Briefing Room

Strengthening ties with Geneva

17 APRIL 2015

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

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

IPU Assembly to lead on sustainable development

13 MARCH 2015

More than 600 MPs from 113 countries registered so far to attend the 132nd IPU Assembly in Hanoi, Viet Nam, will look at concrete ways parliaments can implement the new sustainable development goals (SDGs) when they are adopted later this year. The Assembly, which takes place on 28 March to 1st April, will adopt a declaration on this at the end of the gathering. During a charged five-day gathering, IPU Members will also make commitments on parliamentary action to shape a new system of water governance;  on international law on national sovereignty and the non-intervention in the internal affairs of State and human rights, and on addressing the threat of cyber warfare to global peace and security. With terrorism very much on the global agenda, there have been two proposals made so far for an emergency debate and resolution. Australia and Morocco have respectively proposed taking a stand on parliament’s role in combatting the threat of terrorism by organizations such as Boko Haram and on ensuring enhanced protection for humanity’s cultural heritage from terrorist groups in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Hanoi Assembly will also mark the 30th anniversary of the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, which for most of its history has been a unique global gathering providing a valuable space for women MPs as well as a mechanism to provide input into the formal outcomes of the IPU Assembly. The Meeting will include a discussion on what needs to be done to fulfil the commitments made in the Beijing Platform for Action on gender equality and women’s empowerment 20 years ago.

IPU’s Forum of Young Parliamentarians will similarly be gathering ahead of a global conference of young MPs in Tokyo in May, organized by IPU and the Japanese Parliament, while the Committee on Middle East Questions will meet to examine next steps in efforts to facilitate dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian MPs. The Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians will also convene as usual to examine cases involving the human rights abuses of MPs and to hold hearings with national authorities or individuals to help make progress on individual cases.

You can take part in the debates or follow the Assembly through Twitter using #IPU132. Photographs of the Assembly will be made available for download and free use through Flickr via http://www.ipu.org/132pics . You can access the Assembly agenda and all documents here.

Strongest political support needed for disaster risk reduction

13 MARCH 2015

IPU President Saber Chowdury and Japanese MP Mr Suzuki at the parliamentary meeting ahead of the Third UN Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction. ©Japanese House of Councillors

MPs from across the world led by IPU President Saber Chowdhury have called for coherence among international agreements and action plans due to be adopted during the year on disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and climate change in order to make people and the planet more resilient. Taking part in a parliamentary meeting ahead of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan (14-18 March), the MPs took note of the progress that had been made since the 2005 Hyogo Framework for Action in reducing disaster risk, including the saving of lives in some types of disasters and a growth in national and regional legislation on the issue. They expressed support for the proposed focus of the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction aimed at tackling the underlying causes of disaster risk. Without reducing risks and preventing new ones from arising and strengthening both human and environmental resilience, sustainable development would not be possible. The MPs also called for laws to either be developed or amended to reflect these approaches to disaster management. In an agreed outcome of the meeting, jointly organized by IPU and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the MPs highlighted a range of measures aimed at strengthening governance of disaster management, including stronger parliamentary oversight of relevant laws, policies and programmes and better support for local government and communities in reducing risks. They also called for IPU and UNISDR to work to engage MPs and parliaments in the effective implementation of the post-2015 framework.

Sluggish progress on women in politics

13 MARCH 2015

Women’s political participation has made progress over the years, but just not enough and not at a fast enough pace, IPU’s Women in Parliament: 20 years in Review and the IPU/UN Women map of Women in Politics 2015 has shown. In the 20 years since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action on women’s empowerment and gender equality, the percentage of women in parliament has nearly doubled to 22.1 per cent today and that of women Speakers has reached 15.8 per cent, but in both cases, gender parity remains a long way off. For women in executive government, the situation is even worse. In the 10 years since IPU has released data on women ministers and heads of State/government, the percentage of women ministers has increased by only 3.5 points to stand at 17.7 per cent at the beginning of January this year. Meanwhile, women account for only 6.6 per cent of all heads of State and 7.3 per cent of all heads of government. Some countries and regions are doing better than others, with the Americas heading the IPU regional rankings for both women in parliament and in government.  Electoral quotas in more than 120 countries have underpinned what progress there has been but the slow pace of positive change could be a signal that the impact of quotas is wearing off, requiring other complementary measures to dramatically increase women’s political participation. The success of the new sustainable development agenda to be adopted later this year will depend on getting more women involved in political decision-making.

Keep going on legislative efforts to end discrimination

13 MARCH 2015

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka take part in an event on women in leadership positions during the CSW. ©Swiss mission to the UN

More than 160 men and women MPs attending the annual parliamentary meeting in parallel to the 59th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), have reiterated the need to keep the pressure on efforts to end gender discrimination through laws which are in line with international commitments, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Recommendations from the meeting jointly held by IPU and UN Women will be presented to the CSW. These include the need for parliaments to embody and have the power to defend gender equality, which can only be achieved when there is a balanced dynamic between civil society, State and parliament. The women MPs also highlighted the importance of sufficient funding to ensure implementation and enforcement of gender equality laws and the key role of parliaments, MPs and men in changing attitudes and stereotypes that underlie discrimination. 

Ahead of the parliamentary meeting, there were also two discussion events, with the first on countering cyber violence against women given its growing and more visible trend, and the challenges this poses for MPs, policymakers and internet service providers. The second event, organized with support from the Irish development agency, Irish Aid, focused on what needs to be done to get more young women into politics and how to ensure that the next generation of politicians are committed to a gender equality agenda that is transformational.

Reaching out to the Americas

13 MARCH 2015

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong in talks with Wade Mark, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. ©GRULAC

Authorities in Paraguay and Trinidad and Tobago have expressed their support and commitment to achieving full membership of IPU among Latin American and Caribbean parliaments and to enhance theirs and the region’s participation within the Organization. During meetings with IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong in early March, the Speakers of Parliament in both countries stated their keenness to host IPU events as a sign of more active engagement.  With 12 parliaments from the Americas region who are not members of IPU, mostly in the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago leaders also committed to bringing their neighbours into the Organization and to make their country a hub for the Caribbean region.

The Speakers of both houses of parliament in Trinidad and Tobago also requested IPU support in implementing a strategic plan of action for their parliament, which will complement already ongoing collaboration.

Support for common principles on parliamentary development gathers pace

13 MARCH 2015

Forty-one parliaments and organizations have so far backed the Common Principles for Support to Parliament adopted at the 131st IPU Assembly last October. With a formal endorsement ceremony due to take place on 1st April during the 132nd IPU Assembly in Hanoi, more endorsements are likely. The Lithuanian, Niger  and Swedish parliaments as well as the International Organization for Migration are the latest to back the Principles, which aim to improve the quality of support available to parliaments. The Common Principles are now available in a publication and online in English, French and Spanish. Parliaments and organizations wishing to add their endorsements can notify the IPU Secretariat.

New report on youth participation in national parliaments

13 MARCH 2015

With less than two per cent of all MPs in the world under 30 years of age, a new report by IPU on youth participation in national parliaments provides the first-ever world ranking of young MPs and examines the commonalities and differences among nations in measures to promote youth’s political participation. This includes statutory regulations on the right to vote or to run for political office and other measures such as quotas. The report found that only Norway breaks the 10 per cent barrier for MPs below 30 years of age. Different countries take the top spot if the age range increases to below 40 or 45. Based on responses from nearly 100 parliaments, the report also highlighted that although the voting age of 18 was more or less universal, the age for standing for political office varied enormously. The report’s data suggests a clear relationship between higher eligibility ages and low levels of young MPs, particularly in upper houses of parliament. Part of IPU’s growing work on increasing youth engagement in politics and decision-making, the report makes several recommendations to get more young people into parliament, including using quotas.

Viet Nam faces its challenges on HIV and AIDS

13 MARCH 2015

Like many countries, Viet Nam is facing formidable challenges in sustaining a response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic as international funding shrinks and national resources become limited. Nevertheless, it has announced new targets to rapidly expand HIV treatment by 2020. A field mission by IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal and Child Health looked at what Viet Nam is doing to make this happen and reported findings that may help other countries in a similar situation.

IPU Annual Report – Driving the next generation of change

13 MARCH 2015

IPU’s Annual Report 2014 provides up-to-date vital information on the Organization’s activities in its key areas of work, its membership, the composition of its key structures as well as the budget and expenditure during the year. Richly illustrated with images and graphs, it is a useful source of information for anyone wanting to have a better understanding of the remit and achievements of the world organization of national parliaments. The report is online and available in print in English, French and Spanish.

Preparing ground for future MPs in Egyptian Parliament

27 FEBRUARY 2015

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Efforts to put in place a fully functioning parliament in Egypt ahead of elections in March have now begun to focus on providing support to newly-elected MPs, most of whom will be parliamentarians for the first time. As part of its programme to support Egypt on its roadmap to democracy, an IPU mission to the Arab country in February assessed requirements for an orientation package for new MPs aimed at helping them make their transition into parliamentary life and responsibilities smoother and to make them more effective representatives and legislators. The mission will result in a new training curriculum for MPs and an induction manual as well as recommendations on how parliamentary staff can best support MPs in doing their job. Throughout 2014 and with support from the Swedish development agency Sida and the Japanese Worldwide Support for Development, IPU carried out a series of initiatives at strengthening the human resourcing and skills of the Egyptian Parliament’s Secretariat as well as identifying IT solutions for information access and sharing. Although the Egyptian Parliament was dissolved in 2013, the Secretariat has continued to operate. However, with most of the 567 future MPs expected to be completely new to parliament’s work, the Secretariat faces a challenge in ensuring MPs quickly become familiar with their new role and the functioning of parliament.

Revitalizing parliamentary support programme for Equatorial Guinea

27 FEBRUARY 2015

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An IPU mission to Equatorial Guinea led by Secretary General Martin Chungong has reactivated a support programme to its parliament with the signing of a new agreement. In parallel, an assessment was carried out on the parliament’s working methods and on the available human and material resources with recommendations on ways to strengthen the institutional functioning to be made in the coming weeks. Working together with the parliament and implementing the recently-adopted Common Principles for Support to Parliament, IPU will identify mid and long-term action to reinforce parliament through improved working methods and strengthening MPs’ and parliamentary staff’s capacity to do their work effectively. A technical work plan on implementing the activities will also be defined. Between 2003 and 2009, IPU carried out a range of activities aimed at strengthening the working modalities of the parliament, the skills and capacities of both MPs and parliamentary staff and parliament’s role in the protection of human rights. During the mission, the IPU Secretary General also held talks with President Mbasogo, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies and the Deputy Speaker of the Senate on other areas of collaboration and support.

