IPU to support development of new Egyptian parliament
28 FEBRUARY 2014
IPU will be supporting Egypt in its efforts to develop a new, fully functioning and representative parliament through a wide-ranging assistance programme following a high-level meeting at its headquarters between Egyptian officials and IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson on 26 and 27 February. The Egyptian delegation included representatives from the Ministry of Transitional Justice and National Reconciliation as well as the Secretariat of the House of Representatives. Egypt has been without a parliament since its dissolution in July 2013. IPU has repeatedly expressed its full support to the Egyptian people. Their desire for a strong democratic and representative legislative body and the adoption of a new, more inclusive constitution that promotes democratic values will provide the framework of IPU support, which will begin immediately. Priority assistance will include human development of parliamentary staff and after elections have taken place later this year, parliamentarians too. Support would also include assisting the Egyptian parliament in reviewing and enhancing its legal framework. A new parliament will enable Egypt to rejoin the Organization it had been a member of since 1924.
Assassination of Ecuadorian MPs still unresolved after 15 years
28 FEBRUARY 2014
Mr. Hurtado. ©MPD
Fifteen years after the assassination of Ecuadorian MPs Jaime Ricaurte Hurtado González and Pablo Vicente Tapia Farinango, authorities have failed to identify the instigators of their deaths. Hurtado and Tapia, members of the leftist Movimiento Popular Democrático (MPD), were killed in broad daylight in the centre of Quito on 17 February 1999, along with a legislative assistant, Wellington Borja Nazareno. Two culprits were convicted in March 2009 for their role in the murders and in 2010 suspect Henry Gil Ayerve was arrested in Colombia and extradited to Ecuador in order to stand trial in this case. In a recent development, a second suspect, Washington Aguirre, was taken into custody in Italy pending extradition. IPU considers that bringing both men to trial is crucial to the pursuit of truth and justice and that there is sufficient legal basis in Ecuador for this to happen despite concerns about statute of limitations. IPU is convinced that their prosecution will help shed light on the identity of the masterminds of the triple crime and will offer an opportunity to draw on the work of the Special Commission of Inquiry set up immediately after the murders. The now defunct Commission criticized the original investigation, notably for the scant consideration of the serious leads linking the killings to the uncovering of a web of corruption involving high-profile figures.
Too young to wed: IPU co-sponsors high level panel on child marriage
28 FEBRUARY 2014
Child marriage will affect more than 140 million girls between now and 2020. ©REUTERS/Stringer Iraq
IPU is co-sponsoring a high-level panel on child marriage on 3 March during the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The panel will highlight child marriage as a destructive and harmful human rights violation that will affect more than 140 million girls between now until 2020, or one girl every three seconds. Several organizations and networks have committed to prioritizing efforts to ending early marriage. IPU has contributed by adopting resolutions relating to women’s empowerment and violence against women, including “Access to health as a basic right: the role of parliaments in addressing key challenges to securing the health of women and children” in 2012. The resolution urges parliaments to pass laws explicitly criminalizing all forms of violence against women and girls, including early marriage. The high-level panel will mark the opening of “Too Young to Wed”, a photo exhibition on child marriage by photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair who has documented the global issue of child, early and forced marriage for more than a decade.
Translating human rights commitments into national realities
14 FEBRUARY 2014
A survey recently conducted by IPU showed many MPs are still unfamiliar with the work of the Human Rights Council or its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) ©UN
MPs from Central and Eastern European parliaments will meet in Bucharest on 17-18 February to discuss their role in ensuring international human rights commitments are applied at the national level. At an event jointly organized by IPU and the Chamber of Deputies of the Romanian Parliament, the MPs will examine their parliament’s contribution to the work of the UN Human Rights Council and identify good parliamentary practices in promoting human rights. Although parliaments have a critical part to play in ensuring respect for fundamental freedoms, a survey recently conducted by IPU showed many of them are still unfamiliar with the work of the Human Rights Council or its Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the evaluation mechanism of human rights in all UN member states. Very few of the UPR recommendations are actually implemented without parliamentary action, highlighting the need for MPs to acknowledge the importance of becoming more involved with the work of the Council and of promoting human rights more generally, including by engaging in a more pro-active way with civil society.
Strengthening oversight capacities of Oman’s parliament
14 FEBRUARY 2014
IPU and the Majlis A’Shura are working together in Oman to strengthen parliamentary capacity to oversee government. ©IPU
IPU has been working with Oman’s Consultative Council to strengthen its capacity to oversee government, a fundamental role of any parliament. The move follows the change in the Council’s role from an advisory body to an elected institution with legislative and oversight powers in 2011. An IPU delegation, including parliamentary experts from Britain, France and Germany, covered challenges and procedures for effective oversight, including the use of committees and working with other institutions and the public during a two-day training. This was then followed by an assessment of the priority needs to strengthen the capacity of the Consultative Council in its efforts to fully deliver on its mandate as an elected legislative institution. A more comprehensive needs assessment at a later date could then be used as a basis for a broader IPU programme of support for Oman’s parliament.
