well as women’s involvement in resolving conflict and in national reconstruction efforts. Myanmar currently has 28 women parliamentarians out of a total of 653 in both chambers.
IPU’s young MPs contribute to discussions on sustainable development
29 JANUARY 2015
Nine members of IPU’s forum of Young Parliamentarians, led by Faisal Al Tenaiji (pictured) will provide the parliamentary angle at ECOSOC’s Youth Forum. ©IPU
A nine-member delegation from IPU’s Forum of Young Parliamentarians will provide the parliamentary input into UN-led youth discussions on an effective transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) into the new sustainable development agenda. Led by the Forum’s President and Emirati MP Faisal Al Tenaiji, the delegation, comprising young parliamentarians from Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East, will join representatives from national youth councils, regional youth organizations, youth-focused civil society organizations and governments, including Ministers responsible for youth, at the annual Youth Forum of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). In addition to contributing as panellists, IPU Forum members will showcase IPU’s Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians as a platform for enhancing the youth voice in politics. With the MDGs due to give way to a new set of sustainable development goals (SDGs) later this year and young people aged between 10-24 accounting for 1.8 billion of the global population, youth involvement in development efforts is key. Many of the gaps in MDG achievements directly concern young people, such as secondary education, HIV infection rates, gender equality and unemployment. Discussions during the two-day forum on 2-3 February at UN Headquarters in New York will result in recommendations on young people’s contributions to making the shift from the MDGs to the SDGs. These will be presented at a high-level ECOSOC meeting in July, to the Commission for Social Development and to the Chair of the next session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2015.
Growing support for common principles on parliamentary development
28 JANUARY 2015
IPU training for women’s caucus at Côte d’Ivoire Parliament ©IPU
Ten national parliaments and seven partner organizations have already endorsed the Common Principles for Support to Parliament with indications of more following suit coming into IPU regularly. Among the latest to endorse the Common Principles are the British, Polish, Gambian and Madagascar Parliaments, with the French National Assembly, German Bundestag and parliaments of Denmark, Luxembourg, Timor-Leste and Trinidad and Tobago among the group. The Principles were put together by a group of parliaments and parliamentary development entities including organizations such as IPU. Organizations that have so far endorsed them include International IDEA, the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI). Offering clear guidelines for those receiving or providing support to parliaments, the Common Principles are the result of more than four decades of experience on parliamentary development. Coordinated by IPU, they aim to improve the quality of the support available to parliaments and to encourage the parliamentary community to work together more effectively when planning, designing and providing support. The Common Principles were adopted by IPU’s governing bodies at the 131st Assembly in Geneva in October 2014. A formal endorsement ceremony will take place at IPU’s 132nd Assembly in Hanoi, Viet Nam (28 March - 1 April, 2015). Parliaments and organizations wishing to add their endorsement can notify the IPU Secretariat.
Strengthening ties with UK and Fiji
27 JANUARY 2015
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has welcomed the British Parliament’s endorsement of the Common Principles for Support to Parliaments during a visit to the UK on 26th January. The President of the British Group IPU, Alistair Burt, announced the endorsement at their meeting. The Secretary General also discussed parliamentary strengthening with the Chair of the House of Common’s International Development Committee, which was launching its own report on the issue and whose conclusions are in tune with the Common Principles. He fully supported a report recommendation that more resources be allocated to strengthening parliaments worldwide. The visit to London similarly incorporated talks with a delegation from Fiji. Led by the new Speaker of the Fijian Parliament, Jiko Luveni, and comprising also parliamentary leaders from ruling and opposition parties, the Fijian delegation recognized the importance of joining IPU. Universality is a key strategic priority for IPU and with several Pacific parliaments outside of the IPU fold, the Organization has been scaling up its outreach efforts to the region’s national parliaments in recent years.
27 JANUARY 2015
Auschwitz concentration camp. ©Reuters/P. Ulatowski
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong is urging the international community to work resolutely to prevent the recurrence of the atrocities associated with the Holocaust and similar crimes, as we mark the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust on 27 January. Every year, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp is a stark reminder of humanity’s capacity to commit unspeakable atrocities. It makes a compelling case to never give up on efforts to strengthen tolerance, respect for others and human rights, all of which underpin any democracy worthy of the name. The International Day also reminds us how fragile peace and stability are. We need to resolve conflict through dialogue and negotiation rather than through weapons. This remains the most effective way to build lasting peace. May this year’s commemorations help us all learn valuable lessons on human folly, ignorance and intolerance. Remembrance is a necessary first step towards avoiding the mistakes of the past. We join the world in remembering the victims of the Holocaust – both dead and alive - and the victims of other crimes of a similar nature.
Cementing long-standing relations between IPU and Belgium
15 JANUARY 2015
Speaker of the Belgian House of Representatives Siegfried Bracke and IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong met in Brussels on 14 January for talks on strengthening cooperation between the Belgian Parliament and IPU. One of IPU’s founding members, the Belgian Parliament continues to play a major role in the Organization through its contribution to IPU’s political and programmatic work over the years. Several Belgian parliamentarians are currently serving on important IPU committees. Discussions between Speaker Bracke and the IPU Secretary General were wide-ranging, covering parliamentary action to combat terrorism and extremism, the importance of democratic governance to the success of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, enhancing support for parliaments in countries emerging from post-conflict or which are in transition to democracy and the growing importance of the parliamentary voice in tackling the major global issues of the day.
New Year message
19 DECEMBER 2014
Martin Chungong Secretary General of the IPU, Saber H. Chowdhury President of the IPU
2014 has been a very rich and eventful one for IPU. Together, we have used every opportunity available to make a robust contribution to enhancing governance and have continued to make the parliamentary voice heard on a wide range of global issues such as protection of human rights, gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, the rights of indigenous peoples, HIV/AIDS, nuclear disarmament and climate change. The year has also seen our Organization make a major push for a people-centred approach to the new Sustainable Development Goals and youth political participation. IPU continues to grow by welcoming new Members and providing critical assistance to many parliaments in countries emerging from conflict or in transition to democracy.
2014 has been a watershed year for IPU in many respects. Our Organization turned 125. It was also the year in which a new leadership was elected to help take IPU to greater heights. Both of us - the President and the Secretary General - have been gratified by the many expressions of solidarity and support. We count on the continued support and engagement of the membership to help move forward the IPU agenda and enable our Organization to rise to the challenges as it places itself at the service of parliaments. Your support will help IPU build on the successes of our predecessors and infuse the work of the Organization with renewed vigour to address current and emerging challenges.
We look forward to what promises to be a very exciting 2015 for IPU. With the world poised to adopt a bold and ambitious new sustainable development agenda, parliaments and IPU are required to step up to the plate and ensure that the voices of the people are heard. The new development goals have to respond to the needs and expectations of the citizens we serve. There will be a host of opportunities in 2015, not least the Fourth World Conference of Speakers billed for 31 August to 2 September at UN Headquarters in New York, where Speakers will outline their vision for a better world and how parliaments can make this a reality. Citizens everywhere count on this commitment and you can count on us so that you can deliver effectively and efficiently on the expectations of your people.
We take this opportunity to extend to you our best wishes of the season and for success in 2015.
Martin Chungong Secretary General, Saber H. Chowdhary President
Supporting Malian network to combat violence against women and girls
18 DECEMBER 2014
IPU supporting a network of Malian MPs to address violence against women. ©IPU
A Malian parliamentary network against violence against women and girls has been provided support by IPU to strengthen its work on the issue. Working with both IPU and national experts, the network, composed of about 50 men and women MPs, met in Bamako on 12-13 December to identify priority areas for legislative action in the current parliament. Many members of the network became MPs for the first time when they won parliamentary seats in the 2013 elections. Mali has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, known as the Maputo Protocol. These two instruments which provide the international legal framework to address gender inequality and violence against women and girls need to be turned into national reality. Although the Malian Constitution enshrines women´s rights and authorities have launched programmes to tackle violence against women and girls, including female genital mutilation (FGM) which affects 85 per cent of Malian women aged between 15 and 49, there is no legislation in place to eliminate FGM or specifically address domestic violence or sexual harassment.
Japan sees increase in number of women MPs
18 DECEMBER 2014
Despite a small increase, the number of women MPs in Japan remains low. ©IPU
With women reportedly winning 45 out of 475 seats in the lower house of the Japanese Parliament (Shugiin) in the 14 December elections, Japan has seen a small increase in the percentage of women MPs. A jump from 8.1 per cent in the previous parliament to 9.47 per cent now puts Japan at 124th in the IPU’s world ranking of women in national parliaments, up from 129th. In the previous legislature, 39 seats were held by women in the Shugiin, which has reduced the number of MPs from 480 to 475. Women’s representation in the Shugiin reached its highest level yet in 2009 when 54 women (11.25 per cent) were elected. Women fare slightly better in the upper house, the Sangiin, with 39 out of 242 seats (16.1 per cent) elected in 2013.
Pine tree planting to commemorate IPU’s 125th anniversary
18 DECEMBER 2014
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong helps plant the Ponderosa pine to mark the Organization’s 125th anniversary. ©IPU/Jorky 2014
A pine tree has been planted at IPU´s headquarters to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Organization.
The tree, a “Pinus ponderosa” native to western United States and Canada and commonly known as the ponderosa pine, is a gift of Le Grand-Saconnex municipality, where IPU has its headquarters.
Denmark and France first to endorse Common Principles for support to parliament
18 DECEMBER 2014
A range of actors provide development support to parliaments. Better coordination and cooperation between them through a common set of principles is aimed at making assistance more effective. ©IPU
The Danish parliament and the French National Assembly have been the first to endorse the Common Principles for Support to Parliament. The Principles, put together by a group of parliaments and parliamentary development entities including organizations such as IPU, have also been endorsed by International IDEA and the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA). Offering clear guidelines for those receiving or providing support to parliaments, the Common Principles are the result of more than four decades of experience on parliamentary development. Coordinated by IPU, they aim to improve the quality of the support available to parliaments and to encourage the parliamentary community to work together more effectively when planning, designing and providing support. The Common Principles were adopted by IPU’s governing bodies at the 131st Assembly in Geneva in October 2014. A formal endorsement ceremony will take place at IPU’s 132nd Assembly in Hanoi, Viet Nam (28 March - 1 April, 2015). Parliaments and organizations wishing to add their endorsement can notify the IPU Secretariat.
MPs’ courage and commitment can make difference to country
18 DECEMBER 2014
Afghan MP Fawzia Koofi one of the speakers at TEDxPlacedesNations ©UN/Jean-Marc Ferré
A powerful TEDx talk by Afghan MP Fawzia Koofi on why she became an MP in one of the most dangerous and challenging countries and her drive to achieve lasting democracy and equality in Afghanistan, will be online in January 2015. The talk was one of 11 remarkable stories on human impact during the TEDxPlacedesNations event on 11 December, which was viewed live in 24 different locations in 15 countries. You can see photos from the event, which involved 12 agencies including IPU, the UN and Geneva authorities.
Progress in AIDS response in Viet Nam
18 DECEMBER 2014
Members of IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and MNCH meet people living with the disease during a field mission to Dien Bien in Vietnam ©IPU/Aleksandra Blagojevic, 2014
IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) recognized the progress made by Viet Nam on its AIDS response during a mission to the country in early December. Since its last mission in 2009, the legislative environment has improved, particularly through implementation of the HIV law. Significant progress has been made in preventing new infections, reducing AIDS-related deaths and gradually scaling up harm reduction services, in particular through methadone substitution therapy for injecting drug users (IDU). However, the epidemic remains highly concentrated in IDU and other vulnerable populations. Viet Nam’s AIDS response predominantly relies on donor funds (more than 80 per cent), however, international donor contributions are shrinking with domestic resources remaining limited. Another challenge is stigma and discrimination related to HIV, which poses a significant barrier to continued progress. The IPU Advisory Group mission included a field visit to Dien Bien on the border with China and Laos and one of the poorest regions in Viet Nam. A corridor for drug trafficking, IDU-driven HIV is rampant in the province with a 30 per cent prevalence. The Advisory Group visited methadone treatment centres and health facilities at regional, district and community levels. It also learned about the benefits of the so- called Treatment 2.0 approach which brings HIV services closer to people and helps reduce stigma and discrimination. Conclusions and recommendations from the mission will be submitted to IPU’s 132nd Assembly in Hanoi in 2015.
Making the law work to end AIDS in Kyrgyzstan
18 DECEMBER 2014
Kyrgyz MPs aim to identify ways to overcome legislative obstacles to ending HIV/AIDS in the country. ©IPU/Jorky, 2014
Kyrgyz MPs and HIV/AIDS experts meeting in Geneva on 17-18 December will look to find ways to improve the legislative response to the epidemic in the country. Organized together with UNAIDS, the meeting at IPU headquarters aims to identify the obstacles to an effective response to HIV and practical ways to overcome them. This includes examining strong examples of effective parliamentary leadership in the HIV response that incorporate respect for equality and human rights. Although there has been global progress on ending HIV/AIDS, the epidemic is expanding among key populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, in particular injecting drug users and their sexual partners, men who have sex with men (MSM), and sex workers. In Kyrgyzstan, HIV prevalence among MSM increased in 2013 from 1.1 per cent to 6.3 per cent. Coverage of HIV prevention programmes is insufficient to reverse the epidemic whilst funding is scarce and over-dependent on international sources.
Securing a world free of nuclear weapons
18 DECEMBER 2014
About 200,000 people were killed by the atom bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (seen here) in 1945. ©US Airforce handout
IPU called on parliaments and parliamentarians to shoulder their responsibility in protecting current and future generations from the catastrophic impact of nuclear weapons. Speaking at the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons on 9 December, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong said parliaments must be at the heart of the decision-making process required to secure once and for all a world free of such weapons of mass destruction. The IPU Secretary General also emphasized the power of international parliamentary cooperation to advance nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament at the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) roundtable hosted by the Austrian parliament and co-sponsored by IPU. It was parliamentarians, he recalled, who first drew international attention to the widespread and devastating harm caused by anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, paving the way for the Mine Ban Treaty (1997) and the Convention on Cluster Munitions (2008). “Basically all other weapons of mass destruction have been prohibited, and now we must all work together to abolish nuclear weapons once and for all,” he said.
Afghan MP Fawzia Koofi at TEDx event in Geneva
11 DECEMBER 2014
Afghan MP Fawzia Koofi one of the speakers at TEDxPlacedesNations ©UN/Jean-Marc Ferré
Afghan MP Fawzia Koofi will be one of the speakers taking the floor at a TEDx event in Genevaon 11 December. The TEDx stage will showcase remarkable stories of people helping people. With 11 great speakers and 1,900 people registered, TEDxPlacedesNations will be a key event to hear what innovators, humanitarians, entrepreneurs, scientists and peacemakers have to say about the impact they are making in finding solutions to today's challenges and shape tomorrow's world. 24 viewing parties have been be organized in 22 cities on five continents, making it possible for diverse audiences to watch live the event and take part in the conversation. The discussion can be also joined by using the hashtag #TEDxNations.
Tunisian election yields some progress for women´s representation in parliament
28 NOVEMBER 2014
Tunisia has joined the ranks of nearly 40 countries with more than 30 per cent of women MPs. © Reuters/Z. Souissi
IPU has welcomed the increase in the number of women MPs in the new Tunisian parliament following elections on 26 October. According to official results, 68 women were elected to the Assembly of the People's Representatives out of 217 members, an increase of seven seats. Tunisia now joins the ranks of nearly 40 countries with more than 30 per cent of women MPs, having increased representation by just over 3 percentage points – from 28.1 to 31.34 per cent.
MPs claim central role in tackling climate change
9 DECEMBER 2014
IPU President President Saber Chowdhury speaking at the inaugural session of the Parliamentary Meeting on climate change in Lima, Peru.
Parliamentarians from around the world spoke with one voice in Lima to claim a central role in any successful political strategy to tackle climate change. Meeting in the Peruvian capital on 8 December in parallel to the UN Climate Change Conference, MPs stressed the crucial importance of their mandate to translate eventual international agreements against global warming into real and effective action. Unless transposed into national legislation, no international agreements on climate change and disaster risk reduction will be credible, said MPs in the outcome document produced at the end of the Parliamentary Meeting. They called on parliaments to set up permanent committees on climate change and on IPU to adopt an action plan on the issue to give the necessary momentum to these efforts. They also reiterated the urgent need to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and limit global temperature rise to less than 2ºC from pre-industrial levels, as agreed by governments in Copenhagen in 2009. Speaking at the opening session of the Parliamentary Meeting, IPU President Saber Chowdhury said: “political leaders and decision-makers, including legislators, must act decisively and act now. We will all have failed our future generations and this planet, our only home, if we do not. The window of opportunity to stay within less than 2ºC of global warming is closing fast. If we fail to plan, we plan to fail.”
Towards a modern National Assembly in Guinea-Bissau
28 NOVEMBER 2014
IPU is working with the National Assembly of Guinea-Bissau to enhance its legislative action and its capacity to work more efficiently. ©IPU
Following elections in April, IPU and UNDP are working with the National Assembly of Guinea-Bissau to enhance its legislative function and its capacity to work more efficiently as part of an overall programme to modernize the institution. Up to 75 per cent of the 102 MPs of the Assembleia Nacional Popular took part in a seminar on 18-20 November aimed at reinforcing the Assembly´s legislative and oversight roles by improving MPs’ capacities. Also with support from the British All-Party Parliamentary Group for Guinea-Bissau (APPG), MPs worked collectively and in groups, and debated during three days over the main challenges faced by the Assembly today, its role in consolidating democracy in the country after the 2012 coup d’état, and the need to put gender and human rights at the heart of parliamentary action. Furthermore, they discussed practical aspects regarding their role, such as committee work, administrative organization and the implementation of parliamentary ethics.
MPs moving from vision to action on climate change
28 NOVEMBER 2014
IPU President President Saber Chowdhury speaking at the inaugural session of the Parliamentary Meeting on climate change in Lima, Peru.
Parliamentarians discussed concrete ways to accelerate political action on climate change during two meetings in parallel to the UN Climate Change Conference in the Peruvian capital, Lima. At a Parliamentary Meeting jointly organized by IPU and the Peruvian Congress and supported by the IPU group of Latin American and Caribbean parliaments on 8 December, MPs examined the rising cost of climate change inaction and what they can do to ensure a low-carbon future. They also interacted with government negotiators directly involved in making decisions on the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and were briefed on the main issues of the UN Conference. The Conference, which takes place between 1-12 December, combines the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC and the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, commonly known as COP20/CMP10. The Parliamentary meeting adopted an outcome document which will be conveyed to the Conference. An event on 9 December held by IPU and ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability aimed to increase the efficiency of climate change advocacy and raise the global level of ambition in responding to climate change at both national and local levels. IPU President Saber Chowdhury addressed both events. “Political leaders and decision-makers, including legislators, must act decisively and act now. We will all have failed our future generations and this planet, our only home, if we do not,” he said at the inaugural session of the Parliamentary Meeting." “The window of opportunity to stay within less than 2 degrees of global warming is closing fast. If we fail to plan, we plan to fail,” he added. The COP20/CMP10 is widely expected to pave the way for the conclusion of an agreement at the 21th session of the UNFCCC to be held in Paris in 2015. By the end of the meeting all nations, including the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, would be bound by a universal agreement on climate for the first time in more than 20 years of UN negotiations.
Parliamentary action for a nuclear-weapon-free world
28 NOVEMBER 2014
The use of nuclear weapons has had catastrophic humanitarian consequences, like in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945. ©Reuters/T. Hanai
Parliamentarians attending the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons on 8-9 December, will gather to develop ideas for further action to ensure a nuclear weapon-free world. Hosted by the Austrian parliament and co-sponsored by IPU and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND), the Parliamentary Roundtable will provide MPs with a valuable opportunity to find out what other parliaments are doing to eliminate the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines and to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world. The use of nuclear weapons has had catastrophic humanitarian consequences. Nevertheless, a sizeable number of States still rely on nuclear deterrence. Earlier this year, IPU Members adopted a landmark resolution on a series of actions parliaments can take to ensure a nuclear-weapons-free world. IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong will renew the Organization’s call for parliaments to put a high priority on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament to achieve a nuclear-weapons-free world..
Elections and rapid return to constitutional rule essential in Thailand
28 NOVEMBER 2014
Elections to the Thai House of Representatives were expected to be held on 20 July 2014, but were cancelled following a coup d'état two months before. ©Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong emphasized the need for Thailand to hold elections as scheduled on its roadmap to a full return to constitutional rule during an official visit to Bangkok on 1-3 December. In Thailand at the invitation of the authorities, Secretary General Chungong held meetings with senior officials and was the keynote speaker at a seminar “On the Path to Reform”. During his meetings, he discussed ways to institute reforms to ensure Thailand returns to democratic rule. He also pushed for solid foundations to be laid for a parliament that would meet the expectations of the Thai public and ensure greater political stability in a country where the military has been compelled to step into the political arena on numerous occasions.
IPU President underlines parliament’s critical contribution to human rights at World Forum
28 NOVEMBER 2014
IPU President Saber Chowdhury: “without parliamentary action, recommendations produced by UN human rights mechanisms will be difficult to implement”. ©IPU
IPU President Saber Chowdhury stressed the critical contribution of parliaments and MPs in guaranteeing international human rights standards at the national level during a global human rights forum in Morocco. Speaking at the inaugural session of the Second World Human Rights Forum in Marrakech on 27 November, Chowdhury said that without parliamentary action, be it at the legislative or oversight level, recommendations produced by UN human rights mechanisms will be difficult to implement. “A parliament that truly represents the full diversity in society and that has the means at its disposal to represent the views of its constituents and hold government to account is a very powerful tool to avoid conflict, overcome divisions and uphold human rights,” he added. With this in mind, both parliaments and governments had to take a people-centred approach in addressing human rights in the coming decades, an issue that would be deeply influenced by the post-2015 development agenda. President Chowdhury highlighted IPU’s belief in the need to shape a new set of development goals from a rights-based approach. More than 5,000 people from about 100 countries are taking part in the four-day event (27-30 November) aimed at assessing progress and challenges in the human rights arena.
MPs call for parliaments to meet nutrition targets by 2025
21 NOVEMBER 2014
IPU´s Honorary President Pier Ferdinando Casini stressed the elimination of all kinds of malnutrition “is an imperative which spares no country and must be achieved within our life time.” ©FAO
MPs called on parliaments to meet a series of national nutritional targets by 2025 in order to contribute to a sustainable world with food security and adequate nutrition for all. Meeting in Rome in parallel to the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), MPs stressed the need to adopt national nutrition policies and plans taking into consideration the six global nutritional targets included in the WHO Comprehensive Implementation Plan on Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition: 40% reduction of the global number of children under five who are stunted; 50% reduction of anemia in women of reproductive age; 30% reduction of low birth weight; 0% increase in childhood overweight; increasing the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months up to at least 50%; and reducing and maintaining childhood wasting (low weight-for-height) to less than 5%. The event in Rome, jointly organized by IPU and the Italian Parliament and supported by FAO and WHO, gathered some 100 MPs from across the world sharing a common commitment to maintaining food and nutrition as a priority on their national agendas. Parliaments were also called to develop legislation and oversee regulation to create health-promoting environments by protecting, educating and empowering consumers. This includes measures such as the establishment of labeling standards - information on sugars, salts, fats and trans-fat content – as well as marketing regulation, in particular for children. Also highlighted was the need to empower and support women through legislation and to increase their access to quality health care. The statement adopted by MPs was incorporated to the final outcome of ICN2. Presenting the results of the Parliamentary Meeting, IPU´s Honorary President Pier Ferdinando Casini stressed the elimination of all kinds of malnutrition “is an imperative which spares no country and must be achieved within our life time.”
Towards gender parity in politics in Côte d’Ivoire
19 NOVEMBER 2014
Côte d’Ivoire currently has 24 women MPs (9.4 per cent) out of 255 parliamentarians, well below the regional average in Africa of 22.5 per cent.©IPU
MPs, government officials and members of civil society pledged to achieve gender parity in politics in Côte d’Ivoire by 2020 at the end of a two-day Parliamentary Conference in Abidjan. Jointly organized by the Ivorian parliament and IPU, the meeting aimed to sensitize MPs and other political actors to the importance of a gender-equal parliament in building a more egalitarian society in all spheres. A series of recommendations were agreed upon to enhance women´s participation in parliament, including changing the electoral law to introduce quotas for women candidates. Adapted to the first-past-the-post election system used in Côte d’Ivoire, the proposed quotas would mean a minimum of 33 per cent of women candidates in the 2016 legislative elections, rising to 50 per cent in 2020. These would be legally binding for national, regional and municipal elections and for political parties. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and a Parity Observatory, another entity that would specifically be set up for the task, would be responsible for ensuring quotas were respected.
Other proposed recommendations included awareness raising campaigns on women’s representation, training programmes to empower women candidates and financial incentives on women’s participation. IPU will support the Côte d’Ivoire National Assembly in defining the necessary legal changes to translate the recommendations into reality. The country currently has 24 women MPs (9.4 per cent) out of 255 parliamentarians, well below the regional average in Africa of 22.5 per cent. Côte d’Ivoire is 129th in IPU’s global rankings for women in parliament.
Ensuring a people-centered approach to the new development agenda
14 NOVEMBER 2014
IPU has been urging the inclusion of a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on democratic governance. Draft goal 16 points in the right direction. ©UN
The need to put the spotlight on people as both actors and beneficiaries of the new sustainable development agenda will be the focus of discussions among parliamentarians at the 2014 Annual Parliamentary Hearing on 19-20 November. Jointly organized by the United Nations and IPU, the meeting at the UN’s headquarters in New York will bring together more than 100 MPs from around the world, including Speakers of Parliament. The event will provide a further opportunity to help inform the collective thinking of parliamentarians on the new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire at the end of next year. The MPs will examine the implications of a rights-based approach to the new SDGs; ways in which economic and social inequality can undermine people-centred development; the need to strengthen transparency and accountability in both the public and private sectors; the responsibility of government vis-à-vis the market, and how countries can deal effectively with their human rights responsibilities. IPU and the UN have held extensive consultations with their members to provide input to the SDG negotiations. These negotiations will enter a new phase in January 2015 on the basis of a first draft of the SDGs elaborated by a Working Group of the UN General Assembly. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President of the UN General Assembly Sam Kutesa, as well as IPU President Saber Chowdhury will open the two-day meeting.
IPU calls for wide endorsement of common principles on parliamentary support
14 NOVEMBER 2014
The Common Principles for Support to Parliament were adopted by IPU’s governing bodies at the 131st Assembly in Geneva in October 2014. ©IPU
IPU is urging parliaments, as well as organizations, donors and individuals that work to strengthen parliaments, to endorse the Common Principles for Support to Parliament and incorporate them into their daily work. These principles pull together more than 40 years of experience in the area of parliamentary development. Devised by a group of parliaments and parliamentary strengthening organizations and coordinated by IPU, they offer clear guidelines that will be of interest to anyone involved in receiving or providing support to parliaments. The Principles emphasize the need for parliamentary ownership of its development and change process. They are intended to improve the quality of the support available to parliaments and to encourage the parliamentary community to work together more effectively. The Principles were adopted by IPU’s governing bodies at the 131st Assembly in Geneva in October. A formal endorsement ceremony is planned during IPU’s 132nd Assembly in Hanoi, Viet Nam (28 March - 1 April, 2015). Parliaments and organizations wishing to add their endorsement can notify the IPU Secretariat by February 2015.
Asian MPs commit to promote nutrition sensitive legislation
14 NOVEMBER 2014
Under-nutrition affects more than 162 million children under-five in the developing world. ©UNICEF
MPs from the Asia-Pacific region committed to reviewing laws and policies to ensure a comprehensive and effective legal framework on nutrition is put in place nationally. The commitment was part of a series of recommendations adopted at the end of an IPU-UNICEF organized meeting on 4-6 November in Vientiane, Laos. The “Vientiane recommendations” outlines how parliaments can ensure every child´s right to survive and thrive through the protection, promotion and support of optimal nutrition from the time of conception up to the age of 24 months. The MPs will take the recommendations back to their respective national parliaments to raise awareness on what they can do to advance nutrition, including better budget allocation and expenditure on the issue, oversight of government action, and coordination and cooperation with civil society, donors, development actors and international organizations. Stressing the critical importance of nutritional security to economic development and to breaking inter-generational cycles of poverty, MPs called for urgent action to tackle under-nutrition, a problem affecting more than 162 million children under-five in the developing world. In some countries, more than half of the children are affected, while there are 42 million overweight children under-five at risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes. Two thirds of the stunted children globally are found in Asia.
A parliamentary perspective on nutrition challenges and opportunities
14 NOVEMBER 2014
Today, 805 million people are chronically hungry and 161 million children are stunted, according to FAO. ©FAO
MPs attending a Parliamentary Meeting in Rome on 18 November in parallel to the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) will have an opportunity to gather up-to-date information on nutrition related issues and to identify effective parliamentary action on implementing ICN2 commitments. The meeting will aim primarily to sensitize MPs and parliaments on the crucial contribution they can make to improving nutritional outcomes. Today, 805 million people are chronically hungry, 161 million children are stunted, while 42 million children are overweight and another 500 million adults are obese, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)'s “The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014” . The outcome of the Parliamentary Meeting will be reported in a statement to the ICN2 on 21 November and will be included in the final report of the Conference.
Strengthening the parliamentary response to HIV/AIDS in Viet Nam
14 NOVEMBER 2014
Members of IPU´s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MCNH) speaking with patients at a health center in Dien Bien Phu, Viet Nam. ©IPU
An IPU Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MCNH) mission to Viet Nam will look at how the country´s response to HIV and AIDS can be strengthened. The mission will include a workshop on HIV prevention on 30 November that will review progress in this area with special emphasis on efficient approaches regarding access to HIV treatment. A field visit will follow on 1-2 December and will include meetings with the parliamentary bodies dealing with HIV and AIDS, government health officials and civil society, as well as visits to treatment and research facilities. The mission will recommend improvements to the Vietnamese National Assembly and will document good practices which IPU will share with the global parliamentary community. The Government of Viet Nam recently announced its commitment to new targets intended to rapidly expand HIV treatment by 2020, becoming the first country in Asia to adopt the 90–90–90 goals: 90% of people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90% of people who know their status will be on HIV treatment; and 90% of all people on treatment will have undetectable levels of HIV in their body (known as viral suppression). There were 250,000 people living with HIV and 14,000 new HIV infections in Viet Nam in 2013. In 2014, more than 87 000 people were accessing HIV treatment, a 30-fold increase since 2005, but just one third of all people living with HIV, according to UNAIDS.
MPs push for implementation and universalization of the Arms Trade Treaty
14 NOVEMBER 2014
More than 60 MPs from 17 national parliaments reaffirmed in London their commitment to ensuring the ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). ©BGIPU/Paul Milsom
More than 60 MPs from 17 national parliaments reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring the ratification, implementation and universalization of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at a three-day conference in London organized by the British Group of IPU (BGIPU). The Conference, which brought MPs together with arms control experts, sought to build upon existing momentum surrounding the Treaty at a time when its entry into force is imminent (24 December). Looking ahead to the First Conference of State Parties to be held in Mexico next year, they endorsed an outcome document stressing their strong support for a Treaty that served to save lives, prevent arms being used in serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, help combat terrorism and protect legitimate arms trade. The document encouraged parliaments to put pressure on governments to sign and ratify the ATT without delay and to enact and robustly implement national legislation on it. It also encouraged the Conference of State Parties to consider how parliaments are provided with the necessary capabilities and resources to contribute to upholding the principles and obligations of the ATT, clarify what funding and resources are available and how parliaments can gain access to these.
Second meeting to prepare the 4th World Conference of Speakers of Parliament
14 NOVEMBER 2014
The Preparatory Committee of the 4th World Conference of Speakers of Parliament will define the main objectives of the 2015 Conference. ©IPU
Parliamentary leaders will meet in New York on 17-18 November for the Second Preparatory Committee of the 4th World Conference of Speakers of Parliament. The Committee will define the main objectives of the 2015 Conference, its overall theme and main elements of the outcome document, exact date and venue. The Conference, due to convene in the second half of 2015 as part of the series of high-level meetings leading up to the UN Summit, will also examine issues such as the enhancement of the relationship between parliaments and the United Nations, the parliamentary contribution to the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), challenges facing parliaments today, as well as the need to push forward on gender equality in all spheres. Another preparatory meeting will take place in early 2015 to finalize the details of the Conference. Previous ones were held in 2000, 2005 and 2010. [See pictures of the event]
Setting up a pension fund for MPs and parliamentary staff in Burundi
31 OCTOBER 2014
IPU and the Parliament of Burundi are working to set up a pension fund for MPs and parliamentary staff. ©IPU
IPU and the Parliament of Burundi are working to set up a pension fund for MPs and parliamentary staff as part of efforts to ensure the effective administrative and financial autonomy of the Burundian parliament. An IPU expert mission to Burundi helped parliamentary officials to draft two separate legislative texts (one for MPs and one for parliamentary staff) establishing their respective pension funds. These will be validated and implemented when both parliamentary chambers give their green light.
Promoting child nutrition in Asia
31 OCTOBER 2014
Malnutrition and stunting affect more than 180 million children under five around the world. ©REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
MPs, parliamentary staff and members of civil society will meet in Vientiane, Laos, on 4-6 November to mobilize parliamentary action in support of child nutrition in Asia. Organized by IPU and UNICEF, with the support of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUP) Movement, the meeting aims to raise awareness among and educate the parliamentary community on the urgent need for action on a problem affecting more than 180 million children under five around the world. Hosted by the National Assembly of the Lao People´s Democratic Republic, the gathering will address issues related to malnutrition and stunting, including the damaging effects of inaction on inadequate nutrition on the economic development of countries. Emphasis will be placed on strategies and tools parliamentarians can leverage to scale up and strengthen nutrition programmes and policies. MPs can make a critical contribution to tackling child malnutrition through their powers to legislate, define national budgets and oversee government actions, particularly on issues concerning children. Specifically, they can legislate on restricting the marketing of breast milk substitutes, providing maternity protection or promoting, protecting and supporting infant and young child feeding. As opinion leaders, MPs can also play a key role in educating their constituents on healthy practices. At the end of the two and a half-day discussion in Vientiane, it is expected MPs will produce an outcome document pledging to take a pro-nutrition agenda forward. The document will feed into the upcoming Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the Second high-level International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) that will take place in November in Rome.