Endorsements of common principles for parliamentary support rise

27 FEBRUARY 2015

©IPU

The number of parliaments and organizations endorsing the Common Principles for Support to Parliament has been steadily increasing in the run up to the 132nd IPU Assembly in Hanoi where a formal endorsement ceremony will take place on 31st March. So far, 22 national parliaments, the Maghreb Consultative Council and ten partner organizations have endorsed the Common Principles, which were adopted at the 131st IPU Assembly in October 2014. Put together by a group of parliaments and parliamentary development entities, and the result of more than four decades of experience on parliamentary development, the Common Principles offer clear guidelines for those receiving or providing support to parliaments. Coordinated by IPU, they aim to improve the quality of the support available to parliaments and to encourage the parliamentary community to work together more effectively when planning, designing and providing support. Among the most recent to sign up include the Andorran, Australian, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indian, Latvian, Serbian, Seychelles and Spanish national parliaments. The German Bundesrat, Jordan’s House of Representatives, the Romanian Senate and the Swiss Federal Assembly have also backed the Common Principles as has the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.  Parliaments and organizations wishing to add their endorsement can notify the IPU Secretariat.

Engaging with Iraqi MPs and parliamentary staff on human rights

27 FEBRUARY 2015

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More than 20 Iraqi MPs, parliamentary staff and representatives from civil society organizations took part in a study tour to IPU Headquarters on 24th February as part of training on parliament’s role in human rights protection, promoting inclusiveness and civil society’s participation in the legislative and oversight process. The training, part of a UN Development Programme project carried out by the Geneva International Centre for Justice, focused on IPU’s work and how partnerships between parliament and civil society can promote and protect human rights. It was also an opportunity for IPU to engage the Iraqi Parliament on its role in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the UN’s Human Rights Council, including implementing its recommendations on Iraq and on protecting the human rights of its MPs. The Iraqi group was also briefed on IPU’s work on gender equality and supporting parliaments to become effective institutions.

Strengthening parliamentary oversight on human rights in Asia

27 FEBRUARY 2015

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MPs from 20 Asian parliaments looked at how to mobilize stronger parliamentary involvement in the work of the UN Human Rights Council and its evaluation mechanism, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), at a meeting in the Philippines capital, Manila. Organized jointly by IPU and the Philippines Senate with the support of Worldwide Support for Development and in collaboration with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the meeting on 26-27 February was part of a series of regional events aimed at providing MPs with a better understanding of the Human Rights Council and the UPR.  Using national case studies, the Manila gathering examined how parliament was involved in reporting on human rights in individual countries and how UPR recommendations were implemented. The Asian MPs also identified strategies to enhance parliamentary involvement in human rights protection at national level. They also looked at human rights challenges that are common to the region. Specific sessions on the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality as well as on the human rights problems faced by minorities and indigenous groups were held. Asia is home to the largest number of the global population of indigenous peoples.  Similar regional human rights seminars were held in 2014 for Africa, Europe and Latin America. Parliaments play a critical role in implementing UPR recommendations and in ensuring the protection of human rights through legislation, a role that was acknowledged by the Human Rights Council in a 2014 resolution that called on governments to more actively involve parliaments in all stages of the UPR.

SDGs must make clear commitment to parliaments, IPU President urges

13 FEBRUARY 2015

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IPU President Saber Chowdhury reiterated calls for the post-2015 development agenda to include a strong commitment to parliaments during a high-level debate at UN headquarters on implementing the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Hosted by the President of the General Assembly Sam Kutesa on 9-10 February, the event included a debate on the role of parliaments, cities and local authorities in ensuring effective implementation of the SDGs. “2015 was a make or break year,”  the President told participants, “ a once in a generation opportunity to make things right on poverty and sustainability”. Panelists, including Indonesian MP Nurhayati Ali Assegaf, sensitized the international community to the key role that parliaments and local authorities will have to play to carry forward the non-binding post-2015 development agenda. Parliaments’ role should extend beyond enacting legislation and ensuring national budgets on the issue were adequately resourced, the President said. Parliaments should also be involved in the design and monitoring of national sustainable development strategies that need to tailor the SDGs to national contexts. Parliaments from developing and developed countries will similarly need to help mobilize resources for development at national and international levels through tax reform, increasing investments and development aid to 0.7 per cent of GDP. President Chowdhury exhorted negotiators of the Declaration of the UN Summit in September 2015 to make good Goal 16 that specifically refers to the need “to develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels”. For parliaments to be “fit for purpose”, more resources will be required to strengthen their legislative, representative and oversight functions.

MPs urge redoubling of efforts to conclude Doha trade negotiations

18 FEBRUARY 2015

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Parliamentarians from across the world have urged World Trade Organization (WTO) Members to step up efforts to successfully conclude the Doha Round of trade negotiations and to implement accords already made in order to bring tangible economic gains, particularly to the world’s poorest countries. At the end of a two-day Parliamentary Conference on the WTO organized by IPU and the European Parliament, more than 350 parliamentary delegates from nearly 65 countries underlined the pivotal role of the WTO in its 20-year history in establishing an inclusive world economic order and reiterated the belief that a fair and equitable international trading system was critical to peace, global economic growth and sustainable development. Adopting a series of recommendations, the MPs acknowledged that open trade had increased developing countries’ participation in the global economy and contributed to strengthening their constructive engagement in global governance. However, they urged WTO Members to speedily ratify the agreements made at the Bali Ministerial Conference in 2013 and implement the decisions so that significant benefits to the global economy could be realized. An agreement on trade facilitation should benefit the global economy between US$400 million and $US 1 trillion. Trade negotiators were also urged to intensify their efforts to convert the Bali decisions into concrete economic gains for least developed countries (LDCs) as WTO accords must bring tangible benefits to the poorest countries. This included the creation of new export opportunities for LDC service providers. The breakthrough on the Bali agreements underlined the importance of concluding the Doha Round, the longest running round of trade negotiations ever. WTO Members needed to seize the opportunity and draw up a “clearly defined” work programme to address the remaining issues blocking the conclusion of the Doha Round if they are to meet the end-July 2015 deadline. The MPs expressed concern that although the WTO’s AID for Trade initiative had shown a 20 per cent rise in donor commitments, contributions to LDCs had decreased slightly. They called on donors to maintain support for the initiative and to ensure a fair share of assistance is directed to LDCs. With sustainable development very much on the international agenda with a new set of goals to be adopted in September 2015 to replace the Millennium Development Goals, the MPs called for the closest possible cooperation between the WTO and specialized UN bodies to ensure the success of the new sustainable development agenda.

Access the full outcome document here: http://www.ipu.org/splz-e/trade15.htm

UN Post-2015 Declaration must make clear commitment to parliaments, IPU President urges

13 FEBRUARY 2015

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IPU President Saber Chowdhury reiterated calls for the post-2015 development agenda to include a strong commitment to parliaments during a high-level debate on the means of implementation  of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Hosted by the President of the General Assembly Sam Kutesa at UN Headquarters on 9-10 February, the event included a debate on the role of parliaments, cities and local authorities in effective implementation of the SDGs. “2015 was a make or break year,” , the President told participants, “ a once in a generation opportunity to make things right on poverty and sustainability”. Chaired by President Chowdhury, panelists, including Hon. Nurhayati Ali Assegaf of Indonesia, sensitized the diplomatic and international community to the key role that parliaments and local authorities will have to play to carry forward the non-binding post-2015 development agenda. Beyond enacting legislation and ensuring national budgets were adequately resourced, parliaments should also be involved in the design and monitoring of national sustainable development strategies which need to tailor the SDGs to national contexts. Parliaments from developing and developed countries will similarly need to help mobilize resources for development at national and international levels, including by reforming tax regimes, raising domestic revenues, setting legal frameworks to spur productive investments, and increasing aid to the 07% of GDP. President Chowdhury exhorted negotiators of the Declaration of the UN Summit in September 2015 to make good Goal 16 that specifically refers to the need “to develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels”, as well as the need “to ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representatives decision-making at all levels.”  For parliaments to be “fit for purpose”, they will need considerably more resources to build their own capacities for legislation, representation and oversight. “The goals will be nothing unless they are owned by the people.” More information about the meeting can be found at http://www.un.org/pga/090215_hl-debate-means-implementation-transformative-post-2015-development-agenda/

New partnership to develop research on democracy and world affairs

4 FEBRUARY 2015

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and Director of the Graduate Institute of International Development Studies Philippe Burrin sign a cooperation agreement. ©IPU/Jorky

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) today signed a cooperation agreement that will pave the way for new policy-relevant research to be developed on issues pertaining to democracy, development and international relations. The three-year agreement also provides for activities to enhance visibility and outreach to the global community. Interaction between IPU and the IHEID, which previously had been on an ad hoc basis, will now be on a regular basis, with the agreement also providing IPU with access to the Graduate Institute’s executive education programme. Students from the renowned academic institution will in turn have an opportunity to gain work experience at IPU through internships. 

IPU teams up with British MPs in empowering Myanmar’s women politicians

29 JANUARY 2015

Aung San Suu Kyi, the most well-known of Myanmar’s 28 women MPs. ©Reuters/S. Sukplang

IPU will be part of a delegation led by the British Group IPU (BGIPU) to Myanmar on a project aimed at strengthening the political participation of women MPs in the Asian country and to promote a gender sensitive parliament. During training from 8-11th February, women parliamentarians from both chambers of the British Parliament, the British Foreign Office, the British development agency and an IPU expert will focus on overcoming hurdles to an inclusive and representative parliament.  Sessions will look at women’s committees and caucuses, developing leadership and media skills, gender-budgeting, as well as women’s involvement in resolving conflict and in national reconstruction efforts.  Myanmar currently has 28 women parliamentarians out of a total of 653 in both chambers. 

IPU’s young MPs contribute to discussions on sustainable development

29 JANUARY 2015

Nine members of IPU’s forum of Young Parliamentarians, led by Faisal Al Tenaiji (pictured) will provide the parliamentary angle at ECOSOC’s Youth Forum. ©IPU

A nine-member delegation from IPU’s Forum of Young Parliamentarians will provide the parliamentary input into UN-led youth discussions on an effective transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) into the new sustainable development agenda. Led by the Forum’s President and Emirati MP Faisal Al Tenaiji, the delegation, comprising young parliamentarians from Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East, will join representatives from national youth councils, regional youth organizations, youth-focused civil society organizations and governments, including Ministers responsible for youth, at the annual Youth Forum of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). In addition to contributing as panellists, IPU Forum members will showcase IPU’s Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians as a platform for enhancing the youth voice in politics. With the MDGs due to give way to a new set of sustainable development goals (SDGs) later this year and young people aged between 10-24 accounting for 1.8 billion of the global population, youth involvement in development efforts is key. Many of the gaps in MDG achievements directly concern young people, such as secondary education, HIV infection rates, gender equality and unemployment. Discussions during the two-day forum on 2-3 February at UN Headquarters in New York will result in recommendations on young people’s contributions to making the shift from the MDGs to the SDGs. These will be presented at a high-level ECOSOC meeting in July, to the Commission for Social Development and to the Chair of the next session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2015.  