Advisory Group of the IPU Committee on UN Affairs to visit Haiti
14 FEBRUARY 2014
UN peacekeepers stand on the side of a road during protests in Port-au-Prince in November 2013. ©REUTERS/M. Arago
The Advisory Group of the IPU Committee on UN Affairs will conduct a field mission in Haiti on 24-27 February to monitor and report on national parliamentary work to facilitate the stabilization and reconstruction of the country after the devastating earthquake of 2010. The Group will meet MPs, government officials and UN representatives on the ground to assess progress made and pressing challenges ahead for Haitian MPs and parliament in better responding to the needs of the Haitian people. Four years after the 7.3 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people and left more than 1.5 million people homeless, major issues such as poor living conditions, food insecurity, malnutrition and cholera remain. The role of MPs in addressing these challenges is crucial as they are responsible for the implementation and oversight of national legislation contributing to the reconstruction efforts. The Advisory Group will examine the UN operations in Haiti concerning peace consolidation and national reconciliation and will build on the increasingly solid partnership between the UN, national parliaments and IPU. The conclusions of the mission will be presented at the 130th IPU Assembly in Geneva, on 16-20 March. To date, the Advisory Group has undertaken seven missions: Tanzania (2008), Viet Nam (2009), Sierra Leone and Ghana (2011), Albania and Montenegro (2012) and Côte d’Ivoire (2013).
WTO underlines vital role of MPs in global trade system
14 FEBRUARY 2014
WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo addresses MPs attending the Steering Committee of the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO in Brussels. ©IPU
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo has highlighted the vital role MPs play to ensure the good functioning of the global trade system to parliamentarians attending the Steering Committee of the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO in Brussels. “As parliamentarians you connect WTO to the people. We rely on you to take into account their concerns. It is an important link and an important way of ensuring that our global trading system works at the local level,” said Azevêdo. The Committee met on 11-12 February to assess the outcome of the 9th WTO Ministerial Conference held in Bali in December 2013. It adopted a declaration urging negotiators to capitalize on the momentum gathered at Bali where governments agreed to the so called “Bali package”, the first global trade agreement since the WTO was created in 1995. MPs at the meeting also emphasized the need to keep working for a strong and effective parliamentary dimension of the WTO in order to maintain public support for open trade and enhance the transparency of the organization.
IPU President wishes Tunisia success on road map to democracy
7 FEBRUARY 2014
President Moncef Marzouki speaks during the ceremony marking the adoption of the new Tunisian constitution. ©REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
IPU President Abdelwahad Radi has wished Tunisia a successful journey on its path to democracy during a ceremony to formally adopt the new Constitution. Invited to speak at the event on 7 February as a result of the support IPU has provided to the Tunisian National Constituent Assembly, President Radi congratulated Tunisians on a Constitution which provides a firm basis for a modern democratic State. It served as a solid example of using dialogue and compromise in resolving political disputes in the region and beyond. “IPU is honoured to join the Tunisian people in celebrating this historic moment and wishes for a successful continuation of their democratic road map,” President Radi said. “The world is witnessing the achievements of a massive social movement seeking better life and better future for people through dialogue and consensus. Tunisians have succeeded by putting national interests above partisan interests.” The IPU President stressed the Organization’s continued support to Tunisia as it makes a full transition to democracy. IPU has been actively engaged with the Tunisian authorities since political changes began in 2011.
The new Constitution was approved on 27 January by an overwhelming majority of the members of the Assembly. Upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections must consolidate the democratic institutions created by the Constitution and ensure the rule of law with full respect for human rights.
Legislating to end HIV and AIDS: from dream into reality
31 JANUARY 2014
Effective laws to end HIV and AIDS: Next steps for Parliaments”, a joint IPU-UNDP publication to guide parliamentarians in the HIV-AIDS response.
IPU and UNDP have launched a new publication “Effective laws to end HIV and AIDS: Next steps for Parliaments” to guide parliamentarians in the HIV-AIDS response. It incorporates the lessons drawn from the experiences of MPs involved in improving the lives of vulnerable groups in New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Mongolia, and Switzerland. They offer illustrative examples, from coalition building to careful media handling, to convince parliaments and electorates on the need of an HIV-AIDS policy that prioritizes health and human rights and does not criminalize behaviours of key populations. MPs around the world face particular challenges when legislating to fight HIV and AIDS, dealing often with social taboos that result in unnecessary barriers to ending the epidemic. In many countries laws criminalizing men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender people, sex workers and people who inject drugs are driving the most vulnerable people to HIV away from the health and social services.
