The 127th IPU Assembly will adopt a resolution on the situation of institutions and security in Mali at the end of the week. MPs gathered in Quebec from around the world chose to take action on the issue in view of the worsening humanitarian situation and the threats to international security posed by the crisis in the country. Islamic armed groups took control of over two-thirds of the Malian territory early this year, taking advantage of the vacuum left by a military coup d’état on 22 March.
Mali, which requested inclusion of the emergency item on the Assembly's agenda, has called for stronger support from the international community, including other parliaments, to stop violent attacks against civilians both in the north and south of the country where the safety of both people and property has been compromised by raids. The resulting insecurity has resulted in hundreds of thousands of displaced people.
The African nation is calling for military intervention aimed at retaking control of the two-thirds of the country currently under the control of Islamist groups and to re-establish security throughout the country.
“Justice in northern Mali is non-existent now,” El Hadji Baba Haidara, member of Mali’s National Assembly said at a debate on the subject. “We have no means to stand alone. The international community needs to stand behind Mali,” he added. He warned too that immediate action had to be taken before the situation reached “uncontrollable proportions” and spilled over into the entire Sahel region and beyond to the Mediterranean and Europe, expressing fears that Mali would become a terrorist base.
The decision to include an emergency item on Mali was taken through a vote by IPU members over three other proposals put forward by the Assembly. Two were on the situation in Syria and one on the defamation of religions.
During the debate on Mali, other delegates called for the restoration of constitutional order in Mali. The crisis in Mali “is not a regional crisis but one that concerns the four continents,” Belgian MP and State Minister François-Xavier De Donnea said. Morocco said it wanted to see an IPU mission sent to Mali to assess the situation and report to the next Assembly to take place in Ecuador in March 2013.
Debates were already in full steam on the first day of the week-long Assembly, which heard an opening address by Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird on the Assembly’s special theme of citizenship, identity and linguistic and cultural diversity in a globalized world. The theme will be debated by the 1368 participants attending the Assembly in the coming days and will lead to the adoption of a declaration at the closing session on 26th October.
Earlier on the day, a panel debate on the use of media to enhance citizen engagement and democracy discussed the opportunities offered by social networks to establish two-way channels of interaction between MPs and their constituencies. However, traditional media like TV, newspapers and radio should not be neglected as they remain the sole source of information for citizens in many parts of the world, the panellists said. Participants also debated the challenge of balancing freedom of speech with accountability and the protection of human rights on the web. The discussions will be fed into a resolution to be adopted at the next Assembly in Ecuador.