Briefing Room

South Asia Speakers' Summit pledges action on tobacco and SDGs

8 FEBRUARY 2016

Anda Filip of IPU was among the speakers to address the summit. ©IPU/Enico Iaia

Speakers of Parliament from across South Asia have pledged to step up action to curb tobacco use, which kills more than 1.5 million people in the region every year.  The commitment is part of a comprehensive declaration by the Speakers after a summit on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), internationally agreed targets which include ending extreme poverty and hunger and improving global health by 2030. 

The Speakers, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, pledged wide action to advance the SDGs, reflecting the crucial role of parliaments in making the goals a reality through their key functions of passing laws, overseeing the work of government, allocating budgets and representing citizens. They urged parliaments to adopt national sustainable development plans and strategies, and to ensure that all the necessary policies, legislation and budgets were put in place to implement them, as well as introducing systems to monitor progress. “We believe South Asia could be a role model for the world in achieving the SDGs,” the Speakers said. “Parliaments and parliamentarians have an important leadership role to play in this regard. Parliamentary action on the SDGs is urgently needed. We pledge to advocate for and ensure appropriate budget allocations that will enable our countries to fully implement the SDGs."

The Speakers said millions of lives across South Asia could be saved if parliaments took action to curb the use of tobacco - a major factor in non-communicable diseases (NCDs). They called for the formulation of policies, including higher taxes, simplified tax structures and the use of tax revenues, to support tobacco control and sustainable development.  With more than one third of the world’s tobacco users - an estimated 384 million people - in South Asia, the Speakers stressed the importance of fully incorporating the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) into parliamentary action across the region.


“Tobacco use is unique in the magnitude of the harm it causes in South Asia,” said the Speakers. “Unlike many causes of disease, we know how to reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco use. The tobacco control policies in the FCTC are evidence-based, affordable, and cost effective. They have been proven to produce measurable, significant and verifiable reductions in tobacco use in every country in which they have been both adopted and effectively implemented.” The Speakers also urged parliaments to step up their work to achieve universal health coverage, reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality, and end all preventable deaths before 2030. The summit, organized by IPU, was hosted by the Bangladesh Parliament in the capital, Dhaka, with technical support from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an international non-profit organization.

Halting spread of WMDs in Africa

3 FEBRUARY 2016

Terrorist groups are operating across national borders in parts of Africa, adding to fears about the possible spread of WMDs. ©AFP/Brahim Adji

IPU and the Parliament of Côte d’Ivoire are organizing a workshop to deliver vital information on how parliaments can stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).  The event will give MPs from across Africa practical training on the risks posed by WMDs, the role of UN Security Council Resolution 1540 in dealing with the threat, and the pivotal role of parliaments in implementing the resolution.   It is being organized in partnership with the 1540 Committee, which oversees implementation of the resolution, and the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs.

WMDs are most likely to spread in areas of fighting and terrorist activity, making this a key issue for a number of countries across Africa which are dealing with the challenges of conflict and terror groups operating across national borders.

Resolution 1540 (PDF) obliges governments to implement effective laws, rules and regulations to prevent terrorists and other groups from acquiring WMDs. The seminar will include information on practical steps to achieving this, such as closing loopholes in national laws and regulations, and will examine the strengths and weaknesses of existing laws.   It aims to strengthen parliaments’ ability to assess and lower the risks posed by WMDs, and to trigger informal cross-border networks and contacts between the MPs who attend.

The event, to be held in Abidjan on 22 and 23 February, will include a keynote address by the 1540 Committee chair, Román Oyarzun Marchesi of Spain.

Rwanda MPs urge action on civil registration

28 JANUARY 2016

The Speaker of Rwanda’s Chamber of Deputies, Donatille Mukabalisa, was among senior figures who addressed the meeting. ©Jean-Marie Mbonyintwali

MPs in Rwanda have held a meeting with leaders of key government ministries as part of a drive to improve healthcare for women, children and adolescents.   The country has made progress in cutting some maternal deaths, but more needs to be done in other areas such as reducing the number of children dying.   The meeting discussed the urgent need for new and efficient systems to collect accurate information on births, marriages and deaths.  It followed visits by MPs to areas around the country to see for themselves the nature of the problem.   The MPs say a nationwide campaign is needed to make the public aware of how the information is used to plan medical and social services.  The Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health  identifies civil registration and vital statistics as a key issue in order for women, children and adolescents to have access to services and entitlements and realize their rights to proper health care, education and basic social benefits. The meeting was the latest in a series of steps set out in an agreement with IPU to provide technical and financial support to Rwanda's Parliament in its efforts to build the capacity of MPs to fully exercise their oversight of laws and budgets and to raise awareness among the public of maternal, newborn and child health issues.  The agreement also supports the creation of new and efficient systems for collecting national statistics.

