Briefing Room

Fresh drive in “My Power for Women's Power” initiative

19 NOVEMBER 2015

IPU is committed to the concept of women and men working together for equality. ©IPU

IPU’s Meeting of Women Parliamentarians has launched a new drive in its campaign to build support for gender equality in parliaments around the world.  The women MPs have adopted an action plan (PDF) to help implement the My Power for Women’s Power campaign - which encourages MPs of both sexes to sign a commitment to working for gender equality.  Many hundreds of male and female MPs have joined the campaign since its launch in March 2015 and more signatures are encouraged.  The new plan of action suggests a range of follow-up initiatives for MPs who have already signed up, including publicizing the campaign through social and traditional media, passing or amending equality legislation, and pressing governments to deliver action and financial resources. MPs are also encouraged to support women running for public office and to ensure parliaments are gender-sensitive.  Meanwhile, IPU pledges to support MPs and parliaments wishing to advance gender equality in a variety of ways, including through legal advice, technical assistance and financial support.  The world’s parliaments have an average female membership of only 22.5 per cent. IPU has long promoted equality in parliaments and wider society, as well as within the Organization, and its meetings and events. The Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, formed 30 years ago, is a unique forum for women MPs to plug into and participate in international political decision-making.

Stepping up work to protect women in Arab countries

19 NOVEMBER 2015

he MPs held lively and detailed discussions on how to step up the protection of women in North Africa and the Middle East. ©Zeina Hilal

The challenge of addressing the needs of women and girls during conflict in the Arab region has been put under the spotlight at a parliamentary workshop in Tunisia. Focusing on the landmark UN resolution 1325, which recognizes the disproportionate and unique problems faced by women in conflict and calls for their protection, MPs, parliamentary staff and representatives from Ministries for Gender Affairs,  institutions and organizations in Arab countries explored how the resolution could be put into full effect across North Africa and the Middle East. The region has in recent years been particularly hit by crises, conflict and violent extremism that continue to impact on millions of lives. Parliaments and their members can and must protect women and girls by legislating, budgeting and overseeing implementation of international commitments on rights and equality.  The meeting examined how Resolution 1325 could be integrated into parliamentary work, including through the passing or revision of laws, raising awareness and coordinating work with relevant government machinery and NGOs.  Issues such as marital rape, child marriage and protecting female refugees were put on the table, with MPs highlighting both current challenges and progress made in their own countries. The workshop was organized by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA) in cooperation with the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and IPU.  The participants will meet again early next year.

Push to tackle child marriage in Bangladesh

19 NOVEMBER 2015

Bangladesh's Parliament is trying to accelerate the downward trend in child marriage. ©AFP/Lalage Snow

A concerted push is being made to cut the rate of child marriage in Bangladesh - one of the highest in the world – through a series of events targeting a wide range of groups, including MPs. Figures suggest 66 per cent of Bangladeshi girls are married before reaching the age of 18, the internationally recognized age for reaching adulthood. Although national figures are on a downward trend, the Bangladesh Parliament is trying to accelerate progress. Workshops for MPs, local officials and NGOs will aim to strengthen their work and help build birth and marriage registration systems - vital tools in the fight against child marriage.  An event to raise awareness among the general public is also taking place. Later on, MPs will also assess what further practical steps can be taken on the issue. The events, organized by the Bangladesh Parliament and IPU, are being supported by the Japanese foundation Worldwide Support for Development and the World Health Organization. Child marriage is regarded internationally as a breach of human rights. Child brides are at high risk of complications or even death in pregnancy and childbirth, HIV infection and domestic violence, and often lack access to health care and education. World leaders have for the first time prioritized the elimination of child, early and forced marriage under the Sustainable Development Goal of achieving gender equality.

Nigeria's young MPs launch national group

19 NOVEMBER 2015

The Nigeria chapter will work to empower young MPs and boost youth participation in democracy.

IPU’s Forum of Young Parliamentarians is inspiring the establishment of youth caucuses within national parliaments.  A Nigeria chapter of the Forum has been set up on the initiative of the Speakers of Parliament and MP Raphael Igbokwe, a board member of the IPU Forum.  The caucus aims to support youth participation in politics, empower young MPs and ensure there is a youth-led platform of influence in parliament on youth-related matters.  IPU is working to re-engage young people in formal democratic processes, both by supporting young MPs and increasing youth engagement in politics and in voting.  In 2014 only 1.7 per cent of the world’s MPs were aged under 30.  IPU believes the under-representation and under-engagement of youth are a threat to democracy and represent a loss of critical input to public life.

Supporting Myanmar’s new MPs

19 NOVEMBER 2015

Aung San Suu Kyi led her National League for Democracy to a landslide victory. ©AFP/Ye Aung Thu

With about 400 of the 664 MPs in the new parliament in Myanmar being first time parliamentarians, efforts are under way to ensure they are ready for the challenge of political life when they take up their seats in February 2016. The new MPs will have in hand a members’ handbook and guide prepared by parliamentary staff with the backing of an IPU-UNDP parliamentary support programme. Each House will have a handbook that sets out parliament’s mandate and operational procedures to help the MPs carry out their duties in both the House of Representatives and House of Nationalities. A guidebook provides practical information on navigating parliament, including the services provided by the parliamentary administration. The IPU-UNDP programme is also supporting a formal induction programme for the MPs, as well as providing help on Information and Computer Technology, infrastructure, training and development.  Since 2012, IPU has been working with the Myanmar Parliament to support development of its functions and processes, and to build a parliamentary culture.

Paris and Lebanon attacks will mobilize greater parliamentary action against terrorism

17 NOVEMBER 2015

The attacks in Paris have prompted an outpouring of grief and solidarity from around the world. ©Citizenside/Cesar Dezfuli

IPU President Saber Chowdhury and Secretary General Martin Chungong have condemned the horrific terror attacks in Paris and Lebanon last week which have left more than 170 people dead. Expressing solidarity with the French and Lebanese people and parliaments in a letter to their Speakers, they have pledged to continue mobilizing the parliamentary community on concerted and effective measures to counter terrorism in all its forms. The IPU flag was flown at half-mast as a mark of respect for and solidarity with the people of both countries.

Registration of new Egyptian MPs marks new step on democracy roadmap

12 NOVEMBER 2015

Newly-elected MPs have been officially welcomed and given key information by parliamentary staff. ©Khaled Mashaal

More than 250 parliamentarians elected in October in the first phase of a two-stage election, have so far undergone a formal process of registration and welcome by Egypt’s  parliamentary secretariat, giving them key practical information about the institution.  The process has been led by parliamentary administrative authorities, in line with guidance from IPU teams during several consultations over the past two years.   The same process will be used to register and welcome MPs elected in the second stage of voting. This is due to take place in the coming weeks.  IPU has been working alongside the parliament to ensure that MPs are fully equipped for their role as the country continues on its roadmap to democracy.

IPU Secretary General gender pledge builds on equality record

11 NOVEMBER 2015

IPU is already deeply committed to promoting gender-equality at its events, in parliaments and in wider society. ©IPU/Jorky

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has pledged support for a new initiative on gender equality, building on his and the Organization’s ground-breaking record in the field.  The initiative – International Geneva Gender Champions – invites organizations to specify practical steps they will take to break down gender barriers, and sign a “Gender Parity Pledge”, committing them to work for equality in all Geneva-based discussions.

Secretary General Chungong vows that all IPU debates will include both male and female panellists, and that “parity debates” on a variety of topics, with equal gender representation on the panel will be held during IPU Assemblies. His other pledges includes ensuring that at least 30 per cent of MPs attending Assemblies are women, and that decision-making structures will comprise at least 30 per cent women by 2017, rising to 40 per cent by 2020.  He also promises to ensure that all IPU’s parliamentary support programmes will not only promote gender equality but that equality will be put at the heart of all the Organization’s work. IPU’s work environment will also be assessed from a gender perspective by 2016.

“Gender equality is the responsibility of all and progress will only be achieved if we all play our part. We need to challenge those who have not been playing theirs,” says the Secretary General.

IPU is already a strong advocate of gender equality and is working to increase both the number of women in parliaments around the world from its current level of 22.5 per cent and to strengthen gender equality across society through more effective national legislation.   The Organization also strongly encourages gender-balanced delegations to Assemblies and on its governing bodies, using measures including quotas and the loss of some voting rights for single-sex delegations.

MPs to push for action on critical climate change threat

10 NOVEMBER 2015

The devastating effects of climate change will include worsening droughts, floods and other extreme weather events. ©Reuters

MPs from around the world will meet in Paris in December to galvanize action on the global threat posed by climate change, and influence the major UN summit being held simultaneously in the city.   The MPs will urge world leaders at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, commonly known as the COP21/CMP11 summit, to agree specific means by which their pledges will be turned into reality. They will stress the urgency with which the climate change threat must be addressed and the vital role of parliaments in delivering change. 

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Hollywood star and Founding Chair of R20 – Regions of Climate Action Arnold Schwarzenegger, are among a wide range of key speakers at the event in both Chambers of the French Parliament, with IPU President Saber Chowdhury, National Assembly Speaker Claude Bartolone and Speaker of the Senate Gérard Larcher opening the meeting. 

The programme also includes a wealth of other guests, among them COP21/CMP11 chair Laurent Fabius, Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria, climate change experts such as Professor Hoesung Lee, Nicholas Stern, French government ministers as well as parliamentarians from around the world attending COP21/CMP11.  MPs at the meeting organized by IPU and the French Parliament will gain first-hand information on the summit’s main issues and be able to interact with government negotiators involved in the process. 