Preparing for a new Egyptian parliament
31 OCTOBER 2014
An IPU mission, part of a long-term programme of support, focused on identifying needs and capacity of Egyptian parliamentary staff ©IPU
IPU and Egyptian authorities are continuing work to put in place a fully functioning parliament in Egypt ahead of legislative elections in the near future. An IPU mission to the Arab country last week, part of a long-term programme of support, focused on identifying needs and capacity of parliamentary staff to ensure the smooth welcoming of MPs to the new parliament. This included the support that would need to be given to newly-elected MPs, many of whom are expected to become parliamentarians for the first time. IPU experts from the Belgian and UK parliaments and Egyptian parliamentary staff looked particularly at staffing levels, parliamentary experience, the importance of political neutrality and impartiality in daily work, IT solutions for information access and sharing as well as planning to put the necessary building blocks in place in time. Although the Egyptian parliament was dissolved last year, the Secretariat has continued to operate. Recommendations from the IPU expert mission will be shared with Egypt’s Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ibrahim Elhenedi during a meeting with IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong in Geneva in early November.
IPU praises Tunisia’s electoral transition to democracy
30 OCTOBER 2014
Tunisians voted on 26 October in parliamentary elections that bring full democracy finally within their reach ©REUTERS/Anis Mili
IPU has praised the successful holding of elections in Tunisia on 26 October as a critical milestone in the North African country’s transition to democracy. The elections, which passed off smoothly, build on continuing hopes for a peaceful and stable future in the birthplace of the Arab Spring. About 61 per cent of the electorate voted for the 217-seat parliament established under the new Constitution adopted in January this year. Since 2011, IPU has actively engaged with the Tunisian authorities and other entities in the drawing up of the new Constitution which reaffirms key democratic principles, including freedom of belief and equality between men and women.
Protecting rights of indigenous peoples – new tools for parliamentarians
30 SEPTEMBER 2014
Two new publications aimed at helping parliamentarians to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples and to inform the debate on indigenous political participation have been released. A new Handbook for Parliamentarians on Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoplesprovides practical steps MPs can take on the issue. Produced jointly by IPU, the UN’s Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Development Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the Handbook tackles issues such as legislation, oversight of government action and resource allocation on addressing social and economic conditions of indigenous peoples. MPs are also given concrete, positive examples of action taken by various countries around the world on issues affecting indigenous peoples’ rights. Meanwhile, an IPU survey, Beyond numbers: the participation of indigenous peoples in parliament, has found there are a minimum of 979 indigenous MPs out of 44,000 MPs in the world today, 80 per cent of them men. Representation, however, is not enough, with the survey highlighting the importance of parliamentary bodies in indigenous involvement in collective decision making and of applying the principle of free, prior and informed consent before decisions are taken that affect indigenous peoples.
IPU President calls on parliaments to consolidate influence on post-2015 agenda
30 SEPTEMBER 2014
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the end of 2015. ©UN
IPU President Abdelwahad Radi has called on Member Parliaments to consolidate efforts to ensure parliaments keep playing a crucial role in the ongoing process to develop the post-2015 development agenda. He is encouraging Members to share with governments and constituents the first draft of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the end of 2015. This would ensure maximum visibility and debate on an issue that will have a direct impact on people´s lives. “There is no agenda more important for the health of the planet and well-being of the people than the SDGs that governments will need to adopt by the end of next year,” President Radi said in a letter to Members. Since early 2013, IPU has been urging the inclusion of a stand-alone goal on democratic governance with specific indicators relating to parliament. Draft goal 16 - “to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, to provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”- points in the right direction. For President Radi, “this is the equivalent of the democratic governance goal that most of us have been advocating for years.” Goal 16 contains a number of targets that speak directly to IPU´s concerns, including a target to “develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels,” and another to “ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.” Parliaments are not explicitly mentioned in this goal, but they are clearly implied. The President stressed that IPU would continue to push for parliaments to be featured in either one of the targets or the indicators that will eventually be elaborated to monitor progress on the implementation of the goal.
Post-Bali agenda: where does parliamentary oversight fit in?
30 SEPTEMBER 2014
The WTO Public Forum gathers in Geneva over 1,500 representatives from civil society, academia, business, the media, governments, MPs and inter-governmental organizations. ©WTO/Studio Casagrande
MPs will meet in Geneva on 1 October for the Parliamentary session within the framework of the WTO Public Forum 2014 to address the oversight role of parliaments in the post-Bali agenda. The meeting takes place at a crucial time as the fate of the historical agreement reached by WTO Members in Bali, Indonesia in December 2013 to introduce trade facilitation measures is unclear due to disagreements over food security. Governments now have the responsibility to find a solution to the deadlock so the agreement which could create more than an estimated US$1 trillion in world export gains, can come into force. Parliaments, for their part, must play a central role in overseeing current negotiations and in scrutinizing the implementation of commitments should WTO Members overcome the current impasse. Five panelists, Bernd Lange and Helmut Scholz, Members of the European Parliament, Ablassé Ouedraogo, Burkinabe MP, Kil Jeong-woo, Korean MP, and Arancha González, Executive Director or the International Trade Centre (ITC), will lead the debate at the parliamentary event. The session will also be the opportunity to instill new energy into the legislative dimension of the multilateral trade system and to convey to the WTO the concerns and aspirations of citizens, business and other stakeholders. This approach is entirely in line with the title of this year´s WTO Public Forum: “Why trade matters to everyone” Jointly organized by IPU and the European Parliament, the Parliamentary session has become a tradition within the Public Forum, a three-day event gathering over 1,500 representatives from civil society, academia, business, the media, governments, MPs and inter-governmental organizations.
Election of new IPU president to take center stage of 131st Assembly
30 SEPTEMBER 2014
Achieving gender equality, ending violence against women” is the main theme of IPU´s 131st Assembly taking place in Geneva on 12-16 October ©IPU
The election of a new IPU president will be one of the main highlights of a content-rich 131st Assembly in Geneva on 12-16 October. The new president will take over from Abdelwahad Radi, who ends his three-year mandate at the end of the event. The outcome will cement the new IPU leadership structure following the election of Secretary General Martin Chungong in March this year. Indonesian MP Nurhayati Ali Assegaf, Speaker of the Australian Parliament Bronwyn Bishop, Bangladesh MP Saber Chowdhury and former Speaker of the Maldives Parliament Abdulla Shahid have so far declared their candidatures for the post. Over 120 IPU Member parliaments involving more than 650 MPs have so far registered to attend the 131st Assembly. Among them, there are more than 75 Speakers and Deputy Speakers of Parliament, as well as a significant percentage of women and young MPs.
The main theme of the Assembly is “Achieving gender equality, ending violence against women”. The issue will also be the subject of the ceremony for the Future Policy Award 2014, an annual prize recognizing good and effective policies in a given area.
IPU Members will also adopt an emergency resolution with proposals for a debate including the rights of the Palestinian people; the role of MPs and IPU in fighting terrorism and extremism, including the Islamic State and the Levant (ISIL) and other groups, as well as action to combat human trafficking.
A resolution on “International law as it relates to national sovereignty, non-intervention in the internal affairs of States and human rights” will also be adopted by IPU Members on the concluding day. A packed agenda includes discussions on water governance, climate change, cooperation to counter the global drug problem, the role of parliaments in striking a balance between national security and individual freedoms, and the influence of corporate investment in sustainable development.
A roundtable on the situation in the Middle East convened by the Committee on Middle East Questions in parallel to the 131st Assembly will also take place. IPU Members and UN representatives will look at what parliaments can do to promote and secure peace between Israel and Palestine following recent events, as well as IPU’s role in promoting peace in the region as a whole.
The 131st Assembly will continue its nearly 30-year tradition to bring together women parliamentariansfrom across the world. They will debate the impact of women in parliament.
IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians will similarly meet to tackle new and existing cases involving the human rights abuses of MPs and will submit resolutions for adoption by IPU’s Governing Council.
There are also important pre- and post-Assembly events. About 120 MPs from around the world will gather on 10-11 October for the First IPU Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians aimed at finding ways and means to ensure youth participation in politics. An outcome document will feed into the discussions of theForum of Young Parliamentarians. On 17 October, after the formal closing of the Assembly, a Workshop on Good Nuclear Disarmament Practice will be held as part of IPU´s work to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
Madagascar and Guinea will formally re-apply for affiliation to IPU, bringing the Organization’s total membership to 166 national parliaments.
Take part in the Assembly debates through Twitter using #IPU131. Photos from the Assembly will be available for free download and use at: http://www.ipu.org/131pics
Taking democracy to task at the first ever IPU Global Conference of Young MPs
30 SEPTEMBER 2014
IPU´s commitment to supporting youth participation in politics dates back to 2010. One year later, IPU established the Forum of Young Parliamentarians. ©IPU
Some 120 MPs are meeting in Geneva on 10-11 October for the first ever IPU Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians aimed at finding ways and means to ensure youth participation in politics. The Conference, “Taking Democracy to Task”, will involve young members of parliament (below 45 years old), a group of senior MPs, youth leaders from other walks of life and international experts. An IPU analysis on youth participation in parliament to be launched on the first day of the Conference will take stock of the current trends in youth political participation and representation.
Various panel discussions during the two-day event will address key questions, including barriers to young people entering politics, the double discrimination faced by women based on age and sex and the existence of youth movements and platforms as a stepping stone to parliament. Questions such as why are so few young people members of parliament today?; is it true that young people are apathetic, apolitical and angry citizens?; how to open up politics and parliament to young people?; and how to maintain youth participation in the international agenda? will be tackled.
During the past few years, the world has witnessed the wide-scale mobilization of young people on democracy and social and economic issues in many countries. Demonstrations, boycotts and activism on the streets of cities such as Cairo, Tunis, Athens, Madrid, Bangkok, New York, Montreal and Rio de Janeiro have shown the will and desire of young people to have a say in politics. However, reality is that political and electoral disenchantment among youth is a growing and worrying fact in all regions. Although people between the ages of 15 and 25 currently represent one fifth of the world population, today fewer than two per cent of MPs around the world are in their 20s and only 12 per cent are in their 30s.
Funded by Worldwide Support for Development (WSD), the Conference will take place on the eve of IPU´s 131st Assembly and will produce an outcome document that will provide guidelines for decision-making to enhance youth participation in parliament. IPU´s commitment to supporting youth participation in politics dates back to 2010 with the adoption of the resolution on “Youth Participation in the democratic process” at the 122nd Assembly in Bangkok. One year later, IPU established the Forum of Young Parliamentarians, a formal and permanent body dedicated to enhancing the quantitative and qualitative participation of young people in parliaments and in IPU.
Join the discussions during the Conference and the Forum of Young Parliamentarians after using Twitter #YoungMPs
Ending the cycle of violence against girls in Asia-Pacific
18 SEPTEMBER 2014
MPs and parliamentary staff from Asia-Pacific address the three most prevalent forms of violence against girls in the region: early marriage, sexual violence and domestic violence. ©Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
MPs and parliamentary staff from the Asia-Pacific region are meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 23-25 September to find concrete ways to prevent and combat violence against girls at national level through legislation and its enforcement. During the three-day event "Ending the cycle of violence against girls in Asia-Pacific" organized jointly by the Parliament of Bangladesh and IPU, special emphasis will be placed on the three most prevalent forms of violence against girls in the region: early marriage, sexual violence and domestic violence. Funded by Worldwide Support for Development (WSD) and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), the meeting will also be an opportunity to exchange experiences and knowledge, as well as enable participants to develop strategies and actions to tackle this issue given their unique national parliamentary role in leading and spearheading efforts to bring about change. Discussions will feed into a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in cooperation with IPU to review existing legislation in Asia-Pacific countries relevant to child marriage. Figures on violence against girls are alarming. According to a recent report by UNICEF, around 120 million girls under the age of 20 worldwide (about 1 in 10) have experienced sexual violence whilst one in three girls and women aged 15 to 19 (84 million) have been victims of emotional, physical or sexual violence committed by their husbands or partners. In addition, an estimated one-third of girls in the developing world will be married before the age of 18 with child brides having twice the pregnancy death rate of women in their 20s.
Strengthening African parliaments work on human rights
18 SEPTEMBER 2014
The meeting for African MPs is one of several regional events aimed at providing a better understanding of the UN Human Rights Council and its UPR. The previous one was held in Montevideo for Latin American MPs. ©IPU
African MPs will gather in Rabat, Morocco, on 29-30 September to find ways on how parliaments can contribute to promoting human rights at the national level and enhance the work of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC). The meeting is part of a series of regional events organized by IPU to cement the cooperation between national parliaments and the HRC. The aim is to strengthen understanding on how the HRC functions and on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the mechanism set up by the UN to improve the human rights situation in all countries. The Rabat meeting has been jointly organized by the Moroccan Parliament, IPU and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in partnership with the Inter-ministerial Delegation for Human Rights and the National Human Rights Council of Morocco. Members of national human rights institutions, civil society, as well as international organizations present in Morocco will also participate. MPs will identify good parliamentary practice in working with the HRC and in promoting and protecting human rights. In recent years, IPU has made it a priority to raise awareness among MPs about the Council and the contribution they can make to its work.
Indigenous representation in parliament: challenges and opportunities
15 SEPTEMBER 2014
An indigenous woman takes part in the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in New York. ©UN Photo/L. Felipe
What are the challenges and opportunities in increasing the numbers of indigenous MPs? How can indigenous MPs effectively represent their constituencies? Where do parliaments fit in the broader picture of indigenous peoples’ political participation? These are questions to be addressed at a side event to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in New York on 22-23 September. Organized by IPU, the event on 23 September - “The Participation of Indigenous Peoples in Parliament”- will not only bring together MPs but also representatives from international organizations such as the UN and Chief Wilton Littlechild, Chairperson of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and former Canadian MP. The meeting will also provide an important opportunity to present two new publications on indigenous peoples rights and political participation: an IPU survey “Beyond numbers: the participation of indigenous peoples in parliament”, and a Handbook for Parliamentarians on “Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”, jointly produced by IPU, OHCHR, UNDP, IFAD and SPFII. There are approximately 370 million indigenous peoples in some 90 countries throughout the world. While they constitute five per cent of the world’s population, they make up 15 per cent of the world’s disadvantaged. Of the 7,000 languages in the world today, more than 4,000 are spoken by indigenous peoples.
Human rights mission to Zambia seeks to make progress on cases
15 SEPTEMBER 2014
An on-site IPU mission will complete investigations on 18 cases of Zambian opposition MPs. Its preliminary conclusions will be submitted to the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians in October. ©IPU
An on-site mission to Zambia on 22-25 September led by the President of IPU´s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians Juan Pablo Letelier will complete investigations on 18 cases involving opposition members of the National Assembly. The cases have to be seen in the context of the rise to power in 2011 of the Patriotic Front. IPU is concerned by incidents of alleged police harassment, including the arbitrary detention of parliamentarians and allegations that opposition MPs cannot fully exercise their right to freedom of assembly. In a resolution adopted in March 2014, IPU highlighted the cases of opposition MPs Kenneth Konga and Garry Nkombo. Konga allegedly collapsed during prolonged interrogation by law enforcers and suffered a stroke as a result whilst Nkombo, was reportedly attacked by a government minister in full view of the police. The IPU mission will also seek clarification on the situation of three opposition MPs – Dora Siliya, Maxwell Mwale and Hastings Sililo - who were disqualified from parliament on grounds of corrupt or illegal practices. The mission will meet with relevant parliamentary, executive and judicial authorities during its time in Zambia, as well as the 18 opposition MPs. It will submit its preliminary conclusions to the Committee when it meets in October.
Climate Summit 2014 – the parliamentary perspective
15 SEPTEMBER 2014
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong agree to promote parliamentary action to implement any future climate change pact. ©UN Photo/Kim Haughton
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong will take part in the Climate Summit 2014 on 23 September in New York where world leaders will push forward efforts to reach an ambitious and legally binding global agreement on climate change. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited leaders from government, parliament, finance, business and civil society to this event to galvanize climate action. He has asked for bold announcements and actions to be announced at the Summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) session in Paris in 2015. By the end of the Paris meeting, all nations, including the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, would be bound by a universal agreement on climate change for the first time in more than 20 years of UN negotiations. Long concerned by climate change, IPU has taken the lead in mobilizing parliaments to take an active part in this process. As part of these efforts MPs will meet in parallel to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP20/CMP10) in the Peruvian capital, Lima from 1 to 12 December. They will examine how to enhance the efficiency of parliamentary action on climate change, in particular through oversight of the implementation of international agreements at the national level.
Putting gender at the heart of parliamentary work in Burundi
29 AUGUST 2014
IPU supports projects in several countries aimed at reinforcing the capacities of women MPs and enhancing gender equality in national parliaments ©IPU
MPs, parliamentary staff, government officials and representatives of civil society are meeting in Burundi to examine how to improve parliament´s capacity to mainstream gender issues in its work. At a three-day event organized by IPU and the Burundian parliament in Bujumbura from 2-4 September, participants will look at ways to increase parliamentary knowledge and skills on effective ways to integrate gender equality in all legislative action. Special attention will be paid to preparing Burundian parliamentarians in addressing the forthcoming budgetary debate with a gender perspective. The meeting in Bujumbura will also focus on setting up mechanisms and strategies that take gender into account when parliament implements its overall legislative and oversight functions. Additionally, the necessity to promote partnerships between women and men MPs and synergies between parliament, government and citizens, will be addressed as a way forward in making parliament a model for gender mainstreaming in Burundi. The meeting is part of an IPU support project aimed at reinforcing the capacities of women MPs and enhancing gender equality. It follows a series of similar events to help national parliaments in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific regions to assess and increase their gender sensitivity. Special support has been provided to post-conflict countries, such as Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire and Rwanda.
Reviewing and improving the Common Principles for Parliamentary Development
15 AUGUST 2014
IPU has been engaged in a long-term programme to support the Myanmar Parliament since 2012. ©IPU
Representatives from Asian national parliaments and parliamentary development organizations will meet on 28-29 August in Manila, hosted by the Congress of the Philippines, to provide final input to the review and improvement of the Common Principles for Parliamentary Development. The Principles, which began to be drafted in November 2013 with contributions from various stakeholders, aim to provide clear and helpful guidelines to identify what is more important and aspirational in parliamentary development as a means of ensuring strong, functioning and fully inclusive legislative institutions. Using a common language that all actors involved in the field of parliamentary development can share, this ambitious project ensures that parliaments retain ownership of their own development process adapting it to their history, institutions and local circumstances. The Principles underline the importance of parliamentary development as a political sensitive area of cooperation and take into account the increasing understanding that this process cannot be directed externally. Change must come from within. The drafting group - European Parliament, the French National Assembly, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and IPU – will present its work to date and provide a briefing on content, scope and implications of the draft Common Principles. Participants will then exchange experiences in providing parliamentary development support at the national level and will discuss ways to implement the Principles, as well as mechanisms for regular follow-up and exchange of experiences. The meeting will result in a revised text of the Common Principles for endorsement by parliaments and parliamentary development organizations. (More information)
IPU calls for respect of parliamentary immunity and freedom of expression of DRC MPs
6 AUGUST 2014
The IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians is currently working on the cases of 34 MPs and former MPs in the DRC. ©IPU
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is deeply concerned by the arrest and detention of DRC opposition MP, Mr. Jean-Bertrand Ewanga, in light of serious allegations that they violate his parliamentary immunity and freedom of expression. IPU is calling for the DRC authorities and the newly established Constitutional Court to ensure full respect for parliamentary immunity and Mr. Ewanga’s fundamental rights in the ongoing judicial process. It also calls for the immediate implementation of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision ordering the placement of Mr. Ewanga under house arrest instead of his detention in a Kinshasa prison. Mr. Ewanga, General Secretary of the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC), is accused of inciting hatred and insulting the Head of State - accusations he denies and considers to be politically motivated. He was arrested after taking part in an opposition rally on 4 August against a proposed constitutional amendment that would reportedly enable President Joseph Kabila to run for a third term in the elections due in 2016. DRC law states that MPs cannot be arrested without prior consent from the Parliament except in cases of flagrante delicto. However, it appears that Mr. Ewanga was not arrested during the rally but at his home 24 hours later. The Supreme Court has referred the matter to the newly-established Constitutional Court. Without an appeal system in place for parliamentarians in DRC, Mr. Ewanga will be immediately tried for the above-mentioned charges unless the Constitutional Court rules in his favour. In such a case, it would then be up to the National Assembly to decide if the parliamentarian´s immunity ought to be waived or not. “IPU welcomes the long-awaited establishment of the Constitutional Court and hopes that it will issue an exemplary ruling in this case, in strict compliance with the Constitution of the DRC and international standards. It will be a real test of its impartiality and independence,” said IPU’s Secretary General, Mr. Martin Chungong. “At such a critical time when the Constitution is under review, it is all the more important that MPs’ freedom of expression be scrupulously respected,” he added. The IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, which is currently working on the cases of 34 MPs and former MPs in the DRC, has repeatedly expressed concerns regarding the independence of the judiciary, due process and freedom of opinion and expression for parliamentarians of the DRC.
IPU calls for full investigation into death threats against Maldivian MPs
4 AUGUST 2014
IPU is deeply concerned by the death threats against Eva Abdullah (above) and seven other Maldivian opposition MPs. ©Parliament of Maldives
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has called for a speedy and effective investigation into the death threats made in recent days against eight Maldivian opposition MPs and is urging the authorities to guarantee full protection of all parliamentarians’ physical integrity. IPU´s statement comes after two death threats were simultaneously sent by text message to prominent members of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Deputy Speaker of the People´s Majlis, Moosa Manik, and former Speaker Abdulla Shahid, as well as Maria Didi, Rozeyna Adam, Eva Abdullah, Imthiyaz Fahmy, Ali Azim and Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. IPU is deeply concerned by these acts of intimidation against MPs in a country where many parliamentarians have been victims of attacks, harassment and arbitrary arrests in recent years. IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong said “ensuring that every member of parliament can speak their mind freely without fear of reprisal is essential to democracy. There can be no excuse for violent extremism and impunity. The authorities must act with the necessary resolve to bring the culprits to justice.” In recent years, IPU has been actively engaged with the People’s Majlis to strengthen democracy in the Maldives and protect MPs in the exercise of their functions. Secretary General Chungong stressed that “the authorities’ response to the threats and their capacity to promote, with the help of the opposition, real inclusiveness and political dialogue will be a litmus test for the democratic process in the Maldives.” “I call on all those concerned to bear this in mind and I reiterate the IPU’s continued readiness to provide any assistance to help genuine efforts in this regard succeed,” he added.
IPU’s President Abdelwahad Radi awarded Morocco´s highest distinction
4 AUGUST 2014
The Order of the Throne is a State decoration of the Kingdom of Morocco awarded for distinguished service of a civil or military nature. ©Swiss Parliament
The President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Abdelwahad Radi, has been awarded Morocco´s highest civil distinction for his political and parliamentary leadership and long-standing dedication to public service. Radi was decorated with the Wissam ‘Al Arch – Knight of the Order of the Throne of the Kingdom of Morocco (Exceptional Class) by HRH King Mohamed VI in a ceremony held at the Royal Palace in Rabat on 31 July to mark the 15th anniversary of the monarch’s accession to the throne. Former Speaker of the Moroccan House of Representatives, Abdelwahad Radi (born in Salé in 1935) started his political career as a young student and a founding and active member of social, cultural and trade-union associations. Head of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USPF) since November 2008, he has been a Member of Parliament since 1963 and has held government posts such as Minister of International Cooperation and Minister of Justice. Since 1990, he has participated in all IPU Conferences/Assemblies, chairing the 107th Assembly in Marrakech in 2002. He was a member of the Executive Committee (2004-2008) and was elected for his three-year mandate as President of IPU in October 2011 at the 189th session of the Governing Council in Bern. He has also developed a remarkable academic career, lecturing in Social Psychology and heading the Department of Philosophy, Sociology and Psychology at the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences at the Mohamed V University (Rabat). The Order of the Throne is a State decoration of the Kingdom of Morocco awarded for distinguished service of a civil or military nature. The Order was instituted in 1963 by the late King Hassan II and is awarded in five classes, one exceptional and four ordinary classes. The Exceptional Class or Grand Cordon, the one awarded to the IPU President, is limited to 20 recipients at any one time.
IPU: 125 years of democratic struggle for peace
29 JULY 2014
As part of its 125th anniversary commemorative events, IPU has published “125 years of democratic struggle for peace”, a booklet retracing the main themes of the organization over the years, including peace, democracy, gender equality and human rights. The publication highlights ways in which the organization has influenced, and continues to influence, international relations. Before the League of Nations, before the United Nations, there was the IPU, which over the years has become the organization that most closely reflects world public opinion, deriving its legitimacy from the participation of the elected representatives of the people.
Strengthening Uganda´s parliamentary response to MNCH
29 JULY 2014
Bridging the gap between knowledge and action regarding MNCH is key to reaching Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4&5. ©Reuters/S. Sibeko, 2013
IPU and the Parliament of Uganda have signed an agreement to improve Uganda’s national legislative environment for maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH). The partnership seeks to support the implementation of the Ugandan parliament’s advocacy strategy on MNCH, including the drafting and tabling of a bill addressing this issue and support for a National Health Insurance Bill to be fast tracked to enable the roll out of a universal healthcare system in the country. Activities will also include mass media campaigns to improve awareness among citizens, training to parliamentarians on how to fully engage in the budgeting process for MNCH programmes and the promotion of a civil registration and vital statistic system (CRVS). Having in place a CRVS is critical to ensuring the health of newborns and children. It also guarantees more accountability to MNCH efforts as planning will be better informed, interventions more targeted, and resources more appropriately allocated. Bridging the gap between knowledge and action for health is key to reaching Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 & 5, and to strengthening health systems so that women and children around the world have the care they need to live healthy, productive lives. The agreement, to be implemented between June and December 2014, was signed by the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament Rebecca Kadaga and IPU´s Secretary General Martin Chungong.
Promoting the total elimination of nuclear weapons
29 JULY 2014
IPU adopted a landmark resolution on nuclear disarmament - “Toward a Nuclear Weapon Free World: The Contribution of Parliaments” – at its 130th Assembly on March 2014. ©IPU, 2014
26 September 2014 will mark the first ever International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Established by UN General Assembly resolution 68/32, the Day aims to enhance public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the need for their total elimination. IPU has played an active role in mobilizing parliamentary action towards achieving the common goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world. At its 130th Assembly in Geneva on March this year, the Organization adopted a landmark resolution - “Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: The contribution of parliaments” – which inter aliacalls on parliaments to work with their governments on eliminating the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines, support the start of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention or package of agreements, and to “use all available tools including committees to monitor national implementation of disarmament commitments, including by scrutinizing legislation, budgets and progress reports”. The far-reaching nature of the resolution was significant in that it was adopted with the participation and consent of parliaments from virtually all of the countries possessing nuclear weapons. The IPU hence calls on all parliaments and parliamentarians to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation as objectives of the highest priority and urgency. It also encourages Members to promote and commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, including by participating in the UNFOLD ZERO campaign.
Mobilizing MPs to end statelessness
29 JULY 2014
Statelessness is a massive problem that affects up to 10 million people worldwide, according to UNHCR’s estimates.
IPU and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are launching the second edition of the Nationality and Statelessness Handbook for Parliamentarians. The publication provides MPs with a broad description of the international principles governing nationality and statelessness. It also offers positive examples of how protracted situations of statelessness have been resolved and provides a collection of “good practices” that illustrate that where there is political will stateless individuals can finally enjoy the right to a nationality. The publication of this Handbook coincides with the launch by UNHCR of a 10-year campaign to end statelessness in which MPs’ efforts are crucial to reaching this ambitious goal. MPs can help end statelessness by adopting domestic legislation that is consistent with international law and by ensuring its implementation. Instead of disappearing new situations of statelessness have developed in past decades worldwide – contributing to a problem that by UNCHR estimates now affects up to 10 million people. Technically stateless people are not citizens of the country where they live (or of any other country) and they are denied basic rights and access to employment, housing, education, health care and pensions. The Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (1954) and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness are the principal international instruments for addressing the issue. The IPU encourages all States that have not yet done so to accede to these instruments and to withdraw any reservations made at the time of accession.
Raising visibility of parliament in Seychelles
16 JULY 2014
©National Assembly of Seychelles
Journalists, MPs and parliamentary staff will work on ways to raise awareness and understanding of parliament’s work in Seychelles during a two-day training on 16-17 July that also aims to improve relations between the media and the legislative body. Organized by the National Assembly of Seychelles and IPU, the training is part of a programme to help the parliament communicate better with the media. The role, function and working methods of parliament will be addressed with a review of how parliament is currently covered in the Seychelles media. Issues such as access to and freedom of information, freedom of expression, ethics in journalism and media regulation will also be examined. In addition, the training will involve practical communications skills as well as facilitate the development of a draft communications plan for the parliament.
Translating international human rights commitments into national realities in Latin America
14 JULY 2014
The meeting for Latina American MPs is one of several regional event arrived at providing a better understanding of the UN Human Rights Council and its UPR. ©UN photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
Latin American MPs will examine how to mobilize stronger parliamentary involvement in the work of the UN Human Rights Council and its evaluation mechanism, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), at a meeting in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, on 15-16 July. The meeting, jointly organized by IPU and the Uruguay General Assembly in collaboration with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), is part of a series of regional events also aimed at providing a better understanding of the Human Rights Council and the UPR. The Montevideo meeting will identify good parliamentary practice on collaboration with the Council and on promoting human rights in general. This includes the involvement of civil society bodies and national human rights organizations, some of whom will be participating at the meeting. So far, 15 countries from Latin America will be attending the gathering. A similar parliamentary seminar for Central and Eastern Europe was held in February 2014 with other regional events due to take place in Africa later this year and in Asia in 2015. Parliaments play a critical role in implementing UPR recommendations and in ensuring the protection of human rights through legislation. The Human Rights Council recently underlined this in a resolution calling on governments to more actively involve parliaments in all stages of the UPR. The resolution also stressed IPU’s efforts in contributing to the UN’s work and called on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to regularly update it on what IPU is doing to help parliaments strengthen their human rights work, including any that relates to the Human Rights Council and the UPR.
Overcoming legal obstacles to AIDS response
14 JULY 2014
The Parliamentary meeting during the XX international AIDS Conference will also identify legislature blocks on accessing treatment to the disease. ©IPU
Parliamentarians from around the world will look at finding ways to overcome legal obstacles in the fight against AIDS at a meeting on 21 July in Melbourne, Australia. The meeting, taking place in parallel with the XX International AIDS Conference and jointly funded by IPU, the Japanese agency Worldwide Support for Development (WSD), UNDP and UNAIDS, will map out what successes there have been in recent years in the AIDS response. It will also identify legislative blocks on prevention efforts and on accessing treatment. The parliamentary meeting, a regular feature since the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City in 2008, will enable parliamentarians, including members of IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal, Newborn and Child Health to examine different national and regional ways to collaborate on finding answers to the challenges being faced. The meeting, hosted by the State Parliament of Victoria, also aims to define follow-up action on parliamentary action on HIV/AIDS, including encouraging effective oversight of national governments on the AIDS response. The parliamentary meetings during the International AIDS conferences have proved to be valuable in providing the parliamentary community an opportunity to address key trends and challenges in the effort to tackle the HIV/AIDS epidemic with a global perspective.
New social contract needed for sustainable development
9 JULY 2014
Sustainable development should be about what matters most – human well-being. ©Reuters/G. Liang
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has called for a rethink on the economic model of sustainable development in order to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation and place people at the centre of development. Speaking during a Ministerial dialogue on implementing Rio +20 at the UN’s High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development on 7th July in New York, he stressed that sustainable development is about human well-being that balances material comforts with assets that make people happy such as education, health, the environment and the family. Economic growth cannot be the end game for the sake of it. Progress should not be measured in GDP and other economic indicators alone, he urged. Instead, the world ought to seriously invest in the science of measuring well-being and integrating these indicators into policy-making. There was also a need for a new balance between individual and social interests so that all people could have the opportunity to develop and flourish. This new “social contract” could be achieved through democratic governance and the reform of politics and government and other public institutions to make them more accountable to citizens. “As long as we don’t have institutions that are truly representative of all people, including the poor and most marginalized and designed to satisfy the needs of society as a whole, the universal agenda will continue to elude us,” he argued.
Committing to peace and democracy through universal membership
1 JULY 2014
IPU’s Executive Committee has committed to obtaining universal membership of the Organization in a concerted bid to achieve gender equality, development, peace through dialogue and to defend human rights around the world. In a statement during an extraordinary session to officially mark the 125th anniversary of the Organization, the Executive Committee said universal membership would allow the Organization to leave a distinctive mark on the world scene in advancing peace and democracy. The Executive Committee also highlighted the strengthening of IPU’s relationship with the United Nations and the ongoing work to mobilize IPU Members to contribute to the development of the new sustainable development goals.
An end of an era as IPU Secretary General Anders Johnsson retires
27 JUNE 2014
The retirement of Anders B. Johnsson as IPU Secretary General on 30th June marks the end of an era in which the Organization has witnessed significant change. In the 16 years since he took on the challenge, IPU has not only grown in membership, but has also made great strides in its efforts to advance democracy through advocacy, facilitating dialogue and providing direct support to parliaments and parliamentarians. In a letter to IPU’s membership, Johnsson thanked Members for their unstinting support and commitment during a time when the world had undergone tumultuous changes and multi-lateral cooperation had been tested time and time again. The financial crisis and the public protests on governance, the Arab Spring, Middle East conflicts including Iraq, Syria as well as the war on terror and the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals, have all marked IPU and democracy in one way or another. Despite the changes the Organization has undergone, Johnsson stressed, IPU remains true to the values on which it was founded.
UN encourages greater involvement of parliaments in human rights evaluation
27 JUNE 2014
Human Rights : Central and Eastern European MPs attended in Bucharest in February the first parliamentary seminar organized by IPU to promote a better understanding of the work of the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism. ©IPU
The UN Human Rights Council has encouraged governments to promote the involvement of parliaments in all stages of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the evaluation mechanism of human rights in all UN member States. In a resolution passed on 27 June, the Council stressed national parliaments should be relevant actors in the consultation process of the respective national UPRs and in the implementation of its recommendations. The Council acknowledges States are increasingly including parliamentarians in the national delegations to the UPR but points out the need to further promote and enhance cooperation between national parliaments and national human rights institutions and civil society. It welcomes IPU’s efforts to contribute to the work of the UN and calls the High Commissioner to regularly update it on what the Organization is doing to help parliaments in providing a better response regarding human rights legislation. It also highlights an IPU initiative to promote a better understanding of the work of the Human Rights Council and its UPR in the various regions of the world. A parliamentary seminar for Central and Eastern Europe was held in February 2014 with similar events due to take place in Latin America and the Africa region later this year and in Asia in 2015. Parliaments play a critical role in the implementation of the UPR recommendations and in ensuring the protection of human rights through legislation. At a parallel event to the Human Rights Council focusing on parliaments’ critical contribution to human rights, IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson said it is the responsibility of parliaments to make sure what happens at the Council in Geneva matters back home.