Mexican MPs reinforce commitment to a gender-sensitive parliament
31 JANUARY 2014
The Mexican Senate hosted a self-assessment seminar and debate on gender mainstreaming on 22-23 February. ©Mexican Senate
Mexican MPs and experts have called on the need to push forward a gender-sensitive parliament as a key step in advancing towards equality between men and women in society at large. In a self-assessment seminar and debate on gender mainstreaming jointly organized by the Mexican Senate and IPU on 22-23 January, participants stressed the importance of removing structural barriers to women´s full participation in parliamentary leadership posts. MPs and parliamentary staff committed to ensuring constant reassessment of the gender perspective in their structures, operations, methods and work to respond to the interests of both men and women. IPU’s “Plan of Action for Gender-sensitive Parliaments” will be used to help them. Mexico’s parliament passed legislation to ensure gender parity in the electoral law resulting in a significant increase of women in both houses of parliament (36.8 per cent in the Chamber of Deputies and 32.8 per cent in the Senate) after the 2012 elections.
Measuring democratic governance as a new sustainable development goal
31 JANUARY 2014
World leaders agreed at the UN Rio+20 Conference on June 2012 to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will converge with the post 2015 development agenda. ©REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker
How can democratic governance be measured? Why does it need to be incorporated as a stand-alone goal in the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? To answer these questions IPU and International IDEA are hosting a side event to the 8th Session of the United Nations Open Working Group on the SDGs in New York on 6 February. Participants will discuss recent research evidence suggesting democratic governance is an end to sustainable development and not just a means as well as illustrate the many possible ways to measure the strength of democratic governance in all countries. IPU Secretary General Anders Johnsson will present recent work to develop a series of indicators based on the principles of representation, transparency and accountability which are aimed at assessing the effectiveness of parliaments as fundamental pillars of democratic governance.
First meeting to prepare the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament
15 JANUARY 2014
The 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament took place in Geneva in 2010. ©IPU/G. Fortunato
A group of Speakers of Parliament will meet at IPU headquarters in Geneva on 27-28 January for the first meeting of the Preparatory Committee of the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament. The Conference, due to convene in 2015, is unique in bringing together leaders of parliaments from every corner of the globe to address key global issues. The Conference, first held in 2000 to coincide with the Millennium Summit, takes place every five years. It has proved to be crucial to strengthening parliamentary presence on the global stage and to giving a new impulse to the parliamentary dimension of international cooperation. The preparatory committee meeting will begin defining the main objectives of the 2015 Conference and will examine issues such as further strengthening the relationship between parliaments and the UN and the parliamentary contribution to the new post-2015 sustainable development agenda. IPU supports a new sustainable development model grounded in human well-being and a specific development goal on democratic governance. Other key issues include gender equality and strengthening parliaments as democratic institutions. Subsequent preparatory meetings will take place in the latter half of 2014 and early 2015.
New IPU global database on women’s caucuses in parliament
15 JANUARY 2014
Want to know more about how women MPs are organizing themselves in parliaments around the world? IPU has launched a new global database on women’s caucuses in parliament to capture such information in one useful place. The database is a unique tool that provides a global, regional and national perspective on how women MPs have succeeded in coming together to tackle issues in ways that transcend their political differences. The database, available in English and French, lists information about 79 women’s caucuses that exist so far in 189 national parliaments, with names, links and contacts to the groups. Different search criteria filters are available to obtain information on countries, regions, dates, structure, composition, agenda and rules. Produced with financial support from USAID, Irish Aid and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the database is to be used in conjunction with IPU’s “Guidelines for Women’s Caucuses”. The Guidelines provide a rationale for why caucuses play a decisive role in the development and implementation of laws and policies on important gender issues, as well as practical information on the steps required to set up and run a successful caucus.
MPs Commit to Full Conclusion of the Doha Round Talks
16 DECEMBER 2013
MPs from around the world committed in Bali (Indonesia) to working towards the full conclusion of the Doha Round. ©Indonesian Parliament
MPs from around the world committed to working towards the full conclusion of the Doha Round after the landmark deal reached on 7 December by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to simplify and strengthen multilateral trade. Over 200 MPs gathered in Bali, Indonesia, for the Parliamentary Conference on the World Trade Organization on the sidelines of the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC9) and closely interacted with government ministers to facilitate the first global trade agreement since the WTO was created in 1995. The deal on the so-called “Bali package” will mean lowering trade barriers and speeding up the passage of goods through customs with an estimated boost of hundreds of billions of dollars for the world economy and the creation of millions of jobs, according to WTO. In an outcome document adopted at the final plenary of the Conference, parliamentarians stressed that the multilateral trading system should maintain its pivotal role and called to place development at the heart of the new trade scenario taking into full account the special needs and interests of least developed countries.
