A Parliamentary dimension for the United Nations
On 21 November, the Inter-Parliamentary Union was granted observer status in the United Nations. The status includes the right, awarded to the IPU on an exceptional basis and currently enjoyed only by Palestine, to distribute its documents as official General Assembly papers. The world organisation of parliaments has thus taken a significant step towards its goal of endowing the United Nations with a parliamentary dimension.
This exceptional right was given to the Inter-Parliamentary Union on the basis of its being an inter-State organisation. Only two years after the Conference of Presiding Officers of National Parliaments, held at the United Nations on the eve of the Millennium Assembly, IPU resolutions will be distributed in the United Nations. In practical terms, this means that the IPU resolutions have been placed on a par with those of the UN Member States.
For the Inter-Parliamentary Union, this is an auspicious moment, long awaited and carefully prepared over the months and years. When he took the floor before the United Nations General Assembly - the first time a Council President had addressed the Assembly in that capacity - Mr. Sergio Páez expressed deep appreciation of the new opportunity to bolster relations between the United Nations and national parliaments through the IPU and to commit the Union to a new era of cooperation with the United Nations.
Meanwhile, in Geneva, preparations continue to establish a parliamentary dimension for the World Trade Organization (WTO). In February 2003, the IPU and the European Parliament will be holding a joint conference on the WTO which will be attended by the WTO Director General, Mr. Supachai Panitchpakdi. As governments prepare to address the Doha Development Agenda adopted in November 2001 and prepare for the Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference in September in Cancún, the meeting in Geneva will provide MPs who specialise in international trade with an opportunity to glean first-hand information from the new WTO leadership. They will hold talks with the government representatives involved in multilateral trade negotiations, exchange views with the representatives of the foremost international organisations executing trade-related assistance programmes, and hold a round table discussion with leaders of civil society.
Both in New York and Geneva, the IPU thus continues to build on its traditional role of providing a bridge between government and the citizen. As it takes possession of the House of Parliaments, its new Geneva headquarters, the Union is in a stronger position than ever before to channel the views of ordinary people into the international negotiating fora.