Condemning the serious human rights abuses by armed rebel groups in northern Mali, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is today backing international military efforts to regain control of the area.
In an emergency resolution being adopted at the closing session of the 127th IPU Assembly in Quebec City, IPU members strongly condemned the killings, abuses and violations against civilians, in particular women and children.
These and the wanton pillaging and destruction of Mali's cultural and religious world heritage sites have led IPU members to welcome both the French, European Union and United Nations commitments to help Mali retake the large swathes of territory occupied by armed and terrorist groups.
The resolution urges Mali's armed forces to fully cooperate with international forces when they are deployed. It also urges the Malian transitional government to hold free and fair elections once the security situation, which has debilitated the country, has abated.
Mali was one of three key outcomes of the 127th Assembly hosted by the Canadian parliament. The Quebec City Declaration which focused on the theme of citizenship, identity, linguistic and cultural diversity, calls on parliaments to do all they can to protect diversity as a global value. Conventions and laws protecting human rights and diversity should also be ratified, adopted and implemented.
The Declaration reaffirmed IPU's commitment to the right to freedom of thought, opinion, and expression, but also condemned those that intimidated and incited extremism, hatred, racism and violence.
It covered a wide range of important issues, including the marginalization of indigenous peoples; the need to find solutions for those that are stateless; ensuring national legal frameworks provide effective access to 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.
Despite women representing half the global population, they represent only 20 per cent of the 46,000 parliamentarians in the world. In a bid to address this systematically and to transform the way parliament addresses gender equality issues, IPU members have committed to a comprehensive plan of action on the issue.
The action plan being adopted at the closing session of the Assembly not only tackles women's access to parliaments, but also parity within roles and ranks inside parliament, legal frameworks, improving the gender infrastructure and culture within parliaments and engaging political parties to effect change on the issue.
It highlights the use of special measures to ensure more women are selected by political parties to run for "winnable" seats and amending national electoral laws and constitutions to provide reserved seats. Similar affirmative measures are included to have women equitably represented across all parliamentary leadership roles and committees, and not just those relating to women and children's issues. It would put women at the heart of parliamentary decision-making in partnership with men.
In a move that would radically change the way parliaments have been run throughout time and to help 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.
Among the many actions being put forward by the plan is enacting, updating and implementing gender equality laws. Such a move by national parliaments would not only transform parliaments, but also society as whole.
For full details on the Assembly, please go to: http://www.ipu.org/conf-e/127agnd.htm