Growing support for common principles on parliamentary development

28 JANUARY 2015

IPU training for women’s caucus at Côte d’Ivoire Parliament ©IPU

Ten national parliaments and seven partner organizations have already endorsed the Common Principles for Support to Parliament with indications of more following suit coming into IPU regularly. Among the latest to endorse the Common Principles are the British, Polish, Gambian and Madagascar Parliaments, with the French National Assembly, German Bundestag and parliaments of Denmark, Luxembourg, Timor-Leste and Trinidad and Tobago among the group. The Principles were put together by a group of parliaments and parliamentary development entities including organizations such as IPU. Organizations that have so far endorsed them include International IDEA, the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI). Offering clear guidelines for those receiving or providing support to parliaments, the Common Principles are the result of more than four decades of experience on parliamentary development. Coordinated by IPU, they aim to improve the quality of the support available to parliaments and to encourage the parliamentary community to work together more effectively when planning, designing and providing support. The Common Principles were adopted by IPU’s governing bodies at the 131st Assembly in Geneva in October 2014.  A formal endorsement ceremony will take place at IPU’s 132nd Assembly in Hanoi, Viet Nam (28 March - 1 April, 2015). Parliaments and organizations wishing to add their endorsement can notify the IPU Secretariat.

Strengthening ties with UK and Fiji

27 JANUARY 2015

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IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has welcomed the British Parliament’s endorsement of the Common Principles for Support to Parliaments during a visit to the UK on 26th January. The President of the British Group IPU, Alistair Burt, announced the endorsement at their meeting. The Secretary General also discussed parliamentary strengthening with the Chair of the House of Common’s International Development Committee, which was launching its own report on the issue and whose conclusions are in tune with the Common Principles. He fully supported a report recommendation that more resources be allocated to strengthening parliaments worldwide. The visit to London similarly incorporated talks with a delegation from Fiji. Led by the new Speaker of the Fijian Parliament, Jiko Luveni, and comprising also parliamentary leaders from ruling and opposition parties, the Fijian delegation recognized the importance of joining IPU. Universality is a key strategic priority for IPU and with several Pacific parliaments outside of the IPU fold, the Organization has been scaling up its outreach efforts to the region’s national parliaments in recent years.

Holocaust Day

27 JANUARY 2015

Auschwitz concentration camp. ©Reuters/P. Ulatowski

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong is urging the international community to work resolutely to prevent the recurrence of the atrocities associated with the Holocaust and similar crimes, as we mark the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust on 27 January. Every year, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp is a stark reminder of humanity’s capacity to commit unspeakable atrocities. It makes a compelling case to never give up on efforts to strengthen tolerance, respect for others and human rights, all of which underpin any democracy worthy of the name. The International Day also reminds us how fragile peace and stability are. We need to resolve conflict through dialogue and negotiation rather than through weapons. This remains the most effective way to build lasting peace. May this year’s commemorations help us all learn valuable lessons on human folly, ignorance and intolerance. Remembrance is a necessary first step towards avoiding the mistakes of the past. We join the world in remembering the victims of the Holocaust – both dead and alive - and the victims of other crimes of a similar nature.

Cementing long-standing relations between IPU and Belgium

15 JANUARY 2015

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Speaker of the Belgian House of Representatives Siegfried Bracke and IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong met in Brussels on 14 January for talks on strengthening cooperation between the Belgian Parliament and IPU. One of IPU’s founding members, the Belgian Parliament continues to play a major role in the Organization through its contribution to IPU’s political and programmatic work over the years. Several Belgian parliamentarians are currently serving on important IPU committees. Discussions between Speaker Bracke and the IPU Secretary General were wide-ranging, covering parliamentary action to combat terrorism and extremism, the importance of democratic governance to the success of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, enhancing support for parliaments in countries emerging from post-conflict or which are in transition to democracy and the growing importance of the parliamentary voice in tackling the major global issues of the day.

New Year message

19 DECEMBER 2014

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

2014 has been a very rich and eventful one for IPU. Together, we have used every opportunity available to make a robust contribution to enhancing governance and have continued to make the parliamentary voice heard on a wide range of global issues such as protection of human rights, gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, the rights of indigenous peoples, HIV/AIDS, nuclear disarmament and climate change. The year has also seen our Organization make a major push for a people-centred approach to the new Sustainable Development Goals and youth political participation. IPU continues to grow by welcoming new Members and providing critical assistance to many parliaments in countries emerging from conflict or in transition to democracy. 2014 has been a watershed year for IPU in many respects. Our Organization turned 125. It was also the year in which a new leadership was elected to help take IPU to greater heights. Both of us - the President and the Secretary General - have been gratified by the many expressions of solidarity and support. We count on the continued support and engagement of the membership to help move forward the IPU agenda and enable our Organization to rise to the challenges as it places itself at the service of parliaments. Your support will help IPU build on the successes of our predecessors and infuse the work of the Organization with renewed vigour to address current and emerging challenges. We look forward to what promises to be a very exciting 2015 for IPU. With the world poised to adopt a bold and ambitious new sustainable development agenda, parliaments and IPU are required to step up to the plate and ensure that the voices of the people are heard. The new development goals have to respond to the needs and expectations of the citizens we serve. There will be a host of opportunities in 2015, not least the Fourth World Conference of Speakers billed for 31 August to 2 September at UN Headquarters in New York, where Speakers will outline their vision for a better world and how parliaments can make this a reality.  Citizens everywhere count on this commitment and you can count on us so that you can deliver effectively and efficiently on the expectations of your people.   We take this opportunity to extend to you our best wishes of the season and for success in 2015.

Martin Chungong Secretary General, Saber H. Chowdhary President

Supporting Malian network to combat violence against women and girls

18 DECEMBER 2014

IPU supporting a network of Malian MPs to address violence against women. ©IPU

A Malian parliamentary network against violence against women and girls has been provided support by IPU to strengthen its work on the issue. Working with both IPU and national experts, the network, composed of about 50 men and women MPs, met in Bamako on 12-13 December to identify priority areas for legislative action in the current parliament. Many members of the network became MPs for the first time when they won parliamentary seats in the 2013 elections. Mali has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human  and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, known as the Maputo Protocol. These two instruments which provide the international legal framework to address gender inequality and violence against women and girls need to be turned into national reality. Although the Malian Constitution enshrines women´s rights and authorities have launched programmes to tackle violence against women and girls, including female genital mutilation (FGM) which affects 85 per cent of Malian women aged between 15 and 49, there is no legislation in place to eliminate FGM or specifically address domestic violence or sexual harassment. 

Japan sees increase in number of women MPs

18 DECEMBER 2014

Despite a small increase, the number of women MPs in Japan remains low. ©IPU

With women reportedly winning 45 out of 475 seats in the lower house of the Japanese Parliament (Shugiin) in the 14 December elections, Japan has seen a small increase in the percentage of women MPs. A jump from 8.1 per cent in the previous parliament to 9.47 per cent now puts Japan at 124th in the IPU’s world ranking of women in national parliaments, up from 129th. In the previous legislature, 39 seats were held by women in the Shugiin, which has reduced the number of MPs from 480 to 475. Women’s representation in the Shugiin reached its highest level yet in 2009 when 54 women (11.25 per cent) were elected. Women fare slightly better in the upper house, the Sangiin, with 39 out of 242 seats (16.1 per cent) elected in 2013.

Pine tree planting to commemorate IPU’s 125th anniversary

18 DECEMBER 2014

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong helps plant the Ponderosa pine to mark the Organization’s 125th anniversary. ©IPU/Jorky 2014

A pine tree has been planted at IPU´s headquarters to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Organization.

The tree, a “Pinus ponderosa” native to western United States and Canada and commonly known as the ponderosa pine, is a gift of Le Grand-Saconnex municipality, where IPU has its headquarters.  

 

 

 

Denmark and France first to endorse Common Principles for support to parliament

18 DECEMBER 2014

A range of actors provide development support to parliaments. Better coordination and cooperation between them through a common set of principles is aimed at making assistance more effective. ©IPU

The Danish parliament and the French National Assembly have been the first to endorse the Common Principles for Support to Parliament. The Principles, put together by a group of parliaments and parliamentary development entities including organizations such as IPU, have also been endorsed by International IDEA and the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA). Offering clear guidelines for those receiving or providing support to parliaments, the Common Principles are the result of more than four decades of experience on parliamentary development. Coordinated by IPU, they aim to improve the quality of the support available to parliaments and to encourage the parliamentary community to work together more effectively when planning, designing and providing support. The Common Principles were adopted by IPU’s governing bodies at the 131st Assembly in Geneva in October 2014.  A formal endorsement ceremony will take place at IPU’s 132nd Assembly in Hanoi, Viet Nam (28 March - 1 April, 2015). Parliaments and organizations wishing to add their endorsement can notify the IPU Secretariat.  

MPs’ courage and commitment can make difference to country

18 DECEMBER 2014

Afghan MP Fawzia Koofi one of the speakers at TEDxPlacedesNations ©UN/Jean-Marc Ferré

A powerful TEDx talk by Afghan MP Fawzia Koofi on why she became an MP in one of the most dangerous and challenging countries and her drive to achieve lasting democracy and equality in Afghanistan, will be online in January 2015. The talk was one of 11 remarkable stories on human impact during the TEDxPlacedesNations event on 11 December, which was viewed live in 24 different locations in 15 countries. You can see photos from the event, which involved 12 agencies including IPU, the UN and Geneva authorities.

Progress in AIDS response in Viet Nam

18 DECEMBER 2014

Members of IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and MNCH meet people living with the disease during a field mission to Dien Bien in Vietnam ©IPU/Aleksandra Blagojevic, 2014

IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) recognized the progress made by Viet Nam on its AIDS response during a mission to the country in early December. Since its last mission in 2009, the legislative environment has improved, particularly through implementation of the HIV law. Significant progress has been made in preventing new infections, reducing AIDS-related deaths and gradually scaling up harm reduction services, in particular through methadone substitution therapy for injecting drug users (IDU). However, the epidemic remains highly concentrated in IDU and other vulnerable populations. Viet Nam’s AIDS response predominantly relies on donor funds (more than 80 per cent), however, international donor contributions are shrinking with domestic resources remaining limited. Another challenge is stigma and discrimination related to HIV, which poses a significant barrier to continued progress. The IPU Advisory Group mission included a field visit to Dien Bien on the border with China and Laos and one of the poorest regions in Viet Nam.  A corridor for drug trafficking, IDU-driven HIV is rampant in the province with a 30 per cent prevalence. The Advisory Group visited methadone treatment centres and health facilities at regional, district and community levels. It also learned about the benefits of the so- called Treatment 2.0 approach which brings HIV services closer to people and helps reduce stigma and discrimination. Conclusions and recommendations from the mission will be submitted to IPU’s 132nd Assembly in Hanoi in 2015.

Making the law work to end AIDS in Kyrgyzstan

18 DECEMBER 2014

Kyrgyz MPs aim to identify ways to overcome legislative obstacles to ending HIV/AIDS in the country. ©IPU/Jorky, 2014

Kyrgyz MPs and HIV/AIDS experts meeting in Geneva on 17-18 December will look to find ways to improve the legislative response to the epidemic in the country. Organized together with UNAIDS, the meeting at IPU headquarters aims to identify the obstacles to an effective response to HIV and practical ways to overcome them. This includes examining strong examples of effective parliamentary leadership in the HIV response that incorporate respect for equality and human rights. Although there has been global progress on ending HIV/AIDS, the epidemic is expanding among key populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, in particular injecting drug users and their sexual partners, men who have sex with men (MSM), and sex workers. In Kyrgyzstan, HIV prevalence among MSM increased in 2013 from 1.1 per cent to 6.3 per cent. Coverage of HIV prevention programmes is insufficient to reverse the epidemic whilst funding is scarce and over-dependent on international sources.

