Briefing Room

2017 Parliamentary Hearing at the UN Will Focus on Oceans

20 January 2017

Waves hit the Calella de Mar beach near Barcelona, after heavy rain caused flash floods in the east of Spain on 19 December 2016. Photo: ©JOSEP LAGO / AFP

Oceans and seas constitute a vital ecosystem, and millions of people depend on them for their livelihood and nutrition. The conservation and sustainable use of oceans affects economic, social and environmental policies both nationally and globally. However, acidification caused by CO2 emissions, pollution from plastics, fertilizers and waste, overfishing, and many other unsustainable practices are threatening marine habitats and coastal areas. As new opportunities for economic growth and development arise through the exploitation of oceans, the international community faces new environmental, political and legal challenges.

The 2017 Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations will focus on SDG 14 of the new Sustainable Development Goals: the conservation and sustainable use of oceans. A World of Blue: Preserving the Oceans, Safeguarding the Planet, Ensuring Human Wellbeing in the Context of the 2030 Agenda will bring together parliamentarians, experts and UN officials  and will make recommendations to restore the oceans to health.

Jointly organized with the President of the General Assembly, the UN-IPU Parliamentary Hearing will take place in New York from 13-14 February. It will provide a parliamentary component to the preparatory process for a major UN conference on oceans in June.

Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians to Meet

20 January 2017

A.A. Gueye (Senegal), presenting the report of the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians to the IPU Council in October. ©IPU/L. Fortunati

In the course of their duties, MPs sometimes face human rights violations, and the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians is the only international mechanism with the remit to protect them.

The Committee is meeting in Geneva from 23 to 26 January to examine all ongoing and new cases on file. Its current caseload concerns 157 MPs in 7 countries in the Americas, 107 MPs in 13 countries in Asia, 88 MPs in 10  countries in Africa, 62 MPs in 3 countries in Europe, 35 MPs in 7 countries in the MENA region and 3 MPs in 1 country in the Southern Pacific. At this session, decisions will be taken only in a small number of cases, which will be considered officially adopted on 3 February. The Committee will also discuss the planning and organization of its work for the year and elect a new President and Vice-President.

New Year Message

5 January 2017

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong and IPU President Saber Chowdhury. ©IPU/L. Fortunati

The year 2016 is drawing to a close, and we are about to embark on a new one. In retrospect, we can say it has been an eventful and momentous year. We have witnessed the global community, including parliaments, position themselves to advance an ambitious new development agenda, one that the parliamentary community will be instrumental in implementing. We look forward to working with you in delivering on this.

Unfortunately, 2016 too has been replete with multifaceted crises, both intra-country and inter-country. These crises have challenged parliaments, diverting their attention away from improving the well-being of people to resolving conflicts.

2017 promises to be an even busier year for parliaments on both these fronts: development, and peace and security. We look forward to working with you all in meeting these challenges. The bold new strategy you adopted last November provides a robust roadmap for our common endeavours through 2021. It is a strong mandate for IPU and its Members to implement this two-fold agenda.

We wish you and your families a peaceful holiday season and much success in 2017.

Saber H. Chowdhury, President, and Martin Chungong, Secretary General.

Kenya: IPU’s Gender-Sensitive Parliament Toolkit Put into Practice

20 December 2016

Members of the Kenyan Senate attending the seminar. ©Parliament of Kenya

The Kenyan Parliament was the first to use IPU’s new toolkit on evaluating the gender sensitivity of parliaments.

The toolkit is an outcome of the Plan of Action for Gender-Sensitive Parliaments adopted in 2012 by the 127th IPU Assembly. It is designed to help parliaments assess themselves on criteria such as women’s representation, the parliamentary culture and the ability to deliver on gender equality. It also assists them in determining how parliaments can be transformed into gender-sensitive institutions.

The seminar was opened by the Speaker of the Senate, the IPU Secretary General and the Chair of KEWOPA, the women’s parliamentary caucus. Participants included female and male members and staff from both houses of Parliament. Topics ranged from the numbers of women among senior staff and committee leadership to the parliament’s policies from a gender perspective.

“With such strong commitment, your Parliament can make a real difference to the women and men of this country and live up to their aspirations for equality, development and peace”, said IPU Secretary-General Martin Chungong in his opening remarks.

“Last Friday we celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This violence does not occur in a vacuum,” he added. “I strongly believe that Parliaments have a crucial role to play in building a culture of equality and of zero tolerance towards violence against women. To do so they must start by being models of what society should be like and look like.”

