IPU President 2008-2011
What is the IPU?
Dr. Theo-Ben GURIRAB, Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Namibia, was elected as President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union for a three-year mandate on 15 October 2008, at the 183rd session of the Governing Council of the IPU in Geneva. When his term came to an end on 19 October 2011, the Governing Council conferred on him the title of the Honorary President of the IPU.
BIOGRAPHY OF DR. THEO-BEN GURIRAB
The Hon. Theo-Ben Gurirab is the current Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Namibia; he was elected to this position on 20 March 2005. He previously served as the Prime Minister of the Republic of Namibia (2002-2005). Prior to that, Dr. T.-B. Gurirab was Minister of Foreign Affairs (1990-2000) and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Information and Broadcasting (2000-2002). Dr. T.-B. Gurirab held the title of Dean of African Foreign Ministers until 2002. He was a member of the Constituent Assembly Constitution Drafting Committee and also a founding member of parliament. He has been a member of the Central Committee and Politburo of the SWAPO Party since 1990.
In over 35 years in the field of international affairs and diplomacy, he has known and worked with three generations of world leaders and five United Nations Secretaries-General. In 1999, he returned to the United Nations to serve as President of the 54th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. He was instrumental in driving the UN reform process forward as reflected in the Millennium Declaration and presided over the drafting of the historic United Nations Declaration in 2000. Contrary to UN tradition, drafting of the Declaration was not done in the Committee as a whole, but entrusted to the President himself and his advisers. It was during his tenure as President of the UN General Assembly that the decision to accord observer status to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) was taken.
As a seasoned diplomat and negotiator, Dr. T.-B. Gurirab served as SWAPO's Chief Representative to the United Nations for 14 years and, later, as its permanent observer. Under his stewardship, the SWAPO Party of Namibia was granted permanent observer status at the United Nations. From 1986 to 1990, he was SWAPO's Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Throughout those years, he played a major part in negotiations and conference diplomacy that eventually led to Namibia's independence.
Over the 14 years of his stewardship as SWAPO's top diplomat at the United Nations, from 1972 to 1986, the organization's political and diplomatic status grew from that of a petitioner on the sidelines of diplomacy to a mainstream negotiator and participant in the international arena. Through his efforts, Dr. T.-B. Gurirab made the struggle of the Namibian people a cause celebre of the international community. The protracted negotiations that produced UN Security Council resolution 435 (1978), containing an internationally accepted plan to bring independence to Namibia, represented one of the high points of his political and diplomatic career.
Dr. T.-B. Gurirab was one of the first SWAPO leaders to return home in 1989, to help organize pre-independence elections. He was also one of the leading SWAPO negotiators of the ceasefire agreement, signed in March 1989, between South Africa's apartheid regime and SWAPO, which set the pace for elections, the deployment of UNTAG in Namibia and the transition to independence. Dr. T.-B. Gurirab was elected in 1989 to Namibia's Constituent Assembly. That Assembly was transformed into the country's first National Assembly in 1990 and elected Mr. Sam Nujoma as President of the Republic of Namibia.
Among his major achievements as Foreign Minister, Dr. T.-B. Gurirab led three years of negotiations over Walvis Bay and Offshore Islands that were reintegrated into Namibia during 1994. This was a sterling fulfilment of the letter and spirit of United Nations Security Council resolution 432 (1978). Working to promote regional and sub-regional cooperation, he represented Namibia, in 1995, on the bureau of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Council of Ministers. That year, as the Council's First Vice-Chairman, he presided over the first Extraordinary Session of the Central Organ of the OAU for the Prevention, Management and Resolution of Conflicts. He is also the co-founder of the African-Latin American Initiative, an organization that was meant to bringing together the countries of Southern Africa and South America in a network of cooperation, solidarity and partnership aimed at promoting support trade and economic cooperation.
Dr. T.-B. Gurirab's political career began in 1962 when he fled Namibia to Tanzania. He was to remain in political exile for the next 27 years. In 1963, upon being awarded a United Nations fellowship, he proceeded to the United States to pursue his studies. In 1964, he was appointed along with Mr. Hage Geingob and Mr. Hidipo Hamutenya, as one of SWAPO's troika of Associate Representatives to the United Nations and the Americas, serving in that capacity while simultaneously pursuing their education.
A United Nations fellow throughout his University career, in 1998 Dr. T.-B. Gurirab received an award from the World Association of Former United Nations Interns and Fellows, "in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the promotion of human rights, peace and development, especially within the context of promoting Namibia's nation-building and the role that the United Nations training and other economic and technical cooperation activities can still play in furthering the goals and principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations".
He was awarded an honorary professorship from the Foreign Affairs College, founded by Premier Chou en Lai in 1955, of the People's Republic of China in 2000. This was only the third time that a foreigner was awarded this title. He is also a founding member of the Olympic Truce Foundation, founded in 2000 in Athens, Greece, along with numerous heads of State, Nobel Prize laureates and other renowned international personalities. Dr. T. B.Gurirab has been an honorary member of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation since 2002.
Born on 23 January 1938 in Usakos, Namibia, Dr. T.-B. Gurirab graduated with a teaching diploma from the Augustineum Training College in Okahandja in 1960. He went on to study at Temple University in Pennsylvania, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in 1969 and did advanced postgraduate studies in international relations from 1970 to 1971. In 1999, he was awarded an honorary doctor of law degree from the University of Namibia, in recognition of his outstanding leadership in the field of foreign policy and diplomacy.
Dr. T.-B. Gurirab is married and has two daughters and two sons.