IPU’s existing recommendations on tackling climate change will be highlighted, alongside how the summit’s decisions can be put into practice by parliamentary action. A parliamentary action plan on climate change is expected to be adopted at the conclusion of the meeting which takes place on 5-6 December. Full details, including on registration, can be found here.

Share your views on parliamentary oversight


Parliamentary committees are critical to effective oversight of government. ©

IPU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have issued a call for written input to the second Global Parliamentary Report, which will focus on the power of parliaments to hold governments to account. All parliaments, organizations and individuals with an interest in parliamentary oversight are invited to share their views in writing, to help to shape the content and direction of the report. Submissions can focus on good practices, challenges and proposals for how to improve parliamentary oversight and government accountability. More than 300 parliamentarians have already taken party in surveys and interviews for the report, and a series of thematic debates is underway. Written input can be made in English, French, Spanish or Arabic. Submissions should be no more than 1,500 words in length and should state clearly who the submission is from. The deadline is 30 November 2015.

MPs propose action to boost peace and security through gender equality

29 OCTOBER 2015

The meeting called for a series of steps to ensure that Resolution 1325 takes effect in every country. ©IPU/Pierre Albouy

MPs have called for fresh action to help ensure that UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security is more widely implemented and respected as they marked its 15th anniversary.  Their recommendations, aimed at boosting parliamentary involvement in promoting the women, peace and security agenda,  include speeding up the adoption of National Action Plans on 1325; increasing the participation and leadership of women in parliaments, particularly in work relating to peace and security; and ensuring that 15 per cent  of peace and security funding is dedicated to gender-related issues such as boosting women’s political participation and protecting women and girls from violence.  The recommendations followed a discussion by IPU’s Meeting of Women MPs on gender equality as an indispensable element of sustainable peace and security.   The Meeting of Women MPs, a permanent fixture of IPU Assemblies, works to advance gender equality and women’s rights. This  includes promoting the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and working alongside the CEDAW Committee.

WHO call for stronger parliamentary engagement on health

29 OCTOBER 2015

Dr Chan told MPs: “Above all, fight against tax policies, or trade policies, or insurance policies that punish the poor.” ©IPU/Lucien Fortunati

World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr Margaret Chan has urged MPs around the world to step up their efforts to improve the health of their citizens, stressing the importance of political solutions in a new generation of complex challenges. In her first address to an IPU assembly, Dr Chan stressed the vital role of MPs in a wide range of strategies including delivering universal health coverage, taxing tobacco, improving food labelling and fighting tax, trade and insurance policies which impacted on the poor.  She warned of new threats including drug-resistant pathogens, the globalized marketing of unhealthy products, and the growing rates of chronic non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes – which have overtaken infectious diseases as the world’s biggest killers.  Dr Chan also offered to strengthen WHO’s collaboration with IPU through structured technical support to IPU’s advisory bodies and confirmed a new role for parliamentarians in jointly organized side events at WHO assemblies, the organization’s supreme decision-making body. Her address builds on the existing cooperation between WHO and IPU in fields including women’s and children’s health, family planning, violence against women and girls and harmful traditional practices.

New guidelines help MPs step up HIV action

29 OCTOBER 2015

The guidelines were launched at the 133rd IPU Assembly by IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. ©IPU/Pierre Albouy

New guidelines on how parliamentarians can speed up HIV treatment have been published by IPU and UNAIDS.  Fast-tracking HIV treatment: Parliamentary action and policy options defines a range of measures parliaments can take to try and ensure all citizens with HIV have access to treatment.  HIV treatment is a cornerstone of the AIDS response - helping prevent deaths and new infections – but is still not accessible to all who need it.  Vital agents of change, MPs have a pivotal role in delivering social justice and human rights, including access to HIV treatment.  The guidelines provide examples of good practice by parliaments and individual members on the issue.  The wealth of information in the publication includes details of the fast-track targets the world must meet to end the AIDS epidemic as a global health threat by 2030, the human rights-based approach to HIV, the patenting of drugs and ensuring  it does not restrict access to treatment, and how to mobilize resources and finance treatment of the disease.

Micronesia funding for migration crisis an expression of solidarity

29 OCTOBER 2015

Micronesia Speaker Wesley W Simina said the donation was an expression of solidarity. ©IPU

Micronesia’s parliament has pledged  to introduce legislation to appropriate up to US$100,000 to give to IPU towards a response to the global migration crisis that has seen the arrival of more than 680,000 people in Europe by sea alone this year and the loss of nearly 3,200 lives in the Mediterranean. The announcement was made during IPU’s 133rd Assembly, which focused on parliamentary action for a fairer, smarter and more human migration and which adopted a resolution on greater protection for refugees worldwide.  The Speaker of Micronesia’s Congress, Wesley W. Simina, said such action from a small country with few resources and facing many of its own challenges would be an expression of solidarity for all those forced to take drastic and life-threatening action in search of security or the hope of a better life. It would also show what parliaments can do to help find solutions to major issues. Should the funds be appropriated, they could be used towards an IPU fact-finding mission to refugee camps, among other projects left to IPU’s discretion.  IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong warmly welcomed the move as a commitment to concrete action on an IPU resolution by an IPU member. Follow up action to IPU Assembly decisions by individual parliaments can collectively be a major force for change, he said.

Crucial tool for MPs to tackle migration issues

29 OCTOBER 2015

A new Handbook for Parliamentarians giving vital guidance to MPs and parliaments on migration has been published by IPU and partners, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Handbook no.24 “Migration, human rights and governance covers the issues and provides the tools and policy responses to the international movement of people. A complex and highly divisive issue, international migration is motivated by a range of economic, political and social factors. With xenophobia growing and the migration debate predominantly negative, parliamentarians must help ensure there is a meaningful, balanced and informed response to migration through fair and effective policies that maximize the benefits of human mobility whilst addressing the challenges that origin, transit and destination countries and migrants face.  This latest Handbook for Parliamentarians offers policy responses to questions such as root causes for migration, social cohesion and migration governance.

Action pledge follows nutrition seminar

29 OCTOBER 2015

Malnutrition blights the lives of many children and impacts on the economic success of countries. ©AFP/Albert Gonzalez

MPs from nine countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) pledged parliamentary action to tackle malnutrition, which affects more than 180 million of the world’s under-fives, during a meeting in Namibia earlier this month. The MPs examined issues such as the stubbornly high rates of malnutrition as well as the emerging challenge of obesity in their region. They recognized the critical importance of food and nutrition security to economic development, the survival and healthy growth of children, and breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty. The MPs made a commitment to ensure that the necessary laws and budgets on nutrition were in place, to scrutinize government policies, galvanize action by raising awareness of the unacceptably high malnutrition rates, and work in cooperation with other groups and bodies. The meeting, hosted by the Namibian Parliament, was organized by IPU and UNICEF.

Conference to focus on answers to statelessness

29 OCTOBER 2015

Many stateless people lose access to basic rights including education and health care ©AFP/Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/NurPhoto

A conference in South Africa will explore how parliaments can combat statelessness, which deprives many people of basic rights but which can be solved with relatively simple changes to laws and practices. Statelessness, caused by a variety of factors including discrimination and the redrawing of national boundaries, affects some 10 million people around the world. MPs attending the conference on 26-27 November in Cape Town, organized by IPU, the South African Parliament and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, will learn more about the impact of legal reforms such as changes to the law in Senegal and Algeria that have enabled women to transfer their nationality to their children and end a major cause of statelessness.  They will also learn more about promoting accession by their States to two UN conventions on statelessness which provide the framework for a united international response. The conference is expected to result in a parliamentary action plan to end statelessness.

Strengthening parliamentary action on terrorism

16 OCTOBER 2015

International cooperation is increasingly important in the fight against terrorism. ©AFP/Adem Altan

With terrorism remaining a priority concern for the global parliamentary community, MPs from across the world will be focusing on what actions national parliaments can take or are taking to meet international commitments to counter it when they meet at the 133rd IPU Assembly in Geneva.

Since 1996, IPU members have adopted 12 resolutions related to terrorism, the most recent at the Hanoi Assembly in March 2015, and have also committed to backing the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and all relevant UN resolutions which underscore the important role of parliaments in ensuring States comply with international law in efforts to combat the crime.

To make progress on these commitments, better understand how the Global Strategy is being implemented and identify legislative gaps on countering terrorism, MPs will engage in various discussions with key experts during the Assembly.

Executive Directors from the UN Security Council Committee on Counter Terrorism Directorate (CTED) Jean-Paul Laborde, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Yuri Fedotov and the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, Khalid Koser, will provide expert input on how the UN is countering terrorism into a panel discussion on 20 October on parliamentary action on meeting international commitments on counter-terrorism.

The Speaker of Pakistan’s Senate Mian Raza Rabbani and parliamentarians from France and Cameroon will also provide input on their parliamentary experience in combating and preventing terrorism. The Panel aims to strengthen coordination between IPU and the relevant UN organizations  in efforts to counter terrorism. In addition, an experts hearing on enhancing global cooperation on terrorism and protecting democracy and individual rights will take place under the aegis of IPU’s Committee on Peace and International Security. The hearing will inform an expected resolution to be adopted at the 134th IPU Assembly in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, in 2016.