Ongoing support to help modernize Tunisian parliament
27 JUNE 2014
Tunisia: Tunisia will hold parliamentary elections on 26 October and a presidential poll a month later in the latest steps towards full democracy. The polls will be the first since Tunisia adopted a new constitution this year. ©Reuters/Z. Souissi
An IPU delegation to Tunisia on 24-27 June conducted several working sessions with MPs and staff on the degree of administrative and financial autonomy of the national parliament as part of a wider modernization programme of the institution. In collaboration with the administrative and political leadership of the Constituent National Assembly, the mission analyzed the current situation and identified strengths and weaknesses, obstacles and opportunities towards the realization of this project. The team of experts will issue a report within two weeks proposing recommendations and a priority action strategy to improve the operational functioning of the institution. Having in place a fully functioning administrative and financial structure is crucial for the independence of parliaments, shielding them against political pressure from executive government. The visit took place as the Tunisian Assembly agreed to hold parliamentary elections on 26 October and a presidential poll a month later in the latest steps towards full democracy. The polls will be the first since Tunisia adopted a new constitution this year, and the second since the former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country after mass protests against him in 2011. Tunisia was the cradle of the “Arab Spring” and has managed to conduct a relatively smooth political transition in contrast to other countries which ousted long-standing leaders three years ago.
IPU to mark 125 years of global parliamentary action on peace and democracy
20 JUNE 2014
Frédéric Passy (left) and William Randal Cremer (right), the two IPU co-founders ©IPU
IPU has celebrated 125 years of global parliamentary action on resolving conflicts and building democracy on 30th June, the anniversary of its creation in 1889. In that time, eight IPU leaders have won the Nobel Peace Prize. The oldest multi-lateral political organization in the world, IPU has played an important role in; the creation of the UN, inter-State relations during the Cold War; helping countries in post-conflict to transition smoothly into democracy, setting international standards on elections and parliamentary working methods and in increasing women’s political participation globally. Its Members have also signed up to IPU’s Universal Declaration on Democracy, the only existing text to define the parameters of democracy or establish its scope. A formal anniversary event was held in Geneva with the UN which looked at how IPU has helped shape a radically different world where peace, human rights, equality and human development underpin a desire for greater democracy. The event was also an opportunity to discuss some of the many challenges democracy faces today. The anniversary date of 30th June also marked the end of Anders B. Johnsson’s tenure as IPU Secretary General after 16 years during which the Organization has worked in all regions to promote and build democracy. Cameroonian national Martin Chungong has taken over as IPU Secretary General, the first African to hold the post.
Please click here to see the anniversary debate
Reviewing the Common Principles for Parliamentary Development
13 JUNE 2014
A range of actors provide development support to parliaments. Better coordination and cooperation between them through a common set of principles is aimed at making assistance more effective. ©IPU
IPU is calling on parliaments and international organizations supporting parliaments for input on a new set of Common Principles for Parliamentary Development. The ambitious project is aimed at improving the quality of parliamentary development support that is made available to parliaments through better cooperation and co-ordination. The principles seek to provide a set of guidelines that all actors engaged with parliamentary development can use to improve the suitability and effectiveness of assistance to parliaments, as well as to support cooperation and knowledge development. They will also provide clear language for parliaments and development practitioners to ensure that parliaments retain ownership of their own development process and that it is adapted to their history, institutions and local circumstances. The requested comments and suggestions, to be submitted by 15 July using a feedback form , are crucial to making the Common Principles meaningful for parliamentary development. Contributions will also inform discussions at an upcoming meeting in the Asia region in the next few months to review the principles. The meeting will also provide the opportunity to review and improve the draft Common Principles and to consider approaches to their practical implementation at the national level, including the use of existing good practices of cooperation and coordination.
Bringing a youth perspective to the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
13 JUNE 2014
Young people account for nearly 44 percent of the world’s unemployed. Finding solutions to ensure youth employment in the future is critical for global development. ©REUTERS/K. Lamarque
Young people, including seven MPs from IPU’s Forum of Young Parliamentarians have made a global call for UN Member States to include a series of youth-focused measures in the development agenda set to take over from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) after 2015. The call at the end of the Youth Forum of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) followed a discussion on how to bring the voice of youth into the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). States were urged, amongst other things, to ensure universal access to quality education, sexual and reproductive health and inclusive participation in decision-making processes, as well as to increase youth access to jobs and livelihoods, promote human rights and gender equality and gather better data on youth. With 1.8 billion people aged 10-24 in the world, the youth make up nearly 25 per cent of the global working population. However, they account for 43.7 per cent of the unemployed. Youth also remains under-represented in in political decision-making with less than two per cent of all MPs in their 20’s and 12 per cent in their 30’s. The global call reflects a broad consultation with young people via electronic surveys, social media and meetings around the world. It also stressed that the world’s demographic and development realities meant that the success of the post-development agenda depended on meeting the development needs of all young people and fulfilling their human rights.
Ending impunity on sexual violence in conflict
13 JUNE 2014
Speaker of the UK Parliament John Bercow with some of the MPs who attended the Global summit to end sexual violence in conflict and the parallel parliamentary event. ©BGIPU
An international parliamentary event on the fringe of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict on 12 June highlighted the key role parliaments and MPs can play to end this crime. Organized by the British Group of the IPU and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK, the event - “Implementing the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative” - focused on concrete actions that can be taken. Parliamentary delegates to the Summit, British MPs and civil society experts shared examples on legislation, private members’ bills, and committee work across various countries that help hold governments to account on the issue. The Global Summit was the largest gathering on the subject, with the aim of creating irreversible momentum against sexual violence in conflict. The Summit, which welcomed more than 100 countries and 900 decision-makers, experts, NGOs, survivors, faith leaders, and international organizations with a shared commitment to ending sexual violence in conflict led to the launch of a new International Protocol with international standards for documenting and investigating sexual violence in conflict zones. The International Protocol will help to strengthen prosecutions for rape in conflict and increase chances for successful convictions. Decision makers, including MPs, were urged to strengthen their domestic laws so that perpetrators can be reliably prosecuted both in and outside the countries where they committed their crime. This includes introducing laws which support the aims and objectives of the International Criminal Court.
Preventing and addressing domestic violence in Tonga
28 MAY 2014
Parliamentarians in Tonga will be among those taking part in a national consultation on how to ensure implementation of the landmark Family Protection Act. ©Tongan Parliament
MPs, government officials, law enforcers, health practitioners, social workers, media and international experts are taking part in a national consultation to guarantee the implementation of a landmark piece of legislation in Tonga tackling violence against women and girls (VAGW) within the family. Between 3-6 June, they will gather in Nuku’alofa to develop a common strategy and plan of action to promote an effective enforcement of the Family Protection Act (FPA). Through debates, case studies, group activities and role play, participants will look for the best coordinated community response to family violence with a gender sensitive approach focused on victims’ rights. Organized by the FPA Implementation Task Force together with the Tongan Legislative Assembly, IPU, the Pacific Prevention Domestic Violence Program (PPDVP) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resources Team (SPC RRRT), the consultation will also discuss the establishment of a mechanism for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the law. This would include issues such as exchanging information, agreeing on a system of data collection and regularly reporting to parliament. Passed with a majority vote in parliament in September 2013, the FPA criminalizes domestic violence, establishes prompt police action and includes measures on prevention and awareness. It also provides for the establishment of two mechanisms dedicated to the implementation of the law – the Family Protection Advisory Council and the Family Protection Trust Fund. The Pacific region has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world. According to the National Study on Domestic Violence (2012), 77 per cent of Tongan women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lives.
IPU assessment to help define action plan for new Egyptian parliament
28 MAY 2014
Voting in Egypt’s presidential elections precedes the establishment of a new parliament on the roadmap to democracy in the Arab country. Parliamentary elections have been promised before the end of 2014. ©REUTERS/M. Abd El Ghany
An IPU assessment team will be in Egypt during the week of 9th June to identify and assess key challenges facing the development of a new Egyptian parliament. With elections for a new Egyptian president having taken place on 26 May, the country’s roadmap to democracy envisages parliamentary elections to follow in the coming months. A fully-functioning parliament with trained staff would need to be in place to support newly-elected MPs to do their work. With more than 3,100 parliamentary staff of varying skills and experience, strengthening human resources in the Egyptian parliament is a key priority in the coming months. The IPU assessment team will assess staff skills and help define a training plan for parliamentary staff. Working together with the Egyptian authorities, current practices and procedures in how parliament works will also be reviewed. The mission precedes the establishment of a training and research institute responsible for the development of both staff and newly-elected parliamentarians so they can better carry out their representative and legislative functions. IPU and the Egyptian authorities signed an agreement in March this year to carry out a priority support programme aimed at developing a fully-functioning and representative parliament. The Organization has also recommended a series of affirmative action measures in a new electoral law that would ensure a minimum level of representation for women and other groups.
IPU deeply concerned by latest developments in Thailand
27 MAY 2014
IPU is calling for a peaceful and political solution to end the crisis in Thailand following the military coup. ©REUTERS/D. Sagolj
IPU deeply regrets the military coup in Thailand and is calling for a peaceful and political solution to the crisis in the country. Prior to the coup, IPU President Abdelwahad Radi had expressed alarm at the “profound polarization of Thai politics” which had initially led to the imposition of martial law. "For the democratic future of the country, it is critical that all sides urgently engage in a genuine political dialogue and find common ground on the way ahead in the interests of the Thai people." However, the rounding up of scores of Thai political leaders and other politicians in recent days had undermined any immediate chance of peaceful dialogue. The Organization is urging military authorities to respect human rights and a rapid return to civilian government through free and fair elections. Recalling the inalienable right of people everywhere to take part in government, directly or through their chosen representatives, President Radi called for free and fair elections to take place as soon as possible. "An elected parliament is a key pillar of democracy. It is not only essential that elections are organized quickly, but for all parties to respect their outcome," President Radi added.
UN calls a for new Cooperation Agreement with IPU
21 MAY 2014
The UN has called for a new Cooperation Agreement to further enhance its engagement with IPU and national parliaments on key global issues relating to peace, development, human rights and democracy. In a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on 19 May, Member States stressed that the new agreement should reflect the progress achieved over the past 20 years through this partnership and place the institutional relationship between them on a strong footing. In a substantive and forward-looking document, Member States welcome IPU’s work to pursue a more systematic engagement with the UN and highlight the active involvement of the Organization in providing input to the post-2015 development agenda. Sponsored by 87 countries, the resolution - Interaction between the United Nations, national parliaments and IPU – encourages IPU to continue to facilitate a parliamentary component to major UN conferences by bringing a legislative perspective to global talks and negotiations. UN headquarters in New York will be the venue for the Fourth Conference of Speakers of Parliament next year, just ahead of the UN Summit to mark the start of a new sustainable development era. “The Speakers’ Conference will provide a golden opportunity to galvanize political will for the new global agenda and more generally for our two communities – governments and parliaments - to join hands towards achieving our common objectives,” IPU President Abdelwahad Radi told the General Assembly. (See webcast of the General Assembly: 86th plenary meeting)
Supporting the caucus of women parliamentarians in Côte d’Ivoire
15 MAY 2014
Ivorian women MPs take part in the first general assembly of the women’s caucus with support from IPU. ©Ivorian Parliament
The caucus of women parliamentarians in Côte d’Ivoire’s National Assembly is holding its first general assembly on 19th May with the active support of IPU. Established in November 2013, the caucus seeks to be a platform for women MPs to play a decisive role in the development and implementation of laws and policies on important gender issues despite their small presence in parliament. The National Assembly of Côte d’Ivoire was elected in 2011 and currently has 254 members, of which only 24 are women (9.45 per cent). Following up to the support it provided to the establishment of the women’s caucus, the IPU is organizing, jointly with the National Assembly, a training workshop on strategic planning for the members of the women’s caucus. The training workshop will be followed by a two-day working session of the caucus to set up its strategic plan of action for the successful functioning and development of the group in the future. Both activities are taking place next week (20-22 May). The characteristics and rules of the Ivorian caucus can be found in IPU’s Database on Women’s Caucuses. The Database was launched last year and lists information about 79 women’s caucuses that exist so far in 189 national parliaments
Outreach efforts to raise awareness of violence against women and girls in Sierra Leone
15 MAY 2014
Twenty Sierra Leonean MPs will carry out outreach visits to their constituencies in the north and south of the country to build greater awareness and knowledge of violence against women and girls (VAWG). MPs will meet community leaders and women and will propose plans of action that can improve the lives of women and girls in their communities, both at home and outside. Concrete actions such as allowing girls to stay in school as long as possible and preventing early marriages can serve as a starting point to effectively address gender inequality. The aim of these visits between 16-24 May is to also create a climate of intolerance for VAWG and initiate a cultural shift by transforming individual and collective attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that condone the crime. In March, the same 20 MPs had taken part in training for all Sierra Leonian MPs aimed at strengthening understanding on the risk factors of VAWG. The training, jointly organized by the Sierra Leone Parliament and IPU also looked at how to address VAWG through more effective law implementation and preventive measures. Legislation on the issue in Sierra Leone has vastly improved with the adoption of various laws in recent years. However, many challenges remain, including inadequate resources, services and protection for victims, a lack of administrative and judicial capacity, stigma and limited awareness-raising campaigns to educate women about their rights.
Executive management training in Myanmar’s National Assembly
15 MAY 2014
Senior parliamentary staff from the Hluttaw – Union Assembly of Myanmar – have taken part in a series of training courses to improve their managerial skills and to strengthen their capacity to plan, organize and deliver on legislative work. Rolled out in the context of IPU and UNDP´s support to the parliament of Myanmar since 2012, the courses were targeted at two different groups: executive managers (Directors-General and Deputy Directors-General) and managers and senior staff members, half of whom had already attended a first course in December 2013. The training emphasized the importance of a professional and impartial administration and of optimizing the day-to-day operations of the Secretariat. This can be done through a clearer definition of goals, delineation of roles and responsibilities, effective leadership, as well as strategic management with special attention given to the delegation of responsibilities. The Hluttaw comprises two chambers: the Pyithu Hluttaw (House of Representatives) and the Amyotha Hluttaw (House of Nationalities). They were elected in 2010 in the first democratic ballot in Myanmar since 1990.
IPU President calls for support on democratic governance goal on post-2015 agenda
15 MAY 2014
IPU President Abdelwahad Radi has called for support from Member parliaments to ensure a goal on democratic governance that the Organization has been campaigning for is included in the post-2015 development agenda. An Open Working Group of the UN General Assembly has been working on developing a first proposal for new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the end of 2015. It is due to present its report this summer. Since early 2013, IPU has been urging the inclusion of a stand-alone goal on democratic governance with specific indicators relating to parliament. With little time left before the working group drafts the proposal that will inform the negotiations to decide the final set of SDGs, IPU is making a final push to ensure parliamentary engagement on such a goal. The lack of parliamentary involvement in the definition of the MDGs and governance over their implementation has had an impact on national ownership of development plans and the level of their success. To help inform MPs, a short brochure “Democratic governance as a goal for the world: A call to action from IPU” has been produced.
IPU welcomes the release of DRC MP Muhindo Nzangi under Amnesty Law
15 MAY 2014
IPU has welcomed the release on 2nd May of DRC MP Muhindo Nzangi from imprisonment in a series of amnesties granted by President Kabila through a new amnesty law. Nzangi had been sentenced in August 2013 to three years in jail at first and last instance by the Supreme Court on a charge of jeopardizing State security by criticizing the government in its dealing with the conflict in the east of the country. The Court stated the Nzagi´s intention was “to alarm the people in that part of the country, to worry them and to foment doubt about the strength of the authorities, institutional stability and the public authorities, definitely causing unrest in Goma and the neighbouring area.” IPU had considered the sentencing of the MP a violation of his right to freedom of opinion and expression enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which the DRC is party. In a resolution adopted at IPU’s 130th Assembly in Geneva in March 2014, the Organization stressed Nzangi had not incited to violence in his remarks in a radio broadcast and called for his immediate release through the Amnesty Law which was adopted in February. IPU also deplored the lack of any avenue of appeal in the judicial process applying to MPs in DRC, where the Supreme Court has the only and final say on cases concerning parliamentarians.
IPU congratulates SEECP on the creation of its Parliamentary Assembly
15 MAY 2014
The Ukrainian crisis is a reminder that the vestiges of the Cold War remain, IPU President says. ©REUTERS/Y. Behrakis
IPU has congratulated the Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP) on the creation of its Parliamentary Assembly, particularly at a time when a crisis is unfolding on the region’s borders. IPU is looking forward to working closely with the new Parliamentary Assembly and hoping it will join the Organization’s efforts in mobilizing parliamentary action at the national and regional levels through the group of Associate Members and Observers to the IPU. In a message from IPU President Abdelwahad Radi relayed to the SEECP Parliamentary Assembly at its inauguration in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, the IPU President said the crisis in Ukraine was a painful reminder that the vestiges of the Cold War were far from over. The new Assembly and MPs from the region could play an important role in helping to defuse tensions through the promotion of dialogue and consultations to find solutions. Looking to the future, IPU has also invited the SEECP Parliamentary Assembly to get actively involved in the elaboration of a new set of goals that will define the post-2015 development agenda which will need parliamentary support to be fully effective.
IPU recommends special measures in Egyptian electoral law to ensure representative parliament
14 MAY 2014
IPU and Egypt signed an agreement to support the Arab country in developing a fully functioning and representative parliament ©IPU
IPU has recommended a comprehensive series of affirmative action and implementation measures aimed at ensuring a minimum-level representation of women and other under-represented groups in the next Egyptian parliament. The recommendations to Ministers and the committee working on drafting a new electoral law to be adopted before elections for a new parliament can go ahead this year were made by an IPU mission to Egypt in late April. Options of having no less than 25 and up to 50 per cent of women in parliament were presented, with 25 per cent reflecting the minimum figure required for women’s participation in local government in Egypt’s new Constitution. Although such a figure would put Egypt above the global average of women in parliament, it would be below that of other Arab countries such as Algeria (32%) and Tunisia (27%) and far from an equal gender participation in the legislative body. IPU has also recommended that a minimum level of representation for other groups such as Christians, youth, the disabled and the Egyptian diaspora should be included in the new electoral law. The percentage of seats held by both women and other groups should be guaranteed regardless of whether Egypt decides upon adopting a first-past-the-post, a proportional representation or mixed electoral system. IPU has recommended various means of ensuring target figures are reached whichever system is put in place. Other recommendations made also included reinforcing legal measures to ensure the targets for women and other groups are reached. These include providing additional public funds to political parties based on the number of women and other groups elected, on making it a legal requirement for parties to earmark a percentage of their public funds to train MPs from these groups and to provide free or additional airtime for parties that nominate a minimum number of women and other group candidates. Whilst Egyptian authorities have accepted IPU’s recommendation to take affirmative action measures, specific target figures remain undecided. The expert advice and support on a new electoral law is part of a larger programme of support IPU is providing to Egypt to put in place a fully functioning and representative parliament. A newly-opened IPU office in Cairo will facilitate the work with Egyptian authorities and later on with the new parliament.
Deepening interaction between UN, national parliaments and IPU
14 MAY 2014
IPU President Abdelwahad Radi and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon meet at UN headquarters in New York. ©UN, 2013
The UN General Assembly is expected to adopt a consensus resolution recognizing the importance of a clear role for parliaments at the global decision-making level on 19th May. The resolution - Interaction between the United Nations, national parliaments and IPU - builds on a report by the UN Secretary General on the issue for the 68th General Assembly which documents intense interaction between the UN, IPU and the world of parliaments as a whole in the past two years. The report acknowledges that parliaments are essential to ensuring the implementation of major international agreements such as the next generation of global development goals to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Democratic governance, national dialogue and reconciliation, the respect and promotion of human rights as well as gender equality are also seen by the UN as areas where parliaments are crucial. The UN Secretary General’s report also points out the gaps between the two institutions that need to be filled, particularly in terms of working with parliaments not only as recipients of international assistance, but also as major partners in the design and monitoring of national strategies on key issues. IPU Members have repeatedly called for greater coherence in the work of both organizations with a view to forging a strategic partnership. Underlying these issues is the larger question of providing parliaments with the tools that would allow them to fully engage with the UN and also to effectively fulfill their unique legislative and oversight roles. IPU works with UN country offices and provides parliamentary technical assistance in several countries and it is looking to expand this cooperation.
Using technology to enhance democracy – World e-Parliament Conference
2 MAY 2014
More than 320 MPs and parliamentary staff from 85 national parliaments are taking part in the 2014 World e-parliament Conference in an effort to make information and communications technology (ICT) work better for democracy. The Conference, which is jointly organized by IPU and National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, takes place in Seoul on 8-10 May. The sixth event of its kind since 2007, the Conference builds on progress made by parliaments in the use of ICT in recent years by looking at how to overcome current hurdles in parliamentary use of new technologies. Among the many issues to be examined are policies on making parliamentary data open to make it easier for citizens to reuse, how to protect parliamentary data from cybercrime, digital privacy for MPs and parliaments, public information strategies in light of the technological evolution and how to respond to new forms of citizen participation. The Conference will conclude with a session on what an e-Parliament could look like beyond 2020.
Follow or take part in the debates at the World e-Parliament Conference through Twitter using #wepc2014 Photos from the Conference are available on Flickr.
IPU saddened by death of Malaysian MP Karpal Singh
17 APRIL 2014
Mr. Karpal Singh. ©REUTERS
IPU is saddened to hear of the death of Malaysian opposition MP Karpal Singh who died in a car accident earlier in the day. Singh, an MP and defence lawyer for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, had been at risk of losing his parliamentary mandate following a conviction in March this year for making seditious comments. Following his conviction, IPU had expressed genuine concern about his situation and the possibility that two leading opposition figures in Malaysia could be banned from political life. Both Singh and Anwar Ibrahim have cases before IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians.
MPs endorse call for dialogue in Venezuela
15 APRIL 2014
Political unrest in Venezuela led to calls for dialogue to resolve situation from IPU Members in the region. ©Reuters
Participants at the Parliamentary Conference on Indigenous Peoples’ rights endorsed a statement adopted by the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC) at IPU’s 130th Assembly in Geneva last month calling for dialogue to resolve the political unrest in Venezuela. The statement, which had been jointly drafted by Venezuelan ruling party and opposition MPs, stressed the need for dialogue and respect for the principles of sovereignty, non-interference and solidarity among peoples. The Venezuelan government has asked the Vatican to mediate in talks with the opposition in the hope of quelling two months of protests that have led to at 40 deaths and hundreds of arrests.
Increased support needed for parliamentary oversight of development aid
15 APRIL 2014
Nancy Abisai, MP of East African Legislative Assembly addresses the parliamentary meeting on effective development cooperation.
MPs taking part in the first ever High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation have called for increased support to help them more effectively oversee and scrutinize all development resources as part of a series of measures aimed at strengthening parliamentary involvement in making development efforts more effective. The MPs, who are attending the high-level meeting on 15-16 April in Mexico as part of national delegations, had met at an IPU, Mexican Congress and Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA) forum ahead of the meeting. The parliamentary event looked at how the Global Partnership, established in 2011, is meeting key commitments on making aid and other forms of development cooperation more effective. With this issue becoming ever more critical in the emerging post-2015 sustainable development agenda and attendant Sustainable Development Goals, the Global Partnership aims to provide a powerful political impetus to effective development. The parliamentary meeting in Mexico also discussed how parliaments can support the mobilization of domestic resources such as taxes levied on the extractive industries to make sure they contribute their fair share to development. Special attention was paid to parliaments’ involvement in fiscal policy and in the use of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to strengthen their capacities in this field. Overall, and based on recent reports, the commitment to mutual accountability for aid remains one of the most critical issues. Much more needs to be done to put parliaments at the heart of the accountability process, including by involving them more systematically in the design and approval of national aid policies. The High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership to be opened by Mexican President Nieto and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will agree on what actions are needed to boost progress on making development cooperation between all concerned partners more effective and in anchoring them in the post-2015 development agenda.
Tonga addresses gender imbalance in parliament
14 APRIL 2014
Queen Nanasipau'u opened the first Practice Parliament for Women in Tonga. The Polynesian state has only had seven women MPs in the past 100 years. ©Tongan parliament
Tonga held its first ever Practice Parliament for Women on 10-11 April at the Fale Alea - Legislative Assembly - in Nuku’alofa. With the upcoming general election in November, it was the opportunity to encourage female participation in politics and to come together in a near reality parliament to discuss issues affecting women. Tonga has only ever had seven women MPs in the past 100 years. The Practice Parliament identified and encouraged women to join and showcase their talents and capabilities as potential national leaders. With 30 seats allocated, sessions were broadcast live on radio and covered on national TV. They increased women´s awareness of their role in a participatory democratic system and encouraged a better understanding of parliament’s lawmaking role, its procedures and processes. The objective was also to inspire and increase the confidence of Tongan women to run as parliamentary candidates and to vote so that they become future leaders and key decision makers. Public awareness meetings throughout the country funded through IPU by Japan’s Worldwide Support for Development (WSD) preceded the event, and the 30 selected women underwent training with current MPs and former women MPs. The programme was organized in conjunction with UNDP, Australian Aid, UN Women and the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat. (More information and photos).
IPU calls for the urgent release of Burundian MP Hussein Radjabu
11 APRIL 2014
Burundian MP Hussein Radjabu is serving a 13-year prison sentence on conspiracy charges in a case marked by grave judicial irregularities. ©www.burunditransparence.org
IPU has called for the urgent release of Burundian MP Hussein Radjabu six years after his sentencing to a 13-year prison term on conspiracy charges. In a case marked by grave judicial irregularities, the Organization has urged the Burundian authorities to re-examine his situation and the evidence on which Radjabu was convicted on 3 April 2008 for allegedly organizing a rebellion against the government. The senior dissident has served almost half of his sentence and IPU believes it is time for the authorities to explore all possible legal remedies, especially in view of the upcoming 2015 elections. In a resolution adopted by IPU at its 130th Assembly in Geneva (16-20 March), IPU regretted that the Burundian authorities had rejected the request for a retrial lodged by Radjabu on August 2013 and had not shown any political will to bring about progress in this case. The retrial request was based on the acquittal and subsequent release on grounds of insufficient evidence of Pasteur Mpawenayo, also a member of the dissident wing of the Burundian ruling party CNDD-FDD. He was charged with plotting against the State and incitement to disobedience and deprived of his seat in parliament, but the Burundian Supreme Court stated in May 2012 that there was no convincing evidence that the meeting in which Mpawenayo and Radjabu allegedly organized the conspiracy took place. The Court also noted that no evidence of weapons’ seizures had been provided and found all the offences were hypothetical – yet Radjabu remains in jail.
Parliaments urged to ensure rights of indigenous peoples are a reality
10 APRIL 2014
Some 80 MPs attended the International Parliamentary Conference on Indigenous Peoples' rights, inaugurated by Bolivian President Evo Morales.
MPs from around the world have urged parliaments everywhere to work to ensure the equal participation of indigenous peoples in parliaments and political decision-making becomes a reality. In a Declaration issued at the end of a three-day international parliamentary conference on Parliaments and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples organized by the Bolivian Parliament and IPU, MPs recognized that important progress had been made in many countries to fight discrimination and uphold the rights of indigenous peoples, but that there was still a very long way to go. They urged parliaments to translate the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into national law and to promote greater awareness of it among all levels of society. Addressing the exploitation of indigenous peoples’ lands, territories and resources without their free or prior consent, the MPs called on industry and the private sector to respect and act on a series of principles defined in the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council and the Business Reference Guide to the UN Declaration. With an UN-organized World Conference on Indigenous Peoples due to take place in September 2014, the Declaration highlighted the need for a post-2015 sustainable development agenda to respect indigenous cultures, lands, territories and resources. It called for the World Conference to recognize the role of parliaments in ensuring indigenous access to decision-making and for the inclusion of clear goals and targets related to political participation, transparency and accountability in the post-2015 agenda. The Declaration also called on IPU to ensure parliamentary follow-up to its call for action and on the outcomes of the World Conference. The Bolivian Parliament and IPU organized conference on 7-9 April in Santa Cruz de la Sierra and inaugurated by President Evo Morales, had been an opportunity for MPs to better gauge the challenges parliaments face in guaranteeing the political representation of indigenous peoples and upholding their rights.
The role of parliaments in implementing indigenous peoples’ rights
4 APRIL 2014
According to the UN, there are more than 370 million people self-identified as members of an indigenous community in some 70 countries around the world. ©Reuters/David Mercado
MPs from around the world will be attending an IPU and Plurinational Legislative Assembly of Bolivia jointly organized International Parliamentary Conference on how parliaments can implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007). During the conference in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia on 7-9 April 2014, MPs will exchange information about the experiences, good practices and challenges encountered by parliaments in their efforts to guarantee the political representation of indigenous peoples and the effective protection of their rights. The outcome will feed into the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples convened by the UN General Assembly to be held on 22-23 September in New York. The conference represents a unique opportunity to stress the historic and current difficulties faced by indigenous peoples. According to the UN, there are more than 370 million people self-identified as members of an indigenous community in some 70 countries around the world, each with a distinct language and culture. The biggest concentration of indigenous peoples is in Asia and the Pacific with an estimated 70 per cent of the global population.
Building knowledge on violence against women and girls
28 MARCH 2014
The Sierra Leone Parliament and IPU are working together to build greater awareness and knowledge of violence against women and girls (VAWG) in the country. ©IPU/B. Filion, 2014.
The Sierra Leone Parliament and IPU have begun work to build greater parliamentary awareness and knowledge of violence against women and girls (VAWG) in the country. A training for all 124 Sierra Leonean MPs on 26th March focused on their gaining a deeper understanding of the root causes and risk factors of VAWG and how to address it through more effective law implementation and preventive measures. In Sierra Leone, VAWG predominantly manifests itself in the form of domestic and sexual violence, the latter also common outside the home environment. Legislation dealing with VAWG in Sierra Leone has vastly improved with the adoption of the Domestic Violence Act and the Child Right Act in 2007 and the Sexual Offences Act in 2012. However, many challenges remain, including inadequate resources, services and protection for victims, a lack of administrative and judicial capacity, stigma and limited awareness-raising campaigns to educate women about their rights. The Sierra Leone Parliament and IPU have also begun preparations for two outreach constituency visits for 20 MPs. Due to take place in April and involving both men and women MPs, the visits will allow direct engagement with women and community members. The aim is to create a climate of intolerance for VAWG and initiate a cultural shift by transforming individual and collective attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that condone this crime.
IPU at 125: Renewing our commitment to peace and democracy
28 MARCH 2014
IPU President, Abdelwahad Radi, leads the debate on the future of democracy. ©IPU/G. Fortunato, 2014
IPU Members reaffirmed their commitment to peace and democracy at the 130th Assembly in Geneva on 16-20 March, which formally marked the Organization’s 125th anniversary. In statements during a general debate, Members underlined the progress IPU has made since its creation in becoming a global body and its contribution to bringing the voice of MPs to UN decision-making processes. With the world no safer or peaceful than when IPU was created, Members highlighted the many challenges facing peace and democracy today including organized crime, cybercrime, weapons of mass destruction and the denial of fundamental freedoms to citizens. They acknowledged the need for parliaments to meet the demand for responsible, accountable leaders and elected representatives. Good governance, human rights, gender equality and fully representative parliaments were fundamental to ensuring the success of democracy. Members also stressed that the vision of IPU’s founding fathers that lasting peace and security can only be achieved through inclusive and participatory processes remains as valid today as 125 years ago. [Read more]
The role of parliaments in sustainable development and gender equality
14 MARCH 2014
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen. It is important to get more women into decision-making roles. ©Reuters/POOL New
– What have parliaments done to implement the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and where should gender equality be placed in the post-2015 development agenda? These and other questions centred the debate at the annual parliamentary event in New York on 11 March, which ran parallel to the 58th session of Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The IPU/UN Women joint event, entitled “At the crossroads of sustainable development and gender equality: the role of parliaments”, focused on tracking progress made on the MDGs over the past 10 years and on ensuring the mainstreaming of gender equality in the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). MPs, government officials and representatives of the UN system engaged in the debate paid particular attention to the situation of women in decision-making posts and to possible political strategies favouring more women-friendly environments in the future. The meeting also contributed to the debates at the CSW whose priority theme was “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”.
Egypt and IPU sign agreement on developing its new parliament
28 MARCH 2014
IPU and Egyptian authorities sign agreement.
Egyptian authorities and IPU have signed an agreement to carry out a priority support programme aimed at developing a fully functioning and representative parliament in the country following elections in July. IPU will assist the Egyptian parliament in drafting a short, middle and long-term strategic development plan. The initial phase includes upgrading parliamentary support services through the development of human resources, assisting the parliament in reviewing and enhancing its legal framework, sharing good practices for drafting the electoral law, as well as increasing the ICT component in parliamentary activity. IPU will also recruit parliamentary experts to develop a training plan for existing staff. They will work in parallel with the establishment of a training centre for both staff and newly elected MPs. The programme, beginning immediately, will work on providing staff with an understanding of the functioning of parliament and of the practical contributions they make to the effective administration of a democratically elected parliament. It will also increase awareness of the conduct and ethics of MPs and parliamentary staff and of the much needed contact with other institutions and groups, such as the judiciary, civil society and the media. Egypt has been without a parliament since its dissolution in July 2013. A new parliament will enable Egypt to rejoin IPU which it had first joined in 1924
Sensitizing MPs and adopting anti-VAWG legislation in Burkina Faso
28 FEBRUARY 2014
A representative from the Burkina Faso Parliament. ©IPU
MPs, parliamentary staff, government officials and members of civil society met in the Burkina Faso capital, Ouagadougou to better understand the roots of violence against women and girls (VAWG) and to push forward the adoption of legislation to fight and prevent it. A seminar jointly organized by the National Assembly of Burkina Faso and IPU on 27-28 February was primarily aimed at sensitizing MPs against gender based violence, which is a rampant problem in the country. According to a study published in 2008, one in three Burkinabe women were reported to have suffered physical abuse in the previous 12 months while one in three men admitted to having abused his wife and/or daughters over the same period. A law entitled “Prevention, protection and repression of violence against women and girls” was adopted in October 2012 but the renewal of 90 per cent of the National Assembly in elections just two months after put a hold on its ratification. With this in mind, IPU has been working with Burkinabe MPs to familiarize them with the law and to find common ground towards its improvement and final entry into force.
IPU to support development of new Egyptian parliament
28 FEBRUARY 2014
IPU will be supporting Egypt in its efforts to develop a new, fully functioning and representative parliament through a wide-ranging assistance programme following a high-level meeting at its headquarters between Egyptian officials and IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson on 26 and 27 February. The Egyptian delegation included representatives from the Ministry of Transitional Justice and National Reconciliation as well as the Secretariat of the House of Representatives. Egypt has been without a parliament since its dissolution in July 2013. IPU has repeatedly expressed its full support to the Egyptian people. Their desire for a strong democratic and representative legislative body and the adoption of a new, more inclusive constitution that promotes democratic values will provide the framework of IPU support, which will begin immediately. Priority assistance will include human development of parliamentary staff and after elections have taken place later this year, parliamentarians too. Support would also include assisting the Egyptian parliament in reviewing and enhancing its legal framework. A new parliament will enable Egypt to rejoin the Organization it had been a member of since 1924.
