Briefing Room

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.

MPs claim central role in tackling climate change

18 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 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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

An end of an era as IPU Secretary General Anders Johnsson retires

27 JUIN 2014

©UIP

The retirement of Anders B. Johnsson as IPU Secretary General on 30th June marks the end of an era in which the Organization has witnessed significant change. In the 16 years since he took on the challenge, IPU has not only grown in membership, but has also made great strides in its efforts to advance democracy through advocacy, facilitating dialogue and providing direct support to parliaments and parliamentarians. In a letter to IPU’s membership, Johnsson thanked Members for their unstinting support and commitment during a time when the world had undergone tumultuous changes and multi-lateral cooperation had been tested time and time again. The financial crisis and the public protests on governance, the Arab Spring, Middle East conflicts including Iraq, Syria as well as the war on terror and the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals, have all marked IPU and democracy in one way or another. Despite the changes the Organization has undergone, Johnsson stressed, IPU remains true to the values on which it was founded.

 

UN encourages greater involvement of parliaments in human rights evaluation

27 JUNE 2014

Human Rights : Central and Eastern European MPs attended in Bucharest in February the first parliamentary seminar organized by IPU to promote a better understanding of the work of the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism. ©IPU

The UN Human Rights Council has encouraged governments to promote the involvement of parliaments in all stages of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the evaluation mechanism of human rights in all UN member States. In a resolution passed on 27 June, the Council stressed national parliaments should be relevant actors in the consultation process of the respective national UPRs and in the implementation of its recommendations. The Council acknowledges States are increasingly including parliamentarians in the national delegations to the UPR but points out the need to further promote and enhance cooperation between national parliaments and national human rights institutions and civil society. It welcomes IPU’s efforts to contribute to the work of the UN and calls the High Commissioner to regularly update it on what the Organization is doing to help parliaments in providing a better response regarding human rights legislation. It also highlights an IPU initiative to promote a better understanding of the work of the Human Rights Council and its UPR in the various regions of the world. A parliamentary seminar for Central and Eastern Europe was held in February 2014 with similar events due to take place in Latin America and the Africa region later this year and in Asia in 2015. Parliaments play a critical role in the implementation of the UPR recommendations and in ensuring the protection of human rights through legislation. At a parallel event to the Human Rights Council focusing on parliaments’ critical contribution to human rights, IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson said it is the responsibility of parliaments to make sure what happens at the Council in Geneva matters back home.

Ongoing support to help modernize Tunisian parliament

27 JUNE 2014

Tunisia: Tunisia will hold parliamentary elections on 26 October and a presidential poll a month later in the latest steps towards full democracy. The polls will be the first since Tunisia adopted a new constitution this year. ©Reuters/Z. Souissi

An IPU delegation to Tunisia on 24-27 June conducted several working sessions with MPs and staff on the degree of administrative and financial autonomy of the national parliament as part of a wider modernization programme of the institution. In collaboration with the administrative and political leadership of the Constituent National Assembly, the mission analyzed the current situation and identified strengths and weaknesses, obstacles and opportunities towards the realization of this project. The team of experts will issue a report within two weeks proposing recommendations and a priority action strategy to improve the operational functioning of the institution. Having in place a fully functioning administrative and financial structure is crucial for the independence of parliaments, shielding them against political pressure from executive government.  The visit took place as the Tunisian Assembly agreed to hold parliamentary elections on 26 October and a presidential poll a month later in the latest steps towards full democracy. The polls will be the first since Tunisia adopted a new constitution this year, and the second since the former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country after mass protests against him in 2011. Tunisia was the cradle of the “Arab Spring” and has managed to conduct a relatively smooth political transition in contrast to other countries which ousted long-standing leaders three years ago.

IPU to mark 125 years of global parliamentary action on peace and democracy

20 JUNE 2014

Frédéric Passy (left) and William Randal Cremer (right), the two IPU co-founders ©IPU

IPU has celebrated 125 years of global parliamentary action on resolving conflicts and building democracy on 30th June, the anniversary of its creation in 1889. In that time, eight IPU leaders have won the Nobel Peace Prize. The oldest multi-lateral political organization in the world, IPU has played an important role in; the creation of the UN, inter-State relations during the Cold War; helping countries in post-conflict to transition smoothly into democracy, setting international standards on elections and parliamentary working methods and in increasing women’s political participation globally. Its Members have also signed up to IPU’s Universal Declaration on Democracy, the only existing text to define the parameters of democracy or establish its scope. A formal anniversary event was held in Geneva with the UN which looked at how IPU has helped shape a radically different world where peace, human rights, equality and human development underpin a desire for greater democracy. The event was also an opportunity to discuss some of the many challenges democracy faces today. The anniversary date of 30th June also marked the end of Anders B. Johnsson’s tenure as IPU Secretary General after 16 years during which the Organization has worked in all regions to promote and build democracy. Cameroonian national Martin Chungong has  taken over as IPU Secretary General, the first African to hold the post.

Please click here to see the anniversary debate

Reviewing the Common Principles for Parliamentary Development

13 JUNE 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

IPU is calling on parliaments and international organizations supporting parliaments for input on a new set of Common Principles for Parliamentary Development. The ambitious project is aimed at improving the quality of parliamentary development support that is made available to parliaments through better cooperation and co-ordination. The principles seek to provide a set of guidelines that all actors engaged with parliamentary development can use to improve the suitability and effectiveness of assistance to parliaments, as well as to support cooperation and knowledge development. They will also provide clear language for parliaments and development practitioners to ensure that parliaments retain ownership of their own development process and that it is adapted to their history, institutions and local circumstances. The requested comments and suggestions, to be submitted by 15 July using a feedback form , are crucial to making the Common Principles meaningful for parliamentary development. Contributions will also inform discussions at an upcoming meeting in the Asia region in the next few months to review the principles. The meeting will also provide the opportunity to review and improve the draft Common Principles and to consider approaches to their practical implementation at the national level, including the use of existing good practices of cooperation and coordination.

Bringing a youth perspective to the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

13 JUNE 2014

Young people account for nearly 44 percent of the world’s unemployed. Finding solutions to ensure youth employment in the future is critical for global development. ©REUTERS/K. Lamarque

Young people, including seven MPs from IPU’s Forum of Young Parliamentarians have made a global call for UN Member States to include a series of youth-focused measures in the development agenda set to take over from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) after 2015. The call at the end of the Youth Forum of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) followed a discussion on how to bring the voice of youth into the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). States were urged, amongst other things, to ensure universal access to quality education, sexual and reproductive health and inclusive participation in decision-making processes, as well as to increase youth access to jobs and livelihoods, promote human rights and gender equality and gather better data on youth. With 1.8 billion people aged 10-24 in the world, the youth make up nearly 25 per cent of the global working population. However, they account for 43.7 per cent of the unemployed. Youth also remains under-represented in in political decision-making with less than two per cent of all MPs in their 20’s and 12 per cent in their 30’s. The global call reflects a broad consultation with young people via electronic surveys, social media and meetings around the world. It also stressed that the world’s demographic and development realities meant that the success of the post-development agenda depended on meeting the development needs of all young people and fulfilling their human rights.

Ending impunity on sexual violence in conflict

13 JUNE 2014

Speaker of the UK Parliament John Bercow with some of the MPs who attended the Global summit to end sexual violence in conflict and the parallel parliamentary event. ©BGIPU

An international parliamentary event on the fringe of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict on 12 June highlighted the key role parliaments and MPs can play to end this crime. Organized by the British Group of the IPU and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK, the event - “Implementing the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative” - focused on concrete actions that can be taken. Parliamentary delegates to the Summit, British MPs and civil society experts  shared examples on legislation, private members’ bills, and committee work across various countries that help hold governments to account on the issue. The Global Summit was the largest gathering on the subject, with the aim of creating irreversible momentum against sexual violence in conflict. The Summit, which welcomed more than 100 countries and 900 decision-makers, experts, NGOs, survivors, faith leaders, and international organizations with a shared commitment to ending sexual violence in conflict led to the launch of a new International Protocol with international standards for documenting and investigating sexual violence in conflict zones. The International Protocol will help to strengthen prosecutions for rape in conflict and increase chances for successful convictions. Decision makers, including MPs, were urged to strengthen their domestic laws so that perpetrators can be reliably prosecuted both in and outside the countries where they committed their crime. This includes introducing laws which support the aims and objectives of the International Criminal Court.