MPs Continue Paying Price for Defending Human Rights
16 DECEMBER 2013
Yemeni MP Abdulkareem Jabdan was gunned down in Sana'a on 22 November. ©REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
Assassinations of MPs in Somalia and Yemen in recent weeks are just the latest cases of MPs paying the ultimate price for defending fundamental human rights and exercising their right to freedom of expression, said IPU as it marked Human Rights Day 2013 on 10 December. Somali MP Feisal Warsame Mohamed was killed on 6 December when a car bomb blew up his vehicle in Mogadishu. On 22 November, Yemeni MP Abdulkareem Jadban was gunned down in Sana’a in what seemed to be politically motivated attacks to silence two outspoken MPs. These two killings highlight a worrying ongoing trend around the world of MPs being persecuted, intimidated, attacked or even killed, and were an attack on democracy itself. So far this year, IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians has examined allegations of human rights violations against 270 legislators (241 men and 29 women) in 40 countries. Most violations either relate to attacks on MPs’ physical integrity, such as murder, enforced disappearance or torture, or to the ability to carry out their democratic mandate.
Nelson Mandela an Inspiration on Doing Politics Differently for Peace and Democracy
16 DECEMBER 2013
Former South African president Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), an inspiration on how politics can be done differently to promote peace, reconciliation and democracy. ©Reuters/Ronen Zvulun
Former South African president Nelson Mandela showed how courageous and visionary leadership could bring peace and democracy to a bitterly divided country and will continue to serve as an inspiration to politicians everywhere on how politics can be done differently. “Despite what happened to him in the apartheid years, Nelson Mandela was committed to building a new democratic South Africa that included every person, regardless of race, religion, or skin colour,” said IPU President Abdelwahad Radi. “What made him especially remarkable was his vision and understanding that the future of South Africa lay in that inclusion. This could only be achieved through dialogue with all sides in the country. This included his oppressors.” Sending his deepest condolences to South Africa, its people and parliament on behalf of the IPU Membership, President Radi said Nelson Mandela’s human approach to politics focusing on the overall good rather than on individual or sectarian interests, showed that politics can be done differently when there is a will.
Engaging MPs and Media in Deepening Democracy and Parliamentary Culture
16 DECEMBER 2013
Bringing media and politicians together, the Parliamentary Media Forum in UAE, the first event of its kind in the country. © UAE parliament
MPs and journalists from the Gulf and Arab states are meeting in Dubai (UEA) on 16 December on strengthening their inter-action in a bid to deepen democracy and parliamentary culture in the region. The Parliamentary Media Forum also aims to establish a fluid two-way communication channel with citizens. With IPU’s technical support, the gathering will make recommendations and proposals on the development and improvement of parliamentary media and information in order to appeal to a wider audience. The impact of social media will feature prominently on the agenda as it is increasingly essential in the region to keeping pace with political and social changes. In addition, it offers MPs and media a powerful tool to foster public engagement on democracy and decision-making. Yet, only a minority of parliaments and MPs in the world are currently present on social media (World e-Parliament Report 2012).
Promoting a Gender Sensitive Budget in Côte d’Ivoire
16 DECEMBER 2013
Ivorian MPs and parliamentary staff engaged in the promotion of a gender sensitive national budget. ©Ivoirian Parliament
Ivorian MPs and parliamentary staff have taken a first step in strengthening parliamentary oversight on gender equality policies in the country through better information on gender budgeting and allocation. During a two-day event on 6-7 December organized by the National Assembly, IPU, SUNY/CID and USAID, both men and women from the Ivorian parliament involved in the budgetary process, focused on the promotion of a gender sensitive national budget as a fundamental tool for ensuring equal economic and development benefits for both sexes. They engaged in an inter-active debate to better understand the rational for gender budgeting and to identify and assess the different stages, modalities and strategies that lead to a balanced and fair allocation of resources. Women constitute 55 per cent of the population of Côte d’Ivoire - yet they lag behind men on many social indicators, such as education, health and jobs. Côte d’Ivoire ranks 112th in IPU’s World Ranking of Women in Parliament. Only 26 out of 249 members of the National Assembly (10.4 per cent) are women.
Strengthening Management of Myanmar Parliament
16 DECEMBER 2013
Myanmar's Parliament, IPU and UNDP carry out the first management training for senior Secretariat staff of the Hluttaw. ©Ross Becker
Myanmar’s Parliament, IPU and UNDP will jointly carry out the first management training for senior Secretariat staff of the Hluttaw to strengthen its capacity to plan, organize and deliver on legislative work. Ahead of an increase in Myanmar’s parliamentary staff from the current 500 to 2,500, the training will focus on improving skills to recruit and manage personnel effectively and allocating staff and resources to priority activities. Some 30 senior managers are expected to attend the five-day programme (16-20 December). Participants, including also senior managers from other national parliaments, will discuss real life issues and challenges at work. Similar training will be held for another group of 30 Hluttaw managers in 2014. Since 2012, the Hluttaw, IPU and UNDP have been working closely together to strengthen the legislative body elected in 2010 in the first ballot since 1990.