Assassination of Ecuadorian MPs still unresolved after 15 years
28 FEBRUARY 2014
Mr. Hurtado. ©MPD
Fifteen years after the assassination of Ecuadorian MPs Jaime Ricaurte Hurtado González and Pablo Vicente Tapia Farinango, authorities have failed to identify the instigators of their deaths. Hurtado and Tapia, members of the leftist Movimiento Popular Democrático (MPD), were killed in broad daylight in the centre of Quito on 17 February 1999, along with a legislative assistant, Wellington Borja Nazareno. Two culprits were convicted in March 2009 for their role in the murders and in 2010 suspect Henry Gil Ayerve was arrested in Colombia and extradited to Ecuador in order to stand trial in this case. In a recent development, a second suspect, Washington Aguirre, was taken into custody in Italy pending extradition. IPU considers that bringing both men to trial is crucial to the pursuit of truth and justice and that there is sufficient legal basis in Ecuador for this to happen despite concerns about statute of limitations. IPU is convinced that their prosecution will help shed light on the identity of the masterminds of the triple crime and will offer an opportunity to draw on the work of the Special Commission of Inquiry set up immediately after the murders. The now defunct Commission criticized the original investigation, notably for the scant consideration of the serious leads linking the killings to the uncovering of a web of corruption involving high-profile figures.
Too young to wed: IPU co-sponsors high level panel on child marriage
28 FEBRUARY 2014
Child marriage will affect more than 140 million girls between now and 2020. ©REUTERS/Stringer Iraq
IPU is co-sponsoring a high-level panel on child marriage on 3 March during the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The panel will highlight child marriage as a destructive and harmful human rights violation that will affect more than 140 million girls between now until 2020, or one girl every three seconds. Several organizations and networks have committed to prioritizing efforts to ending early marriage. IPU has contributed by adopting resolutions relating to women’s empowerment and violence against women, including “Access to health as a basic right: the role of parliaments in addressing key challenges to securing the health of women and children” in 2012. The resolution urges parliaments to pass laws explicitly criminalizing all forms of violence against women and girls, including early marriage. The high-level panel will mark the opening of “Too Young to Wed”, a photo exhibition on child marriage by photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair who has documented the global issue of child, early and forced marriage for more than a decade.
Translating human rights commitments into national realities
14 FEBRUARY 2014
A survey recently conducted by IPU showed many MPs are still unfamiliar with the work of the Human Rights Council or its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) ©UN
MPs from Central and Eastern European parliaments will meet in Bucharest on 17-18 February to discuss their role in ensuring international human rights commitments are applied at the national level. At an event jointly organized by IPU and the Chamber of Deputies of the Romanian Parliament, the MPs will examine their parliament’s contribution to the work of the UN Human Rights Council and identify good parliamentary practices in promoting human rights. Although parliaments have a critical part to play in ensuring respect for fundamental freedoms, a survey recently conducted by IPU showed many of them are still unfamiliar with the work of the Human Rights Council or its Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the evaluation mechanism of human rights in all UN member states. Very few of the UPR recommendations are actually implemented without parliamentary action, highlighting the need for MPs to acknowledge the importance of becoming more involved with the work of the Council and of promoting human rights more generally, including by engaging in a more pro-active way with civil society.
Strengthening oversight capacities of Oman’s parliament
14 FEBRUARY 2014
IPU and the Majlis A’Shura are working together in Oman to strengthen parliamentary capacity to oversee government. ©IPU
IPU has been working with Oman’s Consultative Council to strengthen its capacity to oversee government, a fundamental role of any parliament. The move follows the change in the Council’s role from an advisory body to an elected institution with legislative and oversight powers in 2011. An IPU delegation, including parliamentary experts from Britain, France and Germany, covered challenges and procedures for effective oversight, including the use of committees and working with other institutions and the public during a two-day training. This was then followed by an assessment of the priority needs to strengthen the capacity of the Consultative Council in its efforts to fully deliver on its mandate as an elected legislative institution. A more comprehensive needs assessment at a later date could then be used as a basis for a broader IPU programme of support for Oman’s parliament.
Advisory Group of the IPU Committee on UN Affairs to visit Haiti
14 FEBRUARY 2014
UN peacekeepers stand on the side of a road during protests in Port-au-Prince in November 2013. ©REUTERS/M. Arago
The Advisory Group of the IPU Committee on UN Affairs will conduct a field mission in Haiti on 24-27 February to monitor and report on national parliamentary work to facilitate the stabilization and reconstruction of the country after the devastating earthquake of 2010. The Group will meet MPs, government officials and UN representatives on the ground to assess progress made and pressing challenges ahead for Haitian MPs and parliament in better responding to the needs of the Haitian people. Four years after the 7.3 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people and left more than 1.5 million people homeless, major issues such as poor living conditions, food insecurity, malnutrition and cholera remain. The role of MPs in addressing these challenges is crucial as they are responsible for the implementation and oversight of national legislation contributing to the reconstruction efforts. The Advisory Group will examine the UN operations in Haiti concerning peace consolidation and national reconciliation and will build on the increasingly solid partnership between the UN, national parliaments and IPU. The conclusions of the mission will be presented at the 130th IPU Assembly in Geneva, on 16-20 March. To date, the Advisory Group has undertaken seven missions: Tanzania (2008), Viet Nam (2009), Sierra Leone and Ghana (2011), Albania and Montenegro (2012) and Côte d’Ivoire (2013).
WTO underlines vital role of MPs in global trade system
14 FEBRUARY 2014
WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo addresses MPs attending the Steering Committee of the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO in Brussels. ©IPU
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo has highlighted the vital role MPs play to ensure the good functioning of the global trade system to parliamentarians attending the Steering Committee of the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO in Brussels. “As parliamentarians you connect WTO to the people. We rely on you to take into account their concerns. It is an important link and an important way of ensuring that our global trading system works at the local level,” said Azevêdo. The Committee met on 11-12 February to assess the outcome of the 9th WTO Ministerial Conference held in Bali in December 2013. It adopted a declaration urging negotiators to capitalize on the momentum gathered at Bali where governments agreed to the so called “Bali package”, the first global trade agreement since the WTO was created in 1995. MPs at the meeting also emphasized the need to keep working for a strong and effective parliamentary dimension of the WTO in order to maintain public support for open trade and enhance the transparency of the organization.
IPU President wishes Tunisia success on road map to democracy
7 FEBRUARY 2014
President Moncef Marzouki speaks during the ceremony marking the adoption of the new Tunisian constitution. ©REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
IPU President Abdelwahad Radi has wished Tunisia a successful journey on its path to democracy during a ceremony to formally adopt the new Constitution. Invited to speak at the event on 7 February as a result of the support IPU has provided to the Tunisian National Constituent Assembly, President Radi congratulated Tunisians on a Constitution which provides a firm basis for a modern democratic State. It served as a solid example of using dialogue and compromise in resolving political disputes in the region and beyond. “IPU is honoured to join the Tunisian people in celebrating this historic moment and wishes for a successful continuation of their democratic road map,” President Radi said. “The world is witnessing the achievements of a massive social movement seeking better life and better future for people through dialogue and consensus. Tunisians have succeeded by putting national interests above partisan interests.” The IPU President stressed the Organization’s continued support to Tunisia as it makes a full transition to democracy. IPU has been actively engaged with the Tunisian authorities since political changes began in 2011.
The new Constitution was approved on 27 January by an overwhelming majority of the members of the Assembly. Upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections must consolidate the democratic institutions created by the Constitution and ensure the rule of law with full respect for human rights.
IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians takes on new cases
31 JANUARY 2014
Members of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians in session. ©IPU
During a four-day session in Geneva (13-17 January), the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians took on new cases in Colombia, Iraq, Oman and Yemen. The Committee, which elected the Chilean Senator Juan Pablo Letelier as its new President, adopted decisions on cases involving the human rights abuses of 145 MPs in 21 countries. This includes Sri Lanka where Tamil MP Sivaganam Shritharan who survived an assassination attempt in 2011, is facing renewed threats against his life. IPU is concerned over allegations of harassment and intimidation of both Sivaganam and his family by law enforcement officers and is convinced that those wanting to harm him will eventually succeed as long as they believe they will not be held to account. IPU calls upon the Sri Lankan parliament and authorities to ensure action is taken against those behind the assassination attempt. IPU also expressed deep concern that the perpetrators of the killing of four Lebanese MPs between 2005 and 2007 have still not been brought to justice. The MPs were among a string of political assassinations that followed the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Legislating to end HIV and AIDS: from dream into reality
31 JANUARY 2014
Effective laws to end HIV and AIDS: Next steps for Parliaments”, a joint IPU-UNDP publication to guide parliamentarians in the HIV-AIDS response.
IPU and UNDP have launched a new publication “Effective laws to end HIV and AIDS: Next steps for Parliaments” to guide parliamentarians in the HIV-AIDS response. It incorporates the lessons drawn from the experiences of MPs involved in improving the lives of vulnerable groups in New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Mongolia, and Switzerland. They offer illustrative examples, from coalition building to careful media handling, to convince parliaments and electorates on the need of an HIV-AIDS policy that prioritizes health and human rights and does not criminalize behaviours of key populations. MPs around the world face particular challenges when legislating to fight HIV and AIDS, dealing often with social taboos that result in unnecessary barriers to ending the epidemic. In many countries laws criminalizing men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender people, sex workers and people who inject drugs are driving the most vulnerable people to HIV away from the health and social services.
Mexican MPs reinforce commitment to a gender-sensitive parliament
31 JANUARY 2014
The Mexican Senate hosted a self-assessment seminar and debate on gender mainstreaming on 22-23 February. ©Mexican Senate
Mexican MPs and experts have called on the need to push forward a gender-sensitive parliament as a key step in advancing towards equality between men and women in society at large. In a self-assessment seminar and debate on gender mainstreaming jointly organized by the Mexican Senate and IPU on 22-23 January, participants stressed the importance of removing structural barriers to women´s full participation in parliamentary leadership posts. MPs and parliamentary staff committed to ensuring constant reassessment of the gender perspective in their structures, operations, methods and work to respond to the interests of both men and women. IPU’s “Plan of Action for Gender-sensitive Parliaments” will be used to help them. Mexico’s parliament passed legislation to ensure gender parity in the electoral law resulting in a significant increase of women in both houses of parliament (36.8 per cent in the Chamber of Deputies and 32.8 per cent in the Senate) after the 2012 elections.
Measuring democratic governance as a new sustainable development goal
31 JANUARY 2014
World leaders agreed at the UN Rio+20 Conference on June 2012 to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will converge with the post 2015 development agenda. ©REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker
How can democratic governance be measured? Why does it need to be incorporated as a stand-alone goal in the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? To answer these questions IPU and International IDEA are hosting a side event to the 8th Session of the United Nations Open Working Group on the SDGs in New York on 6 February. Participants will discuss recent research evidence suggesting democratic governance is an end to sustainable development and not just a means as well as illustrate the many possible ways to measure the strength of democratic governance in all countries. IPU Secretary General Anders Johnsson will present recent work to develop a series of indicators based on the principles of representation, transparency and accountability which are aimed at assessing the effectiveness of parliaments as fundamental pillars of democratic governance.
First meeting to prepare the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament
15 JANUARY 2014
The 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament took place in Geneva in 2010. ©IPU/G. Fortunato
A group of Speakers of Parliament will meet at IPU headquarters in Geneva on 27-28 January for the first meeting of the Preparatory Committee of the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament. The Conference, due to convene in 2015, is unique in bringing together leaders of parliaments from every corner of the globe to address key global issues. The Conference, first held in 2000 to coincide with the Millennium Summit, takes place every five years. It has proved to be crucial to strengthening parliamentary presence on the global stage and to giving a new impulse to the parliamentary dimension of international cooperation. The preparatory committee meeting will begin defining the main objectives of the 2015 Conference and will examine issues such as further strengthening the relationship between parliaments and the UN and the parliamentary contribution to the new post-2015 sustainable development agenda. IPU supports a new sustainable development model grounded in human well-being and a specific development goal on democratic governance. Other key issues include gender equality and strengthening parliaments as democratic institutions. Subsequent preparatory meetings will take place in the latter half of 2014 and early 2015.
New IPU global database on women’s caucuses in parliament
15 JANUARY 2014
Want to know more about how women MPs are organizing themselves in parliaments around the world? IPU has launched a new global database on women’s caucuses in parliament to capture such information in one useful place. The database is a unique tool that provides a global, regional and national perspective on how women MPs have succeeded in coming together to tackle issues in ways that transcend their political differences. The database, available in English and French, lists information about 79 women’s caucuses that exist so far in 189 national parliaments, with names, links and contacts to the groups. Different search criteria filters are available to obtain information on countries, regions, dates, structure, composition, agenda and rules. Produced with financial support from USAID, Irish Aid and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the database is to be used in conjunction with IPU’s “Guidelines for Women’s Caucuses”. The Guidelines provide a rationale for why caucuses play a decisive role in the development and implementation of laws and policies on important gender issues, as well as practical information on the steps required to set up and run a successful caucus.
MPs Commit to Full Conclusion of the Doha Round Talks
16 DECEMBER 2013
MPs from around the world committed in Bali (Indonesia) to working towards the full conclusion of the Doha Round. ©Indonesian Parliament
MPs from around the world committed to working towards the full conclusion of the Doha Round after the landmark deal reached on 7 December by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to simplify and strengthen multilateral trade. Over 200 MPs gathered in Bali, Indonesia, for the Parliamentary Conference on the World Trade Organization on the sidelines of the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC9) and closely interacted with government ministers to facilitate the first global trade agreement since the WTO was created in 1995. The deal on the so-called “Bali package” will mean lowering trade barriers and speeding up the passage of goods through customs with an estimated boost of hundreds of billions of dollars for the world economy and the creation of millions of jobs, according to WTO. In an outcome document adopted at the final plenary of the Conference, parliamentarians stressed that the multilateral trading system should maintain its pivotal role and called to place development at the heart of the new trade scenario taking into full account the special needs and interests of least developed countries.
MPs Continue Paying Price for Defending Human Rights
16 DECEMBER 2013
Yemeni MP Abdulkareem Jabdan was gunned down in Sana'a on 22 November. ©REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
Assassinations of MPs in Somalia and Yemen in recent weeks are just the latest cases of MPs paying the ultimate price for defending fundamental human rights and exercising their right to freedom of expression, said IPU as it marked Human Rights Day 2013 on 10 December. Somali MP Feisal Warsame Mohamed was killed on 6 December when a car bomb blew up his vehicle in Mogadishu. On 22 November, Yemeni MP Abdulkareem Jadban was gunned down in Sana’a in what seemed to be politically motivated attacks to silence two outspoken MPs. These two killings highlight a worrying ongoing trend around the world of MPs being persecuted, intimidated, attacked or even killed, and were an attack on democracy itself. So far this year, IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians has examined allegations of human rights violations against 270 legislators (241 men and 29 women) in 40 countries. Most violations either relate to attacks on MPs’ physical integrity, such as murder, enforced disappearance or torture, or to the ability to carry out their democratic mandate.
Nelson Mandela an Inspiration on Doing Politics Differently for Peace and Democracy
16 DECEMBER 2013
Former South African president Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), an inspiration on how politics can be done differently to promote peace, reconciliation and democracy. ©Reuters/Ronen Zvulun
Former South African president Nelson Mandela showed how courageous and visionary leadership could bring peace and democracy to a bitterly divided country and will continue to serve as an inspiration to politicians everywhere on how politics can be done differently. “Despite what happened to him in the apartheid years, Nelson Mandela was committed to building a new democratic South Africa that included every person, regardless of race, religion, or skin colour,” said IPU President Abdelwahad Radi. “What made him especially remarkable was his vision and understanding that the future of South Africa lay in that inclusion. This could only be achieved through dialogue with all sides in the country. This included his oppressors.” Sending his deepest condolences to South Africa, its people and parliament on behalf of the IPU Membership, President Radi said Nelson Mandela’s human approach to politics focusing on the overall good rather than on individual or sectarian interests, showed that politics can be done differently when there is a will.
Engaging MPs and Media in Deepening Democracy and Parliamentary Culture
16 DECEMBER 2013
Bringing media and politicians together, the Parliamentary Media Forum in UAE, the first event of its kind in the country. © UAE parliament
MPs and journalists from the Gulf and Arab states are meeting in Dubai (UEA) on 16 December on strengthening their inter-action in a bid to deepen democracy and parliamentary culture in the region. The Parliamentary Media Forum also aims to establish a fluid two-way communication channel with citizens. With IPU’s technical support, the gathering will make recommendations and proposals on the development and improvement of parliamentary media and information in order to appeal to a wider audience. The impact of social media will feature prominently on the agenda as it is increasingly essential in the region to keeping pace with political and social changes. In addition, it offers MPs and media a powerful tool to foster public engagement on democracy and decision-making. Yet, only a minority of parliaments and MPs in the world are currently present on social media (World e-Parliament Report 2012).
Promoting a Gender Sensitive Budget in Côte d’Ivoire
16 DECEMBER 2013
Ivorian MPs and parliamentary staff engaged in the promotion of a gender sensitive national budget. ©Ivoirian Parliament
Ivorian MPs and parliamentary staff have taken a first step in strengthening parliamentary oversight on gender equality policies in the country through better information on gender budgeting and allocation. During a two-day event on 6-7 December organized by the National Assembly, IPU, SUNY/CID and USAID, both men and women from the Ivorian parliament involved in the budgetary process, focused on the promotion of a gender sensitive national budget as a fundamental tool for ensuring equal economic and development benefits for both sexes. They engaged in an inter-active debate to better understand the rational for gender budgeting and to identify and assess the different stages, modalities and strategies that lead to a balanced and fair allocation of resources. Women constitute 55 per cent of the population of Côte d’Ivoire - yet they lag behind men on many social indicators, such as education, health and jobs. Côte d’Ivoire ranks 112th in IPU’s World Ranking of Women in Parliament. Only 26 out of 249 members of the National Assembly (10.4 per cent) are women.
Strengthening Management of Myanmar Parliament
16 DECEMBER 2013
Myanmar's Parliament, IPU and UNDP carry out the first management training for senior Secretariat staff of the Hluttaw. ©Ross Becker
Myanmar’s Parliament, IPU and UNDP will jointly carry out the first management training for senior Secretariat staff of the Hluttaw to strengthen its capacity to plan, organize and deliver on legislative work. Ahead of an increase in Myanmar’s parliamentary staff from the current 500 to 2,500, the training will focus on improving skills to recruit and manage personnel effectively and allocating staff and resources to priority activities. Some 30 senior managers are expected to attend the five-day programme (16-20 December). Participants, including also senior managers from other national parliaments, will discuss real life issues and challenges at work. Similar training will be held for another group of 30 Hluttaw managers in 2014. Since 2012, the Hluttaw, IPU and UNDP have been working closely together to strengthen the legislative body elected in 2010 in the first ballot since 1990.
MPs Urge Placing Development at the Heart of the Multilateral Trading System
6 DECEMBER 2013
Some 270 MPs from 53 countries gathered in Bali (Indonesia) for the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO. ©Indonesian Parliament
MPs from around the world urged governments to place development at the heart of the multilateral trading system, taking into full account the special needs and interests of developing counties, particularly the least developed. Meeting in Bali (Indonesia) on 2 and 5 December for the Parliamentary Conference on the World Trade Organization (PCWTO), some 270 MPs agreed that the last-minute negotiations at the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC9) also in Bali, must bring a tangible benefit for developing countries, increase their share of world trade, stimulate their economic growth and contribute to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In an outcome document approved by consensus at the final plenary of the Conference, parliamentarians called on Ministers to adopt the “Bali package” - an agreement to simplify trade facilitation, agriculture trade and development trade issues affecting least developed countries. It would, MPs argue, bring significant economic benefits to all WTO members. MPs also expressed their concern about the increasing number of regional and bilateral agreements signed in the past decade as a result of the WTO Doha Round stalemate and reiterated the importance of a bigger say of parliaments in trade negotiations to enhance transparency and public support for a rules-based, open, fair and non-discriminatory system. MC9, which ends today, 6 December, is aimed at breaking the deadlock on Doha. The Round was launched in 2001 to produce a global accord on opening markets and removing trade barriers. The Parliamentary Conference, jointly organized by IPU and the European Parliament (EP), took place on the sidelines of MC9.
Political Parties - Allies or Foes on Gender Sensitive Parliaments?
29 NOVEMBER 2013
MP Eva Abdulla provides input on role of political parties at the IPU event during the Women in Parliament meeting. ©IPU/Z. Hilal
Women MPs have urged political parties to commit to gender equality as an inherent political objective and assume their role as key entry points to women’s political participation at an IPU-organized event during the Women in Parliaments Global Forum (WIP) in Brussels on 27-29 November. Entitled “Gender-sensitive Parliaments: Are political parties allies or foes?” the event examined the significant impact political parties have on gender-sensitive policy-making, including women’s access to political participation. It also emphasized the usefulness and success of women’s parliamentary caucuses in establishing cross-party cooperation on advancing gender equality. The event was an opportunity to present IPU’s survey on Gender-Sensitive Parliaments, as well as its recently published “Guidelines for Women´s Caucuses”. The WIP Forum, like IPU’s Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, brought together women MPs from around the world.
Celebrating 120 Years of Women’s Suffrage
29 NOVEMBER 2013
Women in New Zealand playing a role in the 1913 elections. ©Weekly Press 17 December 1913 (NZ)
Twenty-eighth November 2013 marked the 120th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand, the first country in the world to give women the vote. A historic milestone highlighting the progress made on gender equality since 1893, the anniversary nevertheless underscored how much still needed doing to achieve gender equality in all spheres of life. Although gender discrimination on suffrage will come to an end with women in Saudi Arabia due to vote for the first time in local elections in 2015, women’s representation in parliament is far from matching progress on universal suffrage. Women represent more than half of the world’s population, but represent just 21.4 per cent of all parliamentarians in the world.
Burundi’s Parliament to Set Up HIV/AIDS Network
29 NOVEMBER 2013
Thabitha Khumalo, MP Zimbabwe, with children from an area heavily affected by HIV. ©IPU/A. Blagojevic
Burundi’s parliament will announce on 1 December (World AIDS Day) the creation of a Parliamentary Network on HIV/AIDS aimed at increasing MPs’ involvement in the national response to the pandemic. The constitution of the Network will be supported by IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and MPs from other countries, who participated in a capacity building seminar for Burundi parliamentarians on 18-19 November, followed by a field visit to country on 20-22 November. They agreed to assist by sharing their experiences, as well as by helping to draft an action plan focused on mobilizing domestic resources (Burundi’s AIDS response is 97 per cent aid dependent). Building on IPU’s guide “Raising the Profile on HIV and AIDS in Your Parliament”, the Advisory Group also offered to share its experience establishing AIDS trusts and AIDS levy systems. HIV prevalence in Burundi is estimated at 1.3 per cent of the population aged between 15-49, according to UNAIDS.
Ongoing IPU Support to Enhance Functioning of Myanmar’s Parliament
29 NOVEMBER 2013
Internet research among the issues during an ICT training for the Myanmar parliament. ©Ross Becker
As Myanmar continues its progress on democracy, IPU is cementing its support to the Hluttaw (national parliament) through a series of activities intended at improving information and research needs of MPs and promoting ICT and managerial capacities. With an external evaluation of IPU’s project in Myanmar just started, another mission is currently in the country working to enhance the parliament’s network and data center capabilities. In mid-December the first in a series of Management & Leadership Training Courses will be carried out to increase parliamentary institutional capacity to implement relevant organizational, administrative and procedural measures. Myanmar’s parliament was re-established following national elections in 2010. Since then it has been very active in adopting new laws to consolidate the country’s political transition.
Tackling Violence against Women Fundamental to Equality and Development
22 NOVEMBER 2013
One in three women throughout the world experience physical or sexual violence. ©: Reuters/Sebastien Pirlet
Ending violence against women (VAW) should be a key priority of any development objective to create a more gender equal world, says IPU as the UN-led process to establish the next generation of development goals gathers pace. With one in three women throughout the world experiencing physical or sexual violence, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), VAW is an issue affecting every country in the world and one which is limiting women’s development everywhere. Marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25th November, IPU argues that progress on future global development will be partly measured by success on achieving gender equality, which itself is not possible as long as a woman’s right to a life free from violence is not guaranteed. In turn, IPU is urging its own members to take firm action to end violence against women through swift and effective legal reforms and strong parliamentary oversight to ensure implementation. Although two thirds of countries today have legislation criminalizing domestic violence and have also taken steps to address sexual harassment, all countries should have legislation penalizing all forms of VAW. This not only includes rape and sexual assault but also female infanticide in the preference for boys, child marriage, genital mutilation, acid face-burning, “honour” killings and other forms of feminicide. In recent years, IPU has mobilized the parliamentary community on this issue. This year, a presidential statement was unanimously endorsed by IPU members at its 128th Assembly in Quito in March 2013 with women speakers of parliament similarly highlighting VAW as a priority issue at their annual meeting in New York in mid-November.
Kenyan Parliament Commits to Action on Improving Maternal and Child Health
22 NOVEMBER 2013
Maternal and under-5 mortality remain high in Kenya. ©: Reuters/Radu Sigheti
Kenyan MPs have committed to a range of urgent actions aimed at improving reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH) in a country where maternal and infant mortality rates are high. At a meeting in Nairobi on 19 November supported by IPU, parliamentarians agreed on the need to build and enable a protective legislative framework with appropriate financing that addresses this issue effectively and ensures its thorough implementation. Amongst the most urgent actions are working to push the national health budget up to 15 per cent of the State budget, finalizing a bill on maternal health and working towards developing a common legal instrument ensuring universal health care. They also agreed to convene a discussion on the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 2006 and the impact of criminalizing the transmission of HIV on sexual and reproductive rights. MPs identified a series of pressing challenges relating to maternal and child health, including contradictions in legislation, labour-related laws with negative health implications, a lack of clear definition on the sexual and reproductive health rights of women and girls in certain situations as well as inadequate legal planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation. Maternal mortality remains high in Kenya at 360 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, while the under-5 mortality rate was at 73 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to the UN.
Questions Remain on Murder of Russian MP Galina Starovoitova 15 Years On
20 NOVEMBER 2013
Galina Starovoitova, MP and human rights activist, was shot dead in St Petersburg on 20th November 1998
Fifteen years after the assassination of Russian MP and human rights activist Galina Starovoitova, those who masterminded her death are yet to be brought to justice. Starovoitova was shot to death in the lobby of her apartment in St. Petersburg on 20th November 1998. Four men have been serving jail sentences since 2005 as perpetrators and accomplices in the murder with progress on identifying those actually behind the killing remaining slow. However, with the recent indictment of former MP MikhaiI Gluschenko as the man who organized Starovoitova’s murder, IPU trusts the Russian authorities will keep moving forward to finally resolve the case The Organization hopes the proceedings against Gluschenko, a businessman involved in large-scale criminal activities and sentenced in March to eight years in jail for extortion in another and unrelated case, will shed full light on the killing of Starovoitova. Her assassination was “politically motivated”, according to the St. Petersburg City Court that sentenced two men, intelligence officer Yuri Kolchin and Vitali Akishin, to 20 and 23.5 years in prison for pulling the trigger. Two other were found guilty of complicity, while three other suspects remain on the run. The court ascertained the murder had been committed by an organized group with the aim of halting Starovoitova's political activities. Considered as one of the symbols of Perestroika and the democratic movement, Starovoitova was co-chairwoman of the political party “Democratic Russia” and a well-known reformist politician and ethnic minority’s rights activist. She had denounced the existence of high-profile political corruption in St. Petersburg. Shortly before her death, she said that she was aware of the names of local politicians receiving bribes from the mafia and that she knew about the selling of a city council seat to a criminal group. IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, which has been following the case, will resume its examination at its next session on 13-17 January 2014 in Geneva in a bid to push for more information to be brought to light.
UN Stresses MPs’ Critical Role in Development at Annual Parliamentary Hearing
18 NOVEMBER 2013
Jointly organized by UN and IPU, the Annual Parliamentary Hearing held in New York highlighted the crucial role of MPs pushing forward the future development agenda ©IPU/F. Puchol
Parliaments can and should play a central role in shaping and implementing the new development agenda after 2015, when the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire. In a message to MPs attending the joint IPU-UN Annual Parliamentary Hearing in New York on 14-15 November, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said IPU and parliaments were critical in “helping us reach MDG3, including the target to increase the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments. Parliaments can bring the views and aspirations of their citizens into global deliberations. They are uniquely placed to ensure financing for sustainable development efforts.” MPs and IPU are now actively engaged in the UN-coordinated international effort to formulate the development agenda beyond 2015. During the two-day event, MPs underlined the need for a global strategy focused at national and international levels on poverty eradication, gender equality, democratic governance and a stronger legislative role in the global decision making process. With a holistic and integrated approach in mind, MPs supported a new development model grounded in human well-being, and not only on GDP growth. With a strong emphasis on fighting violence against women, they also highlighted the need to consolidate gender equality not only as a new development challenge in itself, but as a dimension underpinning every single goal of a future development agenda.
Women Speakers Put Gender Equality at Heart of Sustainable Development
15 NOVEMBER 2013
Speaker Gabriela Montano (Bolivia) at the 8th IPU Women Speakers of Parliament in New York. ©IPU/F. Puchol
Women Speakers of Parliament have stressed the need to put gender equality at the heart of new development goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015. At the eighth annual gathering of the world’s most senior women parliamentarians, the IPU Women Speakers of Parliament Meeting agreed that not only should there be a stand-alone goal on gender equality in any new development agenda, but that it should be a comprehensive objective underpinning all other spheres including economic growth, environment, employment, health and education. The meeting, which concluded on 13th November, underlined parliament’s active role in the new development challenge if goals were to be effectively implemented. The women Speakers invited MPs to rethink and revisit current economic models and paradigms, forging a new development path centred on human well-being and not just GDP growth. In a dynamic and constructive discussion that would continue into the Annual Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations jointly organized by IPU and the UN, the women Speakers agreed to continue meeting on an annual basis and praised IPU’s collective efforts to organize a forum where women MPs can have a space of their own to exchange experiences and support one another. The 2014 IPU Women Speakers of Parliament meeting is due to be held in Ecuador, which hosted the 128th IPU Assembly in March 2013
Improving Development Assistance to Parliaments
15 NOVEMBER 2013
IPU’s assistance to Myanmar Parliament has been developed together with authorities and other partners, including UN. ©IPU/N. Babic
Work has begun on developing a common set of principles to guide how development aid to national parliaments is provided in a bid to make such assistance more effective and coordinated. More than 30 representatives from parliaments and organizations working in the field agreed on the development of the principles with IPU coordinating the effort. The work is expected to be completed by mid-2014. At a recent meeting at IPU’s headquarters in Geneva, participants from parliaments, UN agencies, training institutes, the Association of Secretaries General of Parliament, donors and others agreed the principles would be available for endorsement by not only those providing assistance, but also donors and parliaments. The meeting also agreed to renew coordination efforts to establish common standards and criteria for democratic parliaments. These would also be endorsable by both relevant organizations, parliaments and others. The Geneva event similarly served as a useful opportunity for participants to provide feedback on IPU’s work on developing indicators to measure how parliaments are delivering on being accessible, accountable, effective, representative and transparent.
New Guidelines to Help Women MPs Caucuses
15 NOVEMBER 2013
New IPU guidelines on setting up a caucus for women MPs or in strengthening an existing one will be officially presented at two events in Washington D. C., USA that will focus on the role and impact of such groups. The “Guidelines for Women’s Caucuses”, provides a rationale for why women’s caucuses are useful as well as practical information on the four necessary steps required in setting up and running one. The guidelines are to be used in conjunction with IPU’s soon-to-be active online database on existing women MPs caucuses, which also gives comparative information on their structure, composition, agenda and rules. More than 80 women MP caucuses have been set up in the past 20 years around the world. In an environment still dominated by men, women MPs, accounting for only 21.4 per cent of all parliamentarians, face particular expectations and challenges in their work. Setting up a caucus is one thing, making it work is another. Women MPs from countries such as Afghanistan, Brazil, Namibia and Finland will share their experiences with other parliamentarians and members of caucuses, including the US Congressional Caucus on Women’s issues on 19th November. A similar event organized with USAID, which supported the development of the guidelines, will be held the day before.
Cote d’Ivoire MPs Create Women’s Caucus
15 NOVEMBER 2013
Ground-breaking move in Côte d’Ivoire as women MPs establish the first ever women’s caucus in parliament. ©IPU/Ivoirian Parliament
Cote d’Ivoire has launched the first-ever Women’s Caucus in the National Assembly, a forum aimed at advancing women’s rights and mainstreaming gender throughout all parliamentary work. Inspired by IPU’s new guidelines on women’s caucuses, the group, representing all political parties, will work to draft new laws on gender equality and to review discriminatory legislation. It will also promote the participation of women in all parliamentary decision-making levels and will be responsible for improving gender-sensitive infrastructure and culture, as well as ensuring that efforts towards gender equality are shared by both male and female parliamentarians. The Women’s Caucus also aims to be at the heart of the national reconciliation process after the post-electoral crisis in 2010 that resulted in a brief but bloody civil war that killed 3,000 people. IPU, which sent a first team of experts to Cote d’Ivoire in June 2013, has already supported similar initiatives in post-conflict countries, including Burundi and Rwanda, where women’s representation in parliament has increased significantly in recent years. However, Cote d’Ivoire currently ranks 114th in IPU’s world ranking of women in parliament. Only 26 out of its 249 members (10.4 per cent) of the National Assembly are women.
West African Parliaments Commit to Breaking Circle of Conflict in Region
15 NOVEMBER 2013
West African MPs agree on their greater involvement in ending conflict in the region. ©IPU/I. Décarroux
West African MPs have committed to increasing parliamentary involvement and action in post-conflict situations in a bid to break the vicious circle of violence and instability that has plagued the region in recent years. At a recent regional conference in Abidjan jointly organized by the Cote d’Ivoire parliament and IPU, MPs from Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Senegal and Togo, the ECOWAS parliament and other participants pointed out recurrent issues such as weak governance, lack of leadership, corruption, poverty, unequal distribution of wealth, illiteracy, exclusion of minorities, and religious and ethnic discrimination as reasons behind the present situation. They called for a prominent legislative role in reconstruction and reconciliation in order to establish lasting peace. Parliaments have to be especially vigilant on areas such as the rule of law and human rights legislation whilst ensuring their own governance, accountability and transparency. MPs also emphasized the need to cut down the circulation of firearms and on the urgency of addressing the situation of hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people in the region.