Securing a world free of nuclear weapons

18 DECEMBER 2014

About 200,000 people were killed by the atom bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (seen here) in 1945. ©US Airforce handout

IPU called on parliaments and parliamentarians to shoulder their responsibility in protecting current and future generations from the catastrophic impact of nuclear weapons. Speaking at the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons on 9 December, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong said parliaments must be at the heart of the decision-making process required to secure once and for all a world free of such weapons of mass destruction. The IPU Secretary General also emphasized the power of international parliamentary cooperation to advance nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament at the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) roundtable hosted by the Austrian parliament and co-sponsored by IPU.  It was parliamentarians, he recalled, who first drew international attention to the widespread and devastating harm caused by anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, paving the way for the Mine Ban Treaty (1997) and the Convention on Cluster Munitions (2008). “Basically all other weapons of mass destruction have been prohibited, and now we must all work together to abolish nuclear weapons once and for all,” he said.

Afghan MP Fawzia Koofi at TEDx event in Geneva

11 DECEMBER 2014

Afghan MP Fawzia Koofi one of the speakers at TEDxPlacedesNations ©UN/Jean-Marc Ferré

Afghan MP Fawzia Koofi will be one of the speakers taking the floor at a TEDx event in Geneva on 11 December. The TEDx stage will showcase remarkable stories of people helping people. With 11 great speakers and 1,900 people registered, TEDxPlacedesNations will be a key event to hear what innovators, humanitarians, entrepreneurs, scientists and peacemakers have to say about the impact they are making in finding solutions to today's challenges and shape tomorrow's world. 24 viewing parties have been be organized in 22 cities on five continents, making it possible for diverse audiences to watch live the event and take part in the conversation. The discussion can be also joined by using the hashtag #TEDxNations.

Tunisian election yields some progress for women´s representation in parliament

28 NOVEMBER 2014

Tunisia has joined the ranks of nearly 40 countries with more than 30 per cent of women MPs. © Reuters/Z. Souissi

IPU has welcomed the increase in the number of women MPs in the new Tunisian parliament following elections on 26 October. According to official results, 68 women were elected to the Assembly of the People's Representatives out of 217 members, an increase of seven seats. Tunisia now joins the ranks of nearly 40 countries with more than 30 per cent of women MPs, having increased representation by just over 3 percentage points – from 28.1 to 31.34 per cent.

MPs claim central role in tackling climate change

9 DECEMBER 2014

IPU President President Saber Chowdhury speaking at the inaugural session of the Parliamentary Meeting on climate change in Lima, Peru.

Parliamentarians from around the world spoke with one voice in Lima to claim a central role in any successful political strategy to tackle climate change. Meeting in the Peruvian capital on 8 December in parallel to the UN Climate Change Conference, MPs stressed the crucial importance of their mandate to translate eventual international agreements against global warming into real and effective action. Unless transposed into national legislation, no international agreements on climate change and disaster risk reduction will be credible, said MPs in the outcome document produced at the end of the Parliamentary Meeting. They called on parliaments to set up permanent committees on climate change and on IPU to adopt an action plan on the issue to give the necessary momentum to these efforts. They also reiterated the urgent need to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and limit global temperature rise to less than 2ºC from pre-industrial levels, as agreed by governments in Copenhagen in 2009. Speaking at the opening session of the Parliamentary Meeting, IPU President Saber Chowdhury said: “political leaders and decision-makers, including legislators, must act decisively and act now. We will all have failed our future generations and this planet, our only home, if we do not. The window of opportunity to stay within less than 2ºC of global warming is closing fast. If we fail to plan, we plan to fail.”

Towards a modern National Assembly in Guinea-Bissau

28 NOVEMBER 2014

IPU is working with the National Assembly of Guinea-Bissau to enhance its legislative action and its capacity to work more efficiently. ©IPU

Following elections in April, IPU and UNDP are working with the National Assembly of Guinea-Bissau to enhance its legislative function and its capacity to work more efficiently as part of an overall programme to modernize the institution. Up to 75 per cent of the 102 MPs of the Assembleia Nacional Popular took part in a seminar on 18-20 November aimed at reinforcing the Assembly´s legislative and oversight roles by improving MPs’ capacities. Also with support from the British All-Party Parliamentary Group for Guinea-Bissau (APPG), MPs worked collectively and in groups, and debated during three days over the main challenges faced by the Assembly today, its role in consolidating democracy in the country after the 2012 coup d’état, and the need to put gender and human rights at the heart of parliamentary action. Furthermore, they discussed practical aspects regarding their role, such as committee work, administrative organization and the implementation of parliamentary ethics.

MPs moving from vision to action on climate change

28 NOVEMBER 2014

IPU President President Saber Chowdhury speaking at the inaugural session of the Parliamentary Meeting on climate change in Lima, Peru.

Parliamentarians discussed concrete ways to accelerate political action on climate change during two meetings in parallel to the UN Climate Change Conference in the Peruvian capital, Lima. At a Parliamentary Meeting jointly organized by IPU and the Peruvian Congress and supported by the IPU group of Latin American and Caribbean parliaments on 8 December, MPs examined the rising cost of climate change inaction and what they can do to ensure a low-carbon future. They also interacted with government negotiators directly involved in making decisions on the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and were briefed on the main issues of the UN Conference. The Conference, which takes place between 1-12 December, combines the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC and the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, commonly known as COP20/CMP10. The Parliamentary meeting  adopted an outcome document which will be conveyed to the Conference. An event on 9 December held by IPU and ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability aimed to increase the efficiency of climate change advocacy and raise the global level of ambition in responding to climate change at both national and local levels. IPU President Saber Chowdhury  addressed both events. “Political leaders and decision-makers, including legislators, must act decisively and act now. We will all have failed our future generations and this planet, our only home, if we do not,” he said at the inaugural session of the Parliamentary Meeting." “The window of opportunity to stay within less than 2 degrees of global warming is closing fast. If we fail to plan, we plan to fail,” he added. The COP20/CMP10 is widely expected to pave the way for the conclusion of an agreement at the 21th session of the UNFCCC to be held in Paris in 2015. By the end of the meeting all nations, including the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, would be bound by a universal agreement on climate for the first time in more than 20 years of UN negotiations.

Parliamentary action for a nuclear-weapon-free world

28 NOVEMBER 2014

The use of nuclear weapons has had catastrophic humanitarian consequences, like in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945. ©Reuters/T. Hanai

Parliamentarians attending the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons on 8-9 December, will gather to develop ideas for further action to ensure a nuclear weapon-free world. Hosted by the Austrian parliament and co-sponsored by IPU and Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND), the Parliamentary Roundtable will provide MPs with a valuable opportunity to find out what other parliaments are doing to eliminate the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines and to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world. The use of nuclear weapons has had catastrophic humanitarian consequences. Nevertheless, a sizeable number of States still rely on nuclear deterrence. Earlier this year, IPU Members adopted a landmark resolution on a series of actions parliaments can take to ensure a nuclear-weapons-free world. IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong will renew the Organization’s call for parliaments to put a high priority on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament to achieve a nuclear-weapons-free world..

Elections and rapid return to constitutional rule essential in Thailand

28 NOVEMBER 2014

Elections to the Thai House of Representatives were expected to be held on 20 July 2014, but were cancelled following a coup d'état two months before. ©Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong emphasized the need for Thailand to hold elections as scheduled on its roadmap to a full return to constitutional rule during an official visit to Bangkok on 1-3 December. In Thailand at the invitation of the authorities, Secretary General Chungong held meetings with senior officials and was the keynote speaker at a seminar “On the Path to Reform”. During his meetings, he discussed ways to institute reforms to ensure Thailand returns to democratic rule. He also pushed for solid foundations to be laid for a parliament that would meet the expectations of the Thai public and ensure greater political stability in a country where the military has been compelled to step into the political arena on numerous occasions.

IPU President underlines parliament’s critical contribution to human rights at World Forum

28 NOVEMBER 2014

IPU President Saber Chowdhury: “without parliamentary action, recommendations produced by UN human rights mechanisms will be difficult to implement”. ©IPU

IPU President Saber Chowdhury stressed the critical contribution of parliaments and MPs in guaranteeing international human rights standards at the national level during a global human rights forum in Morocco. Speaking at the inaugural session of the Second World Human Rights Forum in Marrakech on 27 November, Chowdhury said that without parliamentary action, be it at the legislative or oversight level, recommendations produced by UN human rights mechanisms will be difficult to implement. “A parliament that truly represents the full diversity in society and that has the means at its disposal to represent the views of its constituents and hold government to account is a very powerful tool to avoid conflict, overcome divisions and uphold human rights,” he added. With this in mind, both parliaments and governments had to take a people-centred approach in addressing human rights in the coming decades, an issue that would be deeply influenced by the post-2015 development agenda. President Chowdhury highlighted IPU’s belief in the need to shape a new set of development goals from a rights-based approach. More than 5,000 people from about 100 countries are taking part in the four-day event (27-30 November) aimed at assessing progress and challenges in the human rights arena.

MPs call for parliaments to meet nutrition targets by 2025

21 NOVEMBER 2014

IPU´s Honorary President Pier Ferdinando Casini stressed the elimination of all kinds of malnutrition “is an imperative which spares no country and must be achieved within our life time.” ©FAO

MPs called on parliaments to meet a series of national nutritional targets by 2025 in order to contribute to a sustainable world with food security and adequate nutrition for all. Meeting in Rome in parallel to the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), MPs stressed the need to adopt national nutrition policies and plans taking into consideration the six global nutritional targets included in the WHO Comprehensive Implementation Plan on Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition: 40% reduction of the global number of children under five who are stunted; 50% reduction of anemia in women of reproductive age; 30% reduction of low birth weight; 0% increase in childhood overweight; increasing the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months up to at least 50%; and reducing and maintaining childhood wasting (low weight-for-height) to less than 5%. The event in Rome, jointly organized by IPU and the Italian Parliament and supported by FAO and WHO, gathered some 100 MPs from across the world sharing a common commitment to maintaining food and nutrition as a priority on their national agendas. Parliaments were also called to develop legislation and oversee regulation to create health-promoting environments by protecting, educating and empowering consumers. This includes measures such as the establishment of labeling standards - information on sugars, salts, fats and trans-fat content – as well as marketing regulation, in particular for children. Also highlighted was the need to empower and support women through legislation and to increase their access to quality health care. The statement adopted by MPs was incorporated to the final outcome of ICN2. Presenting the results of the Parliamentary Meeting, IPU´s Honorary President Pier Ferdinando Casini stressed the elimination of all kinds of malnutrition “is an imperative which spares no country and must be achieved within our life time.”