Mauritanian MPs create action plan for equality

28 JANUARY 2016

REFPAM President Meriem Baba Sy (r), Vice-President Loula Mint Zerough (c) and Moroccan MP Nouzha Skalli helped lead the event. ©Djigo Amadou Djiby/REFPAM

Women MPs in Mauritania have created an action plan to push forward work on gender equality. It followed training  in Nouakchott on strategic planning on the work of the women’s caucus in parliament involving about 40 female MPs, civil society organizations and government officials. Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Mohamed Ghoulam Ould Hadj Cheikh addressed the opening and closing sessions with male MPs joining the occasion. The workshop, jointly organized by the parliamentary women’s group REFPAM, IPU and the National Assembly, included training on frameworks for protecting women’s rights. There were also open discussions, and women MPs from Morocco and Côte d’Ivoire shared their experiences of promoting gender equality reforms in parliament and running caucuses of female MPs. IPU support for this activity was funded by the UAE Federal National Council.

The workshop led to a fully-fledged strategic plan for 2016-2018 with three main focuses: strengthening REFPAM and its members; ensuring parliament delivers on gender equality through studies, proposed laws and awareness-raising workshops; and building alliances and reaching out to civil society and other relevant groups. IPU will continue working with REFPAM to ensure the plan is implemented. Priority areas for 2016 include promoting new laws to combat violence against women and girls, and strengthening female MPs through study visits, training activities and other projects. IPU promotes the creation and strengthening of women’s caucuses in parliaments  to help female MPs increase their political impact by sharing common goals beyond party lines.

Integrating gender into Ivorian parliamentary work

28 JANUARY 2016

The benefits of boosting gender equality within parliament will flow out to the wider community. ©Jean-Paul Schaaf

Promoting gender equality in the work of Côte d’Ivoire’s Parliament has received a major boost, with the staging of a workshop for parliamentary staff.  Fifty employees, including 18 women, took part in a three-day event, which equipped staff to integrate gender issues into the work of parliament.  It focused on building a common understanding of what a gender perspective means for women and men, and devising ways to implement this approach in the day-to-day work of parliament. The event included training on the main concepts of a gender-sensitive parliament . The workshop was followed by the creation of a gender committee of National Assembly staff members, which IPU will support as it defines its working methods and priorities.

Participants in the workshop also suggested developing tools for integrating gender issues into all parliamentary work, organizing further training for staff and MPs, and creating a nursery or children’s area inside parliament, all measures and strategies promoted by IPU to make parliaments more gender-sensitive institutions.

Stage set for TEDx Transforming Lives event

28 JANUARY 2016

Thabitha Khumalo (l), Beeban Kidron (c) and Safak Pavey will share their inspiring stories

Eleven inspiring speakers with powerful stories to tell are preparing to share their ideas on Transforming Lives at a TEDx event in Geneva on 11 February.  The event will celebrate and spread the word about the global impact of Geneva-based international organizations.  It is being organized and hosted by colleagues from the UN Office at Geneva and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, with support from nine other associated agencies, including IPU.  The speakers include innovators, public health and energy specialists, human rights defenders and humanitarians, all of whom have made a real difference in people’s lives around the world.  Among them are three parliamentarians: Zimbabwean democracy advocate Thabitha Khumalo, Turkish inclusion champion Safak Pavey, and UK iRights campaigner Baroness Kidron. The event takes place at the Palais des Nations - home of the UN in Geneva. It will be webcast live via www.tedxplacedesnations.ch from 1500 to 1900 CET.

TEDx Talks showcase ideas or arguments worth spreading in talks that have to be less than 18 minutes. Official viewing parties can also be staged, where events are streamed live onto a large screen to an audience of 100 people or fewer.  The TEDx Place des Nations event is the second of its kind.

Kenya community events boost gender equality target

28 JANUARY 2016

The gender equality message has been spread to community groups and local leaders across 12 counties. ©KEWOPA

Hundreds of citizens and local leaders around Kenya have attended community outreach events to promote awareness and support for the constitutional requirement of women MPs accounting for at least one third of all MPs in the country, and proposals to achieve this.