IPU to Build Legislative Capacity in Burundi to Respond to HIV and AIDS
15 NOVEMBER 2013
MPs to assess access to care and treatment amongst other HIV-related issues in Burundi during a field visit. ©Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi
A field visit and a seminar by IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS in Burundi will help strengthen MPs capacity to address issues linked to the epidemic at national level. Both parliamentarians and parliamentary staff will participate in the seminar on 18-19 November. It is aimed at increasing their understanding of populations most affected by HIV as well as enhancing prevention efforts and access to care for those affected through effective legislative action. Building on IPU’s guide “Raising the Profile on HIV and AIDS in Your Parliament”, MPs will focus on HIV treatment policies, getting to grips with the latest trends in research, intellectual property issues and regulatory frameworks governing the prices of medicines. IPU’s Advisory Group will then carry out a field visit between 20-22 November to examine parliament’s role in addressing the HIV epidemic. Legislation and its enforcement, discrimination, access to treatment, gender-based violence, and the situation of children, in particular orphans, will be some of the issues covered. HIV prevalence in Burundi is estimated at 1.3 per cent of the population aged between 15-49, according to UNAIDS. An assessment report following the field visit will include recommendations on response areas that require strengthening.
Pacific Island Parliaments Outline Regional Efforts for Democratic Development
15 NOVEMBER 2013
Pacific island MPs identify priority issues including gender equality to guide future action. ©IPU/B. Filion
MPs from 13 Pacific Island nations outlined a comprehensive set of issues that needed addressing to support democratic development in the region at a meeting in early November. Organized by IPU and the Australian and Tongan parliaments in Nuku’alofa, MPs highlighted a series of key points concerning their professional development, services for MPs, gender equality in parliament as well as greater regional and international engagement that would guide their future action. Tailoring development programmes to suit specific cultural contexts as well as individual skills needs, establishing codes of conduct to help fulfill MPs responsibilities as elected representatives as well as access to IT and support in ensuring greater channels of communication with constituents were just some of the action points listed in an outcomes statement. With the Pacific region having one of the lowest regional averages of women in parliament, MPs agreed on a wide range of actions that could be taken to tackle domestic violence, increase women’s political representation and citizen engagement in politics as well as to promote gender equality across society. The meeting, supported by IPU, UNDP, AusAID and the Centre for Democratic Institutions also underlined parliament’s importance in responding to a fast-changing regional environment facing pressing issues such as climate change, poor population health and a shortage of workforce skills.
Women Speakers of Parliament Focus on Gender Equality in Sustainable Development
31 October 2013
The annual IPU Women Speakers of Parliament will meet in New York on 12-13 November to mainstream gender equality into the post-2015 development agenda. ©REUTERS/Kim Kyung Hoon
How can women contribute to a new model of sustainable development? Should the demands for equal rights and opportunities go beyond the prevailing growth model? These are some of the questions the annual IPU Women Speakers of Parliament meeting will try to answer in New York on 12-13 November. The aim of the event is to highlight the gender dimension of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the new development framework that is to emerge in 2015 when the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire. This, the 8th such IPU annual meeting, is an opportunity to examine strategies on mainstreaming basic rights for women into all SDGs. Women represent more than half of the world’s population, but remain by far the most disadvantaged group in all spheres of life. In the political sphere, they represent just 21.4 per cent of all parliamentarians in the world, and just 14.7 per cent of all Speakers of parliament. The outcome of the meeting will not only follow the conclusions of IPU’s 128th Assembly in Quito earlier this year, but will also feed into the debate at the annual Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations, jointly organized by IPU and the UN, which takes place immediately after.
Annual Parliamentary Hearing at UN to Push Forward on New Development Goals
31 October 2013
MPs from across the world will focus on ways to transform the global development agenda during the annual Parliamentary Hearing at the UN on 14-15 November. Jointly organized by IPU and the United Nations, the meeting which is expected to bring together more than 100 MPs including Speakers of Parliament, will build on key outcomes of IPU’s 128th Assembly in Quito earlier this year as well as on high level deliberations at the UN. Entitled “Re-thinking sustainable development: the quest for a `transformational’ global agenda in 2015”, the meeting, which immediately follows IPU’s Women Speakers of Parliament annual gathering, will focus on the need for new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be anchored in an economic model grounded in human well-being as the real purpose of sustainable development.
MPs Discuss Leveraging Private Resources for Development
31 October 2013
Lack of standarized labour laws is behind tragedies like the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, that killed nearly 500 textile workers. ©REUTERS/Andrew Biraj
Ahead of the meeting in New York, the UN Development Cooperation Forum organized last week (24-25 October) in Montreux, Switzerland, a High Level Symposium on the reconfiguration of development cooperation in the post-2015 era, with the participation of IPU and a group of MPs from both developed and developing countries. A key question in the discussion was how development cooperation can help leverage the additional domestic and international resources needed to achieve poverty eradication and sustainable development for all. MPs stressed the need to agree on rules for the private sector, in particular for transnational corporations, to operate in a pro-development way - for example, by paying a fair share of taxes to the host country or by agreeing to standard-raising environmental and labor laws. Private flows must also be carefully aligned with the national development plan, but more importantly, MPs said, public aid investment should focus on governance institutions to help generate more resources from the private sector. MPs noted parliaments are by far the most important accountability mechanism to ensure that both public and private development flows are geared to development results – yet they are at the lowest end of public support for capacity building.
Pacific Parliaments Aim to Enhance their Role on Regional and Gender Issues
31 October 2013
Parliament of Tonga ©Parliament of Tonga
MPs from Pacific nations will be looking at how they can represent their constituents more effectively and how to play a greater role in solving key regional issues when they meet during the annual IPU regional gathering in early November. This includes issues such as the management and protection of oceans. Hosted by the Tongan parliament and supported by its Australian counterpart and IPU, the meeting will bring together MPs from two thirds of Pacific islands parliaments and New Zealand for the fourth time since 2010. The two-day meeting on 7-8 November will also examine the specific services MPs in the Pacific region need to carry out their work. With some of the lowest figures on women’s representation in parliament, the event will also be an opportunity to look at issues such as gender equality legislation in the Pacific and strategies to make parliament a more positive workplace.
Kenyan MPs Strengthen Knowledge to Advance Maternal and Child Health
31 October 2013
Kenyan MPs will have an opportunity to strengthen their knowledge on maternal, newborn and child health through an IPU and Kenyan Parliament training on the issue. Building on the just released IPU Handbook for Parliamentarians on Sustaining Parliamentary Action to Improve Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, the training on 8th November in Nairobi will provide practical information to help MPs better understand maternal and child health issues and how to deal with them effectively through legislation, its oversight and budget allocations. The training, which has also been carried out by IPU in the Ugandan parliament and the East African Legislative Assembly, is another IPU step in supporting its members to implement the landmark resolution on access to health for women and children at the 126th IPU Assembly in Kampala in 2012.
Treaty of Tlatelolco Wins Future Policy Award on Disarmament
31 October 2013
The “Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean” (Treaty of Tlatelolco) won the 2013 Future Policy Award for sustainable disarmament, beating 24 other nominated policies to the prize. The Gold Award, presented by the World Future Council, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and IPU at a ceremony at the UN headquarters in New York, was given for the 1967 Treaty’s invaluable contribution to advancing regional peace and security as well as creating a precedent and inspiration for subsequent Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones (NWFZ). The nuclear arms race and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis had prompted Latin American governments to begin a process which would ensure that the region would never again become the scene of a nuclear conflict. These efforts culminated in the Treaty which established the first NWFZ in a highly populated area. Silver awards were granted to Argentina’s “National Programme for the Voluntary Surrender of Firearms” and New Zealand’s “Nuclear Free Zone, Arms Control, And Disarmament Act” whilst four additional disarmament policies from Belgium, Costa Rica, Mongolia and Mozambique/South Africa were recognised as Honourable Mentions.The Future Policy Award is unique in that it celebrates policies rather than people on an international level.
Latin American Parliaments Work to Improve Use of Social Media
31 October 2013
Latin American MPs met in Montevideo to find the best way to use social media in enhancing citizen participation in parliament’s legislative work. ©Parliament of Uruguay
Latin American MPs meeting in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo in late October, identified the benefits of having a clear plan of action on ICT strategic planning and the use of social media in their work. The regional gathering was aimed at finding the best strategic approach to social media in enhancing citizen participation in parliament’s legislative work and to optimize the institution’s internal processes. ICT strategic planning and budgeting remains a big challenge for parliaments of Latin America with only 32 per cent of them having a written statement for ICT and 40 percent having a general strategic plan. However, 85 per cent of parliaments in the region are using some form of social media to communicate with citizens, exploring at the same time how to use them effectively. A resource to inform some of their discussions included IPU’s Social Media Guidelines for Parliaments which draw on lessons learned by parliaments to make more efficient use of social media in their work.
Parliaments’ Pivotal Role in Conflict Prevention and Management in West Africa
21 October 2013
Post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire in 2010/2011 led to many being killed and displaced. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
A conference jointly organized by the Côte d’Ivoire parliament and IPU will help build and strengthen the ability of parliaments in West Africa to prevent and manage conflict in a region where armed conflict and socio-political instability is all too recurrent. Although various regional initiatives aimed at preventing conflict, and supporting peace and reconstruction in the region have been taken, crises persist within the ECOWAS area, necessitating a rethink of strategies. Given parliament’s pivotal role in ensuring effective and lasting solutions to conflict prevention and management, the conference on 28-30 October will, as a first measure, raise awareness among parliaments in the area on regional and international mechanisms for conflict prevention and management and on strengthening the rule of law. It will also provide an opportunity to strengthen MPs’ role in implementing UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 on women, peace and security and ensure women’s involvement on the issue. In addition to drawing up guidelines on how MPs can be more involved on conflict prevention and resolution, the conference will lead to the drawing up of a regional roadmap on national parliamentary initiatives, particularly national action plans on implementing the two UN Security Council resolutions. As well as MPs from ECOWAS countries, the ECOWAS parliament, the Parliament of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and the African Parliamentary Union (APU), participants will include representatives from the ECOWAS Commission, civil society and international organizations.
Protecting Freedom of Expression a Priority in Face of Rapid Technological Change
9 October 2013
© IPU/Giancarlo Fortunato
In the wake of global technological change, the international community has to prioritize action to protect basic human rights, particularly that of freedom of expression. In a resolution adopted in the case of Icelandic MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir, IPU members have underlined freedom of expression as being core to the work of any MP and to democracy. Jónsdóttir’s involvement in the production of a video released by Wikileaks led to the invasion of her digital privacy by US authorities and to legal proceedings in a US court which she subsequently lost. The IPU resolution expressed deep concern that the national and international legal framework concerning the use of electronic media, including social media, does not provide sufficient guarantees to ensure respect for freedom of expression, access to information and the right to privacy. It was also concerned that the parliamentary immunity Jónsdóttir enjoyed under Icelandic law was not applied, rendering void the ability of States to protect their parliamentarians when using social media to disclose information. The wider ramifications of this case need further global attention and action if fundamental challenges to human rights and democracy are to be addressed. The resolution was among a series of outcomes involving the human rights violations of 148 MPs in 17 countries from each region of the world adopted at the conclusion of IPU’s 129th Assembly in Geneva.
IPU Deplores Eritrean Government’s Contempt for the Fate of the G-11
9 October 2013
© IPU/Giancarlo Fortunato
IPU has deplored the Eritrean authorities’ contempt for the fate of the 11 Eritrean MPs detained without charges in September 2001 and never been seen since. Known as the G-11, they were arrested on unfounded allegations of conspiracy and attempting to overthrow the government after writing an open letter calling for democratic reform. The G-11 have been held incommunicado since then and their fate has been unknown in a country heavily criticized for its human rights. IPU is appalled by the continued silence of the Eritrean government which has refused to provide information to the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians. The Organization is deeply concerned over allegations that only two of the 11 MPs may still be alive. In an emotional address before the Assembly, Tsedal Yohannes, sister-in-law of one of the 11 MPs, Petros Solomon, urged the international community to put pressure on Eritrea to release the MPs and to no longer remain silent in the face of such violations.
IPU Condemns Cowardly and Reprehensible Terrorist Attack in Nairobi
9 October 2013
An injured woman is helped out of the Westgate Shopping Centre, in Nairobi, where terrorists killed 67 people and injured up to 200 others on 21 September. ©REUTERS/Siegfried Modola
MPs from 132 countries participating at the 129th IPU Assembly have condemned the recent terrorist act in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, which claimed the lives of 67 people and left 175 injured. In a statement on behalf of the membership, IPU President Abdelwahad Radi condemned terrorism in all its forms and expressed outrage “at such cowardly and reprehensible acts, which cannot be justified on any political, religious or ideological grounds.” Radi appealed to national parliaments to ensure that counter-terrorism laws are in place and enforced, and urged against impunity for perpetrators as it would only “beget further acts of terrorism.” The statement also expressed concern at the rise in terrorist acts that have plagued Kenya and East Africa and which continue to threaten the lives of innocent civilians.
Peace and Human Rights Take Centre Stage at 129th IPU Assembly
30 September 2013
IPU’s Assembly will examine parliament’s role in eliminating weapons of mass destruction. ©REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
A jam-packed agenda at the 129th IPU Assembly in Geneva on 7-9 October will cover issues predominantly relating to peace and human rights around the world. Nearly 1,200 MPs, parliamentary staff, diplomats and representatives from international organizations from 125 countries will be attending the Assembly to tackle issues such as parliament’s role in making the world nuclear-weapon free and in implementing UN Security Council resolution 1540 on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Assembly’s strong human rights focus includes how parliaments can better protect children's rights, including migrant children as well as those of vulnerable groups such as indigenous peoples and the disabled. Issues concerning internally displaced people will also be examined, whilst keynote speaker UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres will address the IPU membership on displacement crises. Human rights priorities and parliament’s role in upholding these rights will be highlighted by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay’s address to the IPU Assembly. Meanwhile, IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians will carry out more than 10 hearings with countries and individuals on specific cases it is following with the IPU Council adopting a number of resolutions on the final Assembly day. Other issues include ways to make global development more risk resilient and political party control over MPs. Proposals so far for an emergency debate which would result in the adoption of a resolution include: Israeli settlements in Palestine hindering Middle East peace, IPU action to safeguard democracy in Haiti, the role of parliaments in addressing the deliberate destruction of the world’s cultural heritage and cyber warfare as a threat to global peace and security. As at recent Assemblies, there will be a Twitter event. Using #IPU129 you can follow and contribute to the discussions at the 129th Assembly. Plenary sessions of the Assembly will be webcast live on www.ipu.org Photos from the event will be hosted and downloadable for free use on www.ipu.org/129pics from 7th October.
Investigations into Mongolian MP Murder Fruitless 15 Years On
30 September 2013
Mongolian MP Zorig Sanjasuuren was brutally assassinated 15 years ago. ©IPU
IPU is urging Mongolian authorities to resolve the brutal assassination of Mongolian MP Zorig Sanjasuuren on the 15th anniversary of his death. Zorig was murdered late evening on 2 October 1998 as he returned home. Two attackers entered his apartment in the centre of Ulaanbaatar and tied up his companion in the bathroom. They waited for Zorig to come home and then repeatedly stabbed him to death. Regarded by many as the father of the democratic movement in Mongolia in the 1990s, Zorig, an MP and acting Minister of Infrastructure, had a reputation as an honest man with no business interests. IPU sources fear that as an outspoken politician, Zorig’s assassination may have been politically motivated. At the time of Zorig’s murder, Mongolia was enduring a period of political upheaval after the breakdown of the coalition government and negotiations were in place to select the next prime minister. There are conflicting reports that Zorig was being considered as a candidate for prime minister and even had a meeting with the country’s president about it on the day he was killed. Since a parliamentary report in July 2000 severely criticised the initial investigation into the murder, the Mongolian authorities have pursued their inquiries, which included seeking forensic assistance from abroad. However, no progress appears to have been made. IPU deeply regrets that 15 years on no light has been shed on those responsible for the crime and calls on Mongolian authorities to conduct inquiries with due thoroughness and diligence.
IPU Renews Calls for Democratic Governance Goal in Post-2015 Development Agenda
27 September 2013
MDGS: The United Nations is reviewing the progress of the Millennium Development Goals. ©UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
IPU has reiterated the need for a specific goal on democratic governance to be included in any post-2015 development agenda at a UN General Assembly special event on achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Whilst welcoming the inclusion of democratic governance as something to be promoted in an outcome declaration by Heads of State attending the event, IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson urged States to be more ambitious. “To simply talk about governance as we did in the Millennium Declaration, as an enabler of development, while leaving it out of the MDGs will not do this time. Democratic governance ought to be a stand-alone goal with clear thematic targets and indicators to assess progress.” A clear commitment from all countries in the world was needed because democratic governance was an issue affecting them all, he added. The recognition of parliaments as a key stakeholder in defining and implementing the development agenda post-MDGs in the declaration was also welcomed by IPU, which believes parliament’s role in defining and overseeing national plans, approving budgets and adopting legislation is crucial to the success of future goals. However, adequate financing of the new sustainable development goals was also critical. Although the private sector will need to play a greater role in financing development, IPU is urging governments to reverse the current downward trend in the provision of overseas development aid which will be essential in helping developing countries.
Fate of 11 Eritrean MPs Still Major Concern 12 Years After Disappearance
18 September 2013
Aster Fissehatsion is the only woman out of the 11 detained MPs
IPU continues to demand information on the fate of 11 Eritrean MPs who were arrested 12 years ago and have never been seen since. The MPs have had no contact whatsoever with the outside world, including their families and lawyers, since they were detained on 18 September 2001. They were arrested on unfounded allegations of conspiracy and attempting to overthrow the government after writing an open letter criticising the Eritrean President, Isaias Afwerki, and calling for “peaceful and democratic dialogue and the rule of law”. The MPs, ten men and one woman, included the country’s Labour Minister Mahmoud Ahmed Sherifo; two former foreign ministers, Halle Woldetensae and Petros Solomon; and the former army chief, Ogbe Abraha. None of the MPs has ever been formally charged or brought to trial - a flagrant breach of the Eritrean Constitution as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. IPU believes the prolonged detention of the MPs without charge flies in the face of justice and human dignity. Despite persistent requests by IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, the Eritrean government has refused to provide information about any of the detained MPs or their future, and there are serious concerns for their health. In 2010, unconfirmed and unofficial reports from a former prison guard who had fled Eritrea, stated that nine of the 11 MPs had died, chiefly due to inhumane prison conditions and lack of medical attention. Prisoners in Eritrea are often held in underground cells or shipping containers which are unbearably hot by day and freezing at night. Since independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Eritrea has been led by President Afwerki under the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). There have been no other parties or elections to the National Assembly.
China to Expand Collaboration with IPU
13 September 2013
China’s Speaker, Zhang Dejiang (second from the right) held talks with President Radi in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. ©IPU
China is committed to further cooperation with IPU, Speaker of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Zhang Dejiang told IPU President Abdelwahad Radi during his official visit to China in early September. Zhang also confirmed that he would attend IPU’s World Speakers Conference in 2015 and engage in preparations for the event. The IPU President was a guest of the Speaker on a highly productive, week-long official visit to China, which included meetings with the Deputy Speaker, members of the NPC and prominent legislators from the Shanxi and Guandong provinces. Recognizing IPU as an important platform to promote dialogue and cooperation amongst world parliaments, Zhang said the NPC would spare no effort in supporting the Organization's work as a means to support global peace and development. President Radi welcomed the statement. “China plays a key role on the global stage and a commitment to a new level of engagement with IPU and its work would have a major impact on efforts to resolve conflicts and build peace in the world. We look forward to Mr. Zhang’s presence at the World Speakers’ Conference in 2015.”
Unanswered Questions on Kurdish MP Assassination 20 Years On
4 September 2013
IPU is calling for further investigations into the murder of Turkish MP Mehmet Sinçar
Twenty years after the assassination of Turkish MP Mehmet Sinçar, IPU is renewing its calls on authorities for a full investigation into who
planned his murder. Sinçar was shot at close range by a group of masked men in Batman in south-east Turkey on 4th September 1993. He had gone to
attend the funeral of fellow Kurdish MP Habib Kiliç, also a member of the pro-Kurdish Democracy Party (DEP) murdered four days previously. As a member
of parliament’s Human Rights Commission, Sinçar was also on a fact-finding mission on the assassination of more than 50 members of the DEP and its predecessor,
the People's Labour Party.
He was among many Kurdish politicians from south-eastern Turkey who had received death threats against a background of intimidation, killings and
“disappearances” which coincided with a counter insurgency by government troops against Kurdish rebels in the early 1990s.
Turkey is home to around 14 million Kurds, who represent about 18 per cent of the population. Tens of thousands of people have died in the country as a
result of a three decade conflict with Kurdish militants fighting for independence.
In March 2010, two men were found guilty of a catalogue of murders in the Anatolia region of Turkey during the 1990s, including that of Sinçar. However,
Sinçar’s family have appealed against the verdict for failing to identify the people behind his murder or to determine the motive. Since Sinçar’s
assassination, IPU has continuously called on Turkish authorities to bring his murderers to justice and has supported his family’s appeal procedure against
In March 2012, new evidence came to light in the Susurluk Report compiled by a Turkish Government Chief Inspector. It identified individuals from the
Turkish Intelligence Service who had planned and executed Sinçar’s murder, one of whom said that he had a signed document authorizing him to commit the
crime. As the appeal process continues, IPU is reiterating its calls for authorities to ensure all those accountable for the murder are brought to justice.
China and IPU to Discuss Ways to Strengthen Relations
30 August 2013
Speaker Zhang Dejiang has invited IPU President Abdelwahad Radi on an official visit to China. © Office of the Prime Minister of Greece
IPU President Abdelwahad Radi will be discussing how the Organization can strengthen its relations with China and better integrate the Chinese Parliament
into IPU’s work during a week-long official visit to the Asian country. The visit from 1-7 September follows an invitation from the Speaker of the National
People’s Congress Zhang Dejiang, elected to the position during the renewal of the Chinese parliament in March 2013. The two men will hold talks during
President Radi’s stay. China, which has the largest parliament in the world, has been a member of IPU since 1984.
Parliaments Preparing for International Day of Democracy
30 August 2013
Parliaments are gearing up for this year’s International Day of Democracy. © IPU
Parliaments from across the world are planning activities to mark the sixth International Day of Democracy (IDD) on 15 September 2013. This year’s theme
“Strengthening Voices for Democracy” aims to promote freedom of expression and encourage people from all sectors of society to get involved in politics.
Over 90 parliaments have participated in this global event since it was proclaimed through a United Nations General Assembly resolution in 2007.
Activities include a week-long celebration of the IDD around the country by Sierra Leone’s National Commission for Democracy, which is also planning to
award institutions that stand-out in championing citizens’ views and opinions. In Uruguay, a parliamentary meeting on “Democracy and Participation”, will
focus on the political participation of women and young people, whilst Zambian students, school children and civil society groups will be given the chance
to talk to senior parliamentarians on radio shows aired across the country. In Australia and Germany, focus will be on campaigns aimed at inspiring people,
particularly the youth, to engage with democracy. Meanwhile, a debate between MPs, diplomats, academics and civil society on democratic values and human
rights is being organized by the Arab Parliament.
An IPU contest inviting people around the world to share their stories on how they are making their voices heard is also being held to mark IDD. The
winning entries will receive an Amazon Kindle loaded with e-books about democracy. For more details on the competition and other information on how to take
part in the International Day of Democracy, go to www.ipu.org/idd. Alternatively, find out more on social media, with
the twitter hashtag #DemocracyDay and the Facebook page www.facebook.com/internationaldayofdemocracy.
IPU to Support Bolivia and Peru in Modernizing Parliament
30 August 2013
Both Bolivia and Peru have a high indigenous population. © Wikimedia Commons/Tabea Huth
Bolivia and Peru are looking to IPU support on modernizing their parliaments following visits to the two countries by IPU Secretary General Anders B.
Johnsson in August. Although both parliaments have specific challenges to address, Bolivia is also contending with the implementation of a new constitution
which has implications for its legislative body. The IPU Secretary General’s visit to both countries was primarily aimed at strengthening ties between
these countries and IPU. Indigenous representation, an issue on which both countries have valuable experience and insight, was also a major feature of
discussions. As a result, plans were drawn up on a parliamentary conference on indigenous issues next year in Bolivia during meetings with Bolivian
President Evo Morales and the Speakers of both the Bolivian and Peruvian parliaments. The event would take place ahead of the World Conference on
Indigenous Peoples in September 2014.
Advocating Better Budgets for Women’s and Children’s health in Africa
30 August 2013
Kenyan Speaker, Ekwee Ethuro, welcomed over 50 participants to the regional workshop. © Family Care International - Kenya
MPs, civic groups and the media have been learning how to better influence government budgets to improve women’s and children’s health at a regional meet
in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. The four-day programme concluding 30 August was organized by IPU and The Partnership for Maternal, New-born and Child
Health (PMNCH). Representing IPU, Kenyan Speaker of Parliament Ekwee Ethuro welcomed over 50 participants from Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and
Uganda. The workshop is part of IPU’s programme of work to implement the landmark resolution adopted in April 2012 calling on parliaments to secure women’s
and children’s health as a basic right. Recognizing that a well-allocated budget is one of the most important ways parliaments can implement effective
policies, participants have been gaining skills in analysing national budgets for maternal, new-born and child health, as well as expenditure tracking,
costing budget plans and developing a strong advocacy strategy to affect policy change. Continuing its work in Kenya on the issue, IPU is also set to
provide an induction to the new parliament on women’s and children’s health.
Strengthening Ties with Bolivia and Peru
18 August 2013
IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson © IPU
IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson will be meeting leaders and parliamentary officials in Bolivia and Peru during a visit to the region on 19-24
August aimed at strengthening the two countries’ ties with IPU. In Bolivia, which marks the start of his visit, Johnsson will hold talks with President
Morales and the Speakers of both houses of parliament. In addition to discussing what support IPU can provide to the Bolivian parliament and ways to
increase Bolivia’s participation in IPU activities, the Secretary General will also look at how indigenous people participate in the country’s parliament.
The Organization is mapping their political representation in parliaments around the world ahead of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in September
2014. This issue will similarly feature during talks in Peru where the IPU Secretary General will similarly meet high-level officials. Making continued
progress on promoting the representation and participation of indigenous people in parliament, Peru like Bolivia, has valuable insights to make on the
subject. Johnsson will also offer IPU support in helping the Peruvian parliament carry out self-assessments on its gender-sensitivity and on the overall
running of parliament to enhance its effectiveness.
African and Asian MPs Commit to Greater Action on Maternal and Child Health
14 August 2013
MPs from nine countries will meet to improve maternal and child health © Wikimedia Commons/Tanvirul Islam
MPs from Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe have urged greater budgets be allocated to maternal and child health as part of a call for
their parliaments to be given more fiscal space on addressing the issue. About 30 MPs and parliamentary staff had attended an IPU-Bangladesh Parliament and
World Health Organization organized seminar in Dhaka at the end of July on making parliaments more accountable for women and children’s health. They
committed to being more proactive on the issue through advocacy and practical action. This included legislation ending harmful practices such as early
marriage and denial of sexual and reproductive health services, advocating for particularly vulnerable groups and representing the concerns of their
constituents more effectively. The MPs come from some of the countries with the highest maternal and child mortality rates in the world. Across the world
three women die every five minutes due to complications in pregnancy or childbirth. In the same time period, 70 children die, nearly 30 of them in the
first month of life. Almost all of these deaths can be prevented. At IPU’s 126th Assembly in Kampala in 2012, parliaments adopted a resolution to improve the well-being of women and children. The seminar is among the many follow-up
actions to support parliaments in achieving this.
IPU Trial Observation of Malaysian Opposition Leaders Underway
19 July 2013
IPU is monitoring the trial of Malaysian MP, Anwar Ibrahim © IPU
An IPU legal expert is observing trial and appeal proceedings for opposition leaders Karpal Singh and Anwar Ibrahim, accused of sedition and sodomy respectively.
The cases of both politicians are being followed by IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians which works to defend and promote the rights of MPs.
Singh, the Chairman of the Democratic Action Party and an MP, was charged under the Sedition Act for allegedly uttering seditious words against a Malaysian Sultan in 2009. His case was dismissed by the High Court, a decision that was reversed by the Malaysian Court of Appeal.
The sedition trial against Karpal Singh, which began in 2012, has resumed for two days, 18-19th July.
Malaysian MP Anwar Ibrahim has already been acquitted once on charges of sodomy and is, on 22nd July, defending an appeal lodged by the Attorney General for him to be charged for a second time on the issue.
The IPU Human Rights Committee has repeatedly expressed concern over the series of charges brought against Anwar Ibrahim over the years and considers it would be in the public interest to discontinue Singh’s prosecution.
Appeal for Humanitarian Assistance to Syrian Refugees
12 July 2013
Food supplies being distributed at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan © IPU
As humanitarian agencies struggle to support growing numbers of people fleeing the war in Syria, IPU is calling on Members to urgently use their
parliamentary powers to back fundraising efforts for Syrian refugees and the countries hosting them. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warns it
is rapidly running out of money to provide food for Syrian refugees, saying it needs US$ 26 million every week to support its operations inside and outside
Syria. The IPU appeal follows a mission last month to Jordan by IPU’s Committee to Promote Respect for International Humanitarian Law to examine first-hand
the situation of Syrian refugees in the country. Over 1.6 million Syrians, more than half of whom are children, have sought shelter and protection in
neighbouring countries. In visiting Syrian refugees in camps and urban areas in Jordan, members of the mission witnessed Jordan’s generosity in hosting the
refugees as well as the tremendous strain placed on the country, whose population has swelled by 6 per cent as a result of the influx. IPU is urging
parliaments to discuss and secure a financial contribution from governments to the United Nation’s 2.9 billion dollar Regional Response Plan (RRP5) to cover the needs of almost 3.5 million Syrian refugees expected by the end of
2013 and give badly-needed aid to the countries taking them in.
Pardon for Exiled Cambodian Opposition Leader Welcomed by IPU
12 July 2013
Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy has received a royal pardon. © Reuters
IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians has commended the royal pardon of Cambodian opposition leader, Sam Rainsy. The self-exiled
politician, who has been living in France, was sentenced in absentia to 12 years in prison on charges which were widely considered to be politically
motivated. He faced immediate arrest upon setting foot back in Cambodia after announcing in June that he would return home ahead of elections on 28 July.
IPU wrote to Cambodian authorities calling for a political solution which would allow Rainsy to return to the country to contribute to the political
process as a free man. “IPU greatly welcomes the royal pardon for Sam Rainsy,” said IPU’s Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson. “We hope that this will be
the first step in the national reconciliation process which will need to continue beyond Cambodian elections at the end of July.” Rainsy has been stripped
of his parliamentary seat and is banned from running for office.
Pakistan Parliament in Line for Third Phase of Technical Assistance
11 July 2013
Pakistan elections in May 2013 led to an historic transition of power. © REUTERS
IPU will be joining a UNDP-led mission to determine priorities for the next phase of parliamentary assistance to the parliament of Pakistan. In May 2013, general elections in Pakistan marked the first time since independence that a civilian government served its full term and was then succeeded by another democratically-elected civilian government. UNDP’s “Strengthening Democracy through Parliamentary Development” programme has been successfully providing technical support to the Pakistan Parliament for the past eight years. Now a team of experts will carry out a three-week project formulation mission to identify areas for further assistance, both at the federal level and in the four newly devolved provincial assemblies. IPU, in particular, will be designing project activities to improve information management systems, enhance parliamentary oversight of the budget process and boost the ability of parliamentary Committees to draft and implement legislation. The mission, running from 14 to 27 July, will develop a plan for parliamentary aid to cover the next four to five years.
Parliaments Best Able to Monitor Post-2015 Development Goals
5 July 2013
Belgian MP and IPU representative, Francois-Xavier De Donnea, at the ECOSOC meeting in Geneva. ©IPU
Parliaments are best placed to monitor the implementation of the post-2015 development commitments, said Francois-Xavier De Donnea, a panellist at a High Level meeting of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Geneva this week. Speaking on behalf of IPU, Belgian MP and Minister De Donnea said that whatever the Post-2015 development goals may be, parliaments play a pivotal role in holding governments to account and ensuring international commitments are carried out at national and regional level. The panel discussion, concerning ECOSOC’s contribution to the Post-2015 objectives, included participation by key figures involved in planning the United Nations Post-2105 agenda including Wu Hongbo, ECOSOC’s Under-Secretary General, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark and Amina Mohammed, Special Adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. De Donnea said failure in good governance is the biggest challenge to achieving development goals. He added that strong and efficient parliaments, which give a voice to the poorest and most marginal people in society, are the cornerstones of good governance. He said that work to strengthen national and regional parliaments must therefore be continued and built upon. In reference to IPU’s Quito Communiqué from the 128th Assembly in March this year, De Donnea called for democratic governance to be included as a stand-alone development goal and not just be mainstreamed into the next set of development goals. He also stressed that ECOSOC should further consult with parliaments through IPU to help fulfil development objectives.
IPU Strengthens South Sudanese Parliament’s Involvement in International Affairs
28 June 2013
IPU is helping MPs in South Sudan – the world’s youngest country. ©Reuters
IPU experts are to help strengthen the ability of South Sudanese MPs to better engage on foreign affairs issues. The two-day training in the capital, Juba, from 28-29 June, is at the request of the South Sudanese Parliament. As the world’s youngest country, gaining independence two years ago, South Sudanese politicians have limited experience of parliamentary oversight of government’s foreign policy. Participants will learn the importance of parliamentary involvement in international relations and how to follow up on international agreements. Parliamentary diplomacy and how it can be used to promote South Sudan’s interests will also be tackled. As well as an overview of the work of the Ministry of Foreign affairs, the MPs will analyse the implementation and impact of South Sudanese foreign policy. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011 following a 2005 peace deal which ended decades of civil conflict.
Malian MPs Work to Protect Women and Children from Violence
14 June 2013
Thousands of women and children in Mali have been displaced due to civil conflict © Wikimedia Commons/Derek Markwell/DFID
MPs in Mali are strengthening their efforts to tackle violence against women and children in conflict and post-conflict situations with support from IPU. Women and children have been the principal victims of atrocities after armed groups took control of the north of the country at the beginning of 2012. Nearly half a million people have been displaced as a result of the fighting which has led to women and girls as young as 13 turning to sex for survival, according to recent reports by NGOs. The conflict has seen unprecedented cases of rape, sexual slavery, under-age and forced marriages and children being forced into combat. Alarmed by both the increase and normalization of violence against women and children, the Malian parliament has asked IPU for guidance on how it can play a key role in conflict resolution, peace building and in ensuring effective implementation of international humanitarian laws and UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 on Women, Peace and Security. A two-day workshop on 18-19 June in Bamako will also look at ways to involve women in the reconstruction and reconciliation process in the country.