IPU President marks WWII anniversary at UN tree ceremony


IPU President Saber Chowdhury (right) and UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson took part in the ceremony. ©UN Photo/Mark Garten

IPU President Saber Chowdhury took part in a ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York to dedicate a plaque commemorating the end of World War II in Asia and the Pacific. The plaque was placed beneath the UN’s “Tree of Peace and Unity”, a weeping cherry planted to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe. “This tree will remind not just us, but future generations, that as with peace, a tree needs to be looked after,” President Chowdhury told guests at the ceremony.  “That’s the message we bring to the citizens of the world as the UN tries to strike a brave new world vision, a vision that’s not going to leave anyone behind.” He also underlined IPU’s and the UN’s shared focus on the wellbeing, security, dignity, peace and prosperity of the world’s citizens.

Pacific parliaments provide latest backing for Common Principles


Speaker Donald F. Capelle endorsed the Common Principles at the Speakers Conference, one of the seven Pacific Parliaments to do so. ©IPU

Seven parliaments from the Pacific Island countries – Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu - have provided a regional impetus to the Common Principles for Support to Parliament with a formal endorsement. Their backing, and that of the Israeli Knesset now brings the number of endorsements by national parliaments, parliamentary assemblies and partner organizations to 96. The Common Principles, aimed at improving the quality of parliamentary development support, were put together by a group of parliaments and parliamentary development entities and are the result of more than four decades of experience on parliamentary development. Coordinated by IPU, they encourage the parliamentary community to work together more effectively when planning, designing and providing support. Parliaments and organizations wishing to add their endorsement can notify the IPU Secretariat.

Tackling malnutrition in Southern Africa


Boosting nutrition for young children helps end the cycle of poverty for communities and countries. ©Reuters/F. Omar

The fight against malnutrition and its devastating effects was under the spotlight at a regional seminar in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, on 28 and 29 September.  MPs and parliamentary staff from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region received training on promoting child nutrition.  Expert contributors provided information on malnutrition, detailing the damaging impact not just on individuals but also on communities and the economic development of entire countries. More than 180 million of the world’s under-fives are affected, including up to 40 per cent of children in sub-Saharan Africa.  Many suffer stunted development and growth­ and life-long impacts on their health, learning and earnings potential.  The seminar, hosted by the Namibian Parliament and organized by IPU and UNICEF, highlighted the action MPs can take to combat this cycle of poverty, in particular by improving nutrition programmes and policies. Concrete recommendations made at the end of the event will help strengthen parliamentary responses on nutrition.  Combating malnutrition has been shown to be cost-effective as well as being a moral imperative and is also a vital step towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals and their successors, the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ratification of key trade agreement under spotlight


The new agreement is aimed at speeding up the movement of goods around the world. ©Reuters/Nguyen Huy Kham

The ratification of an international agreement which could benefit the global economy by up to US$ 1trillion a year is the subject of the parliamentary session of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Public Forum this year on 30th September in Geneva. Organized by IPU and the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Session will help MPs attending the event to learn more about underlying issues related to global trade and the key role of parliaments in ratifying the agreement.  The Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) aims to speed up the movement of goods around the world and is perceived as the most important outcome of the 9th WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali.However, it can only come into force when two thirds of the members of the WTO have ratified it and so far, only 20 of 164 countries have done so. The parliamentary session is part of a series of public events being organized by the WTO from 30 September-2 October. The annual events bring together participants from government, parliament, civil society, the business sector, academia and the media to examine the world trade system and the WTO itself.

Resumption of democratic process in Burkina Faso welcomed


IPU has welcomed the return to civilian rule in Burkina Faso. ©AFP/S. Kambou

The resumption of civilian rule and democratic process in Burkina Faso has been welcomed by IPU. The Organization is urging authorities to ensure the now delayed presidential and parliamentary elections are held as soon as possible to consolidate the West African country’s transition to democratic rule. Elections had been due to take place on 10 October but plans were thrown into disarray 16 September by a coup d’état carried out by leaders of the presidential guard loyal to former President Blaise Compaoré.

IPU Assembly puts spotlight on migration amid global crisis


The focus on migration comes amid a major refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East. ©AFP/E. Barukcic

Against the backdrop of an unprecedented flow of people into Europe and displacement crises around the world, MPs will examine the moral and economic imperative for fairer, smarter and more humane migration at IPU’s 133rd Assembly in Geneva from 17-21 October. Rising xenophobia combined with the ongoing impact of the global economic crisis continue to be at odds with the reality of regional demographics, skills shortages and an increasingly mobile workforce when defining national policies on migration. With nearly 60 million people either a refugee, asylum-seeker or displaced by the end of 2014 according to UNHCR, thought will be given to how best to handle large flows of asylum-seekers and ensure protection.

IPU Members will also adopt a resolution on democracy in the digital era and the threat to privacy and individual freedoms at the conclusion of the Assembly. Other major issues under the spotlight include counter-terrorism, protecting cultural heritage and discussions on how to strengthen parliament’s oversight capacities. This will be particularly relevant given the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the recent UN Summit that includes targets on the building of accountable and inclusive institutions needed to ensure peace, justice and the effective implementation of 17 SDGs.

The 133rd Assembly will also convene the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, IPU’s Forum of Young Parliamentarians, the Committee on Middle East Questions and the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, which will hold several hearings and examine cases involving the violations of the rights of MPs. The 2015 Future Policy Award on best policies on protecting children will also be presented at an award ceremony on 20 October. Online registration for the 133rd Assembly is open until 2 October. To take part in the debates on social media, use #IPU133 on Twitter. Photos from the Assembly will be available for use on Flickr from 18 October.

Geneva celebrates Democracy Day for first time


Dozens of Geneva students will visit IPU headquarters in Geneva as part of the week's events. ©IPU

The Swiss canton of Geneva, home to IPU’s headquarters, is celebrating International Day of Democracy on 15 September with a week of events that includes bringing Swiss youth together with young MPs. It is the first time that any Swiss canton has officially marked the occasion.

The events, organized by canton and city authorities in partnership with Geneva University and Youth Parliament, as well as IPU, kick off on 14 September with a “speed debating” session with the Youth Parliament.

On Democracy Day itself, secondary school pupils will debate and hold a ballot on lowering the minimum voting age to 16 in an event at Geneva’s Grand Conseil.  Later, about 50 students, representatives of youth wings of political parties and members of Geneva’s Youth Parliament, will join young MPs from Switzerland and other countries at IPU headquarters. They will debate democracy and youth participation as well as ways to engage Geneva’s youth in the democratic process.  The event at IPU is being organized with the backing of the Japanese foundation Worldwide Support for Development (WSD).  Debates later on in the week will include ways to increase public participation in democracy and how to engage young people in politics.  More information can be found at

Strengthening parliamentary action against weapons of mass destruction


IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong stressed the key role of parliaments in eliminating weapons of mass destruction. ©IPU

IPU is strengthening its collaboration with the UN on the elimination and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as part of the Organization’s work to promote peace and security in the world. Addressing the UN 1540 Committee, set up to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1540 on WMD, IPU Secretary General, Martin Chungong, outlined how parliaments and MPs could be mobilized on the issue and ensure greater coherence between IPU and the UN Committee in their work.

In addition to several IPU resolutions on nuclear non-proliferation and a nuclear weapons free world already adopted by IPU members in recent years, the Organization’s 133rd Assembly in Geneva in October 2015 will hold expert hearings on enhancing global cooperation to counter the threat of terrorism to democracy and individual rights. These will inform the preparations for a new resolution on the issue.

As part of an initiative to more directly engage MPs on WMD, a regional seminar in Algeria in December is aimed at helping African parliaments to implement the 1540 UN resolution nationally. The seminar, organized by IPU with support from the UN’s Office of Disarmament Affairs will help create awareness of the resolution and provide technical assistance to strengthen the  parliaments’ legislative and oversight capacities and responsibilities later on. A handbook for parliamentarians to inform and provide practical guidance on action that could be taken on WMD is also being planned.

IPU and Ugandan Parliament continue partnership on maternal and child health


IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and Ugandan Speaker Rebecca Kadaga signed the agreement. ©IPU

A new agreement between IPU and the Ugandan Parliament will build on efforts to improve maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) in the East African country. The agreement, signed by IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament Rebecca Kadaga in New York during the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, will continue to strengthen the parliamentary response to a priority issue for the country.

Although progress has been made since 1990 when 780 women out of every 100,000 died giving birth and 178 out of every 1,000 children under five died, the Millennium Development Goal targets set for maternal and child mortality rates have yet to be achieved.

IPU has been working with Uganda since 2012 when it developed a national strategy with goals and objectives to accelerate the reduction of maternal and child mortality rates. This included drafting and tabling renewed legislation on MNCH, advocacy training for Ugandan MPs, strengthening parliamentary committee capacity on tracking MNCH budgeting and accountability, and working with various other African parliaments on the issue.

IPU and the Ugandan Parliament will kick-start this new phase with a review of the national strategy and make recommendations on what actions to take during the 10th Ugandan Parliament (2016-2021).

Politics must change to build world we want

28 AUGUST 2015

by Martin Chungong, Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)


When more than 180 parliamentary leaders from across the globe meet in New York later this month, the unique gathering will have the potential to kick-start wide-ranging political action to bring dramatic change to our world for generations to come.