Kenya currently ranks joint 74th in IPU’s world rankings of women in parliament with less than 20 per cent of women in the National Assembly and nearly 27 per cent in the Senate. Backed by IPU and led by the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association, the outreach underscored that constitutionally, no more than two thirds of parliament can be made up of the same gender. Several Bills on meeting the target are now before parliament but no consensus has been reached on the best way forward. Informing the public and decision-makers on the issues and the added value of gender-balanced institutions is, therefore, a national priority. More than 1,000 people, nearly half of them men, took part in 17 community events held in 12 counties at the end of 2015. Young people made up nearly 40 per cent of those taking part. Local advocacy teams were also formed and will continue to promote the issue.

Public debate on the two-thirds gender rule has been on-going for some months, with new laws needed in time for the 2017 general election. IPU has contributed to this debate through an advisory mission in July 2015. In recent years, IPU has provided support to legal reforms in Egypt and Tunisia to increase women’s participation in parliament.

Turkish Parliament launches equality “role model” mission

28 JANUARY 2016

Radiye Sezer Katırcıoğlu, who chairs parliament’s Equal Opportunities Commission, was among those addressing the project launch. ©IPU/Zeina Hilal

A project to ensure gender equality is placed at the heart of Turkey’s parliamentary work has been launched. Working alongside IPU and UN Women, Turkey’s Grand National Assembly will support women’s leadership and ensure equality becomes a mainstream issue in all parliamentary business. Through the project, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Grand National Assembly is aiming to become a role model on gender equality, with changes benefiting not just female MPs but also their male counterparts, parliamentary staff and commissions.

“Making equality a reality is everyone’s responsibility, both men’s and women’s,” said IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong. “It requires the full respect for women’s rights, backed up by solid action on women’s empowerment and equal participation at all levels of decision-making across every sector in society. Parliaments, with the power to change social and economic norms through political representation, legislation and oversight of government, are the obvious place to start.” The project in Turkey is part of IPU’s global commitment to working for gender equality with parliaments around the world.

Major health promotion role for IPU President

28 JANUARY 2016

IPU President Saber Chowdhury will promote the key role of parliaments in delivering on health targets. ©IPU/P. Albouy

IPU President Saber Chowdhury has accepted an invitation to join a high-level group on  Every Woman Every Child, a global movement led by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The initiative champions the health of women, children and adolescents.   The group will advise the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Global Strategy on Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.  The group’s members comprise leaders from governments around the world, the international business community, philanthropists and prominent young people.

The Global Strategy includes a roadmap aimed at ending all preventable deaths within a generation and ensuring the well-being of everyone at risk.  It highlights that the health of women, children and adolescents is critically important to almost every area of human development and progress and has a direct impact on the successful attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders in 2015. IPU has made a strong commitment to the Global Strategy  to build on and further expand the contribution of parliaments in improving women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health everywhere. “I am delighted to have been invited to join the High Level Advisory Group to the UNSG and look forward to contributing to its work,” said President Chowdhury. “Parliaments and their members are key to delivering on the health challenges which Every Woman Every Child is addressing. I look forward to promoting their role in this critical issue.”

Asian summit focuses on cutting tobacco deaths

28 JANUARY 2016

More than one third of the world’s tobacco users are in South Asia. ©AFP/Belal Hossain Rana/Nur Photo

A summit of Speakers of Parliament from South Asia will explore practical ways to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a particular focus on improving health by cutting tobacco use. The Speakers will aim to identify ways to cut deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) from the current annual toll of 38 million people by one third by 2030.  Tobacco is a leading cause of NCDs such as cardiovascular and lung diseases, cancer and diabetes. It is used by an estimated 384 million people in South Asia with at least 1.1 million people killed annually by its use in India and Bangladesh alone. Obstacles to cutting its use include low taxation, lack of funding for prevention and health care, weak implementation of laws and strong tobacco industry influence.  The summit is expected to highlight governance gaps, develop a national and regional roadmap for action, and put systems in place to monitor progress and establish accountability. It will also put the spotlight on SDG 16, through which countries committed themselves to building transparent and effective institutions.  As key institutions of democracy, parliaments will be encouraged to examine whether they are fit for purpose to implement the SDGs by assessing the way they pass laws, oversee the work of governments, set budgets and represent citizens.

The event, in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on 30-31 January, is being organized by IPU and the Bangladeshi Parliament in cooperation with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an international non-profit organization.

Action on drugs to be focus of IPU-UN parliamentary event

13 JANUARY 2016

The MPs will review the success of attempts to cut the supply of drugs including cocaine. ©AFP/Luis Robayo

The world drug problem and how to address it will be the focus of a major parliamentary hearing at the United Nations in New York on 8-9 February.  The event is being jointly organized by IPU and the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly.  Hundreds of MPs from around the world, as well as IPU President Saber Chowdhury, President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Executive Director Yuri Fedotov, will attend.