The exercise took place during in a four-day seminar, Evaluating the Level of Gender Sensitivity of the Parliament of Kenya, held in Nairobi from 28 November to 1 December and co-organized by IPU and the Kenyan Parliament.

The self-assessment report will include a summary of the stock-taking exercise and recommendations for further action. After the August 2017 elections, IPU and the Parliament of Kenya will undertake more activities to support the report's implementation and to help build a more gender-sensitive environment.

GPEDC calls for more parliamentary oversight in national and international commitments

15 December 2016

Participants at the 2nd High-Level Meeting of the GPECD ©IPU/A. Motter

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) and other national and international commitments should be submitted to parliaments for review. This was one of the actions called for by parliamentarians attending the Parliamentary Forum at the Second High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC).

The statement of the Parliamentary Forum stressed that the negotiation of these commitments should be carried out with transparency and that, before entering into a PPP, all financing options should be considered. The statement also called for parliaments to have more oversight of public spending of foreign and domestic resources, and to ensure that aid allocation reached the poor and vulnerable rather than being tied to the economic and strategic interests of donor countries.

The second meeting of the GPEDC, which took place in Nairobi from 28 November to 1 December 2016, concluded with a declaration that reiterated the importance of parliamentary oversight of national and international commitments. It called for development partners to submit aid and development policies to parliaments for review; present regular progress reports on the policies’ implementation; and share information with parliaments so they could participate in developing and reviewing policies and modalities for development cooperation.

“I believe there is a consensus that development cooperation is no longer just about traditional aid in which a donor helps foot the bill of public service or infrastructure projects. Development cooperation today amounts to an effort by which all stakeholders—governments, parliaments, donor agencies, civil society, private sector, local authority and others—work together to mobilize all available resources for development, from domestic and international taxes, to foreign investments, remittances,” said IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong. He said that he worried that public money was being invested in private-public partnerships that could cost tax payers more or impose higher fees on consumers than if the services had been provided directly by the government. “Development cooperation must guard against all these dangers and help promote policy coherence across the board,” he stressed.

World’s MPs gather in Marrakech for Climate Change Conference

12 December 2016

©IPU

The Parliamentary Meeting at COP 22 held in Marrakech, organized by IPU and the Parliament of Morocco on 13 November, brought together 300 delegates from more than 60 countries spanning five continents.  The parliamentarians received first-hand information on the main issues and orientations of COP22/CMP12, gained better knowledge of the recommendations included in the IPU's Parliamentary Action Plan on Climate Change and discussed ways of ensuring speedy operationalization of the Paris Agreement.

The Meeting proved that awareness is high among parliamentarians everywhere about the need to take concrete action on climate change, in particular as it concerns legislating for the nationally determined contributions (NDCs), transition to renewable energy and transfer of technologies. What stands in the way in many countries is the capacity of parliaments to make effective and concrete contributions, help establish strategies and ensure their financing. Investing in building this capacity is a prerequisite for sound legislation and action.

The Parliamentary Meeting underscored that climate change is also an issue of social justice and equality and that effective action needs to take into account the issues of discrimination and human rights.  The parliamentarians paid special attention to the social and health impacts of climate change, in particular on women, children and adolescents, as a vulnerable but often marginalized group. Laws and policies to combat climate change need to be inclusive of measures that specifically target these populations.

At the end of the meeting, parliamentarians adopted a forward-looking roadmap for their future action on climate change and implementation of the Parliamentary Action Plan on Climate Change.

Parliaments from South America and the Caribbean mobilize around the SDGs

12 December 2016

©Parlatino

About 120 MPs from the Parliaments of Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in Panama City on 1 and 2 December 2016 at a Regional Seminar on the SDGs organized by IPU and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).  The IPU President, Saber Chowdhury, delivered the inaugural address.

The seminar provided a platform for MPs to exchange ideas about the opportunities and challenges associated with achieving the SDGs.  The parliamentarians discussed how parliaments can effectively engage in policymaking to facilitate the implementation of the SDGs in the region and their own countries. Particular emphasis was placed on the issue of economic, social and environmental inequalities and how these impede progress towards sustainable development.

The IPU’s Self-Assessment Toolkit on the SDGs was launched on this occasion and immediately sparked a great deal of interest among parliamentarians. The outcome document of the seminar urges IPU and Parlatino to continue to promote parliamentary action on the SDGs, including through the Toolkit.