Preventing and addressing domestic violence in Tonga

28 MAY 2014

Parliamentarians in Tonga will be among those taking part in a national consultation on how to ensure implementation of the landmark Family Protection Act. ©Tongan Parliament

MPs, government officials, law enforcers, health practitioners, social workers, media and international experts are taking part in a national consultation to guarantee the implementation of a landmark piece of legislation in Tonga tackling violence against women and girls (VAGW) within the family. Between 3-6 June, they will gather in Nuku’alofa to develop a common strategy and plan of action to promote an effective enforcement of the Family Protection Act (FPA). Through debates, case studies, group activities and role play, participants will look for the best coordinated community response to family violence with a gender sensitive approach focused on victims’ rights. Organized by the FPA Implementation Task Force together with the Tongan Legislative Assembly, IPU, the Pacific Prevention Domestic Violence Program (PPDVP) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community Regional Rights Resources Team (SPC RRRT), the consultation will also discuss the establishment of a mechanism for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the law. This would include issues such as exchanging information, agreeing on a system of data collection and regularly reporting to parliament. Passed with a majority vote in parliament in September 2013, the FPA criminalizes domestic violence, establishes prompt police action and includes measures on prevention and awareness. It also provides for the establishment of two mechanisms dedicated to the implementation of the law – the Family Protection Advisory Council and the Family Protection Trust Fund. The Pacific region has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world. According to the National Study on Domestic Violence (2012), 77 per cent of Tongan women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lives.

IPU assessment to help define action plan for new Egyptian parliament

28 MAY 2014

Voting in Egypt’s presidential elections precedes the establishment of a new parliament on the roadmap to democracy in the Arab country. Parliamentary elections have been promised before the end of 2014. ©REUTERS/M. Abd El Ghany

An IPU assessment team will be in Egypt during the week of 9th June to identify and assess key challenges facing the development of a new Egyptian parliament. With elections for a new Egyptian president having taken place on 26 May, the country’s roadmap to democracy envisages parliamentary elections to follow in the coming months. A fully-functioning parliament with trained staff would need to be in place to support newly-elected MPs to do their work. With more than 3,100 parliamentary staff of varying skills and experience, strengthening human resources in the Egyptian parliament is a key priority in the coming months. The IPU assessment team will assess staff skills and help define a training plan for parliamentary staff. Working together with the Egyptian authorities, current practices and procedures in how parliament works will also be reviewed.  The mission precedes the establishment of a training and research institute responsible for the development of both staff and newly-elected parliamentarians so they can better carry out their representative and legislative functions. IPU and the Egyptian authorities signed an agreement in March this year to carry out a priority support programme aimed at developing a fully-functioning and representative parliament. The Organization has also recommended a series of affirmative action measures in a new electoral law that would ensure a minimum level of representation for women and other groups.

IPU deeply concerned by latest developments in Thailand

27 MAY 2014

IPU is calling for a peaceful and political solution to end the crisis in Thailand following the military coup. ©REUTERS/D. Sagolj

IPU deeply regrets the military coup in Thailand and is calling for a peaceful and political solution to the crisis in the country. Prior to the coup, IPU President Abdelwahad Radi had expressed alarm at the “profound polarization of Thai politics” which had initially led to the imposition of martial law. "For the democratic future of the country, it is critical that all sides urgently engage in a genuine political dialogue and find common ground on the way ahead in the interests of the Thai people." However, the rounding up of scores of Thai political leaders and other politicians in recent days had undermined any immediate chance of peaceful dialogue. The Organization is urging military authorities to respect human rights and a rapid return to civilian government through free and fair elections. Recalling the inalienable right of people everywhere to take part in government, directly or through their chosen representatives, President Radi called for free and fair elections to take place as soon as possible. "An elected parliament is a key pillar of democracy. It is not only essential that elections are organized quickly, but for all parties to respect their outcome," President Radi added.

UN calls a for new Cooperation Agreement with IPU

21 MAY 2014

©IPU

The UN has called for a new Cooperation Agreement to further enhance its engagement with IPU and national parliaments on key global issues relating to peace, development, human rights and democracy. In a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly on 19 May, Member States stressed that the new agreement should reflect the progress achieved over the past 20 years through this partnership and place the institutional relationship between them on a strong footing. In a substantive and forward-looking document, Member States welcome IPU’s work to pursue a more systematic engagement with the UN and highlight the active involvement of the Organization in providing input to the post-2015 development agenda. Sponsored by 87 countries, the resolution - Interaction between the United Nations, national parliaments and IPU – encourages IPU to continue to facilitate a parliamentary component to major UN conferences by bringing a legislative perspective to global talks and negotiations. UN headquarters in New York will be the venue for the Fourth Conference of Speakers of Parliament next year, just ahead of the UN Summit to mark the start of a new sustainable development era. “The Speakers’ Conference will provide a golden opportunity to galvanize political will for the new global agenda and more generally for our two communities – governments and parliaments - to join hands towards achieving our common objectives,” IPU President Abdelwahad Radi told the General Assembly. (See webcast of the General Assembly: 86th plenary meeting)

Outreach efforts to raise awareness of violence against women and girls in Sierra Leone

15 MAY 2014

©IPU/B. Filion

Twenty Sierra Leonean MPs will carry out outreach visits to their constituencies in the north and south of the country to build greater awareness and knowledge of violence against women and girls (VAWG). MPs will meet community leaders and women and will propose plans of action that can improve the lives of women and girls in their communities, both at home and outside. Concrete actions such as allowing girls to stay in school as long as possible and preventing early marriages can serve as a starting point to effectively address gender inequality. The aim of these visits between 16-24 May is to also create a climate of intolerance for VAWG and initiate a cultural shift by transforming individual and collective attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that condone the crime. In March, the same 20 MPs had taken part in training for all Sierra Leonian MPs aimed at strengthening understanding on the risk factors of VAWG. The training, jointly organized by the Sierra Leone Parliament and IPU also looked at how to address VAWG through more effective law implementation and preventive measures. Legislation on the issue in Sierra Leone has vastly improved with the adoption of various laws in recent years. However, many challenges remain, including inadequate resources, services and protection for victims, a lack of administrative and judicial capacity, stigma and limited awareness-raising campaigns to educate women about their rights.

Executive management training in Myanmar’s National Assembly

15 MAY 2014

©BeckerFraserPhotos

Senior parliamentary staff from the Hluttaw – Union Assembly of Myanmar – have taken part in a series of training courses to improve their managerial skills and to strengthen their capacity to plan, organize and deliver on legislative work. Rolled out in the context of IPU and UNDP´s support to the parliament of Myanmar since 2012, the courses were targeted at two different groups: executive managers (Directors-General and Deputy Directors-General) and managers and senior staff members, half of whom had already attended a first course in December 2013. The training emphasized the importance of a professional and impartial administration and of optimizing the day-to-day operations of the Secretariat. This can be done through a clearer definition of goals, delineation of roles and responsibilities, effective leadership, as well as strategic management with special attention given to the delegation of responsibilities. The Hluttaw comprises two chambers: the Pyithu Hluttaw (House of Representatives) and the Amyotha Hluttaw (House of Nationalities). They were elected in 2010 in the first democratic ballot in Myanmar since 1990.

IPU President calls for support on democratic governance goal on post-2015 agenda

15 MAY 2014

©IPU

IPU President Abdelwahad Radi has called for support from Member parliaments to ensure a goal on democratic governance that the Organization has been campaigning for is included in the post-2015 development agenda. An Open Working Group of the UN General Assembly has been working on developing a first proposal for new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the end of 2015. It is due to present its report this summer. Since early 2013, IPU has been urging the inclusion of a stand-alone goal on democratic governance with specific indicators relating to parliament. With little time left before the working group drafts the proposal that will inform the negotiations to decide the final set of SDGs, IPU is making a final push to ensure parliamentary engagement on such a goal. The lack of parliamentary involvement in the definition of the MDGs and governance over their implementation has had an impact on national ownership of development plans and the level of their success. To help inform MPs, a short brochure “Democratic governance as a goal for the world: A call to action from IPU” has been produced.

IPU welcomes the release of DRC MP Muhindo Nzangi under Amnesty Law

15 MAY 2014

IPU has welcomed the release on 2nd May of DRC MP Muhindo Nzangi from imprisonment in a series of amnesties granted by President Kabila through a new amnesty law. Nzangi had been sentenced in August 2013 to three years in jail at first and last instance by the Supreme Court on a charge of jeopardizing State security by criticizing the government in its dealing with the conflict in the east of the country. The Court stated the Nzagi´s intention was  “to alarm the people in that part of the country, to worry them and to foment doubt about the strength of the authorities, institutional stability and the public authorities, definitely causing unrest in Goma and the neighbouring area.” IPU had considered the sentencing of the MP a violation of his right to freedom of opinion and expression enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which the DRC is party. In a resolution adopted at IPU’s 130th Assembly in Geneva in March 2014, the Organization stressed Nzangi had not incited to violence in his remarks in a radio broadcast and called for his immediate release through the Amnesty Law which was adopted in February. IPU also deplored the lack of any avenue of appeal in the judicial process applying to MPs in DRC, where the Supreme Court has the only and final say on cases concerning parliamentarians.