The hearing, “The World Drug Problem: Taking Stock and Strengthening the Global Response”, will review progress parliaments made on the issue since a plan of action on illegal drugs was adopted by governments in 2009. The plan set 2019 as a target date for eliminating or significantly reducing supply, demand and associated criminal activity such as money laundering.

MPs, experts and representatives from international organizations and civil society will examine the problem and the global response, focusing on key areas such as finding the most effective solutions to new and existing challenges, increasing international cooperation, and identifying the links between drug trafficking, organized crime and corruption.  They will address the underlying question of whether the so-called “war on drugs”, which relies on a law-enforcement solution to the problem of illicit drugs, is working as intended. The MPs will also explore whether drug policy needs rethinking in light of the new people-centred Sustainable Development Goals. 

The impact of the global problem can be felt in many areas, including the diversion of resources from healthcare to law enforcement, the displacement of people affected by drug production and the criminalization and marginalization of drug users. IPU-UN parliamentary hearings enable MPs to feed their views and experiences into UN work and decision-making processes, as well as increasing their understanding of those processes. The conclusions and recommendations of this hearing will be fed into a UN General Assembly special session on the world drug problem, UNGASS 2016, in April.

Parliamentary support principles get 100th endorsement

4 JANUARY 2016

The number of parliaments and other bodies to formally endorse new guidelines on the best ways of supporting parliaments has passed the 100 mark.

The 100th endorsement for the Common Principles for Support to Parliaments came from UN Women, which works for gender equality and the empowerment of women. The nine principles include a specific call for parliamentary support to address the needs and potential of both men and women in the way parliaments are structured and run.

The formal backing from UN Women was followed by endorsements from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).  A total of 80 national parliaments, five parliamentary assemblies and 17 partner groups have now endorsed the principles. IPU is urging other parliaments to follow suit and add their own endorsements, which can be done by means of a simple letter to the IPU Secretariat from relevant parliamentary authorities.

The principles, which highlight the importance of diversity and equality, are designed to help parliaments become more effective. The guidelines stress that parliaments must play a central role in their own development, and set out ways to ensure more effective cooperation with partners, including those from the UN system.

New Year message

21 DECEMBER 2015

Martin Chungong Secretary General of the IPU, Saber H. Chowdhury President of the IPU ©IPU/DIXON

As the curtain draws on another year, we would like to extend to you and yours our best wishes for the season. 2015 has been a memorable and eventful year for us at the IPU and for the global parliamentary community at large. As an organization, we are pleased to have been a prime mover in a number of international processes, culminating in the adoption of the far-reaching post-2015 development agenda. It is no small feat that the parliamentary community was able to help fashion that agenda, which will be a roadmap for the entire world for the next 15 years. We also welcome the ground-breaking agreement that has been reached in Paris on climate change and trust that the parliamentary plan of action that accompanies it will go a long way towards turning words into action.

The highlight of the year was undoubtedly the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament held in New York in late August-early September. Through the ambitious and forward-looking Declaration they adopted on that occasion, the Speakers of the world’s national parliaments were able to articulate their vision of parliamentary solidarity and cooperation in order to build the world the people want. But the year was not only filled with achievements and successes. It was also marked by tragedy and loss in various regions of the world. One of the greatest human tragedies witnessed over the past several months has been the plight of hundreds and thousands of migrants and refugees fleeing conflict-ridden zones and difficult living conditions and making the often perilous journey to what they hope will be a less hostile environment. Migration has taken on untold proportions recently and has brought out both the very best and the very worst in human beings. The IPU and its Member Parliaments are pleased to have been at the forefront of the global reflection on this matter.

Terrorism is rearing its ugly head and is becoming a daily reality for people everywhere.  Recent events have shown that no country can claim to be immune or beyond the reach of this scourge. It perpetrators have no other goal but to cower people, stifle freedoms and impose their world view. We must not succumb to this threat, but must rather redouble our efforts to protect and promote the values and fundamental freedoms we all hold so dear.

2016 promises therefore to be no less eventful. The global parliamentary community will be judged by its readiness and ability to take on these challenges. It will need to show that it can walk the talk and endeavour to turn words into action as we embark on the implementation of the new development agenda along with other stakeholders. We are committed to working with our Members and partners, including the United Nations, to deliver on the promises made in that agenda.
We wish you a peaceful holiday season and much success in 2016. 