MPs Urge Placing Development at the Heart of the Multilateral Trading System
6 DECEMBER 2013
Some 270 MPs from 53 countries gathered in Bali (Indonesia) for the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO. ©Indonesian Parliament
MPs from around the world urged governments to place development at the heart of the multilateral trading system, taking into full account the special needs and interests of developing counties, particularly the least developed. Meeting in Bali (Indonesia) on 2 and 5 December for the Parliamentary Conference on the World Trade Organization (PCWTO), some 270 MPs agreed that the last-minute negotiations at the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC9) also in Bali, must bring a tangible benefit for developing countries, increase their share of world trade, stimulate their economic growth and contribute to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In an outcome document approved by consensus at the final plenary of the Conference, parliamentarians called on Ministers to adopt the “Bali package” - an agreement to simplify trade facilitation, agriculture trade and development trade issues affecting least developed countries. It would, MPs argue, bring significant economic benefits to all WTO members. MPs also expressed their concern about the increasing number of regional and bilateral agreements signed in the past decade as a result of the WTO Doha Round stalemate and reiterated the importance of a bigger say of parliaments in trade negotiations to enhance transparency and public support for a rules-based, open, fair and non-discriminatory system. MC9, which ends today, 6 December, is aimed at breaking the deadlock on Doha. The Round was launched in 2001 to produce a global accord on opening markets and removing trade barriers. The Parliamentary Conference, jointly organized by IPU and the European Parliament (EP), took place on the sidelines of MC9.
Political Parties - Allies or Foes on Gender Sensitive Parliaments?
29 NOVEMBER 2013
MP Eva Abdulla provides input on role of political parties at the IPU event during the Women in Parliament meeting. ©IPU/Z. Hilal
Women MPs have urged political parties to commit to gender equality as an inherent political objective and assume their role as key entry points to women’s political participation at an IPU-organized event during the Women in Parliaments Global Forum (WIP) in Brussels on 27-29 November. Entitled “Gender-sensitive Parliaments: Are political parties allies or foes?” the event examined the significant impact political parties have on gender-sensitive policy-making, including women’s access to political participation. It also emphasized the usefulness and success of women’s parliamentary caucuses in establishing cross-party cooperation on advancing gender equality. The event was an opportunity to present IPU’s survey on Gender-Sensitive Parliaments, as well as its recently published “Guidelines for Women´s Caucuses”. The WIP Forum, like IPU’s Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, brought together women MPs from around the world.
Celebrating 120 Years of Women’s Suffrage
29 NOVEMBER 2013
Women in New Zealand playing a role in the 1913 elections. ©Weekly Press 17 December 1913 (NZ)
Twenty-eighth November 2013 marked the 120th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand, the first country in the world to give women the vote. A historic milestone highlighting the progress made on gender equality since 1893, the anniversary nevertheless underscored how much still needed doing to achieve gender equality in all spheres of life. Although gender discrimination on suffrage will come to an end with women in Saudi Arabia due to vote for the first time in local elections in 2015, women’s representation in parliament is far from matching progress on universal suffrage. Women represent more than half of the world’s population, but represent just 21.4 per cent of all parliamentarians in the world.
Burundi’s Parliament to Set Up HIV/AIDS Network
29 NOVEMBER 2013
Thabitha Khumalo, MP Zimbabwe, with children from an area heavily affected by HIV. ©IPU/A. Blagojevic
Burundi’s parliament will announce on 1 December (World AIDS Day) the creation of a Parliamentary Network on HIV/AIDS aimed at increasing MPs’ involvement in the national response to the pandemic. The constitution of the Network will be supported by IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and MPs from other countries, who participated in a capacity building seminar for Burundi parliamentarians on 18-19 November, followed by a field visit to country on 20-22 November. They agreed to assist by sharing their experiences, as well as by helping to draft an action plan focused on mobilizing domestic resources (Burundi’s AIDS response is 97 per cent aid dependent). Building on IPU’s guide “Raising the Profile on HIV and AIDS in Your Parliament”, the Advisory Group also offered to share its experience establishing AIDS trusts and AIDS levy systems. HIV prevalence in Burundi is estimated at 1.3 per cent of the population aged between 15-49, according to UNAIDS.