IPU congratulates SEECP on the creation of its Parliamentary Assembly

15 MAY 2014

The Ukrainian crisis is a reminder that the vestiges of the Cold War remain, IPU President says. ©REUTERS/Y. Behrakis

IPU has congratulated the Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP) on the creation of its Parliamentary Assembly, particularly at a time when a crisis is unfolding on the region’s borders. IPU is looking forward to working closely with the new Parliamentary Assembly and hoping it will join the Organization’s efforts in mobilizing parliamentary action at the national and regional levels through the group of Associate Members and Observers to the IPU. In a message from IPU President Abdelwahad Radi relayed to the SEECP Parliamentary Assembly at its inauguration in the Romanian capital, Bucharest, the IPU President said the crisis in Ukraine was a painful reminder that the vestiges of the Cold War were far from over. The new Assembly and MPs from the region could play an important role in helping to defuse tensions through the promotion of dialogue and consultations to find solutions. Looking to the future, IPU has also invited the SEECP Parliamentary Assembly to get actively involved in the elaboration of a new set of goals that will define the post-2015 development agenda which will need parliamentary support to be fully effective.

IPU recommends special measures in Egyptian electoral law to ensure representative parliament

14 MAY 2014

IPU and Egypt signed an agreement to support the Arab country in developing a fully functioning and representative parliament ©IPU

IPU has recommended a comprehensive series of affirmative action and implementation measures aimed at ensuring a minimum-level representation of women and other under-represented groups in the next Egyptian parliament. The recommendations to Ministers and the committee working on drafting a new electoral law to be adopted before elections for a new parliament can go ahead this year were made by an IPU mission to Egypt in late April. Options of having no less than 25 and up to 50 per cent of women in parliament were presented, with 25 per cent reflecting the minimum figure required for women’s participation in local government in Egypt’s new Constitution. Although such a figure would put Egypt above the global average of women in parliament, it would be below that of other Arab countries such as Algeria (32%) and Tunisia (27%) and far from an equal gender participation in the legislative body.  IPU has also recommended that a minimum level of representation for other groups such as Christians, youth, the disabled and the Egyptian diaspora should be included in the new electoral law. The percentage of seats held by both women and other groups should be guaranteed regardless of whether Egypt decides upon adopting a first-past-the-post, a proportional representation or mixed electoral system. IPU has recommended various means of ensuring target figures are reached whichever system is put in place. Other recommendations made also included reinforcing legal measures to ensure the targets for women and other groups are reached. These include providing additional public funds to political parties based on the number of women and other groups elected, on making it a legal requirement for parties to earmark a percentage of their public funds to train MPs from these groups and to provide free or additional airtime for parties that nominate a minimum number of women and other group candidates. Whilst Egyptian authorities have accepted IPU’s recommendation to take affirmative action measures, specific target figures remain undecided. The expert advice and support on a new electoral law is part of a larger programme of support IPU is providing to Egypt to put in place a fully functioning and representative parliament. A newly-opened IPU office in Cairo will facilitate the work with Egyptian authorities and later on with the new parliament.

Deepening interaction between UN, national parliaments and IPU

14 MAY 2014

IPU President Abdelwahad Radi and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon meet at UN headquarters in New York. ©UN, 2013

The UN General Assembly is expected to adopt a consensus resolution recognizing the importance of a clear role for parliaments at the global decision-making level on 19th May. The resolution - Interaction between the United Nations, national parliaments and IPU - builds on a report by the UN Secretary General on the issue for the 68th General Assembly which documents intense interaction between the UN, IPU and the world of parliaments as a whole in the past two years. The report acknowledges that parliaments are essential to ensuring the implementation of major international agreements such as the next generation of global development goals to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Democratic governance, national dialogue and reconciliation, the respect and promotion of human rights as well as gender equality are also seen by the UN as areas where parliaments are crucial. The UN Secretary General’s report also points out the gaps between the two institutions that need to be filled, particularly in terms of working with parliaments not only as recipients of international assistance, but also as major partners in the design and monitoring of national strategies on key issues. IPU Members have repeatedly called for greater coherence in the work of both organizations with a view to forging a strategic partnership. Underlying these issues is the larger question of providing parliaments with the tools that would allow them to fully engage with the UN and also to effectively fulfill their unique legislative and oversight roles. IPU works with UN country offices and provides parliamentary technical assistance in several countries and it is looking to expand this cooperation.

Using technology to enhance democracy – World e-Parliament Conference

2 MAY 2014

©IPU

More than 320 MPs and parliamentary staff from 85 national parliaments are taking part in the 2014 World e-parliament Conference in an effort to make information and communications technology (ICT) work better for democracy. The Conference, which is jointly organized by IPU and National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, takes place in Seoul on 8-10 May. The sixth event of its kind since 2007, the Conference builds on progress made by parliaments in the use of ICT in recent years by looking at how to overcome current hurdles in parliamentary use of new technologies. Among the many issues to be examined are policies on making parliamentary data open to make it easier for citizens to reuse, how to protect parliamentary data from cybercrime, digital privacy for MPs and parliaments, public information strategies in light of the technological evolution and how to respond to new forms of citizen participation. The Conference will conclude with a session on what an e-Parliament could look like beyond 2020.

Follow or take part in the debates at the World e-Parliament Conference through Twitter using #wepc2014 Photos from the Conference are available on Flickr.

IPU saddened by death of Malaysian MP Karpal Singh

17 APRIL 2014

Mr. Karpal Singh. ©REUTERS

IPU is saddened to hear of the death of Malaysian opposition MP Karpal Singh who died in a car accident earlier in the day. Singh, an MP and defence lawyer for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, had been at risk of losing his parliamentary mandate following a conviction in March this year for making seditious comments. Following his conviction, IPU had expressed genuine concern about his situation and the possibility that two leading opposition figures in Malaysia could be banned from political life. Both Singh and Anwar Ibrahim have cases before IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians. 

Increased support needed for parliamentary oversight of development aid

15 APRIL 2014

Nancy Abisai, MP of East African Legislative Assembly addresses the parliamentary meeting on effective development cooperation.

MPs taking part in the first ever High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation have called for increased support to help them more effectively oversee and scrutinize all development resources as part of a series of measures aimed at strengthening parliamentary involvement in making development efforts more effective.  The MPs, who are attending the high-level meeting on 15-16 April in Mexico as part of national delegations, had met at an IPU, Mexican Congress and Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA) forum ahead of the meeting. The parliamentary event looked at how the Global Partnership, established in 2011, is meeting key commitments on making aid and other forms of development cooperation more effective. With this issue becoming ever more critical in the emerging post-2015 sustainable development agenda and attendant Sustainable Development Goals, the Global Partnership aims to provide a powerful political impetus to effective development. The parliamentary meeting in Mexico also discussed how parliaments can support the mobilization of domestic resources such as taxes levied on the extractive industries to make sure they contribute their fair share to development. Special attention was paid to parliaments’ involvement in fiscal policy and in the use of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to strengthen their capacities in this field. Overall, and based on recent reports, the commitment to mutual accountability for aid remains one of the most critical issues. Much more needs to be done to put parliaments at the heart of the accountability process, including by involving them more systematically in the design and approval of national aid policies. The High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership to be opened by Mexican President Nieto and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will agree on what actions are needed to boost progress on making development cooperation between all concerned partners more effective and in anchoring them in the post-2015 development agenda. 

Tonga addresses gender imbalance in parliament

14 APRIL 2014

Queen Nanasipau'u opened the first Practice Parliament for Women in Tonga. The Polynesian state has only had seven women MPs in the past 100 years. ©Tongan parliament

Tonga held its first ever Practice Parliament for Women on 10-11 April at the Fale Alea - Legislative Assembly - in Nuku’alofa. With the upcoming general election in November, it was the opportunity to encourage female participation in politics and to come together in a near reality parliament to discuss issues affecting women. Tonga has only ever had seven women MPs in the past 100 years. The Practice Parliament identified and encouraged women to join and showcase their talents and capabilities as potential national leaders. With 30 seats allocated, sessions were broadcast live on radio and covered on national TV. They increased women´s awareness of their role in a participatory democratic system and encouraged a better understanding of parliament’s lawmaking role, its procedures and processes. The objective was also to inspire and increase the confidence of Tongan women to run as parliamentary candidates and to vote so that they become future leaders and key decision makers. Public awareness meetings throughout the country funded through IPU by Japan’s Worldwide Support for Development (WSD) preceded the event, and the 30 selected women underwent training with current MPs and former women MPs. The programme was organized in conjunction with UNDP, Australian Aid, UN Women and the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat. (More information and photos).