Mission to Côte d’Ivoire Aims to Enhance Peace and Reconciliation Efforts
14 June 2013
The United Nations is helping to maintain stability in Côte d’Ivoire. © UN Photo/Patricia Esteve
A three-day mission to Côte d’Ivoire by MPs on IPU’s Committee on United Nations Affairs will look at how to promote peace-building in the country. The mission on 17-19 June, which includes five MPs from Europe, Africa and South America and IPU staff, will examine how the Ivorian parliament can work more closely with UN as a whole to enhance the reconciliation process and secure a lasting peace in a country hit by political turmoil and conflict since 1999. Violence after an electoral crisis in 2010 led to the deaths of about 3,000 people, mainly civilians. The country is facing on-going human rights and security challenges including sexual and gender-based violence and the disarmament, demobilization, disarmament of former rebels. The IPU mission will build on the outcome of a joint UN-IPU Parliamentary Hearing in 2012 and will include meetings with the UN in Côte d’Ivoire as well as with the parliamentary leadership and government officials. Findings will be presented to the IPU Committee during the 129th IPU Assembly in Geneva in October.
Audit of Ivorian Parliament to Help Modernize
14 June 2013
IPU is helping to modernise Secretariat services in the Ivorian parliament © IPU
IPU experts will look at ways of modernizing services and improving processes in the parliament of Côte d’Ivoire in a ten-day audit of the Secretariat. The assessment, running from 17-26 June, is part of a continued programme of IPU support to the West African nation. In December 2011, Côte d’Ivoire held its first legislative elections in more than a decade when 90 per cent of MPs were elected to parliament for the first time. Results of the audit will be used to propose new structures and procedures to effectively update parliamentary services and highlight the training needs of Secretariat staff in order to provide better support to MPs.
IPU Supports Disarmament Award
14 June 2013
Logo © World Future Council
IPU is backing a global prize for disarmament policies. The Future Policy Award 2013, organised in partnership with the World Future Council and the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), seeks to highlight disarmament policies that contribute to the achievement of peace, sustainable development and human security. Nominations consisting of 25 eligible policies reflect a geo-political spread of approaches to disarmament including initiatives to tackle the problem of small arms and light weapons as well as weapons of mass destruction. The award is the first to celebrate policies rather than people on an international level. The winning policies decided upon by a jury of notable experts will be announced at a ceremony on 23 October 2013 at the UN Headquarters in New York, on the eve of UN Disarmament Week, 24 – 30 October 2013.
IPU Pushes for Progress on MPs Human Rights Cases in Burundi
13 June 2013
IPU plans to visit former Burundian MP Hussein Radjabu in prison ©www.burunditransparence.org
IPU is pushing for progress on resolving alleged human rights cases of 20 MPs and former MPs in Burundi with the president of its Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians and Malian MP, Kassoum Tapo, leading a second mission to the country in two years. As part of the mission on 17-20 June, Tapo and IPU staff will examine the judicial proceedings against four former MPs, including Gérard Nkurunziza, who has been in pre-trial detention for almost five years, and Hussein Radjabu, a senior politician who was sentenced to 13 years in prison for subversion in a judicial process characterized by serious irregularities. Tapo will explore possibilities for Radjabu’s release or retrial and aims to visit both Radjabu and Nkurunziza in detention. IPU is also calling for effective investigations into the assassinations and attempted assassinations of eight MPs in the 1990s, as well as grenade attacks on a further eight members of the previous parliament in 2007 and 2008 - all of which remain unpunished. The mission will seek to verify whether the current draft bill of a long-awaited Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) would give jurisdiction to the TRC to conduct independent inquiries into these cases.
Accountability Key to Success of Post-2015 Development Agenda, MPs Say
13 June 2013
MPs at a high-level meeting in Addis Ababa said UN development goals must be anchored at national level ©Flickr/Filippo Jean
MPs at a high-level meeting in Addis Ababa on how a new post-2015 global partnership can work more effectively for development have argued that it has to be anchored at the country level where accountability mechanisms can be more easily strengthened. These include enforceable legislation and other regulatory measures. Weak accountability mechanisms and the voluntary nature of agreed development commitments since 2000 have significantly contributed to the relative failure of a dispersed global partnership for development to deliver. MPs also argued that mandatory rules and standards combined with sanctions need to be put in place worldwide for the private sector, increasingly considered more important to development than traditional aid. Corporate actors have to be accountable to the communities they affect, and not just to shareholders, MPs said. The meeting, organized by the UN Development Cooperation Forum and the Ethiopian government will directly contribute to on-going deliberations at inter-governmental level to define a development agenda post-2015 when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire. IPU is advocating for the inclusion of a stand-alone goal on democratic governance among future development goals, with parliaments at the heart of monitoring and accountability efforts.
Effective Legislation Essential to Ending Child Labour
10 June 2013
Parliaments need to do more to enact legislation against child labour, says IPU © Wikimedia Commons/Shanjoy
Greater efforts are needed to implement existing legislation and norms on child labour at national levels if the practice is to end, said IPU on World Day Against Child Labour on 12th June. Calling on parliaments and MPs, to be more involved on the issue, IPU argues that any strategy to end child labour and child trafficking has to include all actors, including the authorities, parliament, civil society, private sector, the public and the international community. The Organization has highlighted the need for agreements such as the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) 138 and 182 conventions on the minimum age and on the worst forms of child labour to be integrated into national legislation. More could also be achieved by putting in place coherent regional legislative responses to child labour and trafficking and ensuring their implementation. In West Africa, where countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Togo are taking national action, IPU has been working with the ECOWAS parliament on taking a more regional approach. A joint statement in 2012 included the proposition to work on a regional law to end child labour and trafficking.
Putting Gender Equality at the Heart of African Parliaments
10 June 2013
IPU is to help promote gender-equality in French-speaking African parliaments. ©IPU
MPs and parliamentary staff from across the francophone countries in Africa are meeting this month in Gabon to examine what parliaments can do to better meet the needs of both men and women working there. At a three-day event organized by IPU and the Gabonese parliament in Libreville from 13-15 June, participants will look at how to effectively promote equal opportunities for men and women in their parliaments by examining how to integrate gender equality in all areas of parliament such as its composition, legal framework, working methods, culture and infrastructure. MPs will share their own experiences of working in parliament and determine what they can do to ensure parliament is a gender sensitive institution. The Gabon meeting is the first in a series of similar regional events to help national parliaments put gender equality objectives and values into place. Serbia will host MPs from western parliaments in September whilst representatives from the Pacific region will gather in Tonga before the end of 2013. The meetings are aimed at helping parliaments implement a plan of action adopted at the 127th IPU Assembly on making them gender-sensitive institutions.
IPU Condolences for Sri Lankan MP Ahead of Human Rights Mission
7 June 2013
Outspoken human rights activist and Sri Lankan MP, Jayalath Jayawardena (second right), has died from illness. © Wikipedia
IPU has expressed its condolences to the Sri Lankan parliament and the family of opposition Sri Lankan MP and human rights activist, Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena, following his death from illness at the end of May.
Dr. Jayawardena was one of seven Sri Lankan MPs who had cases lodged with IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians. Most of the seven MPs had been assassinated with others having suffered violence and intimidation.
Dr. Jayawardena had been an outspoken critic of the human rights situation in the country and the lack of protection for those willing to speak out. It put his own life at risk as the numerous threats which he received over the years show.
The IPU Committee is due to carry out a mission to Sri Lanka in early July in a bid to resolve outstanding cases and to seek greater protection for MPs.
IPU Human Rights Committee Undertakes Mission to DRC
7 June 2013
IPU has serious concerns about the imprisonment of former MP Pierre Jacques Chalupa. ©J.P. Chalupa
IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians will undertake a mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to investigate alleged human rights cases involving 33 MPs and former MPs in the country.
The Committee, which is set to meet leaders and top-ranking officials on a five-day mission taking place between 10-14 June, has serious concerns about the judicial process and motivation behind the imprisonment of Pierre Jacques Chalupa, a 64-year-old former MP and opposition party leader.
Chalupa, who is in need of urgent medical treatment, was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in October 2012 for falsifying documents to gain Congolese nationality despite having been elected an MP and living his whole life in the country.
The mission will also seek access to judicial files to verify evidence in the charges against opposition MP, Diomi Ndongala. His wife has begun a hunger strike in protest at his detention on 9th April 2013. In addition to examining other cases, the IPU mission headed by the president of the Human Rights Committee, Malian MP Kassoum Tapo, will call for electoral reform and redress for 30 MPs who were arbitrarily disqualified last year.
Make WTO Bali Conference Work, MPs Say
6 June 2013
The IPU-European Parliament event in Brussels was chaired by MEP, Pablo Zalba Bidegain. © IPU/Giancarlo Fortunato
MPs involved in the organization of the annual Parliamentary Conference on the WTO have called for a greater effort to ensure the success of the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali in December 2013, warning that any failure to find consensus on issues would have long-lasting effects on global development. At an IPU-European Parliament organized meeting in Brussels recently, the MPs from about 25 different parliaments declared that success in Bali would have the critical benefit of reaffirming the value of multilateralism. Lack of success in Bali could inversely mean the indefinite suspension of the Doha Development Agenda. In a declaration, the MPs restated their belief in the need for a strong parliamentary dimension of the WTO as a means of preventing the erosion of public support for open trade. They also called on governments to do more to curb unemployment and reduce social inequalities at a time of growing international concern, particularly over youth unemployment.
IPU Secretary General Calls for Major Parliamentary Reform in Colombia
5 June 2013
Anders B. Johnsson has urged the Colombian Parliament to improve legal protection of MPs. © Colombian Senate
In the first ever address by an IPU Secretary General to the Colombian parliament, Anders B. Johnsson called for legal steps to be taken to establish a real balance of political power in the country. Addressing the Colombian Senate on 4th June at the invitation of its Speaker, Roy Barreras, the IPU Secretary General said the Colombian parliament was notably weak compared to the executive and judicial authorities in the country and that it was in the interest of all Colombians to have a strong parliament. In particular, legal protection for MPs needed to be strengthened whilst the questionable administrative and disciplinary procedures to which they are subjected to needed to be dropped. Johnsson emphasized that enhanced legal protection should go hand in hand with steps taken by the parliament to modernize itself. Fast-pace changes in society and technology made it particularly urgent for the parliament to ask itself whether it was truly delivering what it should. He also stressed the need for more women to enter parliament and for the institution as a whole to become more gender-sensitive. Colombia currently ranks joint 105th in IPU’s world rankings of women in parliament with just 16 per cent women in the Senate and 12.1 per cent in the House of Representatives, well below the regional average for Latin America at 24.4 per cent. The Secretary General offered IPU's continued assistance to the Colombian parliament in each of these areas.
Bangladesh’s First Woman Speaker
4 June 2013
Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury is the first woman Speaker of the Bangladeshi Parliament © Wiki News Time
Former Supreme Court lawyer, Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, is the first ever woman to take the top job in the Bangladeshi parliament and also the youngest. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury became Bangladesh’s first woman Speaker of Parliament on 30 April 2013. At age 46, she also became the country’s youngest ever Speaker. A keen campaigner for women’s rights, she described her appointment as “as an outstanding milestone in the empowerment of the country’s women”. In her new role, she reportedly said she aims to broker a dialogue between the ruling Awami League and the Bangladeshi National Party (BNP) – the two parties are currently in political deadlock and the BNP opposition has been boycotting parliament. Dr Chaudhury was first elected to the Bangladesh parliament in 2009 as a member of the Awami League Party on one of the 50 seats reserved for women. Before taking up the post of Speaker, Dr Chaudhury served as Minister for Women and Children Affairs which saw her involved in efforts to tackle violence against women, including the finalization of a law on domestic violence. Prior to entering politics, Chaudhury had a distinguished legal career serving for 15 years at the Supreme Court, where she worked on many human rights cases involving constitutional issues. In 2000, she earned a PhD in Law after winning a Commonwealth scholarship to study at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom. Later she was a panel lawyer for Sheikh Hasina, then opposition leader of the Awami League and now Prime Minister when she was arrested on charges of murder and corruption by the army-backed care-taker government of 2007-2008. Chaudhury was awarded Asia Society’s Humanitarian service Award in 2010 in recognition of leadership in advocating the elimination of violence against women and supporting women’s empowerment and employment in Bangladesh.
Increasing Birth Registration in Latin America and the Caribbean
30 May 2013
Birth registration is a ‘passport’ to protection. © Flickr/The World Bank
MPs from across Latin America and the Caribbean are set to meet in an effort to promote birth registration in the region. Apart from being the first legal acknowledgement of a child’s existence, birth registration is central to ensuring fulfilment of children’s rights and access to basic services such as health, social security and education. Knowing a child’s age is also essential to protecting them from child labour, under-age marriage, trafficking and sexual exploitation.
To raise awareness of the importance of free, universal and mandatory birth registration, IPU in conjunction with UNICEF, has organised a two-day parliamentary workshop in the Peruvian capital Lima on 7-8 June. Parliamentarians will examine the principal barriers to a right to identity for children, particularly the problems of legal bottlenecks, statelessness and migration, and consider proposals for measures to advance birth registration. In recent years under-registration of children in Latin America and the Caribbean has dropped from 18 per cent of under-fives in 2006 to 9 per cent. However, there is still a disparity on under-registration between children born in rural areas (18%) and those living in urban areas (8%). Indigenous groups, Afro-descendant children and migrants are also under-registered.
Making Development Cooperation More Effective
30 May 2013
MPs visit an aid project in Cape Town, South Africa. © Unicef
A high-level meeting involving parliamentarians from around the world will look at how the global partnership on achieving development goals can work
better in the future. Organized by the UN Development Cooperation Forum (DCF) together
with the Ethiopian government, the meeting in Addis Ababa on 6-7 June will bring together development and finance ministers and officials, MPs, local
authorities, civil society and private philanthropies. It will directly contribute to on-going deliberations at inter-governmental level to define a
development agenda post-2015 when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire. This includes MDG 8 which focuses on development financing. The meeting
will also prepare for the next DCF in 2014. The DCF, which meets every two years, was established in part to foster greater coherence and accountability
among different development actors. IPU works closely with the DCF to facilitate the parliamentary contribution. With the lack of robust and comprehensive
monitoring and accountability of development plans identified as a main shortcoming of the MDGs, participants will also examine how best to ensure more
effective monitoring and accountability of post-2015 development goals. IPU is advocating for the inclusion of a stand-alone goal on democratic governance among future development goals, with parliaments at the heart of
monitoring and accountability efforts.
Côte d’Ivoire MPs Devise Action Plan for Women’s Rights
27 May 2013
MPs in Côte d’Ivoire are working to improve women's lives. © IPU
Côte d’Ivoire MPs Devise Action Plan for Women’s Rights – Women MPs in Côte d’Ivoire have drawn up an action plan on improving women’s rights and gender equality, focusing particularly on education and political participation. It follows IPU training on advocacy, communication and leadership on women’s rights issues last April for Côte d’Ivoire’s 24 women MPs, two male MPs and parliamentary staff. With so few of them represented in parliament, Ivorian women MPs now intend to set up a caucus to achieve greater solidarity and influence in order to drive through plans that improve women’s lives in the country. Principal goals include increasing women’s political participation, potentially through quotas; educating women about their rights; setting up programmes to combat illiteracy amongst women and getting girls back into education as well as involving women in the national reconciliation and reconstruction process. In 2011, Côte d’Ivoire elected its first National Assembly in a decade after years of political instability and military conflict. More than 90 per cent of MPs were elected for the first time. Gender equality and women’s rights have been outlined as a key area for improvement by the Ivorian parliament. It has requested further assistance from IPU to implement the action plan, as well as draw up legislation to increase women’s political participation and prevent violence against women, girls and children.
Building Alliances to Tackle Gender-Based Violence in Burundi
24 May 2013
Burundian MPs will meet local leaders to raise awareness of gender-based violence. © IPU
MPs and local leaders are joining forces in a series of meetings to address gender-based violence and women’s rights in Burundi. The two-day consultations are being organized in three different regions with IPU support with the first taking place in Cibitoke on 27 May. They are designed to raise local awareness of national and international legislation in place to safeguard women’s rights, whilst at the same time giving MPs a better understanding of the practical needs of local leaders and citizens in protecting and assisting women. Participants will look at what can be done to involve women in decision-making processes at all levels of government. The meetings will also address the forms, causes and consequences of gender-based violence with particular attention to the impunity of perpetrators of such violence, and the abandonment and stigma of victims. Recommendations for action will be drawn up. The Burundian parliament will send a delegation of around 30 MPs to each region while local delegates will number 80, split equally between men and women.
Parliaments are Key to Minimising the Impact of Natural Disasters
23 May 2013
IPU Deputy Secretary-General Martin Chungong addressing the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction © UNISDR
The role of parliaments in reducing the impact of disasters on human lives is crucial, said IPU Deputy Secretary-General in a speech to a global policy
platform in Geneva this week. Martin Chungong added that it was “critical” that the post-2015 plans for combating natural hazards recognised parliaments as
a key partner. Speaking at the
Fourth Session of the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction, Chungong said parliaments not only translate international commitments and development policies into local legislation but also allocate funding through
the national budget. Furthermore, a fully representative and transparent parliament is the only institution that can hold government to account to ensure
the most effective response to disasters. With economic and human consequences of disasters set to rise through exponential growth of urbanisation and
increasingly severe weather conditions, Chungong said there was an “urgent need for coherent and effective measures to protect citizens and communities
from the growing threat of disasters”. IPU is advocating that democratic governance should be one of the pillars of the next generation of development
goals as both an end in itself and as an enabler of sustainable development and risk-resilient societies.
Ecuador and Bangladesh Elect Women Speakers for the First Time
17 May 2013
Gabriela Rivadeneira (left) and Dr Shirin Chowdhury (right) are the first women speakers of their parliaments. © periodico expectativa (left), © Wiki News Time (right)
The election of Gabriela Rivadeneira as Ecuador’s first woman speaker of parliament in mid-May comes hard on the heels of another such first. Earlier in the month, Bangladesh also elected Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury as its first ever speaker of parliament. This brings the total number of women speakers in the world to 41 in 39 countries.
Dr. Chowdhury, a former minister for women and children affairs and member of the Awami League Party, was unanimously voted into office after the previous speaker Abdul Hamid became President. Bangladesh now has women in three of its top four political posts. Previously a Supreme Court lawyer, she worked on many human rights cases involving constitutional issues. She has also been involved in efforts to tackle violence against women, including the finalization of a law on domestic violence.
In Ecuador, Gabriela Rivadeneira took office on 14 May at the opening session of the new parliament. The 29-year-old member of the ruling party, PAIS Alliance elected as MP for the first time in elections in February 2013, is also the youngest speaker of parliament in Latin America. Two more women were chosen as deputy-speakers of the Ecuadorian parliament. Women now account for 40 per cent of MPs in Ecuador. Rivadeneira says she intends "to build a renewed assembly that is closer to the people".
Despite these successes, women still account for only 15.4 per cent of all speakers of parliament in the world.
IPU Members Back Democratic Governance as a Post-2015 Development Goal
15 May 2013
MPs want democratic governance as a stand-alone UN development goal. © Flickr/noboundariesorg
Results from a survey carried out during the 128th IPU Assembly in Quito have revealed that 80 per cent of MPs back democratic governance as a
stand-alone objective for the United Nations Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Nearly all (96 per cent) of the 240 MPs surveyed from 619 MPs
present in Quito, believed that the key elements of democratic governance – participation, transparency and accountability – should be embedded into the
other SDGs to ensure their success. Men and women MPs from all regions and both developing and developed worlds participated in the IPU survey. They were
also virtually unanimous (99 per cent) in their belief that democratic governance was necessary for sustainable development. It is an issue that is also
resonating outside the political sphere. Respondents to the UN’s MY World survey, which allows all
citizens of the world to have their say on what the next set of development goals should be, have ranked the need for honest and responsive governments
third most important goal, just behind education and health. IPU is advocating for democratic governance to be included as a stand-alone goal in the new SDGs to replace the current Millennium Development Goals when
they expire in 2015. Its members adopted the Quito Communique on sustainable development at the
conclusion of the Quito Assembly, which not only argues for development aimed at ensuring global well-being but also for strengthening the key institutions
that can bring this about. It’s a message that IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson will be underlining at the third session of the Open Working Group on SDGs at the UN Assembly which runs 22nd to 24th May in New York.
New Disaster Model Law to Help Save Lives
15 May 2013
The Model Act gives a legal framework for a better response to natural disasters. © IPU
A new Model Act aimed at providing national parliaments across the world with a legal
framework to ensure a more effective aid response to natural disasters and so lessen the impact of catastrophes on human lives has been produced by the
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, IPU and the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). Global experience has shown that domestic regulatory hurdles have hindered urgent life-saving assistance, while ad hoc relief has sometimes resulted in the
provision of poor, inappropriate or even unnecessary aid. Few countries currently have specific legislation in place to respond to disaster situations.
Laws can either create bottlenecks in delivering aid or, alternatively, support a swift disaster response. The Model Act draws on internationally accepted
guidelines and provides parliaments with comprehensive rules and procedures to be better prepared in the wake of a disaster. Such regulation would allow
faster entry and implementation of aid assistance which is all too often hampered by local customs and immigration laws. Amongst other things, it would
also help disaster-hit countries to properly manage and co-ordinate aid with overseas relief providers to make sure the right aid goes to the right places. "Responding to and managing international disaster assistance is proving to be increasingly complex,” said Bangladeshi MP Saber Chowdhury. “This Model Act is an important starting point tool that legislators can make good use of in terms of developing their own laws and protocols."
MPs Explore Ways to Reduce Risks from Disasters at Global Platform
15 May 2013
Parliaments’ role in disaster risk reduction under discussion at Global Platform. © Flickr/EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection
A joint meeting organized by IPU and UNISDR to determine how parliaments can minimise the threat of natural disasters will take place at the fourth session
of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in Geneva on 20 May 2013. It is the last Global Platform session to take place before the new
post-2015 development goals are finalized. The parliamentary meeting will identify the roles and responsibilities of MPs in helping to prevent disasters
and reduce their impact. In the last 12 years, 1.2 million people have been killed and a further 2.9 billion people affected by disasters, causing an
estimated 1.7 trillion USD in damages. A high level of disaster risk is often the consequence of inadequate development planning and practices which fail
to assess and manage risks and as a result, increase the vulnerabilities of communities. Strong parliaments and transparent, accountable and democratic
governance are essential for building resilience to natural disasters and enabling sustainable development, as outlined by IPU in the Quito Communique from the 128th IPU Assembly in Ecuador this year.
Role of Parliaments in Supporting Human Rights to be Examined
15 May 2013
UN Human Rights Council is to explore working relationships with parliaments. © Flickr/United Nations Photo
The role of parliaments and MPs in promoting and protecting human rights will be discussed for the first time at the next meeting of the UN Human Rights Council
(UNHRC) in May. IPU Secretary-General Anders B. Johnsson and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, will address a specific panel on how
parliaments can more effectively contribute to the work of the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which monitors human rights records in individual
countries. With few national parliaments involved in the UPR, the event aims to formalize the working relationship between parliaments and UNHRC with IPU
calling for a more systematic parliamentary involvement. The event will also raise awareness of the Council and its work amongst parliaments whilst
conversely examining how the Human Rights Council can input into the work of parliaments and IPU.
IPU to Monitor Trial of Thai Political Leader
15 May 2013
Thai Political leader, Jatuporn Prompan, is facing charges of terrorism. © Wikimedia Commons/Kung Dekza
IPU is to send a legal expert to observe the trial of Jatuporn Prompan, leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) and a
prominent figure during the ‘Red Shirt’ demonstrations that took place in Bangkok between March and May 2010. Prompan, who was elected as an MP in 2011 for
the successful Pheu Thai Party whilst in detention, is facing charges of taking part in an illegal gathering that contravened the state of emergency
imposed during the demonstrations and charges of terrorism in relation to arson attacks that occurred whilst Prompan was already in police custody. In May 2012, the Thai Constitutional Court ruled that Prompan’s detention on election day and his consequent failure to vote, meant that he not only lost
membership of his political party but also disqualified him from serving as an MP. The trial observation follows the adoption of an IPU resolution on the case at the 128th
Assembly in Ecuador. The resolution expressed concern that Prompan was convicted of charges of defamation which, in concurrence with the
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, it believes should not be considered a
criminal offence. It also called on the Thai authorities to do everything they can to reconsider Prompan’s disqualification and ensure that current legal
provisions are in line with international human rights standards.
Expert Support to Review Maldivian Sexual Harassment Bill
15 May 2013
IPU experts will review Maldives’ Sexual Harassment Bill. © UNDP Maldives
IPU will be lending its support to the parliament of Maldives for a new bill on sexual harassment. It follows a successful collaboration with the
country’s parliament on domestic violence legislation adopted last year. In consultation with parliament, IPU will select a mix of independent regional and
international experts to review the bill which aims to end sexual harassment in the workplace and in the provision of goods and services. Based on
experience and knowledge of best practices on sexual harassment laws around the world, the experts will make recommendations to the parliamentary committee
in charge of studying the bill. The finalized bill is due to be voted upon in late June. “This bill on sexual harassment is another milestone in the
Maldives’ efforts to tackle all forms of violence against women,” says Kareen Jabre, head of IPU’s Gender Partnership Programme. “It shows again there is a
drive and commitment to improving women’s lives in a country where such violence is prevalent.”
IPU-Supported Gender Assessment Leads to Progress in Turkish Parliament
15 May 2013
The Turkish parliament took part in an IPU/UN Women supported gender self-assessment. © IPU
The Turkish parliament has taken a significant step forward in becoming gender-sensitive by taking action on recommendations made in a gender
self-assessment. Carried out with the support of IPU and UN Women in December 2012 and led by the parliament’s Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), the
aim of the self-assessment was to find ways to better integrate gender equality into the Turkish parliament’s functioning and its structures. The EOC now
has a bigger team to address gender disparities within parliament whilst the inclusion of a woman MP on the Plan and Budget Committee means that all but
one of the parliamentary committees now has a woman on it. Furthermore, a five-year strategic plan for the parliament contains a specific objective on
raising awareness of the problems faced by women working in parliament. The Turkish parliament has done much to create family-friendly facilities in recent
years, mirroring IPU’s own call for gender-sensitive infrastructures for parliaments. Provisions include a crèche for the children for MPs and staff, and
facilities for new mothers.
Canadian Parliament Puts Spotlight on Violence Against Indigenous and Other Women
30 April 2013
Women take to the streets to draw attention to murdered or missing indigenous women. © Flickr/Thien V
The Canadian parliament is taking a series of measures to tackle worrying levels of violence against women. A special committee
established by the House of Commons focusing on violence against indigenous women heard its first testimonies from witnesses on 25th April. The
committee, holding the same powers as a Standing Committee, has the mandate to carry out hearings on the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in
Canada and propose solutions to address root causes of such violence. The Canadian lower house of parliament recognized the government’s responsibility to
provide justice for victims, heal families and work with partners to put an end to the violence. A disproportionate number of indigenous women and girls in
the North American country – three times more than among the general female population - have suffered violence, gone missing or been murdered over recent
decades. Citing data from the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), a recent Human Rights Watch report on the issue said 582 indigenous women had
gone missing or were murdered in recent decades, 39% of them since 2000. The same rate among the general Canadian population would have seen the
disappearance or murder of 18,000 Canadian women and girls since the late 1970’s. High levels of poverty, unemployment and racism are believed to be among
root causes. “The disappearance and murder of so many Aboriginal women is deeply disturbing. The Special Parliamentary Committee must focus its attention
to provide answers and meaningful action to ensure the safety, equality and human rights of all Aboriginal women,” says MP Libby Davies, vice-chair of the committee and Chair of IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal and
Child Health. The Canadian Senate is also planning a general debate on violence against women early next month following a notice of inquiry by Senator Don Oliver, member of both IPU’s
Executive Committee and its Gender Partnership Group. According to Canadian police data, nearly 177,000 Canadian girls and women over 15 years of age were
victims of violence in 2011. IPU has been working to mobilize parliamentary action on violence against women since 2008 and greatly welcomes the Canadian
parliament’s efforts to tackle an issue that affects women all across the world. In the past two-years, it has supported six parliaments in developing
legislation on violence against women, including Maldives which last year adopted a law against domestic violence.
Strengthening Democracy in a Tech-Empowered World
30 April 2013
IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson © IPU
IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson has urged parliaments to make better use of new technologies to engage and inform citizens and weaken the
influence of political lobbies. Speaking at a two-day event organized by the National Democratic Institute (NDI), International IDEA and others on Governing Democratically in a Tech-Empowered World in the U.S. state of California last week, he stressed technology’s role in
strengthening democracy, speeding up the way politics is done and in making the political process more transparent and inclusive. He called for more
support in parliaments’ use of technology to fulfill its democratic mandate given that many parliaments still lack fundamental IT infrastructure and
skills. There was also a need for more innovative use of technology in establishing dialogue between MPs and the public to find political solutions that
meet public interest.
Work on Development Plan for Democratic Republic of Congo Underway
30 April 2013
A long-term IPU-UNDP development plan for the DRC parliament will focus on identified priority issues including human and technical resource needs. © L. Marzal/IPU
IPU and UNDP are working on defining a long-term development plan for the parliament of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following a recent mission
there. The two organizations, which have been providing support to the DRC parliament since 2006, have just concluded a three-year programme which included
carrying out an organisational audit of the legislative body and training for MPs and parliamentary staff. Amongst other things, the audit highlighted the
need for greater understanding on the roles and responsibilities of both parliamentary staff and MPs in their everyday work, updating internal
parliamentary rules and procedures, rationalising legislative and budgetary processes and improving information flows. The IPU-UNDP development plan
covering 2013-2017, will focus on priority areas such as on-going human and technical resource needs. It will cover all political groups and both houses of
parliament. The central African country, long-affected by conflict and political crises, saw its first democratic elections in more than 40 years in 2006
when presidential elections were held. They were followed by parliamentary elections for both the National Assembly and the Senate.
Myanmar Parliamentary Study Trip to South Korea
30 April 2013
Myanmar parliamentary staff are working to better service the information and research needs of MPs. © BeckerFraserPhotos CC BY-NYC
Parliamentary staff from Myanmar have visited the Korean National Assembly Library in Seoul as part of an on-going IPU programme of support to the
Myanmar parliament. During the IPU study trip, employees of the Myanmar Library Committee learnt from their Korean counterparts how to better service the
information and research needs of MPs. A series of IPU missions to Myanmar to help define parliamentary priorities as the country began its transition to
democracy identified, amongst other things, an urgent need for better information facilities to help MPs in their legislative work. As a result, alongside
wider IPU activities funded by the Swedish development agency, Sida, IPU has begun helping the Myanmar parliament to improve information resources and
capabilities. A three-year plan, supported by IPU, for the development of the Library, Research and Information Services has recently been approved by the
Myanmar parliament. The plan includes the design of a new integrated IT system to improve communication between departments and enhance the functioning of
parliament itself. IPU experts will undertake a further mission to Myanmar at the beginning of May to train staff in library resources management policies.
Myanmar’s parliament was re-established following national elections in 2010. Since then it has been extremely active in adopting new laws and improving
Building New Communications Skills Within Nigerian Parliament
30 April 2013
Nigeria National Assembly staff receiving written communications training at IPU © IPU
Nigerian National Assembly staff will be better able to support parliament and bring about improved policy and legislative results after receiving
tailored communications training at IPU’s Geneva headquarters. Following a request by the Nigerian parliament, 10 staff members learnt how to structure and
draft documents such as resolutions, press releases and policy briefs in order to produce well-researched and well-written material. Over the five-day
training, participants were also taught how to adopt a systematic, time-efficient and logical approach to writing, to understand audiences and to pass on
their newly-acquired skills to other parliamentary colleagues. The training should ultimately produce work that enables MPs to be better informed and
prepared in their legislative work and to improve parliament’s communications with citizens. Constructive use of data and information is essential to
advocate parliament’s work and influence key national decision-makers and opinion leaders.
G8 Commitment to Tackling Rape in Conflict Welcomed
15 April 2013
IPU welcomes the G8 Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict © Reuters
IPU has welcomed the decision by G8 countries
to work together to end sexual violence in conflict. The
Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, endorsed by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, UK and USA, identifies a series of practical steps to tackle the issue. These include not
granting amnesty to perpetrators of such crimes as part of peace negotiations and developing a comprehensive international protocol on the investigation
and documentation of rape and sexual violence in conflict. The urgent need to address sexual violence against women both in and out of conflict situations
was highlighted in both an
on safeguarding civilian lives and a unanimously endorsed
at its recently concluded 128
Assembly in Ecuador. The resolution called on parliaments to adopt laws and policies to prevent and criminalize sexual violence and to provide redress for
victims in times of peace and conflict, whilst a statement adopted by the IPU Assembly urged all parliaments to not only scrutinize existing laws on sexual
violence and their implementation by government but to also allocate appropriate resources to tackling the crime and protecting victims.
IPU Offers Platform for Young MPs
15 April 2013
Young MPs’ proposal for a Forum of Young Parliamentarians was adopted at the 128th Assembly in Quito © Lucía Romero, Ecuador National Assembly
IPU has put further emphasis on the importance of youth in democracy by establishing a new Forum of Young Parliamentarians. A proposal by young MPs to
create the group was unanimously adopted by the Organization’s General Council at its 128th Assembly in Quito. The Forum aims to ensure better
implementation of IPU’s resolution on youth participation in the democratic process, which recognises
that the involvement of young people in the political process is essential for a meaningful and lasting democracy. It aims to develop a programme of
support for youth participation and to work to build bridges between IPU and youth organisations. Youth movements have been instrumental in bringing about
significant political change in recent years as witnessed by the Arab Spring. However, despite social media and other channels allowing young people to
have a greater say on politics, their declining interest in formal political activities, including voting and party membership, is a threat to
participatory democracy. With a growing youth population in many parts of the developing world, parliaments need to boost youth participation. IPU
recommends harmonising the minimum age for running for parliament with that of the voting age in countries which haven’t yet done so. In addition to
addressing youth-related issues of global interest, the Forum also wants more young MPs to attend IPU Assemblies and aims to contribute to the achievement
of overall IPU objectives by giving a more democratic age balance to delegations and decision-making processes.
IPU Called to Assist Women MPs in Cote d’Ivoire
15 April 2013
Cote d’Ivoire has called on IPU to help MPs determine priorities for women’s rights for the next parliamentary agenda © Reuters
IPU is sending a team of experts to Cote d’Ivoire at the end of April to help MPs advance women’s rights in the country. Following a request for
assistance, IPU will be training all 24 of the country’s women MPs in the first of a series of measures to support the parliament. With so few women
represented in parliament, an IPU panel of experts will help the MPs identify the priorities for women’s rights ahead of the new parliamentary session for
which gender equality is a key concern. Cote d’Ivoire suffered an electoral crisis in 2010 which culminated in a brief but bloody civil war when President
Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after losing national elections. However, in a push for democracy, the first National Assembly for a decade was elected
in 2011, with 90 per cent of MPs holding office for the first time. The IPU training will reinforce MPs’ knowledge of women’s rights, give practical advice on
drafting and implementing effective gender-based legislation, examine the effectiveness of existing policies and legislation and look at ways both men and
women MPs can strengthen gender equality in wider aspects of parliamentary work. IPU will also assist the women MPs in establishing a plan of action on
women’s rights. Cote d’Ivoire currently ranks 110th in IPU’s world rankings of women in
Record Number of Women MPs Attend 128th IPU Assembly
27 March 2013
A record number of women MPs attended the 128th IPU Assembly in Quito, Ecuador, breaking the 200 mark for the first time ever. The 210 women
MPs at the Assembly represented 33 per cent of all MPs attending. It was the first time the proportion of women MPs had been as high. The Quito gathering
also witnessed a growing trend of better balanced delegations in terms of gender representation. The trend in women’s representation at IPU assemblies
echoed global parliamentary figures which in 2012 saw the highest percentage of women MPs in national parliaments. For the first time, the global average
of women MPs broke the 20 per cent to reach 20.3 per cent.