Towards gender parity in politics in Côte d’Ivoire

19 NOVEMBER 2014

Côte d’Ivoire currently has 24 women MPs (9.4 per cent) out of 255 parliamentarians, well below the regional average in Africa of 22.5 per cent.©IPU

MPs, government officials and members of civil society pledged to achieve gender parity in politics in Côte d’Ivoire by 2020 at the end of a two-day Parliamentary Conference in Abidjan. Jointly organized by the Ivorian parliament and IPU, the meeting aimed to sensitize MPs and other political actors to the importance of a gender-equal parliament in building a more egalitarian society in all spheres. A series of recommendations were agreed upon to enhance women´s participation in parliament, including changing the electoral law to introduce quotas for women candidates. Adapted to the first-past-the-post election system used in Côte d’Ivoire, the proposed quotas would mean a minimum of 33 per cent of women candidates in the 2016 legislative elections, rising to 50 per cent in 2020. These would be legally binding for national, regional and municipal elections and for political parties. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and a Parity Observatory, another entity that would specifically be set up for the task, would be responsible for ensuring quotas were respected. Other proposed recommendations included awareness raising campaigns on women’s representation, training programmes to empower women candidates and financial incentives on women’s participation. IPU will support the Côte d’Ivoire National Assembly in defining the necessary legal changes to translate the recommendations into reality. The country currently has 24 women MPs (9.4 per cent) out of 255 parliamentarians, well below the regional average in Africa of 22.5 per cent.  Côte d’Ivoire is 129th in IPU’s global rankings for women in parliament.

Ensuring a people-centered approach to the new development agenda

14 NOVEMBER 2014

IPU has been urging the inclusion of a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on democratic governance. Draft goal 16 points in the right direction. ©UN

The need to put the spotlight on people as both actors and beneficiaries of the new sustainable development agenda will be the focus of discussions among parliamentarians at the 2014 Annual Parliamentary Hearing on 19-20 November. Jointly organized by the United Nations and IPU, the meeting at the UN’s headquarters in New York will bring together more than 100 MPs from around the world, including Speakers of Parliament. The event will provide a further opportunity to help inform the collective thinking of parliamentarians on the new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they expire at the end of next year. The MPs will examine the implications of a rights-based approach to the new SDGs; ways in which economic and social inequality can undermine people-centred development; the need to strengthen transparency and accountability in both the public and private sectors; the responsibility of government vis-à-vis the market, and how countries can deal effectively with their human rights responsibilities. IPU and the UN have held extensive consultations with their members to provide input to the SDG negotiations. These negotiations will enter a new phase in January 2015 on the basis of a first draft of the SDGs elaborated by a Working Group of the UN General Assembly. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President of the UN General Assembly Sam Kutesa, as well as IPU President Saber Chowdhury will open the two-day meeting.

IPU calls for wide endorsement of common principles on parliamentary support

14 NOVEMBER 2014

The Common Principles for Support to Parliament were adopted by IPU’s governing bodies at the 131st Assembly in Geneva in October 2014. ©IPU

IPU is urging parliaments, as well as organizations, donors and individuals that work to strengthen parliaments, to endorse the Common Principles for Support to Parliament and incorporate them into their daily work. These principles pull together more than 40 years of experience in the area of parliamentary development. Devised by a group of parliaments and parliamentary strengthening organizations and coordinated by IPU, they offer clear guidelines that will be of interest to anyone involved in receiving or providing support to parliaments. The Principles emphasize the need for parliamentary ownership of its development and change process. They are intended to improve the quality of the support available to parliaments and to encourage the parliamentary community to work together more effectively. The Principles were adopted by IPU’s governing bodies at the 131st Assembly in Geneva in October.  A formal endorsement ceremony is planned during IPU’s 132nd Assembly in Hanoi, Viet Nam (28 March - 1 April, 2015). Parliaments and organizations wishing to add their endorsement can notify the IPU Secretariat by February 2015.

Asian MPs commit to promote nutrition sensitive legislation

14 NOVEMBER 2014

Under-nutrition affects more than 162 million children under-five in the developing world. ©UNICEF

MPs from the Asia-Pacific region committed to reviewing laws and policies to ensure a comprehensive and effective legal framework on nutrition is put in place nationally. The commitment was part of a series of recommendations adopted at the end of an IPU-UNICEF organized meeting on 4-6 November in Vientiane, Laos. The “Vientiane recommendations” outlines how parliaments can ensure every child´s right to survive and thrive through the protection, promotion and support of optimal nutrition from the time of conception up to the age of 24 months. The MPs will take the recommendations back to their respective national parliaments to raise awareness on what they can do to advance nutrition, including better budget allocation and expenditure on the issue, oversight of government action, and coordination and cooperation with civil society, donors, development actors and international organizations. Stressing the critical importance of nutritional security to economic development and to breaking inter-generational cycles of poverty, MPs called for urgent action to tackle under-nutrition, a problem affecting more than 162 million children under-five in the developing world. In some countries, more than half of the children are affected, while there are 42 million overweight children under-five at risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes. Two thirds of the stunted children globally are found in Asia. 

A parliamentary perspective on nutrition challenges and opportunities

14 NOVEMBER 2014

Today, 805 million people are chronically hungry and 161 million children are stunted, according to FAO. ©FAO

MPs attending a Parliamentary Meeting in Rome on 18 November in parallel to the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) will have an opportunity to gather up-to-date information on nutrition related issues and to identify effective parliamentary action on implementing ICN2 commitments. The meeting will aim primarily to sensitize MPs and parliaments on the crucial contribution they can make to improving nutritional outcomes. Today, 805 million people are chronically hungry, 161 million children are stunted, while 42 million children are overweight and another 500 million adults are obese, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)'s The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014 . The outcome of the Parliamentary Meeting will be reported in a statement to the ICN2 on 21 November and will be included in the final report of the Conference.

Strengthening the parliamentary response to HIV/AIDS in Viet Nam

14 NOVEMBER 2014

Members of IPU´s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MCNH) speaking with patients at a health center in Dien Bien Phu, Viet Nam. ©IPU

An IPU Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MCNH) mission to Viet Nam will look at how the country´s response to HIV and AIDS can be strengthened. The mission will include a workshop on HIV prevention on 30 November that will review progress in this area with special emphasis on efficient approaches regarding access to HIV treatment. A field visit will follow on 1-2 December and will include meetings with the parliamentary bodies dealing with HIV and AIDS, government health officials and civil society, as well as visits to treatment and research facilities. The mission will recommend improvements to the Vietnamese National Assembly and will document good practices which IPU will share with the global parliamentary community. The Government of Viet Nam recently announced its commitment to new targets intended to rapidly expand HIV treatment by 2020, becoming the first country in Asia to adopt the 90–90–90 goals: 90% of people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90% of people who know their status will be on HIV treatment; and 90% of all people on treatment will have undetectable levels of HIV in their body (known as viral suppression). There were 250,000 people living with HIV and 14,000 new HIV infections in Viet Nam in 2013. In 2014, more than 87 000 people were accessing HIV treatment, a 30-fold increase since 2005, but just one third of all people living with HIV, according to UNAIDS.

MPs push for implementation and universalization of the Arms Trade Treaty

14 NOVEMBER 2014

More than 60 MPs from 17 national parliaments reaffirmed in London their commitment to ensuring the ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). ©BGIPU/Paul Milsom

More than 60 MPs from 17 national parliaments reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring the ratification, implementation and universalization of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at a three-day conference in London organized by the British Group of IPU (BGIPU). The Conference, which brought MPs together with arms control experts, sought to build upon existing momentum surrounding the Treaty at a time when its entry into force is imminent (24 December). Looking ahead to the First Conference of State Parties to be held in Mexico next year, they endorsed an outcome document stressing their strong support for a Treaty that served to save lives, prevent arms being used in serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, help combat terrorism and protect legitimate arms trade. The document encouraged parliaments to put pressure on governments to sign and ratify the ATT without delay and to enact and robustly implement national legislation on it. It also encouraged the Conference of State Parties to consider how parliaments are provided with the necessary capabilities and resources to contribute to upholding the principles and obligations of the ATT, clarify what funding and resources are available and how parliaments can gain access to these.

Second meeting to prepare the 4th World Conference of Speakers of Parliament

14 NOVEMBER 2014

The Preparatory Committee of the 4th World Conference of Speakers of Parliament will define the main objectives of the 2015 Conference. ©IPU

Parliamentary leaders will meet in New York on 17-18 November for the Second Preparatory Committee of the 4th World Conference of Speakers of Parliament. The Committee will define the main objectives of the 2015 Conference, its overall theme and main elements of the outcome document, exact date and venue. The Conference, due to convene in the second half of 2015 as part of the series of high-level meetings leading up to the UN Summit, will also examine issues such as the enhancement of the relationship between parliaments and the United Nations, the parliamentary contribution to the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), challenges facing parliaments today, as well as the need to push forward on gender equality in all spheres. Another preparatory meeting will take place in early 2015 to finalize the details of the Conference. Previous ones were held in 2000, 2005 and 2010. [See pictures of the event]

Setting up a pension fund for MPs and parliamentary staff in Burundi

31 OCTOBER 2014

IPU and the Parliament of Burundi are working to set up a pension fund for MPs and parliamentary staff. ©IPU

IPU and the Parliament of Burundi are working to set up a pension fund for MPs and parliamentary staff as part of efforts to ensure the effective administrative and financial autonomy of the Burundian parliament.  An IPU expert mission to Burundi helped parliamentary officials to draft two separate legislative texts (one for MPs and one for parliamentary staff) establishing their respective pension funds. These will be validated and implemented when both parliamentary chambers give their green light.

Promoting child nutrition in Asia

31 OCTOBER 2014

Malnutrition and stunting affect more than 180 million children under five around the world. ©REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

MPs, parliamentary staff and members of civil society will meet in Vientiane, Laos, on 4-6 November to mobilize parliamentary action in support of child nutrition in Asia. Organized by IPU and UNICEF, with the support of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUP) Movement, the meeting aims to raise awareness among and educate the parliamentary community on the urgent need for action on a problem affecting more than 180 million children under five around the world. Hosted by the National Assembly of the Lao People´s Democratic Republic, the gathering will address issues related to malnutrition and stunting, including the damaging effects of inaction on inadequate nutrition on the economic development of countries. Emphasis will be placed on strategies and tools parliamentarians can leverage to scale up and strengthen nutrition programmes and policies. MPs can make a critical contribution to tackling child malnutrition through their powers to legislate, define national budgets and oversee government actions, particularly on issues concerning children.  Specifically, they can legislate on restricting the marketing of breast milk substitutes, providing maternity protection or promoting, protecting and supporting infant and young child feeding. As opinion leaders, MPs can also play a key role in educating their constituents on healthy practices. At the end of the two and a half-day discussion in Vientiane, it is expected MPs will produce an outcome document pledging to take a pro-nutrition agenda forward. The document will feed into the upcoming Parliamentary Meeting on the occasion of the Second high-level International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) that will take place in November in Rome.