IPU calls for the urgent release of Burundian MP Hussein Radjabu

11 APRIL 2014

Burundian MP Hussein Radjabu is serving a 13-year prison sentence on conspiracy charges in a case marked by grave judicial irregularities. ©www.burunditransparence.org

IPU has called for the urgent release of Burundian MP Hussein Radjabu six years after his sentencing to a 13-year prison term on conspiracy charges.  In a case marked by grave judicial irregularities, the Organization has urged the Burundian authorities to re-examine his situation and the evidence on which Radjabu was convicted on 3 April 2008 for allegedly organizing a rebellion against the government. The senior dissident has served almost half of his sentence and IPU believes it is time for the authorities to explore all possible legal remedies, especially in view of the upcoming 2015 elections. In a resolution adopted by IPU at its 130th Assembly in Geneva (16-20 March), IPU regretted that the Burundian authorities had rejected the request for a retrial lodged by Radjabu on August 2013 and had not shown any political will to bring about progress in this case. The retrial request was based on the acquittal and subsequent release on grounds of insufficient evidence of Pasteur Mpawenayo, also a member of the dissident wing of the Burundian ruling party CNDD-FDD. He was charged with plotting against the State and incitement to disobedience and deprived of his seat in parliament, but the Burundian Supreme Court stated in May 2012 that there was no convincing evidence that the meeting in which Mpawenayo and Radjabu allegedly organized the conspiracy took place. The Court also noted that no evidence of weapons’ seizures had been provided and found all the offences were hypothetical – yet Radjabu remains in jail.

Parliaments urged to ensure rights of indigenous peoples are a reality

10 APRIL 2014

Some 80 MPs attended the International Parliamentary Conference on Indigenous Peoples' rights, inaugurated by Bolivian President Evo Morales.

MPs from around the world have urged parliaments everywhere to work to ensure the equal participation of indigenous peoples in parliaments and political decision-making becomes a reality. In a Declaration issued at the end of a three-day international parliamentary conference on Parliaments and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples organized by the Bolivian Parliament and IPU, MPs recognized that important progress had been made in many countries to fight discrimination and uphold the rights of indigenous peoples, but that there was still a very long way to go. They urged parliaments to translate the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into national law and to promote greater awareness of it among all levels of society. Addressing the exploitation of indigenous peoples’ lands, territories and resources without their free or prior consent, the MPs called on industry and the private sector to respect and act on a series of principles defined in the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council and the Business Reference Guide to the UN Declaration. With an UN-organized World Conference on Indigenous Peoples due to take place in September 2014, the Declaration highlighted the need for a post-2015 sustainable development agenda to respect indigenous cultures, lands, territories and resources. It called for the World Conference to recognize the role of parliaments in ensuring indigenous access to decision-making and for the inclusion of clear goals and targets related to political participation, transparency and accountability in the post-2015 agenda. The Declaration also called on IPU to ensure parliamentary follow-up to its call for action and on the outcomes of the World Conference. The Bolivian Parliament and IPU organized conference on 7-9 April in Santa Cruz de la Sierra and inaugurated by President Evo Morales, had been an opportunity for MPs to better gauge the challenges parliaments face in guaranteeing the political representation of indigenous peoples and upholding their rights.

The role of parliaments in implementing indigenous peoples’ rights

4 APRIL 2014

According to the UN, there are more than 370 million people self-identified as members of an indigenous community in some 70 countries around the world. ©Reuters/David Mercado

MPs from around the world will be attending an IPU and Plurinational Legislative Assembly of Bolivia  jointly organized International Parliamentary Conference on how parliaments can implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007). During the conference in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia on 7-9 April 2014, MPs will exchange information about the experiences, good practices and challenges encountered by parliaments in their efforts to guarantee the political representation of indigenous peoples and the effective protection of their rights. The outcome will feed into the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples convened by the UN General Assembly to be held on 22-23 September in New York. The conference represents a unique opportunity to stress the historic and current difficulties faced by indigenous peoples. According to the UN, there are more than 370 million people self-identified as members of an indigenous community in some 70 countries around the world, each with a distinct language and culture. The biggest concentration of indigenous peoples is in Asia and the Pacific with an estimated 70 per cent of the global population.

Building knowledge on violence against women and girls

28 MARCH 2014

The Sierra Leone Parliament and IPU are working together to build greater awareness and knowledge of violence against women and girls (VAWG) in the country. ©IPU/B. Filion, 2014.

The Sierra Leone Parliament and IPU have begun work to build greater parliamentary awareness and knowledge of violence against women and girls (VAWG) in the country. A training for all 124 Sierra Leonean MPs on 26th March focused on their gaining a deeper understanding of the root causes and risk factors of VAWG and how to address it through more effective law implementation and preventive measures. In Sierra Leone, VAWG predominantly manifests itself in the form of domestic and sexual violence, the latter also common outside the home environment. Legislation dealing with VAWG in Sierra Leone has vastly improved with the adoption of the Domestic Violence Act and the Child Right Act in 2007 and the Sexual Offences Act in 2012. However, many challenges remain, including inadequate resources, services and protection for victims, a lack of administrative and judicial capacity, stigma and limited awareness-raising campaigns to educate women about their rights. The Sierra Leone Parliament and IPU have also begun preparations for two outreach constituency visits for 20 MPs. Due to take place in April and involving both men and women MPs, the visits will allow direct engagement with women and community members. The aim is to create a climate of intolerance for VAWG and initiate a cultural shift by transforming individual and collective attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that condone this crime.

IPU at 125: Renewing our commitment to peace and democracy

28 MARCH 2014

IPU President, Abdelwahad Radi, leads the debate on the future of democracy. ©IPU/G. Fortunato, 2014

IPU Members reaffirmed their commitment to peace and democracy at the 130th Assembly in Geneva on 16-20 March, which formally marked the Organization’s 125th anniversary. In statements during a general debate, Members underlined the progress IPU has made since its creation in becoming a global body and its contribution to bringing the voice of MPs to UN decision-making processes. With the world no safer or peaceful than when IPU was created, Members highlighted the many challenges facing peace and democracy today including organized crime, cybercrime, weapons of mass destruction and the denial of fundamental freedoms to citizens. They acknowledged the need for parliaments to meet the demand for responsible, accountable leaders and elected representatives. Good governance, human rights, gender equality and fully representative parliaments were fundamental to ensuring the success of democracy. Members also stressed that the vision of IPU’s founding fathers that lasting peace and security can only be achieved through inclusive and participatory processes remains as valid today as 125 years ago. [Read more]

Egypt and IPU sign agreement on developing its new parliament

28 MARCH 2014

IPU and Egyptian authorities sign agreement.

Egyptian authorities and IPU have signed an agreement to carry out a priority support programme aimed at developing a fully functioning and representative parliament in the country following elections in July. IPU will assist the Egyptian parliament in drafting a short, middle and long-term strategic development plan. The initial phase includes upgrading parliamentary support services through the development of human resources, assisting the parliament in reviewing and enhancing its legal framework, sharing good practices for drafting the electoral law, as well as increasing the ICT component in parliamentary activity. IPU will also recruit parliamentary experts to develop a training plan for existing staff. They will work in parallel with the establishment of a training centre for both staff and newly elected MPs. The programme, beginning immediately, will work on providing staff with an understanding of the functioning of parliament and of the practical contributions they make to the effective administration of a democratically elected parliament. It will also increase awareness of the conduct and ethics of MPs and parliamentary staff and of the much needed contact with other institutions and groups, such as the judiciary, civil society and the media. Egypt has been without a parliament since its dissolution in July 2013. A new parliament will enable Egypt to rejoin IPU which it had first joined in 1924

IPU to support development of new Egyptian parliament

28 FEBRUARY 2014

©IPU

IPU will be supporting Egypt in its efforts to develop a new, fully functioning and representative parliament through a wide-ranging assistance programme following a high-level meeting at its headquarters between Egyptian officials and IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson on 26 and 27 February. The Egyptian delegation included representatives from the Ministry of Transitional Justice and National Reconciliation as well as the Secretariat of the House of Representatives. Egypt has been without a parliament since its dissolution in July 2013. IPU has repeatedly expressed its full support to the Egyptian people. Their desire for a strong democratic and representative legislative body and the adoption of a new, more inclusive constitution that promotes democratic values will provide the framework of IPU support, which will begin immediately. Priority assistance will include human development of parliamentary staff and after elections have taken place later this year, parliamentarians too. Support would also include assisting the Egyptian parliament in reviewing and enhancing its legal framework. A new parliament will enable Egypt to rejoin the Organization it had been a member of since 1924.

Assassination of Ecuadorian MPs still unresolved after 15 years

28 FEBRUARY 2014

Mr. Hurtado. ©MPD

Fifteen years after the assassination of Ecuadorian MPs Jaime Ricaurte Hurtado González and Pablo Vicente Tapia Farinango, authorities have failed to identify the instigators of their deaths. Hurtado and Tapia, members of the leftist Movimiento Popular Democrático (MPD), were killed in broad daylight in the centre of Quito on 17 February 1999, along with a legislative assistant, Wellington Borja Nazareno. Two culprits were convicted in March 2009 for their role in the murders and in 2010 suspect Henry Gil Ayerve was arrested in Colombia and extradited to Ecuador in order to stand trial in this case. In a recent development, a second suspect, Washington Aguirre, was taken into custody in Italy pending extradition. IPU considers that bringing both men to trial is crucial to the pursuit of truth and justice and that there is sufficient legal basis in Ecuador for this to happen despite concerns about statute of limitations. IPU is convinced that their prosecution will help shed light on the identity of the masterminds of the triple crime and will offer an opportunity to draw on the work of the Special Commission of Inquiry set up immediately after the murders. The now defunct Commission criticized the original investigation, notably for the scant consideration of the serious leads linking the killings to the uncovering of a web of corruption involving high-profile figures.