Ongoing IPU Support to Enhance Functioning of Myanmar’s Parliament
29 NOVEMBER 2013
Internet research among the issues during an ICT training for the Myanmar parliament. ©Ross Becker
As Myanmar continues its progress on democracy, IPU is cementing its support to the Hluttaw (national parliament) through a series of activities intended at improving information and research needs of MPs and promoting ICT and managerial capacities. With an external evaluation of IPU’s project in Myanmar just started, another mission is currently in the country working to enhance the parliament’s network and data center capabilities. In mid-December the first in a series of Management & Leadership Training Courses will be carried out to increase parliamentary institutional capacity to implement relevant organizational, administrative and procedural measures. Myanmar’s parliament was re-established following national elections in 2010. Since then it has been very active in adopting new laws to consolidate the country’s political transition.
Tackling Violence against Women Fundamental to Equality and Development
22 NOVEMBER 2013
One in three women throughout the world experience physical or sexual violence. ©: Reuters/Sebastien Pirlet
Ending violence against women (VAW) should be a key priority of any development objective to create a more gender equal world, says IPU as the UN-led process to establish the next generation of development goals gathers pace. With one in three women throughout the world experiencing physical or sexual violence, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), VAW is an issue affecting every country in the world and one which is limiting women’s development everywhere. Marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25th November, IPU argues that progress on future global development will be partly measured by success on achieving gender equality, which itself is not possible as long as a woman’s right to a life free from violence is not guaranteed. In turn, IPU is urging its own members to take firm action to end violence against women through swift and effective legal reforms and strong parliamentary oversight to ensure implementation. Although two thirds of countries today have legislation criminalizing domestic violence and have also taken steps to address sexual harassment, all countries should have legislation penalizing all forms of VAW. This not only includes rape and sexual assault but also female infanticide in the preference for boys, child marriage, genital mutilation, acid face-burning, “honour” killings and other forms of feminicide. In recent years, IPU has mobilized the parliamentary community on this issue. This year, a presidential statement was unanimously endorsed by IPU members at its 128th Assembly in Quito in March 2013 with women speakers of parliament similarly highlighting VAW as a priority issue at their annual meeting in New York in mid-November.
Kenyan Parliament Commits to Action on Improving Maternal and Child Health
22 NOVEMBER 2013
Maternal and under-5 mortality remain high in Kenya. ©: Reuters/Radu Sigheti
Kenyan MPs have committed to a range of urgent actions aimed at improving reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH) in a country where maternal and infant mortality rates are high. At a meeting in Nairobi on 19 November supported by IPU, parliamentarians agreed on the need to build and enable a protective legislative framework with appropriate financing that addresses this issue effectively and ensures its thorough implementation. Amongst the most urgent actions are working to push the national health budget up to 15 per cent of the State budget, finalizing a bill on maternal health and working towards developing a common legal instrument ensuring universal health care. They also agreed to convene a discussion on the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 2006 and the impact of criminalizing the transmission of HIV on sexual and reproductive rights. MPs identified a series of pressing challenges relating to maternal and child health, including contradictions in legislation, labour-related laws with negative health implications, a lack of clear definition on the sexual and reproductive health rights of women and girls in certain situations as well as inadequate legal planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation. Maternal mortality remains high in Kenya at 360 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, while the under-5 mortality rate was at 73 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to the UN.
Questions Remain on Murder of Russian MP Galina Starovoitova 15 Years On
20 NOVEMBER 2013
Galina Starovoitova, MP and human rights activist, was shot dead in St Petersburg on 20th November 1998
Fifteen years after the assassination of Russian MP and human rights activist Galina Starovoitova, those who masterminded her death are yet to be brought to justice. Starovoitova was shot to death in the lobby of her apartment in St. Petersburg on 20th November 1998. Four men have been serving jail sentences since 2005 as perpetrators and accomplices in the murder with progress on identifying those actually behind the killing remaining slow. However, with the recent indictment of former MP MikhaiI Gluschenko as the man who organized Starovoitova’s murder, IPU trusts the Russian authorities will keep moving forward to finally resolve the case The Organization hopes the proceedings against Gluschenko, a businessman involved in large-scale criminal activities and sentenced in March to eight years in jail for extortion in another and unrelated case, will shed full light on the killing of Starovoitova. Her assassination was “politically motivated”, according to the St. Petersburg City Court that sentenced two men, intelligence officer Yuri Kolchin and Vitali Akishin, to 20 and 23.5 years in prison for pulling the trigger. Two other were found guilty of complicity, while three other suspects remain on the run. The court ascertained the murder had been committed by an organized group with the aim of halting Starovoitova's political activities. Considered as one of the symbols of Perestroika and the democratic movement, Starovoitova was co-chairwoman of the political party “Democratic Russia” and a well-known reformist politician and ethnic minority’s rights activist. She had denounced the existence of high-profile political corruption in St. Petersburg. Shortly before her death, she said that she was aware of the names of local politicians receiving bribes from the mafia and that she knew about the selling of a city council seat to a criminal group. IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, which has been following the case, will resume its examination at its next session on 13-17 January 2014 in Geneva in a bid to push for more information to be brought to light.
