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(Bern, 17 and 19 October 2011)
1. Election of the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
The Governing Council elected Mr. Abdelwahad Radi (Morocco) as President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union for a three-year term ending in October 2014.
It expressed its deep gratitude to the outgoing President, Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, for his unwavering devotion to the cause of the IPU. Dr. Gurirab was made an honorary President of the IPU.
2. Membership of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
At its sitting on 17 October, the Governing Council readmitted the parliaments of Equatorial Guinea and Niger. At its sitting on 19 October, it admitted the Parliament of Chad as a new Member and readmitted the Parliament of Honduras. The Council suspended the membership of the parliaments of Comoros and Liberia, which had accumulated more than three years’ arrears in the payment of their contributions. The IPU currently comprised 159 Member Parliaments.
The Governing Council approved requests for observer status from Penal Reform International (PRI), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (AP-CPLP) and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH).
3. Reports on activities of IPU Members
The Governing Council took note of the reports submitted by 80 Members on their participation in the IPU and on follow-up of three resolutions adopted at the 122nd IPU Assembly on the global fight against organized crime, developing South-South and Triangular cooperation and youth participation in the democratic process. The Council welcomed the fact that an increasing number of Members were fulfilling their obligations to submit an annual report, as required by the Statutes.
The Council received a report on activities that had taken place on 15 September, International Day of Democracy. The IPU’s chosen theme for 2011 was "What do citizens expect from their parliament?" Thirty-three parliaments had informed the Secretariat of events held to celebrate the Day. The IPU President had issued a statement on 15 September at a regional conference hosted by the Parliament of India, which had drawn attention to two key ingredients of democracy: gender equality and political representation.
4. Financial situation of the IPU
The Governing Council was presented with a comprehensive report on the financial situation of the IPU and an updated list of unpaid contributions as at 30 September 2011. On that date, three Members had significant arrears and were subject to sanctions (suspension or loss of voting rights). The Council took note of the Secretary General's projected operating surplus of CHF 400,000 due largely to the relative strength of the Swiss franc in 2011, as well as to staff turnover resulting in savings in salaries. That operating surplus would be partially reduced by the loss of income from staff assessment on the salary savings.
For the 2011 budget, the Secretary General had identified voluntary funding needs totalling CHF 4.5 million. The total voluntary funding received by the end of 2011 was projected to reach CHF 2.5 million. During the discussion, the Governing Council requested information on the possibility of increasing the level of voluntary contributions to fund IPU activities in the future. The Secretary General noted that the Council had set criteria limiting voluntary funding to Council-approved activities under one consolidated budget for the IPU. Funding agreements with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and Irish Aid that had recently expired were currently being renewed. Discussions were underway on further potential funding arrangements with the Canadian International Development Agency. The voluntary portion of the 2012 budget was lower since it had been prepared based on realistic expectations of known or obtainable funding rather on a desirable quantum.
5. Programme and budget for 2012
The Governing Council was presented with the budget proposal for 2012 and a summary of planned activities and requirements for 2012-2014. The Executive Committee had acknowledged a budget reduction of 7 per cent in the IPU’s regular budget from CHF 13,537,700 for 2011 to CHF 12,593,700 for 2012. Taking into consideration the difficult financial situation of many IPU Members, the Executive Committee had further requested the Secretary General to present options for reducing the IPU’s regular budget by a further 3 per cent, in order to achieve a total cut of 10 per cent from the 2011 approved level. That would require a further reduction of CHF 409,770.
The Executive Committee recognized that reducing the budget even further - to achieve an overall reduction of 10 per cent - would involve governance debate and agreement on which areas of core IPU activities should be taken out of the work programme in a way that was both acceptable to the membership and sustainable over a longer period. That exercise would require extensive discussion involving the full membership. It was noted that, in many of the potential areas for longer-term reduction, there were already agreements and commitments with Members and partners in place for 2012. Cost savings in those areas could therefore only be realized in a few years. It was, however, understood that every effort would be made to realize savings for 2012 and beyond. The Executive Committee noted that the level of funding of core activities also had an impact on the IPU’s ability to generate additional voluntary funding from sources beyond the membership.
