JULY 2003
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white cube Editorial
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white cube Dossier: Parliamentarians active on the international political scene
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white cube IPU Activities: Parliament and oversight of armed forces
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The World of Parliaments

Should parliamentarians have a bigger stake in international politics, and particularly in Iraq ?

Mr. Jack Straw and IPU President, Chilean Senator Sergio Páez
"I hope that the IPU will be able to play a significant role in assisting the interim Government in Iraq", commented the British Foreign Secretary, Mr. Jack Straw, to the IPU President, Chilean Senator Sergio Páez, on 21 May 2003 in London.
Photo IPU/J. Oses

At a time when military spending is on the rise and the world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place, should parliamentarians have a bigger stake in international politics? The answer is yes, says the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which has recently produced a number of handbooks for MPs to be better informed and more incisive when they come to deal with sensitive dossiers. In Santiago de Chile, the IPU and the DCAF (Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of the Armed Forces) brought out a handbook for parliamentarians on parliamentary oversight of the security sector.

"Because security is central to people's well-being, it is essential that their views find expression in the nation's security policy. That policy has to incorporate the underlying values and principles relating to security which the State seeks to foster and protect. There is thus a clear need for the people's elected representatives in parliament to work closely with the government and the security sector" said Senator Sergio Páez of Chile, the President of the IPU. "The joint IPU/ DCAF handbook is a very useful tool which offers an entirely practical approach to helping to build a safer world." added Swiss MP Paul Günter. Philipp Fluri, Deputy Director of DCAF, recalled that "The idea of democratic parliamentary control of the armed forces is also gaining ground within NATO and the OSCE" .

Parliamentary oversight of the armed forces is a necessity. Agence France Presse quotes the latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI): military spending in the world climbed by 6% in 2002 to 794 billion dollars, amounting to 2.5% of world GDP and 128 dollars per capita. Worldwide, military spending dropped sharply in the 1989-1998 decade after the end of the Cold War, but in 2002 it rose for the fourth consecutive year. And everybody knows that rising military expenditure means war, destruction and suffering.

If they cannot prevent wars, parliamentarians, who have an ear to public opinion, can at least work to promote peace and help rebuild democratic institutions in conflict-torn countries. That is what they intend to do in Iraq, where the IPU is ready to provide its expertise in the reconstruction of this country, currently occupied by a US-led coalition. One of the parties to the conflict, the United Kingdom, represented by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, is in favour of this. In London Mr. Straw said to President Páez "I hope that the IPU will be able to play a significant role in assisting the interim Government in Iraq". Democracy would thus resume its rightful place, thanks to parliamentary diplomacy.


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