Serbia celebrates 125th anniversary of IPU membership

9 December 2016

©National Assembly of Serbia

On 5 December, IPU President Saber Chowdhury paid an official visit to Serbia at the invitation of the Speaker of Parliament, Ms. Maja Gojkovic, to participate in celebrations to mark the Parliament’s 125th anniversary of its membership of the IPU. The Serbian Parliament was one of the first Members of the IPU, having joined soon after the Organization’s inception, in 1891.

In his address to a special session of the National Assembly, Mr. Chowdhury paid tribute to the longstanding and loyal membership of the Serbian Parliament and its valuable contribution to the work of the IPU over the years. In 1963, the Serbian Parliament hosted the 52nd IPU Conference, which debated important issues of great relevance even today: equality between States as an essential basis for international cooperation, enhancing the effectiveness of the United Nations with a view to maintaining international peace and security, and the creation of denuclearized and limited armaments zones as a first step towards complete disarmament.

He saluted Serbia’s many achievements in the post-Cold War era and commended the country on its efforts to promote gender equality in all sectors. During his visit to Belgrade, Mr. Chowdhury also met other high-level parliamentary and government officials and interacted with students of the Political Sciences Faculty at Belgrade University.

IPU Secretary General Renews Commitment to Fighting Malnutrition

29 November 2016

Martin Chungong and Ms. Gerda Verbung, Coordinator of SUN. ©IPU/Jorki

Malnutrition affects billions of people throughout the world, killing around three million children annually, according to UNICEF. The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement was set up to respond to this crisis, with a mission to eliminate malnutrition by 2030.

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong is one of the 29 global leaders appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to shape SUN's efforts to eradicate malnutrition. On 17 November, Mr. Chungong met with Ms. Gerda Verbung, Coordinator of SUN, to discuss how to translate the collaboration between the two institutions into action.

Mr. Chungong renewed his commitment to mobilize the global parliamentary community around the issues of malnutrition by raising awareness about nutrition and how it can contribute to national economic and social development.

IPU will use the global platform of its Assemblies to organize sessions on nutrition and look at ways in which it can be mainstreamed into national plans and policies. On the national level, IPU will build the capacity of parliamentarians to oversee both the implementation of government’s plans, strategies and programmes, and the effective use and significant increase of financial resources for nutrition. It will also help parliamentarians to improve legislation on nutrition, and to organize and participate in community campaigns to raise public awareness of the issue.

Mr. Chungong said that democracy and effective parliamentary action can bring about positive change in people’s lives, including by helping to eradicate malnutrition.

IPU Participates in Geneva Peace Week

21 November 2016

Panellists at IPU event during Geneva Peace Week. ©IPU/Laurence Marzal

How can countries ensure that peace, once established, is sustainable? And what can be done about inequality, which, if allowed to persist, can be a threat to peace?

IPU co-hosted two events during Geneva Peace Week to look into these questions, bringing a parliamentary perspective to them.

The first of these was When Peace Agreements Fail to Secure Sustainable Peace: Learning from Yemen, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka. Participants discussed the factors due to which, in spite of negotiations and agreements, outbreaks of violence had broken out in these three countries. Ambassador Shukria Barakazai, former MP from Afghanistan, said that the conditions for a lasting peace should address these factors: stakeholders should fulfil their parts of the agenda; neighbours should be engaged and made responsible for the role they play; an economic plan should be put in place; the rule of law should be implemented fairly; and the rights of women and minorities should be taken into account. The event was co-hosted with the Inclusive Peace and Transition Initiative (IPTI) and the Mission of Germany to the United Nations.

The second event, Inequality as a Danger to Sustainable Peace – Converging Perspectives on Human Rights and Peacebuilding, brought together experts to discuss the impacts of societal inequalities on sustainable peace from human rights and peacebuilding perspectives. Sustaining peace should include political and economic structural changes to tackle the root causes of conflict and social cohesion. Participants emphasized the links between discrimination, human rights violations and inequality, and the role of the state in dealing with inequalities through laws and policies. Austrian MP Andreas Schieder said that parliamentarians can play a crucial role by transposing human rights obligations that promote equality into domestic legislation; involving all sectors of society in the decision-making processes; addressing growing gender inequalities through the empowerment of women and girls; and involving youth. MPs could set up early warning mechanisms, such as hotlines, that allow for tailor-made responses to existing inequalities. (See also Human Rights Abuses as Precursors of Conflict: Parliaments as Early Responders.) The event was co-hosted with the Quaker United Nations Office Geneva (QUNO) and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES).