UN Stresses MPs’ Critical Role in Development at Annual Parliamentary Hearing
18 NOVEMBER 2013
Jointly organized by UN and IPU, the Annual Parliamentary Hearing held in New York highlighted the crucial role of MPs pushing forward the future development agenda ©IPU/F. Puchol
Parliaments can and should play a central role in shaping and implementing the new development agenda after 2015, when the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire. In a message to MPs attending the joint IPU-UN Annual Parliamentary Hearing in New York on 14-15 November, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said IPU and parliaments were critical in “helping us reach MDG3, including the target to increase the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments. Parliaments can bring the views and aspirations of their citizens into global deliberations. They are uniquely placed to ensure financing for sustainable development efforts.” MPs and IPU are now actively engaged in the UN-coordinated international effort to formulate the development agenda beyond 2015. During the two-day event, MPs underlined the need for a global strategy focused at national and international levels on poverty eradication, gender equality, democratic governance and a stronger legislative role in the global decision making process. With a holistic and integrated approach in mind, MPs supported a new development model grounded in human well-being, and not only on GDP growth. With a strong emphasis on fighting violence against women, they also highlighted the need to consolidate gender equality not only as a new development challenge in itself, but as a dimension underpinning every single goal of a future development agenda.
Women Speakers Put Gender Equality at Heart of Sustainable Development
15 NOVEMBER 2013
Speaker Gabriela Montano (Bolivia) at the 8th IPU Women Speakers of Parliament in New York. ©IPU/F. Puchol
Women Speakers of Parliament have stressed the need to put gender equality at the heart of new development goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015. At the eighth annual gathering of the world’s most senior women parliamentarians, the IPU Women Speakers of Parliament Meeting agreed that not only should there be a stand-alone goal on gender equality in any new development agenda, but that it should be a comprehensive objective underpinning all other spheres including economic growth, environment, employment, health and education. The meeting, which concluded on 13th November, underlined parliament’s active role in the new development challenge if goals were to be effectively implemented. The women Speakers invited MPs to rethink and revisit current economic models and paradigms, forging a new development path centred on human well-being and not just GDP growth. In a dynamic and constructive discussion that would continue into the Annual Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations jointly organized by IPU and the UN, the women Speakers agreed to continue meeting on an annual basis and praised IPU’s collective efforts to organize a forum where women MPs can have a space of their own to exchange experiences and support one another. The 2014 IPU Women Speakers of Parliament meeting is due to be held in Ecuador, which hosted the 128th IPU Assembly in March 2013
Improving Development Assistance to Parliaments
15 NOVEMBER 2013
IPU’s assistance to Myanmar Parliament has been developed together with authorities and other partners, including UN. ©IPU/N. Babic
Work has begun on developing a common set of principles to guide how development aid to national parliaments is provided in a bid to make such assistance more effective and coordinated. More than 30 representatives from parliaments and organizations working in the field agreed on the development of the principles with IPU coordinating the effort. The work is expected to be completed by mid-2014. At a recent meeting at IPU’s headquarters in Geneva, participants from parliaments, UN agencies, training institutes, the Association of Secretaries General of Parliament, donors and others agreed the principles would be available for endorsement by not only those providing assistance, but also donors and parliaments. The meeting also agreed to renew coordination efforts to establish common standards and criteria for democratic parliaments. These would also be endorsable by both relevant organizations, parliaments and others. The Geneva event similarly served as a useful opportunity for participants to provide feedback on IPU’s work on developing indicators to measure how parliaments are delivering on being accessible, accountable, effective, representative and transparent.
New Guidelines to Help Women MPs Caucuses
15 NOVEMBER 2013
New IPU guidelines on setting up a caucus for women MPs or in strengthening an existing one will be officially presented at two events in Washington D. C., USA that will focus on the role and impact of such groups. The “Guidelines for Women’s Caucuses”, provides a rationale for why women’s caucuses are useful as well as practical information on the four necessary steps required in setting up and running one. The guidelines are to be used in conjunction with IPU’s soon-to-be active online database on existing women MPs caucuses, which also gives comparative information on their structure, composition, agenda and rules. More than 80 women MP caucuses have been set up in the past 20 years around the world. In an environment still dominated by men, women MPs, accounting for only 21.4 per cent of all parliamentarians, face particular expectations and challenges in their work. Setting up a caucus is one thing, making it work is another. Women MPs from countries such as Afghanistan, Brazil, Namibia and Finland will share their experiences with other parliamentarians and members of caucuses, including the US Congressional Caucus on Women’s issues on 19th November. A similar event organized with USAID, which supported the development of the guidelines, will be held the day before.