Too young to wed: IPU co-sponsors high level panel on child marriage

28 FEBRUARY 2014

Child marriage will affect more than 140 million girls between now and 2020. ©REUTERS/Stringer Iraq

IPU is co-sponsoring a high-level panel on child marriage on 3 March during the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The panel will highlight child marriage as a destructive and harmful human rights violation that will affect more than 140 million girls between now until 2020, or one girl every three seconds. Several organizations and networks have committed to prioritizing efforts to ending early marriage. IPU has contributed by adopting resolutions relating to women’s empowerment and violence against women, including “Access to health as a basic right: the role of parliaments in addressing key challenges to securing the health of women and children” in 2012. The resolution urges parliaments to pass laws explicitly criminalizing all forms of violence against women and girls, including early marriage. The high-level panel will mark the opening of “Too Young to Wed”, a photo exhibition on child marriage by photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair who has documented the global issue of child, early and forced marriage for more than a decade.

Translating human rights commitments into national realities

14 FEBRUARY 2014

A survey recently conducted by IPU showed many MPs are still unfamiliar with the work of the Human Rights Council or its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) ©UN

MPs from Central and Eastern European parliaments will meet in Bucharest on 17-18 February to discuss their role in ensuring international human rights commitments are applied at the national level. At an event jointly organized by IPU and the Chamber of Deputies of the Romanian Parliament, the MPs will examine their parliament’s contribution to the work of the UN Human Rights Council and identify good parliamentary practices in promoting human rights. Although parliaments have a critical part to play in ensuring respect for fundamental freedoms, a survey recently conducted by IPU showed many of them are still unfamiliar with the work of the Human Rights Council or its Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the evaluation mechanism of human rights in all UN member states. Very few of the UPR recommendations are actually implemented without parliamentary action, highlighting the need for MPs to acknowledge the importance of becoming more involved with the work of the Council and of promoting human rights more generally, including by engaging in a more pro-active way with civil society.

Strengthening oversight capacities of Oman’s parliament

14 FEBRUARY 2014

IPU and the Majlis A’Shura are working together in Oman to strengthen parliamentary capacity to oversee government. ©IPU

IPU has been working with Oman’s Consultative Council to strengthen its capacity to oversee government, a fundamental role of any parliament.  The move follows the change in the Council’s role from an advisory body to an elected institution with legislative and oversight powers in 2011. An IPU delegation, including parliamentary experts from Britain, France and Germany, covered challenges and procedures for effective oversight, including the use of committees and working with other institutions and the public during a two-day training. This was then followed by an assessment of the priority needs to strengthen the capacity of the Consultative Council in its efforts to fully deliver on its mandate as an elected legislative institution. A more comprehensive needs assessment at a later date could then be used as a basis for a broader IPU programme of support for Oman’s parliament.

Advisory Group of the IPU Committee on UN Affairs to visit Haiti

14 FEBRUARY 2014

UN peacekeepers stand on the side of a road during protests in Port-au-Prince in November 2013. ©REUTERS/M. Arago

The Advisory Group of the IPU Committee on UN Affairs will conduct a field mission in Haiti on 24-27 February to monitor and report on national parliamentary work to facilitate the stabilization and reconstruction of the country after the devastating earthquake of 2010. The Group will meet MPs, government officials and UN representatives on the ground to assess progress made and pressing challenges ahead for Haitian MPs and parliament in better responding to the needs of the Haitian people. Four years after the 7.3 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people and left more than 1.5 million people homeless, major issues such as poor living conditions, food insecurity, malnutrition and cholera remain. The role of MPs in addressing these challenges is crucial as they are responsible for the implementation and oversight of national legislation contributing to the reconstruction efforts. The Advisory Group will examine the UN operations in Haiti concerning peace consolidation and national reconciliation and will build on the increasingly solid partnership between the UN, national parliaments and IPU. The conclusions of the mission will be presented at the 130th IPU Assembly in Geneva, on 16-20 March. To date, the Advisory Group has undertaken seven missions: Tanzania (2008), Viet Nam (2009), Sierra Leone and Ghana (2011), Albania and Montenegro (2012) and Côte d’Ivoire (2013).

WTO underlines vital role of MPs in global trade system

14 FEBRUARY 2014

WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo addresses MPs attending the Steering Committee of the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO in Brussels. ©IPU

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo has highlighted the vital role MPs play to ensure the good functioning of the global trade system to parliamentarians attending the Steering Committee of the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO in Brussels. “As parliamentarians you connect WTO to the people. We rely on you to take into account their concerns. It is an important link and an important way of ensuring that our global trading system works at the local level,” said Azevêdo. The Committee met on 11-12 February to assess the outcome of the 9th WTO Ministerial Conference held in Bali in December 2013. It adopted a declaration urging negotiators to capitalize on the momentum gathered at Bali where governments agreed to the so called “Bali package”, the first global trade agreement since the WTO was created in 1995. MPs at the meeting also emphasized the need to keep working for a strong and effective parliamentary dimension of the WTO in order to maintain public support for open trade and enhance the transparency of the organization.

IPU President wishes Tunisia success on road map to democracy

7 FEBRUARY 2014

President Moncef Marzouki speaks during the ceremony marking the adoption of the new Tunisian constitution. ©REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

IPU President Abdelwahad Radi has wished Tunisia a successful journey on its path to democracy during a ceremony to formally adopt the new Constitution. Invited to speak at the event on 7 February as a result of the support IPU has provided to the Tunisian National Constituent Assembly, President Radi congratulated Tunisians on a Constitution which provides a firm basis for a modern democratic State. It served as a solid example of using dialogue and compromise in resolving political disputes in the region and beyond. “IPU is honoured to join the Tunisian people in celebrating this historic moment and wishes for a successful continuation of their democratic road map,” President Radi said. “The world is witnessing the achievements of a massive social movement seeking better life and better future for people through dialogue and consensus. Tunisians have succeeded by putting national interests above partisan interests.” The IPU President stressed the Organization’s continued support to Tunisia as it makes a full transition to democracy. IPU has been actively engaged with the Tunisian authorities since political changes began in 2011.

The new Constitution was approved on 27 January by an overwhelming majority of the members of the Assembly. Upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections must consolidate the democratic institutions created by the Constitution and ensure the rule of law with full respect for human rights.

Legislating to end HIV and AIDS: from dream into reality

31 JANUARY 2014

Effective laws to end HIV and AIDS: Next steps for Parliaments”, a joint IPU-UNDP publication to guide parliamentarians in the HIV-AIDS response.

IPU and UNDP have launched a new publication “Effective laws to end HIV and AIDS: Next steps for Parliaments” to guide parliamentarians in the HIV-AIDS response. It incorporates the lessons drawn from the experiences of MPs involved in improving the lives of vulnerable groups in New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Mongolia, and Switzerland. They offer illustrative examples, from coalition building to careful media handling, to convince parliaments and electorates on the need of an HIV-AIDS policy that prioritizes health and human rights and does not criminalize behaviours of key populations. MPs around the world face particular challenges when legislating to fight HIV and AIDS, dealing often with social taboos that result in unnecessary barriers to ending the epidemic. In many countries laws criminalizing men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender people, sex workers and people who inject drugs are driving the most vulnerable people to HIV away from the health and social services.

Mexican MPs reinforce commitment to a gender-sensitive parliament

31 JANUARY 2014

The Mexican Senate hosted a self-assessment seminar and debate on gender mainstreaming on 22-23 February. ©Mexican Senate

Mexican MPs and experts have called on the need to push forward a gender-sensitive parliament as a key step in advancing towards equality between men and women in society at large. In a self-assessment seminar and debate on gender mainstreaming jointly organized by the Mexican Senate and IPU on 22-23 January, participants stressed the importance of removing structural barriers to women´s full participation in parliamentary leadership posts. MPs and parliamentary staff committed to ensuring constant reassessment of the gender perspective in their structures, operations, methods and work to respond to the interests of both men and women. IPU’s “Plan of Action for Gender-sensitive Parliaments” will be used to help them. Mexico’s parliament passed legislation to ensure gender parity in the electoral law resulting in a significant increase of women in both houses of parliament (36.8 per cent in the Chamber of Deputies and 32.8 per cent in the Senate) after the 2012 elections.

Measuring democratic governance as a new sustainable development goal

31 JANUARY 2014

World leaders agreed at the UN Rio+20 Conference on June 2012 to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will converge with the post 2015 development agenda. ©REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

How can democratic governance be measured? Why does it need to be incorporated as a stand-alone goal in the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? To answer these questions IPU and International IDEA are hosting a side event to the 8th Session of the United Nations Open Working Group on the SDGs in New York on 6 February. Participants will discuss recent research evidence suggesting democratic governance is an end to sustainable development and not just a means as well as illustrate the many possible ways to measure the strength of democratic governance in all countries. IPU Secretary General Anders Johnsson will present recent work to develop a series of indicators based on the principles of representation, transparency and accountability which are aimed at assessing the effectiveness of parliaments as fundamental pillars of democratic governance.