Geneva Peace Week is a collective action initiative. It was set up in 2014 and is facilitated by the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies and the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform with the support of Switzerland. The initiative focuses on the cross-cutting nature of peace. IPU has been a partner of Geneva Peace Week since 2015.

IPU concerned about detained Turkish MPs

8 November 2016

Riot police and demonstrators clash following the arrest of Turkish MPs from the HDP party. ©AFP/Adam Altan

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is concerned about the recent arrests and detention of parliamentarians from the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey.  The Organization is particularly worried by the allegations that these MPs may have been targeted in response to their conduct of peaceful political activities. 

IPU is in contact with the Turkish authorities to enquire into the exact circumstances of and justification for the arrests and detention. IPU President Saber Chowdhury and IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong urge the authorities to take every step to ensure respect for the rule of law. They stress that these MPs are entitled to due process and fair trial guarantees in any legal proceedings against them.

IPU recalls that the arrests of the MPs took place after their parliamentary immunity had been lifted earlier this year. IPU President Saber Chowdhury, during his visit to Turkey in October, reminded the authorities about the importance of parliamentary immunity to allow parliamentarians to do their job freely and securely and to safeguard the integrity of the parliamentary institution.

Regarding HDP’s decision to provisionally pull out from parliament, IPU calls upon the Turkish Parliament and the authorities to ensure that all conditions are met for MPs to freely work together to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis. It also calls for the respect, by all sides, of the constitutional order and the democratic integrity of parliament.

IPU and CERN to work together for peace

2 November 2016

Martin Chungong and Fabiola Gianotti with the signed agreement.©IPU/Jorki

The heads of IPU and CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) signed a cooperation agreement that aims to promote initiatives for peace and intercultural dialogue; facilitate exchanges between the scientific community and parliamentarians; and raise parliamentarians’ awareness of the importance of science for sustainable development. The event took place at IPU Headquarters in Geneva on 1 November 2016.

IPU recognizes that science and scientific education contribute to fostering inclusive dialogue and sustainable development. IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong said that he saw a strong case for collaboration. “Science doesn’t lie,” he said. “And MPs need accurate information and data to be able to do their work. Science not only brings food to the table but can also foster world peace.”

“This agreement establishes cooperation between CERN and IPU aimed at working on aspects of common interest,” said Dr. Fabiola Gianotti, the first woman Director-General of CERN. “In particular, it will support CERN’s advocacy of the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education for the sustainable development of society and for peaceful collaboration.”

SESAME, the first major international research centre in the Middle East, is a good example of how science can be used as an instrument of peace. The Centre, based in Jordan and set up on the CERN model, brings together scientists from the Middle East region, including from Israel and Palestine.

IPU Secretary General calls for ongoing efforts to strengthen democracy in Benin

20 October 2016

Martin Chungong à prononcer un discours à l’Assemblée nationale du Bénin ©Benoit Koffi

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong was invited to address the opening ceremony of the second regular session of the National Assembly of Benin by the Speaker, Mr. Houngbédji, who is committed to strengthening cooperation between the Parliament and the IPU. Mr. Chungong commended Benin’s vibrant democracy and called upon the country’s parliamentarians to build a stronger, more effective parliament working in partnership with the Executive.

Mr. Chungong said that “freedom of expression, alternation of power, good governance, greater political representation of women, the smooth functioning of institutions in accordance with the rule of law, accountability, and a dynamic civil society are all essential for democracy to take root and flourish and are finding fertile ground in Benin through the efforts of political actors driven by a sense of responsibility and working for the common good.”

“This is the secret to the vitality of democracy in Benin; the success of recent electoral consultations is a good example of this,” he added. 

However, Mr. Chungong expressed the need for ongoing efforts to strengthen democracy in Benin. “This is consistent with the very principle of democracy and will enable it to respond appropriately to the manifold challenges that are reflected in the many and pressing expectations of your voters,” he said. 

In his speech, the IPU Secretary General emphasized the crucial role parliamentarians play in addressing some of the key issues at the forefront of the international agenda, such as human rights, gender equality, terrorism, the new sustainable development agenda and youth involvement in political life. He specifically highlighted the necessity to promote women’s rights and called for increasing the proportion of women MPs in the National Assembly, which currently stands at 7 per cent.

Mr. Chungong paid a courtesy visit to the Head of State, Mr. Patrice Talon, who appealed for IPU support for building the capacity of Beninese parliamentarians so they could successfully carry out their functions. The IPU Head pledged his support.