As the heads of national parliaments, Speakers of Parliament are also the official voice of all the people in their countries. Among the most senior political leaders nationally, they also have the power to do politics differently.
That political muscle and a will to effect political reform that empowers all, especially the poor, the marginalized, women and youth, will be needed now as never before.

An agreement to be adopted at the UN in September to eradicate poverty in 15 years and to leave no-one behind in the quest for peace and prosperity through 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) will be the most ambitious global effort yet to achieve what has proved impossible so far.

With three billion people still living on less than US$ 2.50 a day, according to the UN, it is clear that business-as-usual politics, unreformed economies and infrastructures, and inadequate responses to corruption will not deliver the goals. The SDGs provide a mandate to tackle these obstacles to progress head-on.

Parliaments are powerful agents of change. It is by ratifying international agreements, passing budgets and legislation, monitoring their implementation and ensuring government is accountable to the people, that parliaments can drive that change. Their engagement on national development plans that put the well-being of the people up front and centre can make parliaments the linchpin for success in driving development forward.

This will require the buy-in of 45,000 parliamentarians in the world, representing virtually the totality of the global population.

In recent history, one African parliament’s refusal to adopt the national budget unless more resources were allocated to maternal and child health is a good case in point. It shows that where there is a political will, there is a way. It is also an all-too rare illustration of the power parliamentarians have to hold governments to their word. They must never be afraid to wield that power.

Reforming economies to prioritize the well-being of people will also go a long way to win back trust in parliamentarians and the public’s faith in politics. This is a real challenge facing democracy today.

Clearly, the political leadership required to fulfil this vision of a brave new world will have to be as much in the hands of the world’s parliamentary leaders as in those of heads of government. Speakers of Parliament will de facto be in the vanguard of parliamentary action. After their quinquennial World Conference on key global issues ends in New York, their individual leadership in mobilizing parliaments will help determine how each country fares in the long run.

However, we know that progress on development is built on solid foundations of peace and democracy. Both are under assault today. Our world continues to be threatened by conflict, terrorism, abuses of human and political rights and inequality.  A parliament that is representative of all voices in society and which unabashedly acts to protect them, is a fundamental pillar of the rule of law and good governance. These are also prerequisites for sustainable development.

But not all parliaments have the capacity to take on the heavy demands of the SDG baton. Countries in conflict, post-conflict, in transition, and with weak or fledgling democracies will need help to prepare their parliaments to fulfil their role. Equal attention will have to be paid to fulfilling SDG 16 on building effective, accountable institutions as to the other goals. Governments must not renege on their commitment. Without this essential cog in the machinery of implementation, the SDGs will remain laudable but unattainable ideals.

The impetus for change, including of mindsets, must be there at the starting blocks.  There is no time to waste. Politicians the world over must fulfil their responsibilities and deliver on the demands of their people. It is what the people expect of them.

Speakers’ conference aims to launch new era of political leadership

24 AUGUST 2015

Speakers of Parliament will lead the challenge set by the SDGs of ending extreme poverty by 2030. ©Reuters/R. Rojas

Speakers of Parliament from around the world have a unique opportunity to launch a new era of political leadership when they meet for a conference at UN Headquarters in New York.  About 140 parliamentary leaders from 138 countries taking part in the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament (31 August-2 September) will examine ways to effectively tackle global challenges to peace and democracy. Forest Whitaker, artist, humanist and UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation, will deliver a keynote address to the conference, which will be officially opened by IPU President Saber Chowdhury and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The world’s parliaments and their members will be urged to engage in concerted dynamic action on issues such as conflict, terrorism, migration, discrimination and climate change. The conference is expected to place particular emphasis on achieving 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) due to be adopted at a UN Summit in September.  Acknowledged in the outcome document on the SDGs, parliaments’ role in translating the goals into concrete action through passing legislation, making budget allocations and holding governments accountable to the people will be critical. The Conference, organized by IPU every five years and supported by the UN, will adopt a declaration which will feed into the SDGs Summit.

Democracy Day to focus on public participation

21 AUGUST 2015

Public participation is vital for strong democracies and good decision-making. ©Reuters/N. Chitrakar

IPU and its Members will this year mark International Day of Democracy on 15 September with a call for "Public participation for democracy".  The theme has been chosen to reflect the critical importance of public engagement in democracy to help ensure better political decision-making and politicians’ accountability to the people.  The focus will not only be on the rights and responsibilities of individual citizens to engage in democracy, but also why it is important for civil society to actively participate. The theme will encompass both formal and informal ways to engage in democracy, such as voting and petitioning, and the dynamic use of social media for political conversations.   IPU is urging parliaments to seize the opportunity to engage with citizens and civil society groups to explore key questions, including how to widen existing opportunities for interaction and how to draw in groups currently less engaged – such as women, young people and minorities.  Join the conversation on Twitter using #democracyday or on the International Day of Democracy Facebook page.

More parliaments back Common Principles

21 AUGUST 2015

The Common Principles place national parliaments at the heart of their own development programmes.

Two more parliaments – Italy and Burkina Faso -have formally endorsed the internationally-agreed guidelines on parliamentary support adopted by IPU Members last October. The Common Principles for Support to Parliament have now received more than 67 endorsements  from national parliaments, as well as five from parliamentary assemblies and 14 from partner organizations.   IPU is encouraging other parliaments to add their endorsement through a simple letter to the IPU Secretariat in the lead-up to the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament in New York (31 August-2 September).

Myanmar parliament prepares for new MPs

21 AUGUST 2015

Myanmar is making practical preparations for the new MPs who will join after elections later this year. ©Parliament of Myanmar

Parliamentary staff in Myanmar are pressing ahead with preparations for the arrival of a new wave of MPs due to take up their role in 2016 following the general election later this year. IPU is working alongside the Myanmar Parliament on key areas, including producing new handbooks which will help the newly elected MPs participate effectively in proceedings as soon as possible. The handbooks will provide information on procedures, services and allowances in a single place for the first time. An IPU team visited Myanmar in the past few months to support the staff and finalize preparations.  The IPU team will also support the parliamentary staff as they find ways of committing procedures and practices to writing during the ongoing development of the parliament.   ICT (Information and Computer Technology) activities are meanwhile continuing, with a full-time project officer supporting the parliament’s infrastructure, training and development, and a mission to offer support with the development of an intranet and with setting other priorities.

New guidelines offer key information on parliamentary research

21 AUGUST 2015

The 48-page guide is packed with practical information on how to create, run and expand research services.

New guidelines produced by IPU and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) have been published, offering parliaments information on how to strengthen their research services.  Library and research services play a pivotal role in the development of democracy by promoting better access to information and increasing comprehension of the impact of legislation and proposed public policies.  The new guidelines provide a wealth of practical information, including how to create or expand research services, how they can be funded, how to ensure impartiality, what services should be offered and how the services can be staffed and run. There is also guidance on useful partnerships and feedback on lessons learnt by other parliaments.  The guidelines are available for download in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.

Countdown to global Speakers' Conference

23 JULY 2015

Speakers and their delegations still have time to register for the global conference. ©UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Preparations are in full swing for the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 31 August-2 September.  The Conference, which will focus on placing democracy at the service of peace and sustainable development and building the world the people want, is part of a series of high-level meetings leading up to the UN Summit in September and the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals.  As well as discussing the role of parliaments in implementing the SDGs, the Speakers will debate the challenges and opportunities faced by parliaments in holding governments to account, and continuing efforts to ensure that gender equality is placed at the heart of parliamentary work. More than 130 Speakers have so far confirmed they will be attending, along with hundreds of other participants. Speakers and their delegations have until 21 August to register for the event.  The opening session will take place in the presence of the IPU President, United Nations Secretary General and President of the UN General Assembly, and will feature a keynote address by Mr. Forest Whitaker, artist, humanist and UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation. The Conference, convened by IPU every five years, provides a unique global forum for dialogue and cooperation between parliaments at the highest level. Follow the Conference build-up on Twitter using the hashtag #Speakersconf

Major research project on parliamentary oversight set to start

23 JULY 2015

How parliaments hold governments to account is the focus of the 2nd Global Parliamentary Report.

The vital role parliaments play in holding governments to account will be the focus of the second Global Parliamentary Report, a major research project led by IPU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  The report will explore the many different forms the role of parliamentary oversight takes, and whether parliaments have access to the information, tools and strategies they need to carry it out effectively.  It will also investigate the central role of MPs, and ways to ensure they are fully engaged in the process, as well as the relationship which effective oversight has with gender equality and the representation of minorities in parliament.  Work on the project was launched with an experts’ meeting at IPU headquarters in June, bringing together MPs, practitioners, researchers, IPU and UNDP.  Research will begin in the second half of 2015, involving parliaments, MPs and other relevant parties.  Participants at major events including the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, UNDP meetings on governance and IPU Assemblies in Geneva will also be asked to give their input. The report, due to be published in 2016, will include recommendations for both parliaments and their members to strengthen them in their oversight roles. The first Global Parliamentary Report, published in 2012, explored the changing nature of parliamentary representation, delivering crucial research on the challenges parliaments face in meeting the needs of citizens and maintaining their trust.