The Quito gathering also marked the first time women parliamentarians from Saudi Arabia participated at an IPU event with two newly-appointed women
representatives from the Shura Council.
IPU Assembly a Huge Learning Experience For First Saudi Women in Shura Council
27 March 2013
For the very first time, two women members of the Shura Council formed part of a Saudi Arabian delegation to an IPU Assembly.
Dr Lubna Al-Ansary and Dr. Hanan Al-ahmadi attended the IPU’s 128th Assembly in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito this week. They are among the 30
women selected to join the previously all-male council by the Saudi King Abdullah in January 2013, where women now make up 20% of its members.
Dr Al-ahmadi believes her involvement will be invaluable in her work as a politician: “It has been a huge learning experience for me to be part of the
Assembly. You learn about the different projects for the empowerment of different groups in society, whether for children, the handicapped or women, and
the different mechanisms to include those groups into the decision-making process,” she said.
The Assembly also provided the Saudi women with the opportunity to meet other women MPs.
“One of the best parts of the Assembly has been meeting my fellow female counterparts from around the world and feeling the overwhelming pleasure they had
in seeing Saudi women finally making it to the Shura Council,” said Dr Hanan Al-ahmadi.
“Meeting the other women MPs was a very rich experience for me,” agreed Dr Lubna al-Ansary. “As a result of the Assembly, I feel more tuned to serve the
needs of the country and offer a larger perspective.”
IPU and Parliaments Should Play Pivotal Role in Advocating Fair Trade
27 March 2013
Parliamentarians and IPU are being urged to take the lead in advocating fair trade as a means of ensuring sustainable development. A resolution submitted
by the Standing Committee on Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade at the 128th IPU Assembly, appeals to governments and MPs to support
fair trade and to include it as an integral component of post-2015 sustainable development goals. In addition, it says parliaments and governments should
explore more innovative, open and transparent financing mechanisms to allow for more effective funding of fair-trade projects. The Committee also appeals
to governments to do more to combat corruption and to join forces in the fight against tax evasion, crucial to achieving increases in domestic revenue.
Using Social Media to Enhance Citizen Engagement and Democracy
27 March 2013
Delegates to IPU’s 128th Assembly have adopted a resolution that calls on
parliaments to both use social media to better inform and engage with their citizens but also to protect the right to freedom of expression on and
off-line. The resolution also underscored that a free, open and accessible internet is both a fundamental human right and a tool for citizen
engagement. Parliamentarians also needed to take on the responsibility for ensuring citizens’ access to free and secure online communications. The
resolution followed IPU’s
release of its first ever social media guidelines for MPs and parliamentary staff.
Available freely online, it aims to encourage the more widespread and effective use of social media by parliaments and politicians, as well as provide
guidance to those responsible for managing social media channels. The guidelines help to define the scope and purpose of social media for parliaments
whilst also providing a benchmark for good practice in citizen engagement. The World e-Parliament Report identified that by the end of 2012, a third of all parliaments
were already using social media with another third planning to.
128th IPU Assembly Aims to Put Democratic Governance at the Heart of Development
15 March 2013
Nearly 1,150 delegates to the 128th IPU Assembly in the Ecuadoran capital Quito will
focus on how to ensure future global development plans deliver when they meet between 22-27 March. Under the main theme of “From unrelenting growth to purposeful development ‘Buen Vivir’, delegates
including more than 620 MPs from around the world will look at how economic growth can lead to general human well-being. Participants including 43 speakers
of parliament will also contribute ideas on how democratic governance can be integrated into a new global development framework post-2015 when the
Millennium Development Goals expire. With national parliaments key to ensuring the success of any future sustainable development plans, IPU is working to
ensure that democratic governance is at the heart of any plans in UN-led global consultations in a post-2015 world. The 128th Assembly, to be
opened by Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa on 22nd March, will also tackle other major international issues. These include how parliaments can safeguard civilian lives, an issue pertinently echoed in proposals for an emergency item concerning Syria as well as in the launch of a new model law on facilitating and regulating international disaster relief worked on by the
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, UN OCHA and IPU. Other proposals for an emergency debate include protecting the human
rights of homosexuals and criminalizing the deliberate destruction of world cultural heritage. The rights of disabled children, finding innovative financing mechanisms for sustainable development
and the use of social media to enhance citizen engagement on democracy will also be addressed through Assembly resolutions or panel discussions. IPU’s
Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians will hold an open session to promote greater awareness of the threats facing politicians whilst the
Committee on Middle East Questions will decide on the follow-up to a just-concluded mission to the region.
Please take part in the Assembly debates or follow through Twitter using #IPU128Quito. You can also contribute to the global consultations
on post-2015 development goals through the My World survey.
Time for Talks is Now, Says IPU Middle East Committee
15 March 2013
A delegation from IPU’s Committee on Middle East Questions says there is an urgent need for regular and inclusive dialogue between Israeli and
Palestinian legislators to begin now. It would help ensure progress on peace negotiations by capitalizing on political developments in the region. The
statement follows a recently concluded visit to the West Bank and Israel as the second part of a mission to the Middle East. In January, an IPU Committee
delegation went to Gaza to assess for itself the socio-economic and political impact of the conflict and its repercussions on the workings of the
Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The delegation, led by Britain’s Lord Judd and including IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson and MPs from
France, Sweden and Norway, met representatives from diverse political parties and factions from both parliaments. With both the Israeli and Palestinian
parliaments active members of IPU, the delegation concluded the Organization could act as an “honest broker” for the Palestinians to facilitate dialogue
between legislators from both sides. The delegation has also recommended that IPU continues and extends its work to help build and strengthen the
administration and functioning of the PLC beyond June 2013 when an European Union funded programme of support is due to end. Since 2007, the PLC has been
largely paralysed by divisions among the two main Palestinian political groups in the West Bank and Gaza, logistical constraints and the administrative
detention of large numbers of PLC members in Israeli prisons. Elections for a new PLC are long overdue.
MPs Examine How Legislation Can End Violence Against Women
15 March 2013
More than 200 MPs from 43 countries attending a joint IPU and UN Women meeting on ways of using legislation to tackle violence against
women and girls are pushing for greater parliamentary action on the issue. The event, held at the UN headquarters in New York in early March during the 57 th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, concluded
that laws on their own are not enough. To be effective they need to be enforced; supported with budget allocations; endorsed by MPs and involve all the
parties responsible for implementing the legislation. Furthermore, it was decided that parliamentary monitoring of laws against gender-based violence is
greatly needed. The parliamentary meeting also highlighted the need for both men
and women MPs to address the stereotyping of women by promoting a change in the culture of politics, media reporting and by using legislation to protect
women in politics.
British Parliament Welcomes First Women MPs from Saudi Arabia
15 March 2013
Two newly appointed women members of the Shura Council in Saudi Arabia made their first official foreign visit as they joined a Saudi parliamentary
delegation to the
British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union (BGIPU).
In an historic act in January 2013, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia appointed 30 women to the Shura Council. They now make up 20 per cent of the country’s
parliament, putting the Gulf country 68th in IPU’s world rankings of women’s political participation. The trip provided an opportunity for the
Saudi delegation led by Chairman of the Shura Council Abdullah Al Sheikh to learn more about the parliamentary principles, institutions and practices in
the UK parliament, while also giving their British counterparts a better understanding of the parliamentary reforms taking place in the Gulf kingdom.
International issues of mutual concern, particularly developments in the Middle East and North Africa were also discussed.
Human Rights Committee Mission to Colombia
15 March 2013
A delegation from IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians will meet
representatives of the Colombian parliament and other state authorities in Bogota on 20-21 March to discuss ways to end violence towards politicians in the
country. Colombia has a long and troubled history of human rights breaches against parliamentarians and political activists. Central to talks will be
impunity in the cases of assassinations of political leaders in the distant past and threats against current members of the political opposition. The
mission will also examine the measures needed to enhance the legal protection of parliamentarians with particular attention to concerns over due process in
criminal proceedings against MPs. The mission is one of three, including to Chad and Togo, being carried out in a matter of weeks as part of the
Committee’s efforts to take a more field-orientated approach to its work. Findings from all three will be presented at full Committee meetings during the
128th IPU Assembly in Quito from 22-27th March.
MPs to Bring Parliamentary Voice to Post-2015 Consultation on Governance
14 February 2013
Senior MPs from Asia Pacific, Latin America as well as Africa will bring parliamentary knowledge and expertise to a global consultation on governance and how it can best be integrated into a post-2015 development agenda. The two-day consultation hosted by the Pan-African Parliament in Johannesburg, South Africa from 28th February is one of 11 UN-led thematic meetings feeding into a much wider global and national process to define the future of development when the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015. The parliamentary perspective, supported by IPU, will be essential as recommendations at the end of the meeting will aim to include how democratic governance and accountability can both underpin and be integrated into a new development framework. IPU has long argued that sustainable development can only be achieved through democracy and democratic governance. The consultation in South Africa follows on the heels of a meeting in Liberia of the High-Level Panel tasked with advising the UN Secretary General on the parameters of a post-MDG framework. An IPU-organized roundtable with Panel members at the time concluded that democracy and democratic governance should be at the heart of a post-2015 world with parliaments vital to the success of new national development plans. Recommendations from the governance consultation in South Africa will be submitted to the High Level Panel. IPU is encouraging its membership to be involved in all consultations to ensure democratic governance has a major role in new development goals. In addition, MPs can make their voices heard by participating in an online survey My World which is collecting individual views on development priorities.
IPU Secretary General in Myanmar for Talks
14 February 2013
IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson will hold talks with parliamentary authorities in Myanmar next week nearly a year after the country re-joined the Organization. The two-day visit to Myanmar, which kick-starts a short journey to the region, will be an opportunity to discuss on-going IPU support to Myanmar as the country continues to strengthen its parliament to deliver on democratic change. An IPU monitoring mission will take place simultaneously to assess progress on establishing a modern parliamentary library and information service. The Secretary General will then travel to Cambodia and Vietnam for talks with the political and parliamentary leadership aimed at strengthening cooperation. Vietnam is to host the 132th IPU Assembly in 2015.
Togo’s Women MPs Aim for Legislative Solution on Gender-Based Violence
14 February 2013
A caucus of women MPs in Togo are making a push to find a legislative solution to tackling violence against women and girls in their country. With a law on the issue drafted with IPU support mired at committee level for a year, women MPs are looking to find new ways to make sure the law is adopted as soon as possible. This includes developing an effective advocacy strategy with specific roles and responsibilities assigned to individuals among the group. With IPU support, training is being given to 40 women and men, including MPs, traditional elders, as well as representatives from civil society and five government ministries in mid-February. Participants will not only identify the challenges blocking the adoption of the law, but also key messages and tools to disseminate them to specific target audiences. It will also be an opportunity to better understand the specifics of the draft law itself. Women represent more than half the country’s population with the majority living in impoverished rural areas, often facing abuse, discrimination and violence. Although the government has made efforts to address this, legislation which penalises perpetrators whilst protecting victims is lacking.
Strengthening Advocacy Against Gender-Based Violence in Burundi
14 February 2013
About 80 MPs and parliamentary staff working on gender equality and women’s rights issues in Burundi will undergo two days of practical training to strengthen their efforts to advocate against gender-based violence (GBV). The aim is to help women and men MPs raise awareness on the need for legislation on GBV among the public at large and to challenge attitudes and socio-cultural barriers that condone such violence. The training, on 18-19th February, is part of on-going and wider IPU support to the East African country on tackling GBV. It will involve developing effective advocacy messages and how to disseminate them to defined target audiences to ensure a specific law on GBV is adopted. The training follows a special leadership and communications session for women parliamentarians organized by IPU last December. Mobilizing political and public opinion is vital to successfully addressing GBV, particularly through specific legislation. National consultations organized by the Burundian parliament and IPU last summer helped put the need for GBV legislation high on the national political agenda. Such a law had been identified as an urgent priority by Burundian MPs, in particular the Association of Women MPs, keen to provide greater protection and rights for women in the country.
Putting Democracy at the Heart of Sustainable Development
31 January 2013
A special roundtable hosted by IPU in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, on 30th January attended by a UN-appointed high-level panel and MPs from around the world concluded that democracy and democratic governance should be at the heart of a new international development agenda.
The roundtable represented a first and important step in the Organization’s efforts to put democratic governance at the heart of new development goals to replace the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015.
The meeting allowed an exchange of views between members of the high-level panel tasked with advising the UN Secretary-General on the broad parameters of a new development agenda and an IPU delegation including the Speakers of both houses of parliament in Liberia, leading Liberian MPs as well as parliamentarians from Bangladesh, UK, and Uganda.
Participants reiterated the need for national ownership of and commitment to development plans Parliaments would play a key role in achieving this. As a result, parliaments are strongly encouraged to participate in both national and regional UN-organized consultations in the coming months to define the new international development goals.
The Monrovia meeting also highlighted that a well-functioning parliament was essential to democracy and democratic governance. Consequently, its ability to be representative, transparent and accountability needed to be strengthened.
IPU has long argued that democracy and democratic governance underpin successful and sustainable development. It will use its upcoming 128th Assembly in Ecuador in March to also gather input from its members on the inclusion of a specific goal on democratic governance in any new development plan to apply to both developed and developing countries. The main theme of the assembly is in finding new ways to ensure development delivers well-being for all of the world’s citizens.
The Organization is also encouraging MPs to take part in an online survey called My World which is collecting individual views on development priorities. All responses will feed into the official UN-led process defining the new development goals.
IPU Undertakes Long-Anticipated Mission to Gaza
31 January 2013
Members of IPU’s Committee on Middle East Questions were in Gaza on 28 January in the first of a two-part mission to the region.
The mission’s aim is to assess the socio-economic and political impact of the conflict and its repercussions on the workings of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
The mission, led by Britain’s Lord Judd from the House of Lords and including IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson, met UN officials and PLC members to hear their views on security, human rights and the humanitarian situation in the Gaza strip.
The Committee also sought to assess the status of the PLC, which since 2007 has been largely paralyzed by the divisions among the two main Palestinian political groups and the administrative detention of large numbers of PLC members in Israeli prisons.
A second part of the mission to Israel and the West Bank is being planned for the coming weeks and will focus on the same issues.
The IPU Committee on the Middle East Questions was established in 1987 to follow the peace process in the region and to facilitate dialogue between MPs from all the political factions in the Israeli and Palestinian parliaments and in neighbouring countries.
Chad Urged to Resolve Human Rights Case of MP Five Years On
31 January 2013
IPU is urging the Chadian authorities to make a serious and genuine push to bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights violations against an opposition MP.
The Organization is deeply concerned that five years after the arbitrary arrest, detention and mistreatment of MP Ngarléjy Yorongar, no progress has been made in identifying the perpetrators.
Yorongar was violently arrested along with two other opposition members by armed men on 3rd February 2008 during a rebel attack on the Chadian capital, N’Djamena. The detainees were then tortured. Leader of the opposition Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh, detained on the same day, has never been seen since.
Although Yorongar managed to escape, he needed extensive medical treatment for the injuries received during the brutal arrest and detention. He also survived an assassination attempt in May 2011 ahead of partial legislative elections.
IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians has been closely following the case since 2008. In August 2008, a national commission of inquiry found that Chadian defence and security forces were involved in the abductions, arrests and intimidation of opposition politicians. Despite assurances by Chad that judicial investigations are on-going, and five years on, Yorongar’s case remains unresolved.
Record Number of Women Elected to Israel’s Knesset
31 January 2013
A record number of women have been elected to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset in last week’s elections.
Women won 26 out of 120 seats in the Israeli parliament’s 19th legislature, representing 21.6 per cent of parliamentarians. This is up from 20 per cent in the previous parliament. With these latest figures, Israel now moves up to 62nd place from 68th in IPU’s world ranking of women in parliaments.
IPU Committee on Human Rights Pushes for Resolution on Cases
18 January 2013
Members of IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians will undertake missions to Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Turkey in the coming months in a push to secure more progress on cases involving the human rights abuses of 72 MPs in the three countries.
The Committee, which concluded a five-day session in Geneva today (18/1), adopted decisions on human rights cases involving MPs in eight countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
In Burundi, cases involving the murder, assassination attempts or politically motivated criminal proceedings against 20 MPs have seen little movement. In a decision taken at the closing session, the IPU Committee stated its President and Malian MP, Kassoum Tapo, would undertake a follow-up visit to Burundi. The resolution on Burundi also expressed concern at the continued delay in the establishment of the much-needed Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the country in the aftermath of a long-running ethnic conflict.
In the DRC, IPU is working on cases involving allegations of human rights abuses of 43 MPs and in Turkey, nine MPs imprisoned on security grounds.
... [Read more]
Priority Assistance to Libya’s General National Congress
16 January 2013
IPU will start delivering priority assistance to the Libyan General National Congress (GNC) next week as a new constitution for the country is due to be drafted and adopted before legislative elections can take place.
Three parliamentary experts specialised in constitutional and legislative matters as well as parliamentary processes will be in Tripoli on 18-25 January to work with the GNC’s 200 members, including 30 women, and its new Secretary-General and staff. They will assist the body to finalize its rules of procedures and provide advice on the drafting of a new constitution. In particular, they will help clarify the GNC’s role in the process and support planning, organisation and outreach to the Libyan population around the event. ... [Read more]
IPU Welcomes Breakthrough in Women’s Political Participation in Saudi Arabia
11 January 2013
IPU will start delivering priority assistance to the Libyan General National Congress (GNC) next week as a new constitution for the country is due to be drafted and adopted before legislative elections can take place.
The move makes the Gulf country the fourth highest in the Arab region in terms of women’s political participation in parliament, according to IPU data on women in parliament.
IPU has been closely monitoring the progressive opening of political life to women in Saudi Arabia. Until the announcement last September by King Abdullah to give women the right to vote, stand for election in municipal elections and be appointed to the Shura Council, the Gulf country remained the only country in the world where women remained excluded from the political process.
... [Link to the press release]
IPU Mission Supports Egypt on Parliamentary Election Law
11 January 2013
An IPU expert mission to Egypt will work with authorities there on revising a law governing parliamentary elections ahead of new polls for the lower house of parliament in the coming weeks.
The mission on 13-14 January is part of on-going IPU support to Egypt in efforts to build a democratic society.
The team of experts specializing in electoral processes, women’s political participation and an MP from the UK, will provide advice on a range of issues. This includes putting in place the most reliable measures to elect a greater number of women to the Egyptian parliament. Egypt currently has only 15 women MPs, representing 2.0 percent of the total number of parliamentarians.
... [Link to the press note]
Bahrain, DRC and Maldives on Table as IPU Committee on Human Rights of MPs Meets
11 January 2013
The human rights abuses of MPs in Bahrain, Maldives and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will be among cases examined by IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians due to meet between 14-18 January.
The five-day session will include also a hearing with parliamentary authorities in Bahrain on the case of Matar Ebrahim Matar and Jawad Fairuz Ghuloom on allegations of arbitrary arrest, detention and ill-treatment. Fairuz is also among 31 opposition activists whose Bahraini citizenship was revoked last November.
The hearing follows a resolution adopted by IPU at its 127th Assembly in Quebec City last October voicing concerns at attempts to stifle opposition in Bahrain and at the lack of accountability over alleged ill-treatment of the two MPs.
... [Link to the press note]
New Year Message from IPU President Mr. Abdelwahad Radi
31 December 2012
In his New Year’s message, the IPU President salutes the organization’s many achievements in 2012.
“We have made significant contributions towards democracy. We have strengthened parliamentary diplomacy and assisted parliaments in meeting their countries’ development challenges. We have successfully defended the human rights of parliamentarians. Overall, we have made important strides in implementing the IPU’s Strategy and in making the Organization better known, more focused and a stronger advocate for democracy,” says Abdelwahad Radi. ... [Link to the message]
Supporting Libya in Establishing Full Parliamentary Democracy
18 December 2012
An agreement signed today (18/12) between the Vice-President of Libya’s General National Council (GNC) Ghiuma Ataigha and IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson in Tripoli marks a significant step in Libya’s efforts to establish a parliamentary democracy.
The GNC, which was elected this summer and has appointed an interim government, has a year to organize elections based on a new constitution yet to be drafted. These elections will lead to the formation of a new parliament in a post-revolution Libya.
The agreement between the GNC and IPU follows a request from Libya to help ensure a smooth transition to democracy. IPU will initially focus on a priority programme of support that includes reviewing the rules and procedures in the way the 200-member GNC works and sharing worldwide parliamentary experiences by providing advice on the process of drafting a new constitution. It will also provide training and other support to the GNC secretariat in effectively carrying out its function, and to women members of the GNC in a bid to empower women’s political participation and help lay the foundations for a parliamentary institute that is gender attuned.
The Arab region currently has the lowest regional average of women in parliament in the world at 13.2 per cent. In Libya, 16.5 per cent of women were elected to the GNC. IPU research has shown that democratic transition provides a unique opportunity to address inequalities from the past.
“Libya has set out a clear path to putting in place a fully democratic system in the country in the next year. IPU is committed to providing whatever support is required of us to helping Libya achieve its democratic goals as smoothly and as quickly as possible,” says Anders B. Johnsson.
The agreement revitalizes IPU’s links with Libya, which first joined the organization in 1958.
A three member team of IPU experts will begin work at the beginning of January 2013. In addition, it will also carry out a comprehensive assessment on what is needed to rebuild an effective legislative body in the North African country that also fulfils its role of overseeing executive government and holding it to account. The assessment will lead to a strategic plan of action on achieving this.
IPU’s support to Libya follows similar efforts begun this year to support the establishment of parliamentary democracy and help in democratic transform in Myanmar and Tunisia and Egypt.... [Link to the press note]
IPU Kick-Starts Long-Term Support to Myanmar with Swedish Support
12 December 2012
IPU is launching a five-month support programme to strengthen the Parliament of Myanmar’s library, research and information service. It’s the first building block towards longer-term support to be delivered over the next three years by IPU and UNDP in coordination with other organizations such as International IDEA and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).
This will include assisting the parliament in implementing democratic reforms and to develop its oversight, law making and representative roles. As an immediate step, 30 parliamentary staff will receive a one-month basic training and certification on IT software starting mid-December. This will build their computer and internet skills to provide services to MPs. Building a modern, member-focused parliamentary library was identified by Myanmar’s parliamentary authorities as a priority during an IPU needs assessment mission earlier this year. The library project, funded by the Swedish Development Agency, Sida, will be implemented by international and national staff on the ground. The Assembly of the Union of Myanmar has made impressive progress in its short history in improving structures and services, adopting standing orders and basic procedures and setting up a full legislative schedule. In the five sessions it has held since its re-establishment in 2010, it has discussed more than 100 bills and proposals and enacted numerous laws.
Security Council Reform Needed to Strengthen Worldwide Peace and Security
12 December 2012
The annual UN-IPU Parliamentary Hearing held in New York last week called for reform of the UN Security Council to make it more representative and so command more authority and acceptance of peace-making efforts around the world.
The recommendation, which follows on from an IPU resolution adopted at its 126th Assembly in Kampala earlier this year, was amongst many others endorsed by the 180 parliamentarians and high level UN officials, experts and representatives from Member States who participated in the Hearing. This year’s meeting focused on the role of parliaments in conflict prevention, reconciliation and peace-building. Participants also called for greater involvement of women in national politics as a guarantee of long-term stability. They recommended that at least 30 per cent of women should be represented in decision-making bodies, with the aim of reaching parity. The hearing further urged IPU to continue building bridges between national parliaments and UN missions, and the UN to systematically include and strengthen parliaments in peace processes. UN Parliamentary hearings have been held since 2003 aimed making international decision-making more transparent and effective.
Supporting Libya in Establishing Full Parliamentary Democracy
13 December 2012
IPU Secretary-General Anders B. Johnsson will sign an agreement with the President of Libya’s General National Council (GNC) Mohamed Al-Magariaf in Tripoli next week on a programme of support that will pave the way for the establishment of a full parliamentary democracy in the North African country.
Initially, IPU will focus on a set of priorities including clarifying the GNC’s role over a new constitution, reviewing all rules and procedures of the GNC, and providing support to women’s political representation in Libya. Ensuring that the Libyan people are fully informed and engaged on the process to establish parliamentary democracy will be another key area of work. The GNC, elected this July and which appointed an interim government in November, requested support from IPU in its efforts to ensure democratic transition.
The agreement revitalizes IPU’s links with the Libyan Parliament, which first joined the organization in 1958, and strives to ensure long-term stability in the country. A full assessment of parliamentary needs will also be carried out. IPU’s support to Libya follows similar efforts just this year to support the establishment of parliamentary democracy in Myanmar and Tunisia.
Parliaments Pledge to Enforce Bans on Violence Against Women in East and Southern Africa
13 December 2012
Parliaments from Eastern and Southern African countries have made commitments to strengthen laws banning violence against women and girls in the region and guarantee their effective enforcement.
At a seminar organized by IPU and the Tanzanian Parliament in Dar-es Salaam last week, representatives of the parliaments of Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia put forward a series of priority measures, including the establishment of monitoring systems to assess the implementation and effectiveness of legislation on violence against women. They also agreed to create a dedicated group in each parliament to champion the cause. Countries in these two regions of Africa face a particular challenge in aligning national laws with international legal instruments on violence against women and overcoming the cultural, social and economic hurdles that stand in the way of implementation. The gathering was part of the 16 days of global activism that follow the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November. This year, IPU focused on using legislation to end violence against women and girls, a global scourge that spares no society.
Honing the Leadership Skills of Women MPs in Burundi
13 December 2012
In a bid to enhance the role and influence of women MPs in the political scene in Burundi, women parliamentarians in the east African country have been given training on ways to build their leadership, communication and advocacy skills as part of a long-standing IPU programme there on strengthening the parliament’s capacity to address gender issues and violence against women.
At 31st in the IPU wold rankings of women in parliament, the Burundian parliament has relatively strong female participation with 30.5 per cent of MPs in the lower house and 46.3 per cent in the senate being women. The training in the capital Bujumbura in mid-December focused on linking concepts and strategies to practical exercises on how to lead and communicate on key messages. A special session was devoted to developing targeted advocacy tools to combat gender-based violence. IPU has carried out similar training in many parts of the world including Togo, Rwanda, Jordan and the Gulf States.
Strengthening Democracy Through Constituency Work in Bangladesh
13 December 2012
IPU is assisting Bangladeshi MPs enhance their relations with and services to the citizens they have been elected to represent, as part of a UNDP programme to build stronger democratic governance in the country that IPU supports.
Based on international best practices collected in the IPU-UNDP Global Parliamentary Report, IPU is providing expertise to Bangladesh on studying and assessing the state of constituency relations. MPs in Bangladesh devote a considerable amount of time to constituency work, but face significant difficulties in establishing and maintaining personal links with the electorate. The large size of constituencies, the high level of illiteracy among the population and the lack of personal offices and staff for MPs in Bangladesh are among the main challenges that need addressing. In a report to be issued in the spring, experts will develop recommendations adapted to the Bangladeshi context and identify resources on how to best maintain two-way contact between MPs and constituencies and to communicate with and seek inputs from citizens so that they can actively participate in political decision-making in the country.
Egypt’s Democratic Future Under Threat Without Representative Constitution
12 December 2012
Egypt’s fight for democracy will have been in vain without putting in place a constitution that guarantees the rights of all of its people or one on which everyone can agree, says the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
“Democracy and strong democratic leadership is about listening to and representing the voice of all the people. A constitution needs to be built on that foundation if a country’s future is to be peaceful and assured,” says IPU President Abdelwahad Radi.
He deplored the violence and deaths of recent days and weeks and latest moves to use military force to maintain order. “The Egyptian people have shown time and time again that their democratic aspirations underpin their belief in the future. Many have even given their lives to this quest. It must not be for nothing.”
... [read more]
Annual Parliamentary Hearing at the UN to Explore Peace-Making Role of Parliaments
6 December 2012
The role of parliaments in conflict prevention, reconciliation and peace-building is the main focus of this year’s IPU-UN annual Parliamentary Hearing which opened on 6 December at the UN headquarters in New York.
The 2-day event, which gathers together some 180 parliamentarians and high level UN officials, experts and member States takes place as the 67th session of the General Assembly continues. It was opened by IPU President Abdelwahad Radi, UN General Assembly President Vuc Jeremić and UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Elliason. As part of IPU’s efforts to support UN action to promote peace and security, participants are identifying ways parliaments can strengthen UN field missions, its Peace building Commission and the Human Rights Council in addition to examining the role of legislators in conflict mediation, transitional justice and truth and reconciliation. The hearing draws from concrete situations in Kenya, Sierra Leone and Timor Leste to explore avenues for parliamentary engagement in peace-making. The need to bring more women in peace mediation efforts and their contribution to stability is also being discussed. In addition, a debate on the changes in the composition of the UN Security Council to reflect the world’s current balance of powers will be held at the close, as a follow-up to an IPU resolution adopted at its 126th Assembly in Kampala earlier this year. The conclusions are aimed at making international decision-making more transparent and effective.
... [IPU-UN annual Parliamentary Hearing]
Ending Violence Against Women and Girls in Eastern and Southern Africa
6 December 2012
IPU is expanding its campaign to fight violence against women (VAW) to Eastern and Southern Africa.
MPs and parliamentary staff from the region are gathered in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania to examine the challenges of implementing the various laws their parliaments have adopted to eliminate VAW. The event, taking place on 5-7 December, will identify what is needed to secure effective law enforcement and change attitudes, just as vital as the legislation itself to guarantee women’s right to be free from violence. The gathering is part of the 16 days of global activism that follow the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November. This year, IPU is focusing on using legislation to end violence against women and girls. IPU has been working since 2008 to engage parliaments in taking the lead on the fight against VAW. The event in Tanzania follows others organized in Europe, Latin America, Central and Western Africa and Asia, which focused on the specific needs and concerns of each region. Not all countries in Africa have laws banning VAW, and many who do face great hurdles in ensuring their implementation. This gathering hopes to reproduce the breakthrough achieved in the Maldives which earlier this year, adopted legislation that IPU helped draft. It has triggered the drafting of similar legislation in several African countries. IPU-supported bills are on the table in Togo and Burkina Faso with the Organization also helping to trigger legislative reforms in favour of women in Mali and Burundi.
... [link to event]... [International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women]
Supporting Turkey to Establish Gender Sensitive Parliament
29 November 2012
IPU and UN Women are supporting Turkey in its efforts to assess what progress parliament has made in integrating gender equality in its structures and functioning in recent years and to identify existing challenges.
The self-assessment from 30 November to 2 December follows a request by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) of the Turkish parliament to both IPU and UN Women. Involving both men and women MPs from the EOC and parliamentary officials, the self-assessment will analyse amongst other things, women in parliament, plans and capacity needs for achieving gender equality, legislative frameworks as well as internal policies and procedures. Turkey currently ranks joint 95th with Chile in the IPU world rankings of women’s political participation with only 78 women out of 550 MPs. Earlier this year, IPU worked with the Chilean parliament in carrying out a self-assessment on how gender sensitive its parliament was. The self-assessment will result in a report with the main findings and recommendations, which could lead to a plan of action on addressing the issue. At the recent 127th IPU Assembly in Quebec City, IPU members adopted a plan of action aimed at helping parliaments globally on establishing gender sensitive parliaments.
... [plan of action]
... [link to report]
Caribbean MPs Seek Effective Ways to Meet Citizens’ Needs
29 November 2012
Parliamentarians from English-speaking Caribbean parliaments have come together in Trinidad and Tobago to develop common strategies to better respond to the needs of their constituencies.
A workshop organized by IPU and the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament in Port-of-Spain on 26 and 27 November used the Global Parliamentary Report as a framework to address the huge volume of requests MPs receive from citizens, and seek practical ways to maximize their limited time and resources to effectively deal with them. Every day, people come to ask MPs in the region for help in finding a job or a house, in paying their bills or repairing local roads. Participants at the meeting developed solutions to educate citizens about the role of their representatives, diffuse unrealistic expectations towards MPs as service providers, and design long-lasting solutions to common constituency problems. A set of 36 targeted recommendations were issued, including making greater use of constituency meeting to solve common problems, creating funds and programmes that remain after individual terms in office and coming together in bi-partisan efforts to influence national policies.
... [link to event]
... [link to recommendations PDF]
World AIDS Day - Parliaments Essential to Political Will in Tackling HIV/AIDS
29 November 2012
With the release of latest figures on HIV/AIDS by UNAIDS in its global report for 2012 showing a significant drop in the number of new infections in 25 countries, IPU remains committed to parliamentary action on tackling the disease.
Parliaments can and will continue to play an essential part in providing the necessary political leadership to meeting global AIDS targets by 2015, mainly through legislation, by reforming health systems to better respond to the disease and by ensuring adequate budgets are in place. Through its Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS, IPU is helping parliaments to review, repeal or amend punitive and discriminatory laws that impede effective responses to AIDS, although this is an area where much work remains to be done in countries around the world. The UNAIDS report cites that laws or policies that blocked effective HIV prevention, treatment and care for key populations exist in between 60-70 per cent of countries. For information on what MPs can do to fight HIV/AIDS, go to:
IPU Human Rights Mission to Maldives Questions Lack of Police Accountability
22 November 2012
An IPU Human Rights team to the Maldives has expressed deep concern that police officers using excessive force against MPs remain unpunished and that parliamentarians continue to be subjected to political and physical intimidation in the country.
Presenting preliminary findings on the last of a three day mission to the Indian Ocean nation, the head of the IPU mission Philippine Senator Francis Pangilinan, pointed out that in several cases of police aggression towards opposition MPs, there is clear video evidence available that should have enabled the authorities to take swift and effective action.
He also highlighted the violent arrest of MPs Abdulla Jabir and Hamid Abdul Ghafoor last week on what appears to be politically motivated charges days ahead of a crucial parliamentary vote as the latest examples of the lack of police accountability and the need for MPs to do their job without fear of reprisals.
A member of IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, Senator Pangilinan called on the Police Integrity Commission to do everything possible to shed full light on the arrests and take the necessary action. He also called on the authorities to resolve the earlier cases of police violence and intimidation.
