APRIL 2003
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white cube Editorial: Chile, never absent for long from the international political scene
white cube IPU News: The IPU and the international crisis relating to Iraq
white cube Dossier:Parliamentary Conference on the WTO in Geneva
white cube Gender Issues: Women in parliaments
white cube IPU Activities: Meeting of the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians
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The World of Parliaments
 IPU Conference in Chile

"It is important for Chile to host the 108th IPU Conference"

Mr. Andrés Zaldívar, Senator Sergio Páez, and Mr. Ricardo Lagos, President of the Republic of Chile
From left to right : Mr. Andrés Zaldívar, President of the Chilean Senate, Senator Sergio Páez, President of the IPU Council, and Mr. Ricardo Lagos, President of the Republic of Chile. Photo L. Guzmán.

Chile plays a leading role on the international political scene. An eagerly courted member of the UN Security Council at the height of the Iraq crisis, this country from the Southern Cone area has taken centre stage with the 108th Inter-Parliamentary Conference, due to take place in Santiago from 6 to 12 April at the invitation of the Chilean Parliament. It will be attended by the President of the Republic, Mr. Ricardo Lagos.

The President of the Chilean Senate, Mr. Andrés Zaldívar, who is also President of the 108th Inter-Parliamentary Conference, briefs us on the issues at stake :

Q : Why is it important for Chile to host the 108th Inter-Parliamentary Conference?
Andrés Zaldívar:
Chile has a historic vocation of openness to the world and cooperation with the international system. Our country also has a long parliamentary tradition - despite a few unfortunate interruptions - which implies a deeply rooted commitment to promoting the representative role of institutions. As a result of this calling, we are very active on the international political scene and we work hard to strengthen representative institutions throughout the world. That is why it is important for Chile to host this Conference.

Q : In your view, can parliamentary diplomacy play an important role in the present context?
It has been empirically proven that parliamentary diplomacy is an effective means of bringing the positions of parliaments on a potential or real conflict closer together. Moreover, as representatives of the people, we are in essence promoters of dialogue and coordination, because we are - objectively speaking - key players in the diplomatic arena. All the more reason for us to emphasise that, as representatives of the people's will, we have indisputable legitimacy.

Interview with Ms. Isabel Allende, the new President of the Chamber of Deputies of Chile, who will chair the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians

Mrs. Isabel Allende
Mrs. Isabel Assende. Photo IPU/H. Salgado

Q : Ms. Allende, why is it a priority for you to chair the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians on the occasion of the 108th Inter-Parliamentary Conference in Santiago ?
Isabel Allende:
I believe that it is IPU tradition to elect a well known woman parliamentarian from the host country. I will be chairing the Chamber of Deputies of Chile, and thus become the second woman presiding officer in my country's history. This is an honour, a challenge and a responsibility that I gladly assume, and I shall likewise be very honoured to chair the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians.

Q : Thirty years after the eleventh of September 1973, you will head the Chamber of Deputies. Is this a difficult challenge to take up?
For a woman, it is indeed a difficult challenge. Yet the fact that this comes thirty years later is also symbolic. I suppose that my father (Editor's note: the late President of the Republic of Chile, Salvador Allende) would be very proud to know that I will be the next Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies. Naturally, I regret that he will not be there, because I imagine it would have been a real pleasure for him. For me, this represents a great opportunity, a good experience and an enriching learning process.

Q : Is it sometimes difficult to bear the name of Isabel Allende?
It depends! I feel deeply moved and I am proud of the name I bear. I believe I had a father who was a good father, a great political figure and a person who was entirely true to himself. When I travel abroad, I am proud to realise just how much people remember and admire him. They have not forgotten what my father left us. Yet viewed from a different perspective, it was very painful to lose my father at the age of 28.

Q : What are your goals as an MP?
We want to increase the number of women in Parliament. Some topics concerning women and the family in general are priorities for us. We are pushing for the earliest possible adoption of a law that will reform common law marriages and legalize for divorce, as Chile is the only Christian and Catholic country in the Western world that does not allow divorce. I believe that the time has come to tackle this problem, because if we fail to do so we accept a sham. In my country, there is no legal framework for broken marriages, regardless of what some, including the Catholic Church, think. People are unable to remarry legally and regularise their situation. Other subjects are also of interest to us. We would like to amend the law on violence within the family. I feel very strongly about this question. Granted, we have passed very important laws to protect women and the family in general. But we cannot let this situation persist, because all we have done is ensure that the most vulnerable party remains vulnerable. We want to see legislation on alimony, visiting rights and the sharing of goods between the two spouses.

Q : What about gender parity?
I would like to see affirmative action and legislation to ensure that neither of the two sexes has more than 60% or less than 40% of the seats in Parliament. In Latin America, the two countries that have adopted such rules - Argentina and Costa Rica - are those with the highest number of women in parliament. A genuinely democratic society is built with both men and women.


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