World's women Speakers seek gender balance progress

23 JULY 2015

Improving gender balance in parliaments is one of the topics to be discussed at the 10th Meeting of Women Speakers. ©Andreas Solaro/AFP

Female Speakers from around the world will discuss how parliaments can empower and support women and promote gender equality, when they gather for the 10th Meeting of Women Speakers of Parliament.  Delegates at the meeting in New York on 29-30 August will search for innovative ways to speed up the process of achieving gender equality.  Their discussions will include improving gender balance in parliaments, ending violence against women and securing sufficient means to achieve gender equality. The Speakers will also assess the progress made over the decade since the first meeting of women speakers was held, and debate how frameworks and mindsets can be changed to enhance progress.  Only 15 per cent of the world’s Speakers, 17 per cent of ministers and 22 per cent of MPs are women, despite growing acknowledgement that democracy and development benefit from gender balance.  The annual meetings of women Speakers, organized by IPU, aim to provide women in the highest decision-making positions of parliament with a regular forum to exchange ideas and experiences on gender issues which are of interest to their national and international agendas. The Women Speakers’ event will be followed by the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, which takes peace, democracy and development as its theme.

Kenya team proposes women’s quotas

23 JULY 2015

The IPU mission to Kenya held meetings with Speakers, MPs, government officials and a number of groups. ©IPU

An IPU mission to Kenya has recommended the introduction of formal mechanisms to ensure the country meets the constitutional requirement for at least one third of its MPs to be women. Current figures are only 19 per cent in the lower house and 26 per cent in the upper house.  The mission proposals include laws requiring political parties to field a minimum percentage of female election candidates.  The visit came ahead of a Supreme Court deadline of August 2015 for parliament to confirm how it intends to achieve the one-third target at the 2017 elections.  The IPU team, which included a Ugandan MP from IPU’s Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians, along with other experts in women’s participation, met the Speakers of both houses, male and female MPs, the women’s caucus KEWOPA, government representatives and other officials and groups.  The delegation was welcomed at a plenary session of the Senate and acknowledged by the Speaker.  A number of Senators, both men and women, thanked the team and acknowledged that fair representation was an issue for the whole nation, not just for women. They urged IPU’s continued support in implementing the constitution and promoting gender equality.  The team drew from the Atlas of Gender Electoral Quotas  and the database on quotas, which set out good practices and show their impact.  The team also recommended ways of boosting youth involvement in Kenyan politics.

IPU President urges parliamentary reforms to enable SDG implementation

23 JULY 2015

Addressing the drastic toll conflict takes on civilians is part of the Sustainable Development Goals. ©Firat Yurdakul/Anadolu Agency

IPU President Saber Chowdhury has highlighted the need for parliamentary reforms to enable the future Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets to be integrated into a coherent policy framework in each country as well as globally.  Participating in a panel at the end of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) session in New York, Mr Chowdhury argued that many obstacles stood in the way of implementation of the SDGs. The biggest hurdle was political, he said, requiring reforms which allowed all people to be effectively represented and all groups in society to work together for the common good.   Mr Chowdhury also called for institutional reforms to enable coordinated action on the SDGs across traditional parliamentary structures.  He suggested the creation of special parliamentary committees, caucuses or advisory groups to oversee implementation. The ECOSOC talks followed a two-week session of a new high-level political forum (HLPF) on sustainable development, in which a number of MPs participated as part of national delegations, including active IPU members Laszlo Borbely of Romania and Petra Bayr of Austria.  Various IPU interventions stressed the need for each country to develop or review a national plan to translate the global goals into specific action. UN member states are encouraged to include MPs in future sessions of the HLPF - the UN’s main global hub to assess progress on the SDGs - in line with a General Assembly resolution.

Malaysia’s Anwar receives hospital care after IPU call

23 JULY 2015

Former Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim received hospital treatment after an IPU call. ©Samsul Said/Reuters

IPU has welcomed the news that jailed former Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been sent for hospital treatment, less than a week after an IPU human rights team called for him to receive prompt medical care as and when needed.  The IPU delegation visited Anwar in late June in prison, where he is serving a five-year jail term after losing a lengthy legal battle to clear his name of sodomy charges.  It is understood he will receive all the follow-up care requested by doctors after previous hospital treatment in June.  The three-member delegation from IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians  also called for the dismissal of sedition charges and investigations against eight opposition MPs, including Anwar’s daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar. The delegation will present its full report to IPU Members in October. Read the full press release on the IPU team’s visit to Malaysia.

Parliamentary support principles online in four languages

23 JULY 2015

IPU is urging all parliaments to endorse the Common Principles.

Guidelines setting out how to provide support to national parliaments have been published online in Arabic, adding to the English, French and Spanish online versions.  The Common Principles for Support to Parliament were adopted by IPU members last October, distilling more than 40 years of experience into a single, accessible document.  The principles stress that parliaments must play a central role in their own development, and set out examples of good practice and ways to ensure more effective cooperation between parliaments and their partners, including those from the UN system.  A total of 64 national parliaments, three parliamentary assemblies and 14 partner organizations have already formally endorsed (PDF) the Common Principles. In the lead-up to the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament in New York at the end of August, IPU is again encouraging other members to add their endorsement, which can be done through a simple letter to the IPU Secretariat.

UK young MPs highlight importance of youth engagement

23 JULY 2015

MP Chloe Smith urged greater visibility of youth in politics during the debate hosted by the British group of IPU. ©IPU

Young MPs from the UK have stressed the vital importance of boosting youth engagement in politics and parliament, and the key role of IPU in making this a reality.  The British Group of IPU hosted an event to debate IPU’s commitment to advancing the political engagement of young people.  Gavin Shuker, who represented the UK at IPU’s Global Conference of Young MPs (PDF) in Tokyo in May, highlighted the key role the Organization plays in collecting data from parliaments on youth representation, measures to promote participation, and regulations on the age at which young people can vote and run for political office.  A benchmark IPU report in 2014 found that fewer than two per cent of the world’s MPs were under 30.  Chloe Smith, who attended the first IPU global youth conference in 2014, urged action including party reforms, changes in attitude, and greater visibility of youth in the media.  Both speakers urged a strong attendance at the third Global Conference of Young MPs next year, to support IPU’s continuing commitment to re-engage young people in formal politics. IPU’s key work in transforming youth representation includes its Forum of Young MPs, a global youth-led platform.

Rwanda agreement will improve sexual and reproductive health services

23 JULY 2015

The agreement also aims to improve the health of mothers and their children. ©Shannon Jensen/AFP

An agreement between Rwanda and IPU has opened the way for new measures and activities to promote sexual and reproductive health, especially among adolescents. The agreement focuses on making parliament better equipped to pass relevant legislation, developing strategies for it to engage fully in the budget process to ensure funding is in place, and promoting statistics systems to accurately measure ongoing progress on maternal, newborn and child health.  A range of activities supported by IPU will begin soon, focusing particularly on adolescents and increasing their awareness of access to sexual and reproductive services. Strategies include creating strong links between education and health, and encouraging MPs to hold consultative meetings with students, teachers and others involved in education. The agreement renews a partnership which began last year, aimed at strengthening MPs in their work of promoting sexual and reproductive health. The results have already included a boost in MPs’ interest in and ability to advocate on the issue, and first-hand information on unmet rural health needs.

IPU calls for fair trial for former Niger Speaker

14 JULY 2015

Niger's former Speaker of Parliament Amadou Hama, who insists baby trafficking charges against him are groundless, remains in exile. ©Amadou Hama

IPU has called for due process to be observed in the case of the former Speaker of the Niger Parliament, Amadou Hama, after an Appeal Court ruling which is likely to result in him standing trial on charges relating to baby-trafficking. The ruling on 13 July reversed a decision by the Criminal Court that Amadou Hama had no criminal case to answer over the baby-trafficking allegations as parentage had not been contested civilly. Amadou Hama, his wife Adizatou Amadou Dieye and more than 20 other people are accused of offences relating to Nigerien women allegedly travelling to Nigeria to pay for babies that were then passed off as their own. Defence lawyers are reported to be planning an appeal against the latest ruling. Amadou Hama, who has sought refuge abroad, was Speaker of Parliament and a senior opposition figure when his immunity was lifted and the National Assembly authorized his arrest and prosecution in August 2014. The post of Speaker was later declared vacant and he was replaced. Amadou Hama insists that the charges against him are groundless and were fabricated to remove him as Speaker and prevent him standing in presidential elections in 2016. The Niger parliamentary authorities deny that the case is politically motivated and say the judicial proceedings are being conducted independently and in compliance with the national constitution and laws. IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians has previously expressed concerns about a number of issues, including the procedure followed by the National Assembly to lift Amadou Hama's parliamentary immunity when the allegations were first made. The latest IPU call urges authorities to respect fair trial standards. The Organization, which sent a trial observer to an Appeal Court hearing in April, intends to do the same if the case does now go to trial.

China assures IPU of increased support

7 JULY 2015

©National People’s Congress of China

The Chinese Parliament has committed to providing increased support to IPU as a sign of its greater engagement with the Organization. During high-level meetings last week between IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and parliamentary and government leaders in Beijing, including Speaker of the National People’s Congress Zhang Dejiang and deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, a commitment was made to provide additional financial resources for IPU’s work beyond the Asian country’s statutory membership contributions to the Organization. The four-day visit, the first to China by Secretary General Chungong since he took up his post a year ago, is part of his efforts to forge stronger ties between IPU and its Members. The visit similarly generated Chinese support for IPU’s campaign for stronger recognition of the crucial role that parliaments and IPU will play in the implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) due to be adopted in September, and for the Organization’s various peace initiatives on Syria, the Middle East and the Koreas. Speaker Zhang also confirmed his intention to participate actively in the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament organized by IPU at UN headquarters in New York from 31st August to 2nd September. There were discussions too on the possibility of China once again hosting an IPU assembly, which it last did in 1996.