First meeting to prepare the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament

15 JANUARY 2014

The 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament took place in Geneva in 2010. ©IPU/G. Fortunato

A group of Speakers of Parliament will meet at IPU headquarters in Geneva on 27-28 January for the first meeting of the Preparatory Committee of the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament. The Conference, due to convene in 2015, is unique in bringing together leaders of parliaments from every corner of the globe to address key global issues. The Conference, first held in 2000 to coincide with the Millennium Summit, takes place every five years. It has proved to be crucial to strengthening parliamentary presence on the global stage and to giving a new impulse to the parliamentary dimension of international cooperation. The preparatory committee meeting will begin defining the main objectives of the 2015 Conference and will examine issues such as further strengthening the relationship between parliaments and the UN and the parliamentary contribution to the new post-2015 sustainable development agenda. IPU supports a new sustainable development model grounded in human well-being and a specific development goal on democratic governance. Other key issues include gender equality and strengthening parliaments as democratic institutions. Subsequent preparatory meetings will take place in the latter half of 2014 and early 2015.

New IPU global database on women’s caucuses in parliament

15 JANUARY 2014

Want to know more about how women MPs are organizing themselves in parliaments around the world? IPU has launched a new global database on women’s caucuses in parliament to capture such information in one useful place. The database is a unique tool that provides a global, regional and national perspective on how women MPs have succeeded in coming together to tackle issues in ways that transcend their political differences. The database, available in English and French, lists information about 79 women’s caucuses that exist so far in 189 national parliaments, with names, links and contacts to the groups. Different search criteria filters are available to obtain information on countries, regions, dates, structure, composition, agenda and rules. Produced with financial support from USAID, Irish Aid and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the database is to be used in conjunction with IPU’s “Guidelines for Women’s Caucuses”.  The Guidelines provide a rationale for why caucuses play a decisive role in the development and implementation of laws and policies on important gender issues, as well as practical information on the steps required to set up and run a successful caucus.

MPs Commit to Full Conclusion of the Doha Round Talks

16 DECEMBER 2013

MPs from around the world committed in Bali (Indonesia) to working towards the full conclusion of the Doha Round. ©Indonesian Parliament

MPs from around the world committed to working towards the full conclusion of the Doha Round after the landmark deal reached on 7 December by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to simplify and strengthen multilateral trade. Over 200 MPs gathered in Bali, Indonesia, for the Parliamentary Conference on the World Trade Organization on the sidelines of the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC9) and closely interacted with government ministers to facilitate the first global trade agreement since the WTO was created in 1995. The deal on the so-called “Bali package” will mean lowering trade barriers and speeding up the passage of goods through customs with an estimated boost of hundreds of billions of dollars for the world economy and the creation of millions of jobs, according to WTO.  In an outcome document adopted at the final plenary of the Conference, parliamentarians stressed that the multilateral trading system should maintain its pivotal role and called to place development at the heart of the new trade scenario  taking into full account the special needs and interests of least developed countries.

MPs Continue Paying Price for Defending Human Rights

16 DECEMBER 2013

Yemeni MP Abdulkareem Jabdan was gunned down in Sana'a on 22 November. ©REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Assassinations of MPs in Somalia and Yemen in recent weeks are just the latest cases of MPs paying the ultimate price for defending fundamental human rights and exercising their right to freedom of expression, said IPU as it marked Human Rights Day 2013 on 10 December. Somali MP Feisal Warsame Mohamed was killed on 6 December when a car bomb blew up his vehicle in Mogadishu. On 22 November, Yemeni MP Abdulkareem Jadban was gunned down in Sana’a in what seemed to be politically motivated attacks to silence two outspoken MPs. These two killings highlight a worrying ongoing trend around the world of MPs being persecuted, intimidated, attacked or even killed, and were an attack on democracy itself. So far this year, IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians has examined allegations of human rights violations against 270 legislators (241 men and 29 women) in 40 countries. Most violations either relate to attacks on MPs’ physical integrity, such as murder, enforced disappearance or torture, or to the ability to carry out their democratic mandate.

Nelson Mandela an Inspiration on Doing Politics Differently for Peace and Democracy

16 DECEMBER 2013

Former South African president Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), an inspiration on how politics can be done differently to promote peace, reconciliation and democracy. ©Reuters/Ronen Zvulun

Former South African president Nelson Mandela showed how courageous and visionary leadership could bring peace and democracy to a bitterly divided country and will continue to serve as an inspiration to politicians everywhere on how politics can be done differently. “Despite what happened to him in the apartheid years, Nelson Mandela was committed to building a new democratic South Africa that included every person, regardless of race, religion, or skin colour,” said IPU President Abdelwahad Radi. “What made him especially remarkable was his vision and understanding that the future of South Africa lay in that inclusion. This could only be achieved through dialogue with all sides in the country. This included his oppressors.”  Sending his deepest condolences to South Africa, its people and parliament on behalf of the IPU Membership, President Radi said Nelson Mandela’s human approach to politics focusing on the overall good rather than on individual or sectarian interests, showed that politics can be done differently when there is a will.

Engaging MPs and Media in Deepening Democracy and Parliamentary Culture

16 DECEMBER 2013

Bringing media and politicians together, the Parliamentary Media Forum in UAE, the first event of its kind in the country. © UAE parliament

MPs and journalists from the Gulf and Arab states are meeting in Dubai (UEA) on 16 December on strengthening their inter-action in a bid to deepen democracy and parliamentary culture in the region. The Parliamentary Media Forum also aims to establish a fluid two-way communication channel with citizens. With IPU’s technical support, the gathering will make recommendations and proposals on the development and improvement of parliamentary media and information in order to appeal to a wider audience. The impact of social media will feature prominently on the agenda as it is increasingly essential in the region to keeping pace with political and social changes. In addition, it offers MPs and media a powerful tool to foster public engagement on democracy and decision-making. Yet, only a minority of parliaments and MPs in the world are currently present on social media (World e-Parliament Report 2012).

Promoting a Gender Sensitive Budget in Côte d’Ivoire

16 DECEMBER 2013

Ivorian MPs and parliamentary staff engaged in the promotion of a gender sensitive national budget. ©Ivoirian Parliament

Ivorian MPs and parliamentary staff  have taken a first step in strengthening parliamentary oversight on gender equality policies in the country through better information on gender budgeting and allocation. During a two-day event on 6-7 December organized by the National Assembly, IPU, SUNY/CID and USAID, both men and women from the Ivorian parliament involved in the budgetary process, focused on the promotion of a gender sensitive national budget as a fundamental tool for ensuring equal economic and development benefits for both sexes. They engaged in an inter-active debate to better understand the rational for gender budgeting and to identify and assess the different stages, modalities and strategies that lead to a balanced and fair allocation of resources. Women constitute 55 per cent of the population of Côte d’Ivoire - yet they lag behind men on many social indicators, such as education, health and jobs. Côte d’Ivoire ranks 112th in IPU’s World Ranking of Women in Parliament. Only 26 out of 249 members of the National Assembly (10.4 per cent) are women.

Strengthening Management of Myanmar Parliament

16 DECEMBER 2013

Myanmar's Parliament, IPU and UNDP carry out the first management training for senior Secretariat staff of the Hluttaw. ©Ross Becker

Myanmar’s Parliament, IPU and UNDP will jointly carry out the first management training for senior Secretariat staff of the Hluttaw to strengthen its capacity to plan, organize and deliver on legislative work. Ahead of an increase in Myanmar’s parliamentary staff from the current 500 to 2,500, the training will focus on improving skills to recruit and manage personnel effectively and allocating staff and resources to priority activities. Some 30 senior managers are expected to attend the five-day programme (16-20 December). Participants, including also senior managers from other national parliaments, will discuss real life issues and challenges at work. Similar training will be held for another group of 30 Hluttaw managers in 2014.  Since 2012, the Hluttaw, IPU and UNDP have been working closely together to strengthen the legislative body elected in 2010 in the first ballot since 1990.