Martin Chungong, Secretary General and Saber Chowdhury, President

IPU gravely concerned over Burundi crisis

17 DECEMBER 2015

Tensions remain high in Burundi as the violence escalates. ©AFP/Anadolu Agency/Yvan Rukundo

The Inter-Parliamentary Union is gravely concerned about the worsening violence in Burundi, which has left hundreds of people dead and has forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. IPU is urging the authorities to do their duty to protect human life and prevent further bloodshed. The Organization has made clear its readiness to work with the Parliament of Burundi to foster inclusive dialogue. It has urged Parliament to ensure it is part of the solution and not part of the problem. IPU has been particularly concerned by reports of incitement to violence against the opposition, especially the bloody confrontation during the weekend of 12 – 13 December. IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong said urgent work was needed to heal Burundi’s divisions before the situation deteriorated further.“It is not too late to prevent this unfolding tragedy becoming a catastrophe if all those in positions of leadership and authority commit themselves to a swift return to peace and security for all citizens,” he said. “We urge the Parliament of Burundi and its members to place themselves at the heart of this process of peacemaking and dialogue, and to lead by example at this critical point in their country’s history. “MPs have a unique position as influencers of opinion and representatives of all sectors of society, and that influence must be used for peace. The importance of finding a resolution to this crisis cannot be overstated,” Secretary General Chungong added.

IPU hails progress on women Speakers

16 DECEMBER 2015

Dr Amal Al Qubaisi is the first female Speaker of Parliament in the Arab world. ©IPU/P. Albouy

IPU has welcomed a series of breakthroughs for female MPs who have become Speakers or Deputy Speakers of parliament. Dr Amal Al Qubaisi is the first female Speaker of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Parliament and the first woman to hold the position in any Arab national parliament. Dr Al Qubaisi is a long-standing major contributor to IPU’s work, particularly on gender, youth and peace issues. In neighbouring Oman, another milestone was reached when Dr Suad Mohammed Al Lawatiar became the first female Deputy Speaker after a vote by members of the State Council. In another first, Margaret Mensah-Williams, President of IPU’s Coordinating Committee of Women MPs, was named as Speaker of Namibia’s upper house of parliament, the National Council. She is the first woman to hold the post. Her election takes the global total of women Speakers of Parliament in the world to 49, representing close to 18 per cent of all Speakers, according to IPU figures. Mensah-Williams has demonstrated strong leadership in combating violence against women, boosting women’s rights and empowering women, and has for many years played an active and leading role in IPU’s work.

Burkina Faso law to tackle violence against women and girls

16 DECEMBER 2015

The brief coup in Burkina Faso has not halted progress to democracy and legal reforms, including the new law on violence against women. ©AFP/NurPhoto/Arne Gillis

IPU has welcomed a new law aimed at combating violence against women and girls, passed by the National Transitional Council in Burkina Faso before the recent crisis. The legislation outlaws all forms of violence against women, including physical, sexual, psychological, economic and cultural, and provides for systems to support and protect victims. Courts will have the power to jail or fine perpetrators. IPU has been working for a number of years to support MPs and civil society in Burkina Faso in their efforts to combat violence against women, including in raising awareness and providing expertise on legal reforms. More than a third of the country’s female population are believed to experience physical violence, most of it committed by spouses or other family members. Many girls are married before the age of 18, some still undergo FGM (female genital mutilation) and a significant number of elderly or widowed women are victims of mistreatment and exclusion.

Uganda MPs focus on next steps on health

16 DECEMBER 2015

Uganda is committed to even greater progress on health for women, children and adolescents. ©AFP/Michele Sibiloni

The Ugandan Parliament has begun setting its priorities for improving women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health after reviewing its 2012-2015 parliamentary advocacy strategy. The issues identified to carry forward include seeking a clause in the constitution on the right to healthcare for women, children and adolescents; tabling bills on health and a national health insurance scheme; taking more steps to improve birth registration; and trying to ensure the recruitment of extra health practitioners, especially in rural areas. Launching the review process, Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga praised MPs and others who had contributed to the progress already made. “I want to thank the partners for all the support rendered to us for advocacy; I also thank the IPU for its support.” she said, adding that maternal health had been given the importance it deserved. Since the launch of the strategy, progress has been made on drafting bills on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) and national health insurance, birth registration and on efforts to ensure budgetary allocation for health is increased to 15 per cent. IPU has fully supported Uganda in its efforts to improve MNCH, including accelerating the reduction in maternal and newborn death rates. Uganda’s advocacy strategy was developed after the adoption of IPU’s landmark resolution on Access to Health as a basic Right: The role of parliaments in addressing key challenges to securing the health of women and children (PDF) at its 126th Assembly in Kampala in 2012.