Seychelles Parliament works at boosting media relations

30 JUNE 2015

©Seychelles Parliament

The National Assembly of the Seychelles is continuing efforts to harmonize relations and forge an ever more fruitful partnership with the Seychelles parliamentary media.  Training organized last month by the National Assembly and IPU, in collaboration with Fondation Hirondelle, a Swiss organization that works to strengthen media and democracy, and Australia’s State Parliament of Victoria, resulted in identifying ways to improve reporting of the work of the National Assembly.

MPs identify strategies for implementing new SDGs

30 JUNE 2015

MPs from nine countries recommended that each country devise its own sustainable development strategy. ©IPU/Enico Iaia, 2015

MPs from nine European and Central Asian countries gathered in the Romanian capital, Bucharest in mid-June to identify how parliaments can be most effective in implementing the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  They recommended that each country should devise its own sustainable development strategy, identifying specific goals and the means of achieving them with input from relevant parties including women’s groups.  MPs at the two-day regional seminar also urged parliaments to promote strong inter-parliamentary cooperation, including the development of joint projects between countries. It recommended IPU set up a global parliamentary mechanism to track and evaluate progress so that national and regional experiences can be fed back to the global level and encourage further progress. The seminar, jointly organized by IPU and Romania’s Chamber of Deputies, was attended by MPs from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Serbia and Romania.

IT project aids Egyptian Parliament

30 JUNE 2015

Training for Egyptian parliamentary staff on information technology management, supported by WSD, is first step in putting in place a modern library. ©IPU, 2015

A three-month IPU programme to train staff at the Egyptian parliament is the first stage in efforts to establish a modern parliamentary library with full internet access and  capable of meeting the needs of future MPs. The newly-launched programme, supported by the Japanese foundation Worldwide Support for Development (WSD), includes training 210 staff in information technology management relating to the provision of library, information and research services (LRIS) - one of the priorities identified during a needs-assessment mission to Egypt in late 2014.  The training, together with a recently installed faster computer system, will enable staff to use IT and the internet more effectively.

Supporting new Tunisian MPs

30 JUNE 2015

IPU and partner organizations have joined forces to provide a series of orientation workshops for Tunisian MPs elected late last year to the country’s first parliament since the Arab Spring.  In a first session organized by IPU and the UN’s Development Programme (UNDP), the MPs focused on standards for democratic parliaments based on IPU’s Parliament and democracy in the 21st century and measures to put in place a gender equal parliament using the Organization’s Plan of Action for Gender-sensitive Parliaments. The MPS are due to explore the essential functions of parliaments – law-making, oversight and representation at another session in September. Meanwhile, at an event organized by IPU and International IDEA and supported by the UAE’s Federal National Council, the MPs focused on increasing cross-party cooperation between female MPs through both formal and informal means. Tunisia is one of only two Arab countries where more than 30 per cent of the MPs are women through the use of electoral quotas. Algeria became the first Arab country to achieve this.

New move to strengthen women’s rights in Mali

30 JUNE 2015

Caption: Training for women MPs in Mali is aimed at developing their leadership skills. ©IPU/Brigitte Filion

IPU and the National Assembly of Mali have launched a two-year initiative to improve the status of women and strengthen their rights. The project aims to support parliamentary bodies responsible for gender issues, and back parliamentary efforts to develop the legislative and political framework needed to improve women’s status. Training for MPs  in late June will focus on developing the capacity and leadership skills of female MPs and on strengthening male and female MPs skills in advocating gender equality and fighting violence against women and girls. Priorities for parliamentary action include national reconciliation, gender equality, improvements in healthcare for women and children, better education for girls, combating violence, and women’s participation in decision-making.  Women hold only 13 of the 147 seats in parliament – fewer than 9 per cent - although this represents a substantial improvement on previous figures.

Colombian MP receives formal apology for unjust prosecution

30 JUNE 2015

Colombian MP Carlos Garcia Orjuela had been wrongly held and prosecuted on charges of links to paramilitary groups. ©Carlos Garcia Orjuela

A Colombian parliamentarian who was wrongly held and prosecuted on charges of links with members of paramilitary groups has received a formal apology from national authorities.  IPU had expressed serious concerns about whether Carlos García Orjuela was receiving a fair trial during the proceedings against him.  He was eventually acquitted in 2010 after a two-year fight to clear his name. An official ceremony has now been held during which the Colombian Prosecutor’s Office offered García Orjuela a formal apology for the unjust accusations, prosecutions and detention he suffered.  As his case was being heard in the Supreme Court, he would have had no right of appeal had he been convicted.  A former Speaker of the Colombian Congress and a Senator at the time of his arrest, García Orjuela also holds French nationality. His case was among those taken up by IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, which tackles human rights violations of MPs throughout the world. The Committee is currently working on 289 cases, including 59 murders.

Fresh focus on plight of Eritrean MPs

30 JUNE 2015

Tsedal Yohannes, the sister of one of the G-11 appeals to IPU Members for urgent international action on their case. ©IPU 2013

The case of 11 Eritrean MPs detained 14 years ago and whose fate is of serious concern to IPU, has been highlighted by the UN Commission of Inquiry investigating the human rights situation in the country. The MPs were among 15 who signed an open letter supporting democracy in 2001. The Commission’s report, presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 23 June, calls for the MPs’ immediate and unconditional release.  It accuses the government of systematically silencing all critics, describing the purge of the MPs as the most visible sign of this repression.  The report also finds that widespread human rights violations, some of which may constitute crimes against humanity, continue to be committed.  Unseen since their arrest and with no information on their whereabouts or condition, IPU has continued to express its grave concern over the fate of the 10 men and one woman whose case IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians has been working on. The Organization has called the failure by the Eritrean authorities to charge, try or release the MPs a flagrant breach of the national constitution and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.  Most if not all the MPs are feared to have died in the harsh conditions of their imprisonment.

Strengthening parliamentary action on maternal and child health in Bangladesh

30 JUNE 2015

Senior Secretary of the Bangladesh Parliament Ashraful Moqbul and IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong formalize agreement on MNCH at a ceremony presided over by Speaker of Parliament Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury and attended by IPU President Saber Chowdhury. ©Bangladesh Parliament/M.Akhtaruzzaman

The Bangladesh Parliament and IPU have signed an agreement setting in motion a partnership aimed at developing the capacity of the country’s MPs to promote maternal and child health (MNCH), including efforts to end child marriage. The agreement, signed in Dhaka during an official visit to the country by IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and Senior Secretary of the Parliament Ashraful Moqbul, will focus on how parliament can improve its oversight and representation responsibilities on MNCH, develop strategies on strengthening parliament’s influence on the issue including community outreach and advocacy, and  the importance of data collection on birth and marriage registrations, A range of activities supported by IPU will begin soon. Although Bangladesh is one of a few developing countries that have achieved the Millennium Development Goal on reducing child mortality, and made progress on maternal mortality, there is still work to be done to reduce maternal mortality to 140 per 100,000 live births. The persistence of harmful practices against women and girls, including child marriage and the lack of universal access to health are key challenges.

During a three-day visit to Bangladesh, the IPU Secretary General also held talks with the Speaker of the Parliament Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury and IPU President and national MP, Saber Chowdhury, during which Speaker Chaudhury expressed the full commitment of the parliament on the issue.

Sustainable development, including MNCH, also featured significantly during talks between the Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H Mahmood Ali and Secretary General Chungong. Bangladesh has assured all possible support to IPU’s initiative on enhancing parliaments’ role in the design and implementation of the new sustainable development goals due to be adopted later this year.

IPU Secretary General pushes ahead on Pacific parliamentary engagement

29 JUNE 2015

Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key and IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong meet for talks in Wellington. ©New Zealand Parliament

In a high-level and wide-ranging visit to Australia and New Zealand, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has pushed forward on ways to strengthen IPU’s engagement with Pacific parliaments. The mission, which included talks with the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, the Speakers of both houses of parliament in Australia and New Zealand, the Speakers from the Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, as well as government and human rights officials, was the latest step by the IPU Secretary General in efforts to achieve universality for the Organization, a priority for his mandate.

With seven Pacific parliaments currently non-members of IPU, there was agreement on the need to mobilize the region in its interaction with IPU. Ways to achieve this included creating a Pacific sub-group within the Organization to push forward a Pacific agenda, a tripartite arrangement between IPU and the Australian and New Zealand Parliaments to support Pacific island parliaments whilst discussions in Wellington with Speakers from the sub-region focused on better understanding their specific concerns and identifying how these could be factored into IPU’s programme work.

During a packed visit to New Zealand, the IPU Secretary General was also formally introduced to MPs in the parliamentary chamber, held talks with the Minister for Maori Affairs on tapping into the country’s positive experience in the representation of indigenous peoples and addressed a wide-ranging audience on the challenges faced by parliaments today. A similarly hectic agenda in Australia also included meetings with government officials on development and gender issues. With a new set of sustainable development goals to be adopted by the global community at a high-level summit at the UN in September, IPU is continuing its campaign to mobilize countries to include references to parliaments in final outcome documents. New Zealand expressed high-level support on this initiative.