Preparing for a new Egyptian parliament

31 OCTOBER 2014

An IPU mission, part of a long-term programme of support, focused on identifying needs and capacity of Egyptian parliamentary staff ©IPU

IPU and Egyptian authorities are continuing work to put in place a fully functioning parliament in Egypt ahead of legislative elections in the near future. An IPU mission to the Arab country last week, part of a long-term programme of support, focused on identifying needs and capacity of parliamentary staff to ensure the smooth welcoming of MPs to the new parliament. This included the support that would need to be given to newly-elected MPs, many of whom are expected to become parliamentarians for the first time. IPU experts from the Belgian and UK parliaments and Egyptian parliamentary staff looked particularly at staffing levels, parliamentary experience, the importance of political neutrality and impartiality in daily work, IT solutions for information access and sharing as well as planning to put the necessary building blocks in place in time. Although the Egyptian parliament was dissolved last year, the Secretariat has continued to operate. Recommendations from the IPU expert mission will be shared with Egypt’s Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ibrahim Elhenedi during a meeting with IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong in Geneva in early November.

IPU praises Tunisia’s electoral transition to democracy

30 OCTOBER 2014

Tunisians voted on 26 October in parliamentary elections that bring full democracy finally within their reach ©REUTERS/Anis Mili

IPU has praised the successful holding of elections in Tunisia on 26 October as a critical milestone in the North African country’s transition to democracy. The elections, which passed off smoothly, build on continuing hopes for a peaceful and stable future in the birthplace of the Arab Spring. About 61 per cent of the electorate voted for the 217-seat parliament established under the new Constitution adopted in January this year. Since 2011, IPU has actively engaged with the Tunisian authorities and other entities in the drawing up of the new Constitution which reaffirms key democratic principles, including freedom of belief and equality between men and women.

Protecting rights of indigenous peoples – new tools for parliamentarians

30 SEPTEMBER 2014

Two new publications aimed at helping parliamentarians to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples and to inform the debate on indigenous political participation have been released. A new Handbook for Parliamentarians on Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoplesprovides practical steps MPs can take on the issue. Produced jointly by IPU, the UN’s Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Development Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the Handbook tackles issues such as legislation, oversight of government action and resource allocation on addressing social and economic conditions of indigenous peoples. MPs are also given concrete, positive examples of action taken by various countries around the world on issues affecting indigenous peoples’ rights.  Meanwhile, an IPU survey, Beyond numbers: the participation of indigenous peoples in parliament, has found there are a minimum of 979 indigenous MPs out of 44,000 MPs in the world today, 80 per cent of them men. Representation, however, is not enough, with the survey highlighting the importance of parliamentary bodies in indigenous involvement in collective decision making and of applying the principle of free, prior and informed consent before decisions are taken that affect indigenous peoples.

IPU President calls on parliaments to consolidate influence on post-2015 agenda

30 SEPTEMBER 2014

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the end of 2015. ©UN

IPU President Abdelwahad Radi has called on Member Parliaments to consolidate efforts to ensure parliaments keep playing a crucial role in the ongoing process to develop the post-2015 development agenda. He is encouraging Members to share with governments and constituents the first draft of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the end of 2015. This would ensure maximum visibility and debate on an issue that will have a direct impact on people´s lives. “There is no agenda more important for the health of the planet and well-being of the people than the SDGs that governments will need to adopt by the end of next year,” President Radi said in a letter to Members. Since early 2013, IPU has been urging the inclusion of a stand-alone goal on democratic governance with specific indicators relating to parliament. Draft goal 16 - “to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, to provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”- points in the right direction. For President Radi, “this is the equivalent of the democratic governance goal that most of us have been advocating for years.” Goal 16 contains a number of targets that speak directly to IPU´s concerns, including a target to “develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels,” and another to “ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.” Parliaments are not explicitly mentioned in this goal, but they are clearly implied. The President stressed that IPU would continue to push for parliaments to be featured in either one of the targets or the indicators that will eventually be elaborated to monitor progress on the implementation of the goal.

Post-Bali agenda: where does parliamentary oversight fit in?

30 SEPTEMBER 2014

The WTO Public Forum gathers in Geneva over 1,500 representatives from civil society, academia, business, the media, governments, MPs and inter-governmental organizations. ©WTO/Studio Casagrande

MPs will meet in Geneva on 1 October for the Parliamentary session within the framework of the WTO Public Forum 2014 to address the oversight role of parliaments in the post-Bali agenda. The meeting takes place at a crucial time as the fate of the historical agreement reached by WTO Members in Bali, Indonesia in December 2013 to introduce trade facilitation measures is unclear due to disagreements over food security. Governments now have the responsibility to find a solution to the deadlock so the agreement which could create more than an estimated US$1 trillion in world export gains, can come into force. Parliaments, for their part, must play a central role in overseeing current negotiations and in scrutinizing the implementation of commitments should WTO Members overcome the current impasse. Five panelists, Bernd Lange and Helmut Scholz, Members of the European Parliament, Ablassé Ouedraogo, Burkinabe MP, Kil Jeong-woo, Korean MP, and Arancha González, Executive Director or the International Trade Centre (ITC), will lead the debate at the parliamentary event. The session will also be the opportunity to instill new energy into the legislative dimension of the multilateral trade system and to convey to the WTO the concerns and aspirations of citizens, business and other stakeholders. This approach is entirely in line with the title of this year´s WTO Public Forum: “Why trade matters to everyone” Jointly organized by IPU and the European Parliament, the Parliamentary session has become a tradition within the Public Forum, a three-day event gathering  over 1,500 representatives from civil society, academia, business, the media, governments, MPs and inter-governmental organizations.

Election of new IPU president to take center stage of 131st Assembly

30 SEPTEMBER 2014

Achieving gender equality, ending violence against women” is the main theme of IPU´s 131st Assembly taking place in Geneva on 12-16 October ©IPU

The election of a new IPU president will be one of the main highlights of a content-rich 131st Assembly in Geneva on 12-16 October.  The new president will take over from Abdelwahad Radi, who ends his three-year mandate at the end of the event. The outcome will cement the new IPU leadership structure following the election of Secretary General Martin Chungong in March this year. Indonesian MP Nurhayati Ali Assegaf, Speaker of the Australian Parliament Bronwyn Bishop, Bangladesh MP Saber Chowdhury and former Speaker of the Maldives Parliament Abdulla Shahid have so far declared their candidatures for the post. Over 120 IPU Member parliaments involving more than 650 MPs have so far registered to attend the 131st Assembly. Among them, there are more than 75 Speakers and Deputy Speakers of Parliament, as well as a significant percentage of women and young MPs.

The main theme of the Assembly is “Achieving gender equality, ending violence against women”. The issue will also be the subject of the ceremony for the Future Policy Award 2014, an annual prize recognizing good and effective policies in a given area.

IPU Members will also adopt an emergency resolution with proposals for a debate including the rights of the Palestinian people; the role of MPs and IPU in fighting terrorism and extremism, including the Islamic State and the Levant (ISIL) and other groups, as well as action to combat human trafficking.

A resolution on “International law as it relates to national sovereignty, non-intervention in the internal affairs of States and human rights” will also be adopted by IPU Members on the concluding day. A packed agenda includes discussions on water governance, climate change, cooperation to counter the global drug problem, the role of parliaments in striking a balance between national security and individual freedoms, and the influence of corporate investment in sustainable development.

A roundtable on the situation in the Middle East convened by the Committee on Middle East Questions in parallel to the 131st Assembly will also take place. IPU Members and UN representatives will look at what parliaments can do to promote and secure peace between Israel and Palestine following recent events, as well as IPU’s role in promoting peace in the region as a whole.

The 131st Assembly will continue its nearly 30-year tradition to bring together women parliamentariansfrom across the world. They will debate the impact of women in parliament.

IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians will similarly meet to tackle new and existing cases involving the human rights abuses of MPs and will submit resolutions for adoption by IPU’s Governing Council.

There are also important pre- and post-Assembly events. About 120 MPs from around the world will gather on 10-11 October for the First IPU Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians aimed at finding ways and means to ensure youth participation in politics. An outcome document will feed into the discussions of theForum of Young Parliamentarians. On 17 October, after the formal closing of the Assembly, a Workshop on Good Nuclear Disarmament Practice will be held as part of IPU´s work to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Madagascar and Guinea will formally re-apply for affiliation to IPU, bringing the Organization’s total membership to 166 national parliaments.

Take part in the Assembly debates through Twitter using #IPU131. Photos from the Assembly will be available for free download and use at: http://www.ipu.org/131pics

Taking democracy to task at the first ever IPU Global Conference of Young MPs

30 SEPTEMBER 2014

IPU´s commitment to supporting youth participation in politics dates back to 2010. One year later, IPU established the Forum of Young Parliamentarians. ©IPU

Some 120 MPs are meeting in Geneva on 10-11 October for the first ever IPU Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians aimed at finding ways and means to ensure youth participation in politics. The Conference, “Taking Democracy to Task”, will involve young members of parliament (below 45 years old), a group of senior MPs, youth leaders from other walks of life and international experts. An IPU analysis on youth participation in parliament to be launched on the first day of the Conference will take stock of the current trends in youth political participation and representation.

Various panel discussions during the two-day event will address key questions, including barriers to young people entering politics, the double discrimination faced by women  based on age and sex and the existence of youth movements and platforms as a stepping stone to parliament. Questions such as why are so few young people members of parliament today?; is it true that young people are apathetic, apolitical and angry citizens?;  how to open up politics and parliament to young people?; and how to maintain youth participation in the international agenda? will be tackled.

During the past few years, the world has witnessed the wide-scale mobilization of young people on democracy and social and economic issues in many countries. Demonstrations, boycotts and activism on the streets of cities such as Cairo, Tunis, Athens, Madrid, Bangkok, New York, Montreal and Rio de Janeiro have shown the will and desire of young people to have a say in politics. However, reality is that political and electoral disenchantment among youth is a growing and worrying fact in all regions. Although people between the ages of 15 and 25 currently represent one fifth of the world population, today fewer than two per cent of MPs around the world are in their 20s and only 12 per cent are in their 30s.

Funded by Worldwide Support for Development (WSD), the Conference will take place on the eve of IPU´s 131st Assembly and will produce an outcome document that will provide guidelines for decision-making to enhance youth participation in parliament. IPU´s commitment to supporting youth participation in politics dates back to 2010 with the adoption of the resolution on “Youth Participation in the democratic process” at the 122nd Assembly in Bangkok. One year later, IPU established the Forum of Young Parliamentarians, a formal and permanent body dedicated to enhancing the quantitative and qualitative participation of young people in parliaments and in IPU.
 