IPU welcomes historic climate change pact

14 DECEMBER 2015

The Paris agreement is the first in history to unite all the world's nations in a commitment to tackling climate change. ©François Guillot/AFP

The Inter-Parliamentary Union has hailed as a huge breakthrough the accord reached at the UN climate change summit (COP21/CMP11) in Paris.

The historic agreement unites the world’s nations in their shared commitment to limit the rise in global temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius. Its provisions include specific targets – such as achieving a balance between greenhouse gas emissions and their natural absorption rates by the end of this century; climate-related financial and technological support for developing nations from their richer counterparts; and a system of measuring whether States are honouring their commitments.

“We are thrilled that world leaders in Paris have not side-stepped their responsibilities, and have not squandered this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set the world on the right course,” said IPU President Saber Chowdhury. “This agreement reflects the aspirations of world citizens and future generations who will live with the impact of climate change. Our legacy as parliamentarians must be to safeguard the future of our planet by honouring this agreement.”

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong said: “It is now imperative for parliaments around the world to step up to the challenge of enacting the Paris Agreement and turning its provisions into concrete action. The time for action has come. Parliaments and their members must be at the very centre of that action, using their powers to become champions of the climate change fight and ensuring all necessary laws and budgets are put in place to honour this historic accord.”

During the summit in Paris, the IPU and the French Parliament organized a parallel parliamentary event, which adopted a political statement on the need to step up climate action. The meeting, held on 5 and 6 December in the French National Assembly and the Senate, committed MPs from nearly 90 countries to vigorous action.

The parliamentary meeting also considered a Parliamentary Action Plan providing a roadmap for MPs, with clear targets on enacting the Paris Agreement and introducing or amending other laws as necessary. The action plan makes recommendations on mechanisms for overseeing government policies, as well as on ensuring adequate financing for the implementation of the Paris Agreement as key aspects of parliaments’ responsibilities in ensuring the climate change targets are met.

The Action Plan, which also maps out IPU’s role, will be formally adopted by the Organization’s next Assembly in Lusaka in March 2016. It builds on IPU’s on-going work to raise parliamentary awareness of the issue of climate change and will also develop relevant international partnerships and coalitions.

China and IPU sign agreement on funding

14 DECEMBER 2015

The agreement signed in Geneva will boost IPU’s work to strengthen parliaments in the developing world. ©IPU/Jorky

An agreement for China to provide US$ 1.5 million in new funding for IPU has been signed at the Organization’s headquarters in Switzerland by IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and China’s Ambassador to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, Wu Hailong.

The funds will support IPU activities over the next five years, with a focus on enhancing the capacity of parliaments in developing countries. A number of different fields of IPU’s work will be boosted, including the critical task of preparing parliaments to implement the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by world leaders in September.

“We welcome this generous contribution from China, which will allow us to widen our vital work with parliaments in developing countries,” said Secretary General Chungong. “This funding will ensure they are stronger and better equipped for the many challenges that lie ahead.”

Ambassador Wu said it was a great honour to sign the agreement on behalf of the National People's Congress of China. “China attaches great importance to the IPU and would like to enhance its cooperation and communication with the organization. Through this donation, China will support the IPU in its efforts to play a greater role on the international arena," he said.

The donation marks a strengthening of relations between IPU and the Chinese Parliament, which joined the global organization of national parliaments in 1984. It also underscores the growing Chinese involvement in strengthening IPU’s role and influence on the global agenda.

Want ideas on how to transform lives?

9 DECEMBER 2015

Zimbabwe’s Thabitha Kumalo is among the MPs speaking on the theme of Transforming Lives. ©IPU/A. Blagojevic

If you want to know what other people, including MPs are doing differently to make a difference to people’s lives, then sign up to be a viewing partner of a TEDx event. The TEDx Place des Nations on 11 February 2016 will bring together 11 diverse and inspiring people from a range of disciplines who will share their ideas on “Transforming Lives”. Among the speakers are three MPs: democracy advocate and Zimbabwean MP Thabitha Khumalo, inclusion champion and Turkish MP Safak Pavey, and iRights campaigner Baroness Kidron from the UK’s House of Lords.