World Speakers to focus on democracy, peace and development

24 JUNE 2015

Preparations for the Speakers' Conference were among the issues discussed when IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong (second from left) had a lunch meeting in Bern with the two Speakers of the Swiss Parliament - the first event of its kind in IPU history. Pierre-François Veillon, President of the Swiss IPU group (right) was also present, along with the Swiss ambassador to the UN in New York and other senior IPU officials. ©Swiss Parliament, 2015

Preparations for the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, taking place at UN Headquarters in New York from 31 August-2 September, are being finalized with a focus on placing democracy at the service of peace and sustainable development.
The Conference Preparatory Committee, comprising some 25 Speakers, members of the IPU Executive Committee and the representative of the UN Secretary General, met in Geneva in June to agree to the agenda, format and main documents of the Conference. The meeting provided an opportunity for dialogue with Michael Møller, Director General of the UN Office in Geneva, on avenues to further enhance the strategic partnership between the UN, parliaments and IPU.
The Conference is part of the series of high-level meetings leading up to the UN Summit in September, which is expected to adopt a new generation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition to the role of parliaments in implementing the SDGs, the Speakers will also discuss the challenges and opportunities faced by parliaments in exercising their oversight role, as well as ongoing efforts to ensure that gender equality is placed at the heart of the work of parliaments.

The Conference, convened by IPU every five years, provides a unique global forum for dialogue and cooperation between parliaments at the highest level. Speakers and their delegations still have time to register for the event.

Follow the Conference build-up on Twitter using the hashtag #Speakersconf

Libyan MPs meet IPU officials

19 JUNE 2015

The five Libyan MPs were given a warm welcome at IPU Headquarters in Geneva ©IPU/Jorky

Five Libyan MPs, all women, have visited IPU Headquarters to revive cooperation between IPU and the internationally-recognized Libyan Parliament.  The Parliament is currently operating with very limited means from the port city of Tobruk, after the security situation forced it to relocate from Benghazi.  Some Arab countries are providing assistance to the Parliament, but the MPs stressed the need for assistance from IPU, including capacity-building activities for parliamentarians and parliamentary staff.  Previous IPU assistance to the Libyan Parliament dates back to 2012-2013. It focused on parliamentary staff training, institutional development and reconciliation processes.

The Libyan representatives described the dire situation in the country, emphasizing the lack of stability and security, and the widespread suffering endured by Libyan citizens, especially children.  The five MPs have come to Geneva, facing conditions of often considerable danger, to take part in a training seminar with Geneva Institute of Human Rights. They will continue to make every effort to bring to the forefront the plight of the Libyan people. They look forward to the Libyan Parliament attending the 133rd IPU Assembly to be held in Geneva from 17-21 October.

Assessing progress on engaging parliaments on human rights

19 JUNE 2015

The discussion took place on the sidelines of the Human Rights Council, currently in session in Geneva. ©UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Efforts to strengthen parliaments’ engagement on human rights will be examined next week in the latest measure to bridge the work of parliamentarians with that of the Human Rights Council. Diplomats, human rights officials and civil society representatives will meet on 22 June to assess what progress has been made on engaging parliaments in key UN processes and look at successful examples of parliamentary human rights work at an event held in parallel to the 29th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The meeting, organized by IPU and the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and supported by several countries (Romania, Philippines, Morocco, Uruguay and Ecuador), follows other similar events in recent years to enhance cooperation between parliaments, the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review of national human rights situations, national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The event will reinforce the significance of parliaments’ role in promoting human rights by passing laws, setting budgets, holding governments to account on human rights commitments and protecting the rights of all citizens. Since the adoption of a Human Rights Council resolution in June 2014 encouraging governments to promote the involvement of parliaments in all stages of the UPR and greater collaboration between IPU and OHCHR, a series of regional seminars were held in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America to inform and engage MPs on human rights and the work of the Human Rights Council.

Tunisia workshop aims to increase women’s cooperation

5 JUNE 2015

A workshop to encourage cross-party cooperation among female MPs in Tunisia is being held in the country on 6 and 7 June.  IPU has organized the event in partnership with International IDEA, an intergovernmental organization which works to support and promote democracy around the world.

The event, focused on reinforcing women’s influence in parliament, will include discussions, information on informal ways of working together and details of more formal parliamentary mechanisms for promoting gender equality and women’s rights – for example, women’s caucuses and specialized committees.  Guest speakers will include Awa Gueye, Vice-President of the Senegalese Parliament and President of the women's parliamentary caucus.  There will also be a training session on team building.

IPU and International IDEA hope the workshop will give the MPs a better understanding of how they can work together across party lines, both formally and informally, to help promote gender equality and women’s rights.  The event has been made possible by the generous support of the Federal National Council of the United Arab Emirates.
Tunisia is one of only two Arab countries where more than 30% of the MPs are women – the other being Algeria – as a result of the use of quotas. The female MPs are committed to ensuring that Tunisia’s new constitution, which will be enshrined in law over the next five years, reflects the needs and expectations of women.

After a previous workshop supported by IPU, which was organized by International IDEA and the Center of Arab Women for Training and Research, female MPs recommended a permanent commission to oversee gender equality and family affairs, as well as a women’s caucus.  Neither idea has been adopted by the parliament, although a special commission on women, family, children, youth and elderly affairs was established.

International IDEA and the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy are also engaged in a programme aiming to identify and remove barriers to the involvement of more women in Tunisia’s political parties.

IPU has a set of guidelines on women’s caucuses (PDF), setting out key principles for how the groups can be set up and operated.

New report on legislative contributions to reducing climate change

2 JUNE 2015

The new study has found that three-quarters of the world’s annual emissions of greenhouse gases are now limited by national targets. ©AFP/DYCJ/IMAGECHINA

Three-quarters of the world’s annual emissions of greenhouse gases are now limited by national targets, a new study from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science has found. The 2015 Global Climate Legislation Study, sponsored by IPU and GLOBE, the Global Legislators Organisation, covers 98 countries plus the European Union, which are together responsible for 93 per cent of global emissions. The study indicates that 75 countries plus the European Union have frameworks for limiting greenhouse gas emissions, while 64 countries have frameworks for adapting to the impacts of climate change. However, only 37 countries have completed a fully comprehensive national climate change risk assessment.

IPU President Saber Chowdhury has reiterated the importance of parliamentarians in addressing climate change. “We firmly believe that legislators are a central element of any successful strategy for tackling climate change and that they bear their own share of responsibility for its effective implementation. As mandated representatives of the people, parliamentarians are duty-bound to enact and amend laws, approve national budgets and hold governments to account. It is for that reason that we consider periodic reviews of climate change legislation to be so important.” Click here and find out more about the study and which countries are covered in the research.

Bringing a youth perspective to development cooperation

2 JUNE 2015

Dr Haruhisa Handa, Chairman of WSD, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong, Emirati MP and President of IPU Forum for Young Parliamentarians, Faisal Al Tenaiji and Mokhtar OmarIPU Senior Adviser mark the end of the successful day-long event. ©IPU/Z. Hilal

Young MPs followed up on the IPU Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians in Tokyo with a second event in the city on 30 May on how development cooperation can better respond to young people’s needs.

Organized by IPU and Worldwide Support for Development (WSD), the meeting offered a platform for young politicians, as representatives of their communities, to illustrate how well-placed they are to help shape more effective partnerships to tackle the many challenges societies face today, such as poverty, migration, discrimination, climate change, access to health, conflict, as well as barriers to education and employment.

The young MPs highlighted the need to focus development cooperation on people, and in particular on young people’s specific interests, to create positive long-term outcomes. They stressed that it was critical to consult young people on development projects and called attention to the need for development cooperation to empower young people through investment in training, job creation, inclusive processes and responsive programmes.

Education was identified as one of the key areas in need of greater investment, including tertiary education and training in skills relevant to the job market. Other priority areas included increasing youth opportunities in the agricultural sector, and investing more in Information and Computer Technology (ICT) to boost knowledge, innovation and web entrepreneurship opportunities. The MPs also called for development cooperation to encompass enhancing young people’s engagement in politics and democracy.

With a high-level attendance, including Dr Haruhisa Handa, Chairman of WSD, IPU President Saber Chowdhury, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong, and Japanese Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Minoru Kiuchi, about 50 young MPs also had an opportunity to learn more about Japanese international cooperation, which aims to focus more on peace-building, inclusiveness, environmental sustainability and resilience. The afternoon sessions of the event were opened to the Japanese public and about 1,000 people attended.

Guidance on national aid policies

29 MAY 2015

Key questions such as why States should have a national aid policy and how to ensure that all participants in aid activities are held accountable are addressed in a new guidance note  on development cooperation. Analysis by IPU, the United Nations Development Cooperation Forum (DCF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Action Aid shows that many aid-recipient countries either do not have a proper national aid policy, or have policies that are not strong enough to include strong accountability mechanisms. As a partner in the DCF, IPU commissioned the guidance note for development cooperation policymakers and practitioners as a tool to develop mutual accountability among all partners. The aim is to provide guidance on: working together to develop a clear set of commitments on aid management at the country level, become better advocates for the adoption or improvement of national aid policies, and how to effectively take part in their implementation. With parliaments insufficiently involved in the aid policy process, the note , which draws on a detailed review of 26 national aid policies, is also meant to support greater parliamentary engagement and is available online only on the IPU website.