Join the discussions during the Conference and the Forum of Young Parliamentarians after using Twitter #YoungMPs

Ending the cycle of violence against girls in Asia-Pacific

18 SEPTEMBER 2014

MPs and parliamentary staff from Asia-Pacific address the three most prevalent forms of violence against girls in the region: early marriage, sexual violence and domestic violence. ©Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

MPs and parliamentary staff from the Asia-Pacific region are meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 23-25 September to find concrete ways to prevent and combat violence against girls at national level through legislation and its enforcement. During the three-day event "Ending the cycle of violence against girls in Asia-Pacific" organized jointly by the Parliament of Bangladesh and IPU, special emphasis will be placed on the three most prevalent forms of violence against girls in the region: early marriage, sexual violence and domestic violence. Funded by Worldwide Support for Development (WSD) and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), the meeting will also be an opportunity to exchange experiences and knowledge, as well as enable participants to develop strategies and actions to tackle this issue given their unique national parliamentary role in leading and spearheading efforts to bring about change. Discussions will feed into a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in cooperation with IPU to review existing legislation in Asia-Pacific countries relevant to child marriage. Figures on violence against girls are alarming. According to a recent report by UNICEF, around 120 million girls under the age of 20 worldwide (about 1 in 10) have experienced sexual violence whilst one in three girls and women aged 15 to 19 (84 million) have been victims of emotional, physical or sexual violence committed by their husbands or partners. In addition, an estimated one-third of girls in the developing world will be married before the age of 18 with child brides having twice the pregnancy death rate of women in their 20s.

Strengthening African parliaments work on human rights

18 SEPTEMBER 2014

The meeting for African MPs is one of several regional events aimed at providing a better understanding of the UN Human Rights Council and its UPR. The previous one was held in Montevideo for Latin American MPs. ©IPU

African MPs will gather in Rabat, Morocco, on 29-30 September to find ways on how parliaments can contribute to promoting human rights at the national level and enhance the work of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC). The meeting is part of a series of regional events organized by IPU to cement the cooperation between national parliaments and the HRC. The aim is to strengthen understanding on how the HRC functions and on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the mechanism set up by the UN to improve the human rights situation in all countries. The Rabat meeting has been jointly organized by the Moroccan Parliament, IPU and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in partnership with the Inter-ministerial Delegation for Human Rights and the National Human Rights Council of Morocco. Members of national human rights institutions, civil society, as well as international organizations present in Morocco will also participate. MPs will identify good parliamentary practice in working with the HRC and in promoting and protecting human rights. In recent years, IPU has made it a priority to raise awareness among MPs about the Council and the contribution they can make to its work.

Indigenous representation in parliament: challenges and opportunities

15 SEPTEMBER 2014

An indigenous woman takes part in the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in New York. ©UN Photo/L. Felipe

What are the challenges and opportunities in increasing the numbers of indigenous MPs? How can indigenous MPs effectively represent their constituencies? Where do parliaments fit in the broader picture of indigenous peoples’ political participation? These are questions to be addressed at a side event to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in New York on 22-23 September. Organized by IPU, the event on 23 September - “The Participation of Indigenous Peoples in Parliament”- will not only bring together MPs but also representatives from international organizations such as the UN and Chief Wilton Littlechild, Chairperson of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and former Canadian MP.  The meeting will also provide an important opportunity to present two new publications on indigenous peoples rights and political participation:  an IPU survey “Beyond numbers: the participation of indigenous peoples in parliament”, and a Handbook for Parliamentarians on “Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”, jointly produced by IPU, OHCHR, UNDP, IFAD and SPFII. There are approximately 370 million indigenous peoples in some 90 countries throughout the world. While they constitute five per cent of the world’s population, they make up 15 per cent of the world’s disadvantaged. Of the 7,000 languages in the world today, more than 4,000 are spoken by indigenous peoples.

Human rights mission to Zambia seeks to make progress on cases

15 SEPTEMBER 2014

An on-site IPU mission will complete investigations on 18 cases of Zambian opposition MPs. Its preliminary conclusions will be submitted to the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians in October. ©IPU

An on-site mission to Zambia on 22-25 September led by the President of IPU´s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians Juan Pablo Letelier will complete investigations on 18 cases involving opposition members of the National Assembly. The cases have to be seen in the context of the rise to power in 2011 of the Patriotic Front. IPU is concerned by incidents of alleged police harassment, including the arbitrary detention of parliamentarians and allegations that opposition MPs cannot fully exercise their right to freedom of assembly. In a resolution adopted in March 2014, IPU highlighted the cases of opposition MPs Kenneth Konga and Garry Nkombo. Konga allegedly collapsed during prolonged interrogation by law enforcers and suffered a stroke as a result whilst Nkombo, was reportedly attacked by a government minister in full view of the police. The IPU mission will also seek clarification on the situation of three opposition MPs – Dora Siliya, Maxwell Mwale and Hastings Sililo - who were disqualified from parliament on grounds of corrupt or illegal practices. The mission will meet with relevant parliamentary, executive and judicial authorities during its time in Zambia, as well as the 18 opposition MPs. It will submit its preliminary conclusions to the Committee when it meets in October.

Climate Summit 2014 – the parliamentary perspective

15 SEPTEMBER 2014

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong agree to promote parliamentary action to implement any future climate change pact. ©UN Photo/Kim Haughton

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong will take part in the Climate Summit 2014 on 23 September in New York where world leaders will push forward efforts to reach an ambitious and legally binding global agreement on climate change. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited leaders from government, parliament, finance, business and civil society to this event to galvanize climate action. He has asked for bold announcements and actions to be announced at the Summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) session in Paris in 2015. By the end of the Paris meeting, all nations, including the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, would be bound by a universal agreement on climate change for the first time in more than 20 years of UN negotiations. Long concerned by climate change, IPU has taken the lead in mobilizing parliaments to take an active part in this process. As part of these efforts MPs will meet in parallel to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP20/CMP10) in the Peruvian capital, Lima from 1 to 12 December. They will examine how to enhance the efficiency of parliamentary action on climate change, in particular through oversight of the implementation of international agreements at the national level.

Putting gender at the heart of parliamentary work in Burundi

29 AUGUST 2014

IPU supports projects in several countries aimed at reinforcing the capacities of women MPs and enhancing gender equality in national parliaments ©IPU

MPs, parliamentary staff, government officials and representatives of civil society are meeting in Burundi to examine how to improve parliament´s capacity to mainstream gender issues in its work. At a three-day event organized by IPU and the Burundian parliament in Bujumbura from 2-4 September, participants will look at ways to increase parliamentary knowledge and skills on effective ways to integrate gender equality in all legislative action. Special attention will be paid to preparing Burundian parliamentarians in addressing the forthcoming budgetary debate with a gender perspective. The meeting in Bujumbura will also focus on setting up mechanisms and strategies that take gender into account when parliament implements its overall legislative and oversight functions. Additionally, the necessity to promote partnerships between women and men MPs and synergies between parliament, government and citizens, will be addressed as a way forward in making parliament a model for gender mainstreaming in Burundi. The meeting is part of an IPU support project aimed at reinforcing the capacities of women MPs and enhancing gender equality. It follows a series of similar events to help national parliaments in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific regions to assess and increase their gender sensitivity. Special support has been provided to post-conflict countries, such as Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire and Rwanda.

Reviewing and improving the Common Principles for Parliamentary Development

15 AUGUST 2014

IPU has been engaged in a long-term programme to support the Myanmar Parliament since 2012. ©IPU

Representatives from Asian national parliaments and parliamentary development organizations will meet on 28-29 August in Manila, hosted by the Congress of the Philippines, to provide final input to the review and improvement of the Common Principles for Parliamentary Development. The Principles, which began to be drafted in November 2013 with contributions from various stakeholders, aim to provide clear and helpful guidelines to identify what is more important and aspirational in parliamentary development as a  means of ensuring strong, functioning and fully inclusive legislative institutions. Using a common language that all actors involved in the field of parliamentary development can share, this ambitious project ensures that parliaments retain ownership of their own development process adapting it to their history, institutions and local circumstances. The Principles underline the importance of parliamentary development as a political sensitive area of cooperation and take into account the increasing understanding that this process cannot be directed externally. Change must come from within. The drafting group - European Parliament, the French National Assembly, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and IPU – will present its work to date and provide a briefing on content, scope and implications of the draft Common Principles. Participants will then exchange experiences in providing parliamentary development support at the national level and will discuss ways to implement the Principles, as well as mechanisms for regular follow-up and exchange of experiences. The meeting will result in a revised text of the Common Principles for endorsement by parliaments and parliamentary development organizations. (More information)

IPU calls for respect of parliamentary immunity and freedom of expression of DRC MPs

6 AUGUST 2014

The IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians is currently working on the cases of 34 MPs and former MPs in the DRC. ©IPU

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is deeply concerned by the arrest and detention of DRC opposition MP, Mr. Jean-Bertrand Ewanga, in light of serious allegations that they violate his parliamentary immunity and freedom of expression. IPU is calling for the DRC authorities and the newly established Constitutional Court to ensure full respect for parliamentary immunity and Mr. Ewanga’s fundamental rights in the ongoing judicial process. It also calls for the immediate implementation of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision ordering the placement of Mr. Ewanga under house arrest instead of his detention in a Kinshasa prison. Mr. Ewanga, General Secretary of the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC), is accused of inciting hatred and insulting the Head of State - accusations he denies and considers to be politically motivated. He was arrested after taking part in an opposition rally on 4 August against a proposed constitutional amendment that would reportedly enable President Joseph Kabila to run for a third term in the elections due in 2016. DRC law states that MPs cannot be arrested without prior consent from the Parliament except in cases of flagrante delicto. However, it appears that Mr. Ewanga was not arrested during the rally but at his home 24 hours later. The Supreme Court has referred the matter to the newly-established Constitutional Court. Without an appeal system in place for parliamentarians in DRC, Mr. Ewanga will be immediately tried for the above-mentioned charges unless the Constitutional Court rules in his favour. In such a case, it would then be up to the National Assembly to decide if the parliamentarian´s immunity ought to be waived or not. “IPU welcomes the long-awaited establishment of the Constitutional Court and hopes that it will issue an exemplary ruling in this case, in strict compliance with the Constitution of the DRC and international standards. It will be a real test of its impartiality and independence,” said IPU’s Secretary General, Mr. Martin Chungong. “At such a critical time when the Constitution is under review, it is all the more important that MPs’ freedom of expression be scrupulously respected,” he added. The IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, which is currently working on the cases of 34 MPs and former MPs in the DRC, has repeatedly expressed concerns regarding the independence of the judiciary, due process and freedom of opinion and expression for parliamentarians of the DRC.

IPU calls for full investigation into death threats against Maldivian MPs

4 AUGUST 2014

IPU is deeply concerned by the death threats against Eva Abdullah (above) and seven other Maldivian opposition MPs. ©Parliament of Maldives

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has called for a speedy and effective investigation into the death threats made in recent days against eight Maldivian opposition MPs and is urging the authorities to guarantee full protection of all parliamentarians’ physical integrity. IPU´s statement comes after two death threats were simultaneously sent by text message to prominent members of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Deputy Speaker of the People´s Majlis, Moosa Manik, and former Speaker Abdulla Shahid, as well as Maria Didi, Rozeyna Adam, Eva Abdullah, Imthiyaz Fahmy, Ali Azim and Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. IPU is deeply concerned by these acts of intimidation against MPs in a country where many parliamentarians have been victims of attacks, harassment and arbitrary arrests in recent years. IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong said “ensuring that every member of parliament can speak their mind freely without fear of reprisal is essential to democracy. There can be no excuse for violent extremism and impunity. The authorities must act with the necessary resolve to bring the culprits to justice.” In recent years, IPU has been actively engaged with the People’s Majlis to strengthen democracy in the Maldives and protect MPs in the exercise of their functions. Secretary General Chungong stressed that “the authorities’ response to the threats and their capacity to promote, with the help of the opposition, real inclusiveness and political dialogue will be a litmus test for the democratic process in the Maldives.” “I call on all those concerned to bear this in mind and I reiterate the IPU’s continued readiness to provide any assistance to help genuine efforts in this regard succeed,” he added.