Zimbabwe MP Thabitha Khumalo is a former member of IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. Her talk will focus on political representation and democracy. Safak Pavey, who became Turkey’s first female disabled MP in 2011, is known for her international work in the field of human rights, humanitarian aid and peace-building. Baroness Kidron is a British film-maker who is heavily engaged in promoting a rights-based approach to children and young people online, and founded the iRights campaign which works to achieve this.

Organized and hosted by the UN Office at Geneva and the UN Refugee Agency, with support from nine other associated agencies, including IPU, the TEDx event will take place at the Palais des Nations, home of the UN in Geneva. IPU is encouraging MPs and parliaments to become an official viewing partner of the event by staging events at which the TEDx talk is webcast live from Geneva.

TEDx Talks showcase ideas or arguments worth spreading in talks that have to be less than 18 minutes. Official viewing partners must agree to set up a large screen, stream the live webcast, and invite a maximum of 100 people to join the event. They can add their own speakers and hospitality if they wish, but the event must be free of charge to the guests. Parliaments should complete this form http://tedxplacedesnations.ch/parties. if they want to take part. The TEDx Place des Nations is the second such event organised by the UN and supported by IPU. Some 5,000 people watched the first event live in the venue and at viewing partner events in December 2014.

Micronesia hands over funds to support work on migration

9 DECEMBER 2015

Micronesia’s support will help IPU’s work to tackle the unprecedented global refugee and migration crisis. ©IPU/J. Pandya

The Speaker of the Micronesian Congress Wesley W. Simina handed over a cheque of US$100,000 to IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong as a practical first step in his parliament’s support for IPU’s work on migration. The funds, which had been pledged during the recent 133rd IPU Assembly in Geneva, will help support implementation of IPU’s follow-up to a declaration on migration adopted at the Assembly. This will include parliamentary field missions to regions affected by migration and refugee crises. Presenting the cheque during an IPU-French Parliament organized global parliamentary conference on climate change in Paris, Speaker Simina said that as his people were already facing the possibility of becoming climate refugees, Micronesia could be counted on to help in whichever way it could. IPU Secretary General Chungong said the Micronesian Parliament’s generous contribution will serve as an example to others that no country is too small to contribute to efforts to protect the rights and dignity of people everywhere. It also showed that parliaments were willing and able to walk the talk when it came to delivering on people’s expectations.

Angola becomes IPU donor

3 DECEMBER 2015

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong (right) signed the agreement with Speaker of Parliament Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos. ©Angolan National Assembly

IPU has welcomed a donation of 200,000 Swiss francs from the Angolan Parliament to support the Organization in its key areas of work as a sign of closer engagement between the two and of Angola’s growing participation on the international stage. Although one of the world’s least developed countries, Angola has seen significant economic growth since the end of nearly three decades of civil war. The funding, to cover one year in a two-year agreement, will primarily be used to work together on promoting gender equality and youth participation in parliament but also on maternal, newborn and child health and HIV/AIDS. IPU and the Angolan Parliament will continue to strengthen ties through collaboration on parliamentary diplomacy to resolve conflicts and on developing skills and knowledge of parliamentary staff. Signing the agreement in Luanda with the Speaker of Parliament Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong underlined the importance of the donation. “This funding by the Angolan Parliament is an illustration of the economic and social development strides the country has made since the end of the conflict, and Angola’s increasingly important role in the region. It’s also an expression of the on-going commitment of the parliament to work to improve the lives of people,” he said. During his visit, Mr Chungong also met Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, who undertook to work with Parliament to ensure implementation of the new post-2015 development agenda agreed by world leaders in September. In an address to the Forum of Parliaments of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (FP-ICGLR), Mr Chungong highlighted the region’s many challenges, including conflict, post-conflict and post-election crises, and stressed the central role of parliamentarians in bringing peace.“I cannot overemphasise the importance of Parliament as the preeminent platform for dialogue and the mediation of differences,” he told the meeting in Luanda.
“As leaders, it is your bounden duty to be the torch bearers of peace, to be the voice of moderation and to serve as role models in your societies. The instant nature of communications today is a powerful tool for conveying the message of peace and dialogue in lieu of hatred and violence. “Every word you utter, every action you take is heard and witnessed almost instantaneously across the country, region and world, and has the potential to heal just as it can fan the flames of conflict.”