Making progress on women's and children's health

29 MAY 2015

Newborn babies in a hospital in South Sudan are some of the lucky ones. Few births in the country take place in hospitals. African Parliaments call for continued efforts to improve women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health. ©REUTERS/A. Campeanu

Parliaments must be part of the efforts to improve women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health - that is the message sent by a meeting of African MPs in Johannesburg 5-7 May. The meeting was part of the consultation process on an updated Global Strategy on Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. The strategy, to be launched in September 2015, is a roadmap to end all preventable deaths of women, children, and adolescents by 2030 and improve their overall health and well-being. It supports the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and builds on the 2010-2015 Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health launched by the UN Secretary-General. The parliamentary session in Johannesburg strongly recommended  that parliaments should be considered a vital participant in the strategy, that every effort should be made to strengthen parliamentary capacity to engage on issues linked to women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health, and that IPU should be part of the future global accountability mechanism.

This message was reinforced by the IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong during his participation in a high-level retreat hosted by the UN Secretary-General in New York on 14-15 May. The event gathered more than 100 senior leaders from a variety of sectors, including governments, UN agencies, the private sector and civil society, for a detailed conversation on the draft and direction of the strategy.

Central and Eastern European parliaments translate SDGs into action

29 MAY 2015

Sustainable development is on the agenda of Central and Eastern European parliaments. The elderly, one of the most vulnerable segments of the population in these regions, are part of these discussions. ©AFP/D. Mihailescu

Central and Eastern European parliaments will be looking at what concrete strategies and actions they can take to achieve the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At a meeting jointly organized by the Chamber of Deputies of the Romanian Parliament and IPU, on 15 and 16 June in Bucharest, participants will examine how the SDGs and their targets may apply to Central and Eastern Europe and advance its development when they are adopted in September this year. Special emphasis will be placed on the important role parliaments need to play in ensuring effective implementation of the SDGs.

Pakistan President calls for expanding partnership with IPU

29 MAY 2015

President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain (left), met with IPU SG, Martin Chungong. ©PPI

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong met the President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain, in Islamabad on 25 May. Their discussions centred on deepening the relationship between IPU and Pakistan. Areas considered for expansion are the strengthening of IPU capacity-building efforts with the national parliament and broadening Pakistani participation in IPU activities.  President Hussain stressed that democracy was firmly entrenched in Pakistan, and that closer engagement with IPU could further strengthen democracy and democratic institutions in the country.

The IPU Secretary General also met Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, during his visit. They discussed the vital role of parliaments in helping to achieve the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Mr Aziz stressed the important role of IPU in helping parliaments to implement the SDGs, and their own importance for Pakistan, which is actively engaged in the process of defining them. During both meetings, the IPU Secretary General expressed his appreciation of Pakistan’s active role in IPU and its commitment to taking part in IPU Assemblies and specialized meetings.

Gearing up for the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament

29 MAY 2015

©UN Photo/Yutaka Nagata

Momentum is building towards the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, with the meeting of the Preparatory Committee in Geneva on 1-2 June. The Committee, composed of about 25 Speakers of Parliament, members of the IPU Executive Committee and a representative of the UN Secretary General, will examine the agenda, background reports and draft outcome documents for the Speakers’ Conference scheduled to take place at UN Headquarters in New York from 31 August-2 September. 

Michael Moller, Acting Director General of the UN Office in Geneva, will meet the Committee to look at the linkages between the Conference and the subsequent UN Summit on the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As mandated by the UN General Assembly, the Speakers’ Conference is organized in close cooperation with the United Nations as part of the series of high-level meetings leading up to the UN Summit, and is expected to contribute in a significant way to the accountability and implementation of the post-2015 development agenda. IPU and its Member Parliaments have been bringing a comprehensive parliamentary perspective to the global talks, the most recent example being the Hanoi Declaration on the SDGs: Turning Words into Action. Follow the Speakers’ Conference build-up on Twitter using the hashtag #Speakersconf

Endorsing and implementing Common Principles for Support to Parliament

28 APRIL 2015

The number of endorsements to the Common Principles for Support to Parliament continues to grow. ©IPU, 2015

Nearly 80 national parliaments, parliamentary assemblies and partner organizations have now endorsed the ground-breaking Common Principles for Support to Parliament aimed at improving the quality of parliamentary development support. A formal endorsement ceremony at IPU’s 132nd Assembly in Hanoi last month witnessed a surge in endorsements. With an ever increasing level of support for the Common Principles, the challenge now is to ensure they are effectively put into practice. Put together by a group of parliaments and parliamentary development entities, and the result of more than four decades of experience on parliamentary development, the Common Principles offer clear guidelines for those receiving or providing such support. Coordinated by IPU, they aim to improve the quality of support available to parliaments and to encourage the parliamentary community to work together more effectively when planning, designing and providing support. Parliaments and organizations wishing to add their endorsement can notify the IPU Secretariat.

World’s young MPs to gather in Tokyo

28 APRIL 2015

n 2014 young parliamentarians joined forces to find new ways to increase youth participation in politics. ©IPU/L. Fortunati, 2014

An IPU conference in Tokyo next month that will bring together young MPs from around the world will focus on finding solutions to critical global issues that heavily impact on youth. About 130 young men and women MPs from Japan and elsewhere are so far expected to attend the IPU Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians in Tokyo  at the Japanese parliament, the National Diet, on 27 and 28 May. The Conference, an annual event and the only one of its kind, was first held in Geneva in 2014. Jointly organized by IPU and the National Diet, the IPU Global Conference offers a political youth-led platform to define policies and action to successfully tackle challenges faced by young people.  Issues under focus will include: the impact of the socio -economic crisis on youth; young people’s vision of a prosperous world and how it can be achieved and the role of youth in eliminating conflict. Specifically, the Conference will examine how young MPs in particular can empower young people in addressing socio-economic challenges, including unemployment and how young MPs can counter youth engagement in violence and conflict. Particular attention will be paid to the issue of violence against youth, including young women and girls. There will also be an interactive discussion on young people’s perception of violence and the possibility of growing up in a non-violent culture. The Global Conference is part of IPU’s efforts to increase youth political participation and input into political decision-making backed by its Forum of Young Parliamentarians. Young MPs can still register to attend. Take part in the discussions through Twitter using the hashtag #youngMPs

UN follow-up for Hanoi development declaration

28 APRIL 2015

Ensuring the finances are in place to resource national development plans will be critical to the success of new sustainable development goals. ©Reuters/N. Chitrakar

Wasting no time after the 132nd Assembly, IPU has introduced the Hanoi Declaration on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to UN Member States during a negotiation session on financing for development (FFD). During the session from 13-16 April, the first draft outcome document was discussed ahead of the international conference on FFD taking place in Addis Ababa in July. Financing will be critical to the implementation of the entire post-2015 development agenda and SDGs. In a letter to all UN ambassadors, IPU pledged that “parliamentarians will work to build national ownership of the SDGs by pro-actively engaging their constituents and by working to tailor the global goals to their countries’ specific circumstances”. During the FFD negotiations, IPU underscored the key role of parliaments in the monitoring and following-up of all commitments, and said it was regrettable that parliaments were not included in the first draft document. IPU called for a distinct paragraph in the text pointing up the legislative and oversight functions of parliaments, which are key to overseeing sources of finance and turning commitments into enforceable measures. Because of the non-binding nature of the Addis Ababa agreement, the future of its commitments will depend entirely on how they are translated into national laws and regulations. IPU will continue to follow this process closely to ensure the role of parliaments is reflected in all relevant UN agreements.

Call to action on harnessing MPs’ power for gender equality

28 APRIL 2015

Speaker of Vietnam’s National Assembly Nguyen Sinh Hung signs up to the Call for Action on gender equality. ©Vietnamese News Agency, 2015

IPU Members have endorsed a call by women parliamentarians urging the world’s MPs to harness their political power to create a gender-equal world. This will be critical as the global focus increasingly shifts to a new sustainable development agenda which will not succeed without the contribution gender equality makes to peace, well-being and human development. The initiative, “My power for women’s power”, commits MPs to passing laws which enshrine equality in their societies and to providing the necessary financing and oversight for the laws to become a reality. MPs also pledged to boost women’s roles in politics and wider society and to empower women and girls in all spheres of life. IPU believes MPs hold enormous potential to achieve a world free from gender discrimination and that it is critically important for male and female MPs to work together to achieve this. The call to action was initially made during IPU’s 132nd Assembly in Hanoi in April by the Meeting of Women MPs, which celebrated 30 years of its pioneering work in boosting the role of female parliamentarians. IPU data shows that the percentage of women MPs in the world has nearly doubled in 20 years, from 11.3 per cent to 22.1 per cent, but progress has remained slow and much work remains to be done.

Strengthening ties with Geneva

17 APRIL 2015

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and Member of the Geneva Grand Council, Magali Orsini at IPU’s House of Parliaments.

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and local MPs in Geneva, where the Organization is headquartered, have met to identify ways to strengthen interaction between IPU and the city and its population. At a meeting at IPU’s House of Parliaments, the IPU Secretary General and representatives to the Geneva Grand Council, Magali Orsini and Charles Selleger, discussed various possible initiatives to develop knowledge of IPU and its work among the community and local politicians. They also discussed the issue of political disenchantment among youth and ways to strengthen civic education in schools, including developing a specific module on parliaments. Such kinds of initiatives will be further explored with the authorities in Geneva.