Cote d’Ivoire MPs Create Women’s Caucus
15 NOVEMBER 2013
Ground-breaking move in Côte d’Ivoire as women MPs establish the first ever women’s caucus in parliament. ©IPU/Ivoirian Parliament
Cote d’Ivoire has launched the first-ever Women’s Caucus in the National Assembly, a forum aimed at advancing women’s rights and mainstreaming gender throughout all parliamentary work. Inspired by IPU’s new guidelines on women’s caucuses, the group, representing all political parties, will work to draft new laws on gender equality and to review discriminatory legislation. It will also promote the participation of women in all parliamentary decision-making levels and will be responsible for improving gender-sensitive infrastructure and culture, as well as ensuring that efforts towards gender equality are shared by both male and female parliamentarians. The Women’s Caucus also aims to be at the heart of the national reconciliation process after the post-electoral crisis in 2010 that resulted in a brief but bloody civil war that killed 3,000 people. IPU, which sent a first team of experts to Cote d’Ivoire in June 2013, has already supported similar initiatives in post-conflict countries, including Burundi and Rwanda, where women’s representation in parliament has increased significantly in recent years. However, Cote d’Ivoire currently ranks 114th in IPU’s world ranking of women in parliament. Only 26 out of its 249 members (10.4 per cent) of the National Assembly are women.
West African Parliaments Commit to Breaking Circle of Conflict in Region
15 NOVEMBER 2013
West African MPs agree on their greater involvement in ending conflict in the region. ©IPU/I. Décarroux
West African MPs have committed to increasing parliamentary involvement and action in post-conflict situations in a bid to break the vicious circle of violence and instability that has plagued the region in recent years. At a recent regional conference in Abidjan jointly organized by the Cote d’Ivoire parliament and IPU, MPs from Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Senegal and Togo, the ECOWAS parliament and other participants pointed out recurrent issues such as weak governance, lack of leadership, corruption, poverty, unequal distribution of wealth, illiteracy, exclusion of minorities, and religious and ethnic discrimination as reasons behind the present situation. They called for a prominent legislative role in reconstruction and reconciliation in order to establish lasting peace. Parliaments have to be especially vigilant on areas such as the rule of law and human rights legislation whilst ensuring their own governance, accountability and transparency. MPs also emphasized the need to cut down the circulation of firearms and on the urgency of addressing the situation of hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people in the region.
IPU to Build Legislative Capacity in Burundi to Respond to HIV and AIDS
15 NOVEMBER 2013
MPs to assess access to care and treatment amongst other HIV-related issues in Burundi during a field visit. ©Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi
A field visit and a seminar by IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS in Burundi will help strengthen MPs capacity to address issues linked to the epidemic at national level. Both parliamentarians and parliamentary staff will participate in the seminar on 18-19 November. It is aimed at increasing their understanding of populations most affected by HIV as well as enhancing prevention efforts and access to care for those affected through effective legislative action. Building on IPU’s guide “Raising the Profile on HIV and AIDS in Your Parliament”, MPs will focus on HIV treatment policies, getting to grips with the latest trends in research, intellectual property issues and regulatory frameworks governing the prices of medicines. IPU’s Advisory Group will then carry out a field visit between 20-22 November to examine parliament’s role in addressing the HIV epidemic. Legislation and its enforcement, discrimination, access to treatment, gender-based violence, and the situation of children, in particular orphans, will be some of the issues covered. HIV prevalence in Burundi is estimated at 1.3 per cent of the population aged between 15-49, according to UNAIDS. An assessment report following the field visit will include recommendations on response areas that require strengthening.
Pacific Island Parliaments Outline Regional Efforts for Democratic Development
15 NOVEMBER 2013
Pacific island MPs identify priority issues including gender equality to guide future action. ©IPU/B. Filion
MPs from 13 Pacific Island nations outlined a comprehensive set of issues that needed addressing to support democratic development in the region at a meeting in early November. Organized by IPU and the Australian and Tongan parliaments in Nuku’alofa, MPs highlighted a series of key points concerning their professional development, services for MPs, gender equality in parliament as well as greater regional and international engagement that would guide their future action. Tailoring development programmes to suit specific cultural contexts as well as individual skills needs, establishing codes of conduct to help fulfill MPs responsibilities as elected representatives as well as access to IT and support in ensuring greater channels of communication with constituents were just some of the action points listed in an outcomes statement. With the Pacific region having one of the lowest regional averages of women in parliament, MPs agreed on a wide range of actions that could be taken to tackle domestic violence, increase women’s political representation and citizen engagement in politics as well as to promote gender equality across society. The meeting, supported by IPU, UNDP, AusAID and the Centre for Democratic Institutions also underlined parliament’s importance in responding to a fast-changing regional environment facing pressing issues such as climate change, poor population health and a shortage of workforce skills.