MPs agree on plan to tackle statelessness

1 DECEMBER 2015

Inhabitants of 162 enclaves inside Bangladesh and India had been stateless for nearly 70 years until the two countries finally resolved their situation this year. ©Shariful Islam/Nurphoto

MPs from 40 national parliaments have agreed to push for more concerted efforts to address statelessness at the end of a global conference in South Africa. A problem which has a devastating impact on the lives of more than 10 million people globally, statelessness is an often under-reported and growing issue with one child born every 10 minutes without a nationality.  MPs at the conference organized by IPU, the South African Parliament and the UN refugee agency UNHCR  in Cape Town, agreed to work to resolve statelessness in their own countries through a wide range of measures. These included reviewing national legislation to ensure international standards on preventing and resolving statelessness were met, advocating reform of laws that discriminated on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or gender, and the strengthening of parliamentary oversight of government policies on the issue. The MPs also agreed to work towards accession to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions and called for more regional initiatives to end the phenomenon. The need for greater parliamentary awareness of the issue was highlighted with some MPs committing to forming a group of parliamentary champions to end statelessness and promote UNHCR’s #IBelong campaign on Twitter.  IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong told the conference that solutions to the problem existed and lay in the hands of States. He stressed that MPs had a responsibility to act – and could not choose who to protect and who not to. Statelessness is caused by a variety of factors including discrimination, poor documentation and the redrawing of national boundaries. Most stateless people live in the territory in which they were born, but the dramatic rise in forced displacement across national borders is adding to the problem. Women and children are particularly vulnerable. In addition to not “belonging” anywhere, stateless people are denied basic rights such as education and health, but the issue can be resolved with relatively simple changes to laws and practices.

Hungary marks 120th anniversary of engagement with IPU in style

30 NOVEMBER 2015

IPU President Saber Chowdhury and Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly Láslo Kövér discuss IPU's many achievements throughout its history. ©Shaikh Asaf Ud Dullah

The Hungarian Parliament celebrated the 120th anniversary of the creation of the Hungarian National Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union on 30th November with a look at both the past and the future.  IPU President Saber Chowdhury officially opened a photo exhibition on the Organization and its work since 1889 as part of a series of high-level events to mark the occasion. The exhibition, originally produced for IPU’s 125th anniversary in 2014 and reproduced in Hungarian, charts the evolving nature of parliamentary action on peace and democracy and IPU’s role as a pioneer and innovator on gender equality, human rights, arbitration and parliamentary development. Hungary’s engagement with IPU goes back to the Organization’s inception, with MP Count Albert Apponyi having attended the very first IPU conference in 1889. He was also actively involved in IPU’s work that led to the creation of the International Court of Arbitration. During a commemorative three-day visit to Hungary that ends 2 December, President Chowdhury held meetings with high-level government and parliamentary figures including the Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén, Minister for Family and Youth Affairs Katalin Novák, the Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly Láslo Kövér and President of the Hungarian Group of IPU, Mihály Balla. In addition to celebrating the past collaboration, the visit will pave the way for strengthening future collaboration on tackling the many key global issues the world is facing.

IPU President seeks more strategic partnership with Latin America region

27 NOVEMBER 2015

IPU President meets the Speaker (left) and Secretary General of Parlatino and the Panamanian Deputy Foreign Minister (second from right). ©Parlatino

IPU President Saber Chowdhury is seeking to strengthen the partnership between IPU and the parliaments of the Latin American region during a visit to Panama on 25-28 November. Addressing the 31st  General Assembly of the Latin American and Caribbean Parliament (Parlatino) on 27 November, President Chowdhury urged the representatives of 23 national parliaments from the region to work more closely with IPU in dealing with the global issues of the day, and on the impact of political violence on the safety of citizens, a major concern for Latin America. Parlatino is one of the 10 regional parliaments that have Associate Membership with IPU. The President, who held meetings with the Speaker of Parlatino, Blanca Alcalá and Deputy Foreign Minister María Luisa Navarro during his visit, also discussed strengthening the Panamanian Parliament’s engagement on international affairs with the Speaker of Parliament Rubén de León Sánchez. With the adoption of the new global sustainable development agenda in September, including one on strong, inclusive and effective institutions to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, there were discussions on the need to interlock and integrate action on sustainable development, climate change and disaster risk reduction in national development plans. Partnerships at national and international levels would be key to success.

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

9 NOVEMBER 2015

Parliamentary committees are critical to effective oversight of government. ©Parliamentlive.tv

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

29 SEPTEMBER 2015

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

29 SEPTEMBER 2015

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

29 SEPTEMBER 2015

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

29 SEPTEMBER 2015

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

29 SEPTEMBER 2015

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

29 SEPTEMBER 2015

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

14 SEPTEMBER 2015

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 www.semaine-democratie.ch

Strengthening parliamentary action against weapons of mass destruction

9 SEPTEMBER 2015

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

3 SEPTEMBER 2015

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).