MPs Urge Placing Development at the Heart of the Multilateral Trading System

6 DECEMBER 2013

Some 270 MPs from 53 countries gathered in Bali (Indonesia) for the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO. ©Indonesian Parliament

MPs from around the world urged governments to place development at the heart of the multilateral trading system, taking into full account the special needs and interests of developing counties, particularly the least developed. Meeting in Bali (Indonesia) on 2 and 5 December for the Parliamentary Conference on the World Trade Organization (PCWTO), some 270 MPs agreed that the last-minute negotiations at the Ninth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC9) also in Bali, must bring a tangible benefit for developing countries, increase their share of world trade, stimulate their economic growth and contribute to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  In an outcome document approved by consensus at the final plenary of the Conference, parliamentarians called on Ministers to adopt the “Bali package” - an agreement to simplify trade facilitation, agriculture trade and development trade issues affecting least developed countries. It would, MPs argue, bring significant economic benefits to all WTO members.  MPs also expressed their concern about the increasing number of regional and bilateral agreements signed in the past decade as a result of the WTO Doha Round stalemate and reiterated the importance of a bigger say of parliaments in trade negotiations to enhance transparency and public support for a rules-based, open, fair and non-discriminatory system. MC9, which ends today, 6 December, is aimed at breaking the deadlock on Doha. The Round was launched in 2001 to produce a global accord on opening markets and removing trade barriers. The Parliamentary Conference, jointly organized by IPU and the European Parliament (EP), took place on the sidelines of MC9.

Political Parties - Allies or Foes on Gender Sensitive Parliaments?

29 NOVEMBER 2013

MP Eva Abdulla provides input on role of political parties at the IPU event during the Women in Parliament meeting. ©IPU/Z. Hilal

Women MPs have urged political parties to commit to gender equality as an inherent political objective and assume their role as key entry points to women’s political participation at an IPU-organized event during the Women in Parliaments Global Forum (WIP) in Brussels on 27-29 November. Entitled “Gender-sensitive Parliaments: Are political parties allies or foes?” the event examined the significant impact political parties have on gender-sensitive policy-making, including women’s access to political participation. It also emphasized the usefulness and success of women’s parliamentary caucuses in establishing cross-party cooperation on advancing gender equality. The event was an opportunity to present IPU’s survey on Gender-Sensitive Parliaments, as well as its recently published “Guidelines for Women´s Caucuses”. The WIP Forum, like IPU’s Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, brought together women MPs from around the world.

Celebrating 120 Years of Women’s Suffrage

29 NOVEMBER 2013

Women in New Zealand playing a role in the 1913 elections. ©Weekly Press 17 December 1913 (NZ)

Twenty-eighth November 2013 marked the 120th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand, the first country in the world to give women the vote. A historic milestone highlighting the progress made on gender equality since 1893, the anniversary nevertheless underscored how much still needed doing to achieve gender equality in all spheres of life. Although gender discrimination on suffrage will come to an end with women in Saudi Arabia due to vote for the first time in local elections in 2015, women’s representation in parliament is far from matching progress on universal suffrage. Women represent more than half of the world’s population, but represent just 21.4 per cent of all parliamentarians in the world.

Burundi’s Parliament to Set Up HIV/AIDS Network

29 NOVEMBER 2013

Thabitha Khumalo, MP Zimbabwe, with children from an area heavily affected by HIV. ©IPU/A. Blagojevic

Burundi’s parliament will announce on 1 December (World AIDS Day) the creation of a Parliamentary Network on HIV/AIDS aimed at increasing MPs’ involvement in the national response to the pandemic. The constitution of the Network will be supported by IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and MPs from other countries, who participated in a capacity building seminar for Burundi parliamentarians on 18-19 November, followed by a field visit to country on 20-22 November. They agreed to assist by sharing their experiences, as well as by helping to draft an action plan focused on mobilizing domestic resources (Burundi’s AIDS response is 97 per cent aid dependent). Building on IPU’s guide “Raising the Profile on HIV and AIDS in Your Parliament”, the Advisory Group also offered to share its experience establishing AIDS trusts and AIDS levy systems. HIV prevalence in Burundi is estimated at 1.3 per cent of the population aged between 15-49, according to UNAIDS.

Ongoing IPU Support to Enhance Functioning of Myanmar’s Parliament

29 NOVEMBER 2013

Internet research among the issues during an ICT training for the Myanmar parliament. ©Ross Becker

As Myanmar continues its progress on democracy, IPU is cementing its support to the Hluttaw (national parliament) through a series of activities intended at improving information and research needs of MPs and promoting ICT and managerial capacities. With an external evaluation of IPU’s project in Myanmar just started, another mission is currently in the country working to enhance the parliament’s network and data center capabilities. In mid-December the first in a series of Management & Leadership Training Courses will be carried out to increase parliamentary institutional capacity to implement relevant organizational, administrative and procedural measures. Myanmar’s parliament was re-established following national elections in 2010. Since then it has been very active in adopting new laws to consolidate the country’s political transition.

Tackling Violence against Women Fundamental to Equality and Development

22 NOVEMBER 2013

One in three women throughout the world experience physical or sexual violence. ©: Reuters/Sebastien Pirlet

Ending violence against women (VAW) should be a key priority of any development objective to create a more gender equal world, says IPU as the UN-led process to establish the next generation of development goals gathers pace. With one in three women throughout the world experiencing physical or sexual violence, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), VAW is an issue affecting every country in the world and one which is limiting women’s development everywhere. Marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25th November, IPU argues that progress on future global development will be partly measured by success on achieving gender equality, which itself is not possible as long as a woman’s right to a life free from violence is not guaranteed. In turn, IPU is urging its own members to take firm action to end violence against women through swift and effective legal reforms and strong parliamentary oversight to ensure implementation. Although two thirds of countries today have legislation criminalizing domestic violence and have also taken steps to address sexual harassment, all countries should have legislation penalizing all forms of VAW. This not only includes rape and sexual assault but also female infanticide in the preference for boys, child marriage, genital mutilation, acid face-burning, “honour” killings and other forms of feminicide. In recent years, IPU has mobilized the parliamentary community on this issue. This year, a presidential statement was unanimously endorsed by IPU members at its 128th Assembly in Quito in March 2013 with women speakers of parliament similarly highlighting VAW as a priority issue at their annual meeting in New York in mid-November.

Kenyan Parliament Commits to Action on Improving Maternal and Child Health

22 NOVEMBER 2013

Maternal and under-5 mortality remain high in Kenya. ©: Reuters/Radu Sigheti

Kenyan MPs have committed to a range of urgent actions aimed at improving reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH) in a country where maternal and infant mortality rates are high. At a meeting in Nairobi on 19 November supported by IPU, parliamentarians agreed on the need to build and enable a protective legislative framework with appropriate financing that addresses this issue effectively and ensures its thorough implementation. Amongst the most urgent actions are working to push the national health budget up to 15 per cent of the State budget, finalizing a bill on maternal health and working towards developing a common legal instrument ensuring universal health care. They also agreed to convene a discussion on the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 2006 and the impact of criminalizing the transmission of HIV on sexual and reproductive rights. MPs identified a series of pressing challenges relating to maternal and child health, including contradictions in legislation, labour-related laws with negative health implications, a lack of clear definition on the sexual and reproductive health rights of women and girls in certain situations as well as inadequate legal planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation. Maternal mortality remains high in Kenya at 360 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, while the under-5 mortality rate was at 73 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to the UN.

Questions Remain on Murder of Russian MP Galina Starovoitova 15 Years On

20 NOVEMBER 2013

Galina Starovoitova, MP and human rights activist, was shot dead in St Petersburg on 20th November 1998

Fifteen years after the assassination of Russian MP and human rights activist Galina Starovoitova, those who masterminded her death are yet to be brought to justice. Starovoitova was shot to death in the lobby of her apartment in St. Petersburg on 20th November 1998. Four men have been serving jail sentences since 2005 as perpetrators and accomplices in the murder with progress on identifying those actually behind the killing remaining slow. However, with the recent indictment of former MP MikhaiI Gluschenko as the man who organized Starovoitova’s murder, IPU trusts the Russian authorities will keep moving forward to finally resolve the case The Organization hopes the proceedings against Gluschenko, a businessman involved in large-scale criminal activities and sentenced in March to eight years in jail for extortion in another and unrelated case, will shed full light on the killing of Starovoitova. Her assassination was “politically motivated”, according to the St. Petersburg City Court that sentenced two men, intelligence officer Yuri Kolchin and Vitali Akishin, to 20 and 23.5 years in prison for pulling the trigger. Two other were found guilty of complicity, while three other suspects remain on the run. The court ascertained the murder had been committed by an organized group with the aim of halting Starovoitova's political activities. Considered as one of the symbols of Perestroika and the democratic movement, Starovoitova was co-chairwoman of the political party “Democratic Russia” and a well-known reformist politician and ethnic minority’s rights activist. She had denounced the existence of high-profile political corruption in St. Petersburg. Shortly before her death, she said that she was aware of the names of local politicians receiving bribes from the mafia and that she knew about the selling of a city council seat to a criminal group. IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, which has been following the case, will resume its examination at its next session on 13-17 January 2014 in Geneva in a bid to push for more information to be brought to light.