The Executive Committee recommended that the 2012 budget be balanced using the anticipated budget surplus from 2011, which would be complemented by the Working Capital Fund up to a combined total of CHF 409,800.
Furthermore, the Committee recommended that additional discussions be held ahead of the 126th IPU Assembly in Kampala on areas of activity and expenditure that could be reduced further in the 2013 budgets and beyond. It recommended that the 2012 consolidated budget be amended to reflect a total amount of CHF 13,690,300.
The Executive Committee endorsed the recommendation of the Working Group on the scale of contributions that the assessed contributions from Members for the 2012 budget and beyond be based on the latest updated UN scale of contributions. In the future, the IPU scale of contributions would be automatically aligned with the UN scale, which was periodically updated to reflect the economic reality of UN Member States and their capacity to pay.
During the debate, several Members stressed the need to take cost-cutting measures not because they wished to limit the IPU’s activities, but because in the current economic climate, they simply could not afford to pay more. The IPU was setting a good example by reducing its budget. The 10 per-cent cut should be seen as a new base line for regular expenditure.
Following the recommendation of the Executive Committee, the Governing Council approved the new scale of contributions and adopted the 2012 budget.
6. Cooperation with the United Nations System
The Governing Council took stock of recent developments in IPU-United Nations cooperation and was informed of a variety of activities carried out in collaboration with or in support of the United Nations.
The Council received the latest information on the 2011 Joint Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations, to be held on 28 and 29 November at UN Headquarters in New York, under the chairmanship of the President of the IPU and the President of the UN General Assembly. The Hearing would examine the topic Strengthening political accountability for a more peaceful and prosperous world. All Member Parliaments were encouraged to participate in the event.
7. IPU Strategy for 2012-2017
At its sitting on 19 October, the Governing Council adopted by consensus the first ever Strategy for the IPU. Introducing the document on behalf of the Executive Committee, Mr. M.C. Nago, Speaker of the National Assembly of Benin, said that the Strategy was the fruit of two years of debate and consultations with the entire membership. It was a visionary strategy that placed inter-parliamentary cooperation and the IPU at the service of parliaments, democracy and international cooperation.
The Strategy charted three strategic directions for the IPU’s development over the next five years. It aimed to build stronger parliaments by focusing on research, standard-setting, technical assistance, gender equality and human rights. It sought to help bridge the democracy deficit in international relations by developing a parliamentary dimension to the work of the United Nations system, build parliamentary support for international development goals and contribute to peace-building and conflict prevention. The Strategy was set to make the IPU a more effective instrument of parliamentary cooperation.
8. Recent specialized meetings
The Governing Council took note of the results of the Parliamentary Forum on the occasion of the Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries, the Parliamentary briefing at the 2011 UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on AIDS, the Regional Seminar on child rights for parliaments of the CEE-CIS region, the Regional Seminar for Asian Parliaments, Preventing and responding to violence against women and girls: From legislation to effective enforcement, the Fourth Parliamentary Forum on Shaping the Information Society) and the Parliamentary Panel within the framework of the Annual WTO Public Forum.
9. Reports of plenary bodies and specialized committees
At its sitting on 19 October, the Governing Council took note of the reports on the activities of the Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians, the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, the Committee on Middle East Questions, the Gender Partnership Group, the Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and the Committee to Promote Respect for International Humanitarian Law.
10. Future inter-parliamentary meetings
The Governing Council took note of the dates for the next two Assemblies, which would be held in Kampala and Quebec City respectively. It noted the invitation from the Parliament of Ecuador to host the 128th Assembly. The Council approved the list of future meetings and other activities to be funded by the IPU’s regular budget as well as by external sources.
The Council approved a list of international organizations and other bodies to be invited to follow the work of the 126th Assembly as observers.