IPU’s President Abdelwahad Radi awarded Morocco´s highest distinction

4 AUGUST 2014

The Order of the Throne is a State decoration of the Kingdom of Morocco awarded for distinguished service of a civil or military nature. ©Swiss Parliament

The President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Abdelwahad Radi, has been awarded Morocco´s highest civil distinction for his political and parliamentary leadership and long-standing dedication to public service. Radi was decorated with the Wissam ‘Al Arch – Knight of the Order of the Throne of the Kingdom of Morocco (Exceptional Class) by HRH King Mohamed VI in a ceremony held at the Royal Palace in Rabat on 31 July to mark the 15th anniversary of the monarch’s accession to the throne. Former Speaker of the Moroccan House of Representatives, Abdelwahad Radi (born in Salé in 1935) started his political career as a young student and a founding and active member of social, cultural and trade-union associations. Head of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USPF) since November 2008, he has been a Member of Parliament since 1963 and has held government posts such as Minister of International Cooperation and Minister of Justice. Since 1990, he has participated in all IPU Conferences/Assemblies, chairing the 107th Assembly in Marrakech in 2002. He was a member of the Executive Committee (2004-2008) and was elected for his three-year mandate as President of IPU in October 2011 at the 189th session of the Governing Council in Bern. He has also developed a remarkable academic career, lecturing in Social Psychology and heading the Department of Philosophy, Sociology and Psychology at the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences at the Mohamed V University (Rabat). The Order of the Throne is a State decoration of the Kingdom of Morocco awarded for distinguished service of a civil or military nature. The Order was instituted in 1963 by the late King Hassan II and is awarded in five classes, one exceptional and four ordinary classes. The Exceptional Class or Grand Cordon, the one awarded to the IPU President, is limited to 20 recipients at any one time.

IPU: 125 years of democratic struggle for peace

29 JULY 2014

As part of its 125th anniversary commemorative events, IPU has published “125 years of democratic struggle for peace”, a booklet retracing the main themes of the organization over the years, including peace, democracy, gender equality and human rights. The publication highlights ways in which the organization has influenced, and continues to influence, international relations. Before the League of Nations, before the United Nations, there was the IPU, which over the years has become the organization that most closely reflects world public opinion, deriving its legitimacy from the participation of the elected representatives of the people.

Strengthening Uganda´s parliamentary response to MNCH

29 JULY 2014

Bridging the gap between knowledge and action regarding MNCH is key to reaching Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4&5. ©Reuters/S. Sibeko, 2013

IPU and the Parliament of Uganda have signed an agreement to improve Uganda’s  national legislative environment for maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH). The partnership seeks to support the implementation of the Ugandan parliament’s advocacy strategy on MNCH, including the drafting and tabling of a bill addressing this issue and support for a National Health Insurance Bill to be fast tracked to enable the roll out of a universal healthcare system in the country. Activities will also include mass media campaigns to improve awareness among citizens, training to parliamentarians on how to fully engage in the budgeting process for MNCH programmes and the promotion of a civil registration and vital statistic system (CRVS). Having in place a CRVS is critical to ensuring the health of newborns and children. It also guarantees more accountability to MNCH efforts as planning will be better informed, interventions more targeted, and resources more appropriately allocated. Bridging the gap between knowledge and action for health is key to reaching Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 & 5, and to strengthening health systems so that women and children around the world have the care they need to live healthy, productive lives. The agreement, to be implemented between June and December 2014, was signed by the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament Rebecca Kadaga and IPU´s Secretary General Martin Chungong.

Promoting the total elimination of nuclear weapons

29 JULY 2014

IPU adopted a landmark resolution on nuclear disarmament - “Toward a Nuclear Weapon Free World: The Contribution of Parliaments” – at its 130th Assembly on March 2014. ©IPU, 2014

26 September 2014 will mark the first ever International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Established by UN General Assembly resolution 68/32, the Day aims to enhance public awareness and education about the threat posed to humanity by nuclear weapons and the need for their total elimination. IPU has played an active role in mobilizing parliamentary action towards achieving the common goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world. At its 130th Assembly in Geneva on March this year, the Organization adopted a landmark resolution - “Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: The contribution of parliaments” – which inter aliacalls on parliaments to work with their governments on eliminating the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines, support the start of negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention or package of agreements,  and to “use all available tools including committees to monitor national implementation of disarmament commitments, including by scrutinizing legislation, budgets and progress reports”. The far-reaching nature of the resolution was significant in that it was adopted with the participation and consent of parliaments from virtually all of the countries possessing nuclear weapons. The IPU hence calls on all parliaments and parliamentarians to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation as objectives of the highest priority and urgency. It also encourages Members to promote and commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, including by participating in the UNFOLD ZERO campaign.

Mobilizing MPs to end statelessness

29 JULY 2014

Statelessness is a massive problem that affects up to 10 million people worldwide, according to UNHCR’s estimates.

IPU and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are launching the second edition of the Nationality and Statelessness Handbook for Parliamentarians. The publication provides MPs with a broad description of the international principles governing nationality and statelessness. It also offers positive examples of how protracted situations of statelessness have been resolved and provides a collection of “good practices” that illustrate that where there is political will stateless individuals can finally enjoy the right to a nationality. The publication of this Handbook coincides with the launch by UNHCR of a 10-year campaign to end statelessness in which MPs’ efforts are crucial to reaching this ambitious goal. MPs can help end statelessness by adopting domestic legislation that is consistent with international law and by ensuring its implementation. Instead of disappearing new situations of statelessness have developed in past decades worldwide – contributing to a problem that by UNCHR estimates now affects up to 10 million people. Technically stateless people are not citizens of the country where they live (or of any other country) and they are denied basic rights and access to employment, housing, education, health care and pensions. The Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (1954) and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness are the principal international instruments for addressing the issue. The IPU encourages all States that have not yet done so to accede to these instruments and to withdraw any reservations made at the time of accession.

Raising visibility of parliament in Seychelles

16 JULY 2014

©National Assembly of Seychelles

Journalists, MPs and parliamentary staff will work on ways to raise awareness and understanding of parliament’s work in Seychelles during a two-day training on 16-17 July that also aims to improve relations between the media and the legislative body. Organized by the National Assembly of Seychelles and IPU, the training is part of a programme to help the parliament communicate better with the media. The role, function and working methods of parliament will be addressed with a review of how parliament is currently covered in the Seychelles media. Issues such as access to and freedom of information, freedom of expression, ethics in journalism and media regulation will also be examined. In addition, the training will involve practical communications skills as well as facilitate the development of a draft communications plan for the parliament.

Translating international human rights commitments into national realities in Latin America

14 JULY 2014

The meeting for Latina American MPs is one of several regional event arrived at providing a better understanding of the UN Human Rights Council and its UPR. ©UN photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Latin American MPs will examine how to mobilize stronger parliamentary involvement in the work of the UN Human Rights Council and its evaluation mechanism, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), at a meeting in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, on 15-16 July. The meeting, jointly organized by IPU and the Uruguay General Assembly in collaboration with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), is part of a series of regional events also aimed at providing a better understanding of the Human Rights Council and the UPR.  The Montevideo meeting will identify good parliamentary practice on collaboration with the Council and on promoting human rights in general. This includes the involvement of civil society bodies and national human rights organizations, some of whom will be participating at the meeting. So far, 15 countries from Latin America will be attending the gathering. A similar parliamentary seminar for Central and Eastern Europe was held in February 2014 with other regional events due to take place in Africa later this year and in Asia in 2015. Parliaments play a critical role in implementing UPR recommendations and in ensuring the protection of human rights through legislation. The Human Rights Council recently underlined this in a resolution calling on governments to more actively involve parliaments in all stages of the UPR. The resolution also stressed IPU’s efforts in contributing to the UN’s work and called on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to regularly update it on what IPU is doing to help parliaments strengthen their human rights work, including any that relates to the Human Rights Council and the UPR.

Overcoming legal obstacles to AIDS response

14 JULY 2014

The Parliamentary meeting during the XX international AIDS Conference will also identify legislature blocks on accessing treatment to the disease. ©IPU

Parliamentarians from around the world will look at finding ways to overcome legal obstacles in the fight against AIDS at a meeting on 21 July in Melbourne, Australia. The meeting, taking place in parallel with the XX International AIDS Conference and jointly funded by IPU, the Japanese agency Worldwide Support for Development (WSD), UNDP and UNAIDS, will map out what successes there have been in recent years in the AIDS response. It will also identify legislative blocks on prevention efforts and on accessing treatment. The parliamentary meeting, a regular feature since the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City in 2008, will enable parliamentarians, including members of IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal, Newborn and Child Health to examine different national and regional ways to collaborate on finding answers to the challenges being faced. The meeting, hosted by the State Parliament of Victoria,  also aims to define follow-up action on parliamentary action on HIV/AIDS, including encouraging effective oversight of national governments on the AIDS response. The parliamentary meetings during the International AIDS conferences have proved to be valuable in providing the parliamentary community an opportunity to address key trends and challenges in the effort to tackle the HIV/AIDS epidemic with a global perspective.

New social contract needed for sustainable development

9 JULY 2014

Sustainable development should be about what matters most – human well-being. ©Reuters/G. Liang

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has called for a rethink on the economic model of sustainable development in order to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation and place people at the centre of development. Speaking during a Ministerial dialogue on implementing Rio +20 at the UN’s High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development on 7th July in New York, he stressed that sustainable development is about human well-being that balances material comforts with assets that make people happy such as education, health, the environment and the family. Economic growth cannot be the end game for the sake of it. Progress should not be measured in GDP and other economic indicators alone, he urged. Instead, the world ought to seriously invest in the science of measuring well-being and integrating these indicators into policy-making. There was also a need for a new balance between individual and social interests so that all people could have the opportunity to develop and flourish. This new “social contract” could be achieved through democratic governance and the reform of politics and government and other public institutions to make them more accountable to citizens. “As long as we don’t have institutions that are truly representative of all people, including the poor and most marginalized and designed to satisfy the needs of society as a whole, the universal agenda will continue to elude us,” he argued.

Committing to peace and democracy through universal membership

1 JULY 2014

©IPU

IPU’s Executive Committee has committed to obtaining universal membership of the Organization in a concerted bid to achieve gender equality, development, peace through dialogue and to defend human rights around the world. In a statement during an extraordinary session to officially mark the 125th anniversary of the Organization, the Executive Committee said universal membership would allow the Organization to leave a distinctive mark on the world scene in advancing peace and democracy. The Executive Committee also highlighted the strengthening of IPU’s relationship with the United Nations and the ongoing work to mobilize IPU Members to contribute to the development of the new sustainable development goals.