Whilst stating that MPs should not be above the law, he offered IPU’s continued assistance to help the Maldivian parliament devise ways to offer adequate legal protection to its MPs. “Those who make the law should be the first to uphold it and the same applies to those tasked to enforce it,” Senator Pangilinan said.
A South African parliamentary expert on the IPU team will stay on in the Maldives to work with the Privileges Committee of the Maldives Parliament to finalize a draft Privileges Bill on which IPU has been providing technical advice. It would, when passed by parliament, provide more legal protection to MPs in doing their work.
The three-member IPU Human Rights mission, carried out amidst rising political tension in a country that has been in crisis since February and witness to much violent protest, held many high-level meetings including with President Waheed and the Speaker of the Maldivian parliament.
It also gathered first-hand information on cases of human rights abuses involving 19 opposition MPs lodged with the IPU Committee. These largely involve allegations of excessive violence, arbitrary arrests, intimidation and politically motivated criminal charges.
The IPU Committee expressed deep concern during the IPU’s 127th Assembly in Quebec City at reports of renewed ill-treatment, detention and harassment of the Maldivian MPs by law enforcement officers as well as shock at the killing of MP Afrasheem Ali in early October.
... [Link to press release]
IPU Calls for Legislative Commitment to End Violence Against Women
22 November 2012
IPU is calling for strong legislative frameworks to outlaw violence against woman as the Organization marks the International Day to End Violence Against Women on 25 November.
A scourge common to all countries worldwide, IPU is providing resources and tools for parliaments to mark the day with special events around this year’s theme Using legislation to end Violence against women and girls.
While almost 75 per cent of countries in the world guarantee gender equality through legislation and a growing number outlaw domestic violence, implementation lags behind and violence against women remains widespread.
IPU’s campaign on Violence against Women (VAW) launched in 2008 has helped organize vital parliamentary leadership on the issue and supported legislative processes in many regions of the world.
The campaign was instrumental in bringing about ground-breaking legislation against domestic violence in the Maldives passed earlier this year. In Africa, IPU has helped to break the taboo surrounding violence against women and girls as well as female genital mutilation.
[International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women]
Ending Violence Against Women and Girls in Eastern and Southern Africa
22 November 2012
IPU is expanding its campaign to fight violence against women (VAW) to Eastern and Southern Africa. MPs and parliamentary staff from the region will gather in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, on 5 to7 December to examine the challenges of implementing the various laws their parliaments have adopted to eliminate VAW.
The event will identify what is needed to secure effective law enforcement and change attitudes, as vital as the legislation itself to guarantee women’s rights to be free from violence.
The gathering is part of the 16 days of global activism that follow the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November. This year IPU’s focus on the day is on using legislation to end violence against women and girls.
IPU has been working since 2008 to engage parliaments in taking the lead on the fight against VAW. This event follows others organized in Europe, Latin America, Central and Western Africa and Asia which focused on the specific needs and concerns of each region.
Not all countries in Africa have laws banning VAW, and many who do face great hurdles in ensuring their implementation. This gathering hopes to reproduce the breakthrough achieved in the Maldives where earlier in the year, legislation which IPU helped draft, was adopted.
It has triggered the drafting of similar legislation in several African countries. Bills drafted with IPU support are on the table in Togo and Burkina Faso with the Organization also helping to trigger legislative reforms in favour of women in Mali and Burundi.
[International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women]
IPU Begins Human Rights Mission to Maldives Amidst Increasing Reports of Political Intimidation
20 November 2012
An IPU human rights team to the Maldives has begun a three-day mission to tackle cases on the human rights abuses of MPs as political tension and fears rise in the country.
With growing concern over increasing reports of political intimidation, political unrest and continuous violence in the Maldives, the mission from 20-22 November, will gather information first-hand through meetings with concerned MPs.
The three-member team, including Philippine Senator Pangilinan from IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians and IPU’s Human Rights programme head, will have several high-level meetings at the invitation of the government. These include talks with President Waheed, government ministers, the Speaker of the national parliament and other high-level parliamentary and judicial authorities.
Currently 19 Maldivian MPs from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have lodged cases with the IPU Committee concerning allegations of excessive violence, arbitrary arrests, intimidation and criminal charges believed to be politically motivated. However, the mission will also address incidents involving the arrests and intimidation of other MPs in the past few days.
The decision to carry out the mission was adopted at IPU’s 127th Assembly in Quebec City last month in a series of resolutions recommended by the IPU Committee. At the time, the Committee also expressed deep concern at reports of renewed ill-treatment, detention and harassment of the MPs by law enforcement officers as well as shock at the killing of MP Afrasheem Ali in early October.
Maldives has been in political crisis since February when incumbent President Mohamed Nasheed was replaced by his Vice-President Mohamed Waheed. Since then, there has been growing international concern at the political intimidation and serious outbreaks of violence in the country.
A South African parliamentary expert on the IPU team will also be working with the Privileges Committee of the Maldives Parliament to finalize a draft Privileges Bill on which IPU has been providing technical advice. It would, when passed by parliament, provide more legal protection to MPs as they carry out their political and representational work.
... [Link to press release]
IPU Calls for End to Hostilities and Resumption of Serious Peace Talks in Middle East
16 November 2012
Deeply concerned by the escalation of violence in the Middle East, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has today called for an immediate end to the hostilities in the region and for serious negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to resume immediately.
“Decades of conflict between the two sides have not resolved anything and caused countless deaths and misery. Peace is the only way forward and to achieve that, all sides representing their respective populations have to sit down and talk to each other,” says IPU President Abdelwahad Radi. “The peace process, which has for too long been in a state of limbo, has to resume in a meaningful way.”
IPU has long been committed to helping establish peace in the region with two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side.
The Organization’s Committee on Middle East Questions, which had to postpone a mission to the region due to begin this weekend, is committed to going to the region as soon as possible to continue its work to facilitate dialogue between the two sides.
“IPU will do what it can to support all political initiatives to restart dialogue and to bring peace to this region,” states Radi.
... [Link to press release]
MPs Urge Renewed Social Contract and Conclusion of Doha Trade Negotiations
16 November 2012
More than 250 MPs and parliamentary experts attending the annual Parliamentary Conference on the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, have committed to using all political means available to bring about a successful conclusion of the Doha Round of trade negotiations.
Expressing deep concern at the lack of progress on the negotiations in a concluding statement, the Conference calls for a balanced but ambitious development orientated outcome to the Doha Round with emphasis on achieving quick progress on development-related issues.
There is also concern at the growth of protectionist measures adopted by countries in the wake of the global financial crisis with the Conference reiterating the crucial role of the WTO in stabilizing the global economy through adherence to its rules and commitments.
The statement, which covered several issues including the importance of tackling the employment crisis by understanding the trade-employment nexus, also underlined the need for a new “social contract” between State and citizens in the wake of widespread popular protests.
It was an opportune moment to reconsider the nature and magnitude of the financial sector in globalization and rebalancing the global finance and trading systems to make them work for the poor was part of that challenge. Doha, the concluding statement says, is a key part of that solution.
MPs attending the IPU-European Parliament organized conference, also reiterated their view that the WTO needed a strong and effective parliamentary dimension to its work, particularly given parliament's oversight role in international trade negotiations and the implementation of trade agreements.
... [link to event]
... [Link to press note]
Connecting Politics and Trade, Parliamentary Conference on the WTO
14 November 2012
More than 250 MPs and parliamentary experts specialising in trade issues will gather in Geneva for the annual session of the Parliamentary Conference on the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 15-16 November.
With the Doha Round of trade negotiations still in deadlock and the impact of the global financial crisis still widely felt, parliamentarians will look at how to provide strong international rules and political leadership on trade and economic policy. The conference, a process initiated ten years ago by IPU and the European Parliament, will strive to provide a political impulse to the multilateral negotiating process and strengthen parliamentary oversight over world trade talks. Under this year’s theme ‘Back to Basics: Connecting Politics and Trade’, participants will meet with fellow MPs, WTO officials and government negotiators to debate trade as a tool of economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation; hold a hearing with WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy and hear first-hand information from a newly-established WTO expert panel on the future of trade. The conference will conclude with an outcome document on what is needed to achieve a fair and balanced multilateral trading system.
... [link to event]
Legislative Commitment Needed to End Violence Against Women
14 November 2012
IPU is calling for strong legislative frameworks to outlaw violence against woman as the Organization marks the International Day to End Violence Against Women on 25 November.
A scourge common to all countries worldwide, IPU is providing resources and tools for parliaments to mark the day with special events around this year’s themeUsing legislation to end Violence against women and girls.While almost 75 per cent of countries in the world guarantee gender equality through legislation and a growing number outlaw domestic violence, implementation lags behind and violence against women remains widespread. IPU’s campaign on Violence against Women (VAW) launched in 2008 has helped organize vital parliamentary leadership on the issue and supported legislative processes in many regions of the world. The campaign was instrumental in bringing about ground-breaking legislation against domestic violence in the Maldives passed earlier this year. In Africa, IPU has helped to break the taboo surrounding violence against women and girls as well as female genital mutilation and has assisted in drafting comprehensive bills currently under review in Togo and Burkina Faso. A regional seminar to help parliaments in East and Southern Africa monitor the implementation of laws on violence against women will be held on 5-6 December in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
... [International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women]
Strengthening Political Representation and Constituency work in the Caribbean region
14 November 2012
Parliamentarians and government ministers from the Caribbean region will gather in Trinidad and Tobago late November to find practical ways to reconnect with their electorate at a time of growing mistrust towards political leaders and increasing demands for political accountability.
The two-day event to take place in Port-of-Spain on 26-27 Novemberand organized by IPU and the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament, will build on the findings on the IPU-UNDP Global Parliamentary Reportaimed at helping MPs better understand and respond to the needs of citizens and at improving their representative role. MPs and Ministers will share the challenges they face in meeting voters’ expectations and their experience in handling the variety of requests from their constituencies. Over the two-days, participants will also develop practical ways to strategically manage their casework and identify immediate steps parliaments can take to improve constituency service at the local and national levels. The event will also provide an opportunity for the region’s parliaments to explore ways of inter-parliamentary cooperation through IPU.
... [link to event]
... [link to Global Parliamentary Report]
New Report Underlines Unprecedented Use of Social Media by Parliaments in Citizen Engagement
14 November 2012
Parliaments around the world are making unprecedented use of social media and mobile technologies to facilitate MPs work and increase citizens’ engagement, according to the latest data analysed in the World e-Parliament Report 2012.
The report, a joint initiative of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the United Nations, used information provided by 156 parliaments around the world on their use of ICT and analysed the data against two previous polls in 2007 and 2009. For the first time, social media is among the top ten communication methods used by parliaments to engage with citizens, the report shows. Parliaments’ use of mobile technology is also booming. More than 50 per cent of them now provide smartphones or tablets to MPs. While significant progress has been made on communicating with citizens, this area is still lagging behind compared with other uses of ICT, the report finds. Overall, financial and staff constraints remain the two greatest obstacles to fully reaping the benefits of information and communications technology (ICT) in all countries, the report concludes.
... [link to e-Parliament Report]
Promoting MPs’ Role in Human Rights Oversight
14 November 2012
As part of IPU’s efforts to promote human rights and strengthen parliamentary contribution to the work of UN Human rights promotion mechanisms, IPU and the Commonwealth Secretariat organised a seminar this week in Geneva on the participation of MPs in the Universal periodic Review (UPR) process.
Through the newly established UPR, the UN Human Rights Council regularly assesses all UN Member States human rights record. In a series of case studies and discussions, around 90 participants from all regions of the world shared their experience in the process, identified challenges and discussed ways to more successfully engage in a country review and in the domestic implementation of recommendations from the UPR.
... [link to event]
Historic Number of Women Elected to US Congress
14 November 2012
With final results still pending, last week’s elections in the United States have already seen the largest number of women ever elected to the US Congress.
Women make up close to one in five Senators with 20 seats, the highest ever in the country’s history. At least 77 women so far will hold seats in the House of Representatives with final numbers still to be confirmed. Four states have elected women to the US Senate for the first time with New Hampshire the first state to be exclusively represented by women in both chambers as well as at the executive level with a female governor. Prior to the latest elections, the US ranked joint 80th in the IPU world rankings of women in parliament with a total of 17 per cent of women in both chambers, though those figures are likely to change when final results are in. The developments in the US elections come at the end of a year that has seen several important milestones for women in parliament in Algeria, France and elsewhere and are a welcome step towards greater progress on gender parity in politics.
IPU Backs International Efforts to Restore Democratic Rule in Mali
31 October 2012
Condemning the serious human rights abuses by armed rebel groups in Northern Mali, the 127th IPU Assembly which concluded on 26th October in Quebec City, Canada, adopted an emergency resolution backing international military efforts to regain control of the area.
IPU members strongly condemned the killings and abuses against civilians, in particular women and children, as well as the wanton pillaging and destruction of Mali’s cultural and religious world heritage sites by Islamic armed groups who took control of over two-third of Malian territory early this year. The resolution urges Mali to fully cooperate with international forces when they are deployed and welcomed the French, European Union and United Nations commitments to re-establish security and constitutional rule in Mali. It also urges the Malian transitional government to hold free and fair elections once order is restored.
...[read the emergency resolution]
Quebec City Declaration on Citizenship, Identity, Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Adopted at IPU 127th Assembly
31 October 2012
The declaration, adopted by IPU members at the close of the week-long meeting in Quebec City, Canada, calls on parliaments to protect diversity and human rights as universal values, and to ratify, adopt and implement laws to safeguard them.
It reaffirms IPU’s commitment to freedom of thought, opinion and expression but condemned those that intimidated and incited extremism, hatred, racism and violence. The declaration covers a wide range of issues such as the marginalization of indigenous peoples, the problem of stateless individuals, ensuring effective legal protection and remedies for those suffering discrimination and the need for special measures to pave the way for women’s full participation in politics and governance.
... [Read the declaration]
IPU Human Rights Missions to Maldives and Turkey
31 October 2012
Members of IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians will soon be undertaking fact-finding missions to the Maldives and Turkey as part of renewed efforts to resolve cases involving the human rights abuses of parliamentarians there.
The decision was taken by the Committee during the 127th IPU Assembly in Quebec City last week, with exact dates to be determined. The Committee is currently investigating the case of 19 opposition MPs in the Maldives, allegedly victims of excessive violence, arbitrary arrests and politically motivated criminal charges. In Turkey, the Committee will be looking at resolving the case of nine MPs, six of them Kurdish, imprisoned either for allegedly belonging to organizations conspiring to overthrow the ruling party or for being allegedly being involved in military coup plots.
... [Read the decision]
Human Rights Committee Resolutions Touch Countries Across World
31 October 2012
Thirty-seven cases involving 135 parliamentarians from 21 different countries were examined by IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, which met during 127th Assembly.
Resolutions were passed on 20 of the cases, including that of Diomi Ndongala, an MP from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Ndongala was arbitrarily arrested in June this year when he was due to attend the signing of a charter on a new opposition party. He claims to have been held incommunicado by intelligence officers for almost four months, reappearing in mid-October in urgent need of medical care. His claim is denied by the authorities. IPU is calling on the DRC authorities to hold an independent enquiry on the case.
On a more positive note, two human rights cases were resolved involving Chad and Cambodia. IPU also welcomes the release in recent months of 18 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council from administrative detention and trusts that a remaining five Palestinian MPs will be similarly released.
... [Read the resolutions]
Ambitious Plan of Action for Gender Equality in Parliaments
31 October 2012
IPU members have committed to a comprehensive Plan of Action on gender-sensitive parliaments, aimed at radically transforming the way national institutions address gender equality.
The action plan, a potentially far-reaching outcome of the 127th IPU Assembly, not only tackles women’s access to parliaments through affirmative action, but also gender parity in the roles and ranks inside parliament; legal frameworks; the gender infrastructure and culture within parliament as well as the need to engage political parties on the issue. It highlights the use of special measures to ensure more women are selected by political parties to run for “winnable” seats; amending national electoral laws and constitutions to allow reserved seats and enacting, updating and implementing gender equality laws. Such a move by national parliaments would not only transform parliaments but also society as a whole. In a move that would similarly change the way parliaments have been run throughout time by helping MPs and parliamentary staff achieve a work-family balance, the action plan calls for parliaments to rearrange their sitting hours so MPs can spend more time with their families.
... [Read Plan of Action]
UK Parliament Hosts International Parliamentary Conference on Gender and Politics
31 October 2012
Parliamentarians representing more than 60 countries will meet in London, UK, to address key issues surrounding women and politics.
The Conference on 6-8 November, jointly organised by the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (BGIPU) and the UK Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA UK), will focus on gender representation in parliament; the role of MPs in achieving representative democracy; legislation and gender issues and the economic empowerment of women. The conference will hear testimonials and case studies from around the world and will offer MPs a chance to build up skills in promoting gender equality in parliamentary committees, with the media and through social networks. All parliamentarians interested in following gender issues linked to parliament are invited to sign up to the Gender Parliamentary Reference Group (link: https://agora.trustedarea.net).
... [Link to conference]
IPU Mission to Libya
15 October 2012
An lPU mission to Libya has held a series of high-level meetings with Libyan authorities on how the Organization can help the North African state to rebuild a fully functioning and effective parliament.
The mission follows a request made to IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson by the Libyan authorities for such assistance. During the three-day mission, meetings were held with Libyan President Mohamed Yousef El-Magariaf, the acting Foreign Affairs Minister Abdel Aziz, as well as the Secretary General of and 17 MPs elected to the General National Congress earlier this summer. The mission and subsequent assistance revitalizes IPU’s links and relationship with the Libyan parliament, which first joined the Organization in 1958. As a first step to assisting the GNC and MPs, IPU has provided key publications and research tools to the GNC library to help parliamentarians carry out their work.
Women Speakers Commit to New Delhi Initiative on Sensitizing Parliaments on Gender
15 October 2012
Women speakers of parliament from around the world have committed to doing more to increase women’s representation in parliament and its formal decision-making bodies.
By adopting the New Delhi Initiative for Gender Sensitive Parliaments at the end of a two-day meeting hosted by the Indian parliament early October, the group of 13 women speakers who participated in the event recognized that as speakers of parliament, they played a crucial role in spearheading efforts to make both parliaments and society more responsive to gender issues and needs. With continuing low levels of women’s representation in parliament, a global average of just 20 per cent, the Initiative highlighted women’s representation in parliament and its structures as a priority action. It committed the women speakers to placing gender equality high on the parliamentary agenda, improving the parliamentary working environment and undertaking initiatives to share the responsibility for gender equality with men amongst other things. A series of specific measures such as supporting electoral laws and temporary special measures to increase the number of women elected to parliament were identified. The woman speakers also looked at their role in mentoring other women, both those who are MPs or who want to be one. The New Delhi Initiative precedes a plan of action on gender sensitive parliaments to be adopted at the 127th IPU Assembly in Quebec City, Canada.
IPU Steps up Efforts to Strengthen the Palestinian Legislative Council
15 October 2012
An IPU expert mission to the West Bank town of Ramallah will carry out a security assessment of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) this week as part of a programme of support aimed at building a modern, effective parliament for when the PLC is able to resume its functions.
The Palestinian legislative body has been unable to meet since 2007 due to political tensions and the detention of a large number of Palestinian MPs in Israel, although its secretariat is still working. This week’s security assessment will examine what is needed to make the PLC building a safe forum for MPs, parliamentary staff, media and the public to interact.
It follows another IPU expert mission last week focusing on how to improve the PLC’s internal rules and practices in a bid to help it adopt more fluid and transparent working methods, strengthen its law-making and oversight functions and increase its accountability. The mission will also help clarify the rights and responsibilities of MPs and their relation to government. Both missions are part of an IPU-UNDP programme of support for the PLC.
Supporting Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, New IPU Handbook for MPs
15 October 2012
A new IPU Handbook on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament offers a practical tool for parliamentarians on taking action to curb the arms race and reduce nuclear threats.
The Handbook, Supporting Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, was developed with experts from the World Future Council and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND). It is the latest step in IPU’s commitment to advance nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation by supporting MPS in their work to protect their citizens and future generations. Parliaments have an essential role to play in ridding the world of nuclear weapons, by enacting legislation and ratifying treaties, controlling military spending and reviewing national security doctrines. However, with the issue often remote from an MP’s daily agenda, the Handbook brings disarmament down to earth for every MP with more than 70 recommendations on taking action in their respective countries. It will be officially launched at the 127th IPU Assembly in Quebec City in Canada at a special plenary event attended amongst others by the head of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) Tibor Toth.
Transforming Parliament to Redress the Gender Deficit
3 October 2012
The IPU Meeting of Women Speakers hosted by the Indian parliament will adopt a declaration at the end of the two-day meeting.
The key issues of women’s access to parliament and to internal parliamentary structures kicked off an engaged and lively debate at the 7th IPU Meeting of Women Speakers of Parliament in New Delhi on 3rd October.
The issue of quotas or special measures to increase the numbers of women in parliament raised again the question of whether such measures helped or hindered women politicians. For Botswana, there is no question that quotas or special measures are desperately needed. For Speaker Nasha Nnananyana, the fact that her parliament hosts only a couple of women MPs is a desperately sad fact. “Women are completely absent from parliament,” she told her fellow women Speakers. The priority had to be in redressing this fundamental imbalance before other gender-related work in parliament could begin she stressed.
...[Read more on the dedicated page]
IPU Condemns Killing of MP in Maldives, Calls for Calm
2 October 2012
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has condemned the killing of MP Afrasheem Ali in the Maldives earlier on Tuesday.
The death is the latest and most tragic act of violence in a country that has been in a political crisis since the start of the year.
Ali, an MP for the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), is the first MP to have been killed though constant political tensions in the Maldives have led to many serious outbreaks of violence.
IPU is calling for all violence to end and for all political sides to remain calm.
The Organization is seriously concerned of reports that other MPs are receiving death threats, including through social media channels such as Twitter.
A number of Maldivian MPs are registered with the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians because of the violence, intimidation and political harassment they are suffering. IPU will be monitoring them and following up on developments in Maldives very closely to help ensure their safety.
"IPU is urging that full protection be given to MPs in the light of these developments," says IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson. IPU is also calling for speedy consideration of the Privileges Bill currently before Parliament and on which IPU is providing technical expertise. This bill, when passed by parliament, would provide more legal protection to MPs in performing their duties.
For further information, please contact Jemini Pandya, Tel: + 41 79 217 3374, Email: email@example.com
[read the press release]
UN Declaration Recognises Essential Role of Parliaments and IPU in Upholding Rule of Law
28 September 2012
The essential role that parliaments play in upholding the rule of law in their respective countries was recognized in a Declaration adopted by UN member states in New York at the conclusion of a High-Level Meeting on 24th September.
The Declaration [PDF], the first of its kind, was also the first time the UN had acknowledged at the highest level the specific contribution of national parliaments to the issue, welcoming inter-action between parliaments, IPU and the UN on the subject. Considered as a cornerstone of democracy, the application of the Rule of Law is a critical focus of work for national parliaments the world over and for IPU.
The High-Level Meeting, attended by world leaders amongst others, was an important opportunity for States to commit further to the rule of law as a basis for fulfilling the UN's main goals of peace, human rights and development. The Declaration also reaffirmed States' commitment to the principles of the Charter of the UN, international law and justice. Questions nevertheless remained on how to follow up more concretely on the principles entrenched in the Declaration. It was one of several issues examined during a parliamentary meeting organized by IPU and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) in New York in the aftermath of the High-Level Meeting. The event brought together MPs, UN officials and diplomats engaged on the issue.
A new publication Rule of Law – A Guide for Politicians which provides important information on the basic elements of the subject, is now available in English to help all MPs on this issue.
How to Effect Change for Women in Parliament – Women Speakers Meet in Delhi
28 September 2012
Women speakers of parliament from around the world will gather in the Indian capital, Delhi to focus on strategies to make parliaments more gender sensitive.
The IPU organized meeting on 3-4 October will tackle issues such as how to achieve gender parity in parliaments by transforming the way parliaments and political parties work. Hosted by the Indian parliament and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha Meira Kumar, the meeting of women speakers will also examine the findings of IPU's latest global survey on Gender Sensitive Parliaments. In addition to clearly defining the meaning of a gender sensitive parliament, the survey outlines key actions in several areas including legislation that supports gender equality and fostering a parliamentary culture that respects women's rights and promotes equality.
The high-level parliamentary meeting will be officially opened by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, Speaker Kumar and IPU President Abdelwahad Radi with keynote addresses given by UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet and IPU Secretary General Anders Johnsson. This, the 7th time IPU has organized a meeting bringing together women speakers of parliament, will conclude with an outcome document.
Tanzanian Parliamentary Leadership on HIV/AIDS Inspires Fellow MPs
IPU's Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS is building on Tanzania's success in tackling HIV/AIDS to boost parliamentary leadership to combat the disease around the world.
A field mission to Tanzania earlier this month showed Advisory Group members a clear example of how parliamentary leadership can bring tangible results in lowering the HIV prevalence rate, combating stigma and increasing funding for HIV/AIDS issues in Tanzania. Citing the Tanzania Parliamentary AIDS Coalition (TAPAC) which unites 75 per cent of all MPs on one issue and the creation of a Standing Committee on HIV/AIDS Affairs to mainstream HIV into all the work of the Tanzanian parliament, the HIV/AIDS Advisory Group is recommending the Tanzanian approach as a model for all parliaments wanting to strengthen their efforts in fighting the disease. Political leadership in particular is playing a critical role in fighting stigma, a key factor in discouraging voluntary HIV testing and counselling. The decision of Tanzanian President Kikwete and his wife to be publicly tested for HIV had led to an increase in voluntary testing, the Group noted.
Learning from the lessons of Tanzania, participating MPs from Belgium, Bahrain, Kenya, South Africa, Saudia Arabia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe will table a report on the field mission in their respective parliaments. Their involvement in IPU's HIV/AIDS Advisory Group has inspired some to take a lead in tackling the disease in their country. So far this year, Belgium and Saudi Arabia have adopted stronger laws to combat AIDS with Ecuador and Bahrain currently working on beefing up theirs.
MPs Meeting to Focus on Access to Justice and Rule of Law at UN General Assembly
14 September 2012
The details of a Declaration to be adopted at the end of a UN High-Level Meeting on the Rule of Law in New York on 24th September, will be examined at a parliamentary meeting with special focus being given to the question of access to justice for all.
The parliamentary meeting, organized by IPU and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) and sponsored by the Italian Mission to the UN, takes place on 26th September. It will provide MPs with an opportunity to discuss key aspects of the Rule of Law and the essential role parliaments play in ensuring its application. The UN High-Level Meeting and ensuing Declaration are aimed at discussing and agreeing on a forward-looking agenda on strengthening the rule of law. A new publication Rule of Law – A Guide for Politicians which provides important information on the basic elements of the subject, is now available in English to help all MPs on this issue at:
Togolese MPs Take Another Step Forward in Countering Child Trafficking and Labour
14 September 2012
Togolese MPs will be taking another step towards effectively fighting child trafficking and child labour in their country when they participate in training on how to ensure more of the national budget is allocated to the protection of children.
The training, organized by the NGO Forum des Organisations de Défense des Droits de l’Enfant (FODDET), is primarily aimed at ensuring greater civil society involvement in the national budget process, which despite national commitment to such initiatives, have so far yielded little progress. The involvement of MPs in this training will provide political support and follow-up on budget implementation. The Togolese parliament was among West African parliaments that agreed to intensify national and regional efforts to counter child trafficking and labour at an IPU, Sahel and West Africa Club and ECOWAS parliament meeting in Abuja in June 2012. To view the Abuja Declaration and other commitments, please go to:
/splz-e/cotonou10/declaration.pdf and /splz-e/abuja12/declaration.pdf
IPU Assesses Infrastructure Needs of Palestinian Legislative Council
14 September 2012
IPU is due to begin a needs assessment of the facilities and infrastructure of the Palestinian Legislative Council building in Ramallah.
It is the latest mission in a joint IPU-UNDP initiative to help the body resume parliamentary work in the future. The detention of a significant number of Palestinian MPs by Israel and divisions between Hamas and the Fatah, have paralysed the Palestinian legislative body since 2007, leaving only a Secretariat that is functioning as best it can.
The needs assessment will review the provisional facilities that the PLC and its Secretariat currently have in addition to looking at the specific needs of a parliament once a permanent location for the PLC has been agreed on. The review will help identify ways to upgrade the facilities so as to better meet the current needs of MPs, parliamentary staff, media and public. The initiative is part of a broader support programme funded by the European Union. A total of 20 IPU expert missions to Ramallah which began in April 2012, will have been carried out over an 18- month period as part of the programme. Initial missions reviewed the structure of the PLC’s Secretariat and the research and library capacity so that MPs would have better access information to do their work. An expert mission that began in late August is currently reviewing standing orders and other legislative procedures of the PLC.
Peace Never Given Chance in Syria, Says IPU on International Day of Democracy
12 September 2012
Peace can never have a chance in Syria without respect for differences in political views inside or out of the country, nor a genuine commitment to using dialogue to end the crisis there, says the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
“The Arab Spring underscores the critical importance of political diversity and dialogue to both peace and to the concept of democracy,” says IPU President Abdelwahad Radi, as the Organization marks International Day of Democracy on 15th September.
With thousands of people reported to have died so far in an increasingly brutal conflict that has forced hundreds of thousands of Syrians to seek refuge in neighbouring countries, a political solution seems as out of reach as ever. The need for dialogue bringing together not just opposing sides in the Syrian conflict but also those caught in the middle, has never been so crucial or so urgent.
The IPU welcomes the UN-Arab League Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi’s reported intentions to talk to as many people as possible in his work to bring about peace to Syria. It hopes all concerned voices will be heard and engaged in the process.
However, the Organization is urging all concerned parties in Syria and the international community to put aside individual political interests and genuinely commit to a dialogue that brings all views to the table in the interests of the Syrian people and to peace.
It also reiterates a call made to the Syrian parliament on 30 August (/press-e/gen300812.htm) to fulfil its legal responsibility to protect the Syrian people regardless of their political allegiances and to hold government to account.
“As they mark International Day of Democracy, parliaments must never forget that most people believe that the will of the people should be the basis of the authority of government. People do not take to the streets or take up arms to replace one form of dictatorship with another. What they demand is a system that brings everyone into the political fold and to participate in political dialogue through free and fair elections,” Radi argues.
At its 126th Assembly in Kampala earlier this year, the IPU adopted a resolution expressing solidarity and sympathy for the Syrian people whose democratic freedoms and human rights were being systematically and brutally undermined. The resolution also called for an immediate end to the violence and abuses in Syria, whilst fully supporting international and regional efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.
International Day of Democracy – Dialogue and Inclusiveness Key to Solving Today’s Problems
30 August 2012
With the conflict in Syria becoming ever more bloody and the events of the Arab Spring still very much in the public mind, IPU President Abdelwahad Radi is underlining the critical importance of political integration and dialogue to peace and democracy as the world marks International Day of Democracy (IDD) on 15th September.
"People have not taken to the streets, and at times, taken up arms and paid with their life, to replace one form of dictatorship with another. What they are demanding and what has to be delivered is a system that brings everyone into the political fold…. That is as true everywhere else as it is in the Arab world,” he says in a statement to IPU members ahead of the Day." Clearly plurality of views can lead to confrontation…. But what separates democracy from other political philosophies is the principle and practice of solving differences first and foremost through dialogue.”
A series of events across the world mainly hosted by national parliaments will celebrate the Day which has Dialogue and Inclusiveness as its theme. In Geneva, the IPU will participate in an Open Day at the UN’s Palais des Nations, focusing on activities relating to parliaments and democracy. Parliaments, MPs and the public at large are being encouraged to participate in a Twitter event using #IDD2012 as the hash tag. For more resources and information on IDD 2012, please go to: ipu.org/idd and follow @IPUparliament on Twitter. The full statement by President Radi can be accessed here. [read more]
Using Technology to Open Parliaments to the Public
30 August 2012
Parliaments are facing a serious challenge in keeping up with the rapid evolution of etechnology as they strive to inform and engage their electorate, according to the World eParliament Report 2012.
The report, to be presented at the 5th World e-Parliament Conference in Rome between 13-15 September, nevertheless finds that new technology offers parliaments, often grounded in the practices of the 19th century, opportunities to modernize. Many are making strategic use of technology in changing how they work, communicate externally and how they engage their citizens in the legislative process. The report cites the increase in webcasting plenary sessions (up to 52% of parliaments in 2012 from 43% in 2009) and in the use of Twitter (up to 29% from 12% in the same period) as how some technology is being used to involve citizens in their work.
The World e-Parliament Conference, organized by the UN and IPU and hosted this year by the Italian Chamber of Deputies, is the biennial platform for sharing information on the
use of state-of-the-art technology in parliament. Political leaders will draw lessons learned from their efforts to open up parliament whilst technical experts will present the tools they are developing to put this political will into practice. IPU President Abdelwahad Radi will address the conference as it concludes on the International Day of Democracy on 15th September.
Details on and the webstreaming of the conference are available at:
Pacific Parliaments Set Priorities for Community Engagement and Relations with IPU
30 August 2012
Eleven parliaments from Pacific states have agreed on priority actions to better engage with their communities and constituents in a bid to strengthen democracy in their countries.
At a gathering organized by the Samoan and Australian parliaments and the IPU in Apia earlier this month, representatives from the 11 parliaments, many of them Speakers, agreed on a set of 19 priority actions such as improving community consultation on parliamentary bills; becoming financially independent; establishing constituency offices and examining parliamentary sitting times to allow adequate time for MPs to return to their communities and to target outreach to less represented sections of the community. Examining the findings of the IPU-UNDP’s Global Parliamentary Report on the changing face of political representation, participants also reflected on the challenges of having to combine their role as an MP with that of a traditional leader. The huge distances and remoteness of parliamentary constituencies in the Pacific states represent particular problems in fulfilling MPs’ responsibilities.
The 11 parliaments also agreed to seek on-going engagement of IPU in the region through membership and regional IPU-supported activities. Distance and the lack of resources have usually hampered the involvement of the Pacific parliaments in the IPU.
IPU calls on Syrian Parliament to fulfill its role and protect its people
30 August 2012
The IPU has today called on the Syrian parliament to fulfill its legal responsibility to protect the Syrian people and urgently take a lead in ending the conflict in the country.
In particular, it calls on the parliament to hold the government to account, especially in the oversight of the security and military forces and ensuring the safety of innocent civilians.
Since the conflict between government and anti-government forces began in 2011, becoming bloodier as it has endured, the Syrian parliament has been totally absent from the political stage and unacceptably silent on events as they have unfolded.
Although elected in May this year in elections boycotted by all the major opposition parties and by a fraction of eligible voters, the parliament is nevertheless obligated to protect all the citizens in the country irrespective of their political allegiances.
The call comes at the end of an extraordinary session of the IPU's Executive Committee in Geneva which ended today. The Committee also stated its intention to take the question of Syria's suspension from the IPU to its next assembly in Quebec City in October this year.