UN Stresses MPs’ Critical Role in Development at Annual Parliamentary Hearing

18 NOVEMBER 2013

Jointly organized by UN and IPU, the Annual Parliamentary Hearing held in New York highlighted the crucial role of MPs pushing forward the future development agenda  ©IPU/F. Puchol

Parliaments can and should play a central role in shaping and implementing the new development agenda after 2015, when the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire. In a message to MPs attending the joint IPU-UN Annual Parliamentary Hearing in New York on 14-15 November, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said IPU and parliaments were critical in “helping us reach MDG3, including the target to increase the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments. Parliaments can bring the views and aspirations of their citizens into global deliberations. They are uniquely placed to ensure financing for sustainable development efforts.” MPs and IPU are now actively engaged in the UN-coordinated international effort to formulate the development agenda beyond 2015. During the two-day event, MPs underlined the need for a global strategy focused at national and international levels on poverty eradication, gender equality, democratic governance and a stronger legislative role in the global decision making process. With a holistic and integrated approach in mind, MPs supported a new development model grounded in human well-being, and not only on GDP growth. With a strong emphasis on fighting violence against women, they also highlighted the need to consolidate gender equality not only as a new development challenge in itself, but as a dimension underpinning every single goal of a future development agenda.

Women Speakers Put Gender Equality at Heart of Sustainable Development

15 NOVEMBER 2013

Speaker Gabriela Montano (Bolivia) at the 8th IPU Women Speakers of Parliament in New York.  ©IPU/F. Puchol

Women Speakers of Parliament have stressed the need to put gender equality at the heart of new development goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015. At the eighth annual gathering of the world’s most senior women parliamentarians, the IPU Women Speakers of Parliament Meeting agreed that not only should there be a stand-alone goal on gender equality in any new development agenda, but that it should be a comprehensive objective underpinning all other spheres including economic growth, environment, employment, health and education. The meeting, which concluded on 13th November, underlined parliament’s active role in the new development challenge if goals were to be effectively implemented. The women Speakers invited MPs to rethink and revisit current economic models and paradigms, forging a new development path centred on human well-being and not just GDP growth. In a dynamic and constructive discussion that would continue into the Annual Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations jointly organized by IPU and the UN, the women Speakers agreed to continue meeting on an annual basis and praised IPU’s collective efforts to organize a forum where women MPs can have a space of their own to exchange experiences and support one another. The 2014 IPU Women Speakers of Parliament meeting is due to be held in Ecuador, which hosted the 128th IPU Assembly in March 2013

Improving Development Assistance to Parliaments

15 NOVEMBER 2013

IPU’s assistance to Myanmar Parliament has been developed together with authorities and other partners, including UN.  ©IPU/N. Babic

Work has begun on developing a common set of principles to guide how development aid to national parliaments is provided in a bid to make such assistance more effective and coordinated. More than 30 representatives from parliaments and organizations working in the field agreed on the development of the principles with IPU coordinating the effort. The work is expected to be completed by mid-2014. At a recent meeting at IPU’s headquarters in Geneva, participants from parliaments, UN agencies, training institutes, the Association of Secretaries General of Parliament, donors and others agreed the principles would  be available for endorsement by not only those providing assistance, but also donors and parliaments. The meeting also agreed to renew coordination efforts to establish common standards and criteria for democratic parliaments. These would also be endorsable by both relevant organizations, parliaments and others. The Geneva event similarly served as a useful opportunity for participants to provide feedback on IPU’s work on developing indicators to measure how parliaments are delivering on being accessible, accountable, effective, representative and transparent.

New Guidelines to Help Women MPs Caucuses

15 NOVEMBER 2013

New IPU guidelines on setting up a caucus for women MPs or in strengthening an existing one will be officially presented at two events in Washington D. C., USA that will focus on the role and impact of such groups. The “Guidelines for Women’s Caucuses”, provides a rationale for why women’s caucuses are useful as well as practical information on the four necessary steps required in setting up and running one. The guidelines are to be used in conjunction with IPU’s soon-to-be active online database on existing women MPs caucuses, which also gives comparative information on their structure, composition, agenda and rules. More than 80 women MP caucuses have been set up in the past 20 years around the world. In an environment still dominated by men, women MPs, accounting for only 21.4 per cent of all parliamentarians, face particular expectations and challenges in their work. Setting up a caucus is one thing, making it work is another. Women MPs from countries such as Afghanistan, Brazil, Namibia and Finland will share their experiences with other parliamentarians and members of caucuses, including the US Congressional Caucus on Women’s issues on 19th November. A similar event organized with USAID, which supported the development of the guidelines, will be held the day before.

Cote d’Ivoire MPs Create Women’s Caucus

15 NOVEMBER 2013

Ground-breaking move in Côte d’Ivoire as women MPs establish the first ever women’s caucus in parliament.  ©IPU/Ivoirian Parliament

Cote d’Ivoire has launched the first-ever Women’s Caucus in the National Assembly, a forum aimed at advancing women’s rights and mainstreaming gender throughout all parliamentary work. Inspired by IPU’s new guidelines on women’s caucuses, the group, representing all political parties, will work to draft new laws on gender equality and to review discriminatory legislation. It will also promote the participation of women in all parliamentary decision-making levels and will be responsible for improving gender-sensitive infrastructure and culture, as well as ensuring that efforts towards gender equality are shared by both male and female parliamentarians. The Women’s Caucus also aims to be at the heart of the national reconciliation process after the post-electoral crisis in 2010 that resulted in a brief but bloody civil war that killed 3,000 people. IPU, which sent a first team of experts to Cote d’Ivoire in June 2013, has already supported similar initiatives in post-conflict countries, including Burundi and Rwanda, where women’s representation in parliament has increased significantly in recent years. However, Cote d’Ivoire currently ranks 114th in IPU’s world ranking of women in parliament. Only 26 out of its 249 members (10.4 per cent) of the National Assembly are women.

West African Parliaments Commit to Breaking Circle of Conflict in Region

15 NOVEMBER 2013

West African MPs agree on their greater involvement in ending conflict in the region.  ©IPU/I. Décarroux

West African MPs have committed to increasing parliamentary involvement and action in post-conflict situations in a bid to break the vicious circle of violence and instability that has plagued the region in recent years. At a recent regional conference in Abidjan jointly organized by the Cote d’Ivoire parliament and IPU, MPs from Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Senegal and Togo, the ECOWAS parliament and other participants pointed out recurrent issues such as weak governance, lack of leadership, corruption, poverty, unequal distribution of wealth, illiteracy, exclusion of minorities, and religious and ethnic discrimination as reasons behind the present situation. They called for a prominent legislative role in reconstruction and reconciliation in order to establish lasting peace. Parliaments have to be especially vigilant on areas such as the rule of law and human rights legislation whilst ensuring their own governance, accountability and transparency. MPs also emphasized the need to cut down the circulation of firearms and on the urgency of addressing the situation of hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people in the region.

IPU to Build Legislative Capacity in Burundi to Respond to HIV and AIDS

15 NOVEMBER 2013

MPs to assess access to care and treatment amongst other HIV-related issues in Burundi during a field visit.  ©Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi

A field visit and a seminar by IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS in Burundi will help strengthen MPs capacity to address issues linked to the epidemic at national level. Both parliamentarians and parliamentary staff will participate in the seminar on 18-19 November. It is aimed at increasing their understanding of populations most affected by HIV as well as enhancing prevention efforts and access to care for those affected through effective legislative action. Building on IPU’s guide “Raising the Profile on HIV and AIDS in Your Parliament”, MPs will focus on HIV treatment policies, getting to grips with the latest trends in research, intellectual property issues and regulatory frameworks governing the prices of medicines. IPU’s Advisory Group will then carry out a field visit between 20-22 November to examine parliament’s role in addressing the HIV epidemic. Legislation and its enforcement, discrimination, access to treatment, gender-based violence, and the situation of children, in particular orphans, will be some of the issues covered. HIV prevalence in Burundi is estimated at 1.3 per cent of the population aged between 15-49, according to UNAIDS. An assessment report following the field visit will include recommendations on response areas that require strengthening.

Pacific Island Parliaments Outline Regional Efforts for Democratic Development

15 NOVEMBER 2013

Pacific island MPs identify priority issues including gender equality to guide future action.  ©IPU/B. Filion

MPs from 13 Pacific Island nations outlined a comprehensive set of issues that needed addressing to support democratic development in the region at a meeting in early November. Organized by IPU and the Australian and Tongan parliaments in Nuku’alofa, MPs highlighted a series of key points concerning their professional development, services for MPs, gender equality in parliament as well as greater regional and international engagement that would guide their future action. Tailoring development programmes to suit specific cultural contexts as well as individual skills needs, establishing codes of conduct to help fulfill MPs responsibilities as elected representatives as well as access to IT and support in ensuring greater channels of communication with constituents were just some of the action points listed in an outcomes statement. With the Pacific region having one of the lowest regional averages of women in parliament, MPs agreed on a wide range of actions that could be taken to tackle domestic violence, increase women’s political representation and citizen engagement in politics as well as to promote gender equality across society. The meeting, supported by IPU, UNDP, AusAID and the Centre for Democratic Institutions also underlined parliament’s importance in responding to a fast-changing regional environment facing pressing issues such as climate change, poor population health and a shortage of workforce skills.