On the IPU Secretary General’s request to garner support of the executive related to issues like gender equality, combating terrorism and promoting democracy and development through the implementation of the new development agenda, Mr. Talon assured him of his full support, namely on gender equality “where Benin is not doing quite well”, he acknowledged.

During his visit to Cotonou, Mr. Chungong also met with Benin’s Ombudsan and former MP, Mr. Joseph Gnonlonfoun, who has been actively involved in IPU’s activities over the years. The IPU Secretary General stressed the IPU’s desire for Mr. Gnonlonfoun to continue to participate in the work of the Organization, particularly in terms of his expertise in conflict resolution.

Statement by the IPU President, Visit to Ankara

19 October 2016

IPU President visits Turkey.

I am pleased to be in Ankara today, at the invitation of Mr. Ismail Kahraman, Speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. We have had substantive and productive discussions, and I very much look forward to our cooperation ahead. I have also had the opportunity to exchange views with a number of other senior parliamentary officials, including the Chair of the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Men and Women, the Chair of the Committee on Human Rights Inquiry and the Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on the July 15 Coup Attempt.

I have used the opportunity to reiterate that the Inter-Parliamentary Union has condemned in the strongest possible terms the coup attempt in Turkey and the attack on Parliament on 15 July. Any attempt to interfere in the political process or accede to power through violence cannot be justified under any circumstances and should be clearly rejected.

The IPU expresses its solidarity with the people of Turkey as they recover from the trauma of the July 15 events. The IPU reaffirms its commitment to support Turkey in its efforts to strengthen constitutional order and uphold democracy and the rule of law. It underscores the critical role the Turkish Parliament plays in this process, including in terms of fostering an inclusive political dialogue in the country.

The IPU has a longstanding relationship with the Turkish Parliament, as evidenced through joint programmes and initiatives in a number of areas, including parliamentary capacity building, gender equality and human rights. I have agreed with the Turkish parliamentary authorities, to pursue our on-going co-operation to promote gender equality in partnership with the United Nations. The IPU and the Turkish Parliament are also exploring modalities to ensure follow up to the 2011 Parliamentary Action Plan for the Least Developed Countries.

During my visit to Ankara, I have also discussed with my Turkish hosts the situation of the nearly 140 Turkish MPs whose parliamentary immunity was lifted in May after a vote in Parliament amending the Constitution and who now face prosecution. The IPU reaffirms the importance of parliamentary immunity as a necessary mechanism to allow parliamentarians to do their job freely and safely, with the clear understanding that immunity should not be confused with impunity. I have stressed that the MPs in question should be entitled to due process and fair trial guarantees in any legal proceedings against them.

The IPU also welcomes the commitment of the Turkish Parliament to work closely with the IPU in finding a suitable solution to the cases currently under consideration by the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians.

IPU Secretary General congratulates Egyptian Parliament on its 150th anniversary

13 October 2016

Martin Chungong speaking to the Presidents of the African and Arab Parliaments ©Sada El-Balad

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong congratulated the Egyptian Parliament on its 150th anniversary and called on all political stakeholders to reflect in this historical moment on the need to build a stronger and more democratic parliament.

Addressing a ceremony in Sharm El-Sheikh attended by President Abdel Fatah Al Sissi and MPs from African and Arab countries, Mr. Chungong stressed IPU´s resolute support to the democratic process in the country.

Mr. Chungong said it is time now in Egypt for “introspection and soul-searching, based on past achievements and the challenges ahead", and urged all Egyptians to build on this momentum to consolidate a parliament "that is representative, transparent, accountable, accessible and effective”.

“In sum, one that is better able to articulate the wishes of the people and deliver prosperity within the framework of the mandate prescribed in the Constitution. Taking this effort forward, the Parliament can count on IPU’s unflinching support”, he added.

During his visit to Egypt, the IPU Secretary General met with President Al Sissi, who committed to promoting inclusive democracy and working for a strong national parliament. Both agreed on the need to tackle the global threat of terrorism to democracy, peace and dialogue, and discussed priority issues on IPU's agenda, such as migration and the refugee crisis.

President Al Sissi thanked Mr. Chungong for participating in the event and noted the key role played by the Secretary General in strengthening relations between Egypt and IPU. He also stressed the need for IPU to continue to support the Egyptian Parliament in order to enhance its capacity and improve transparency.

Egypt has been a Member of IPU for 92 of its 150 years of existence, becoming the first Arab Member of the Organization in 1924.

A large-scale technical cooperation agreement is currently being implemented by IPU.

IPU Secretary General welcomes new Ambassadors from Bulgaria, Israel and Togo

12 October 2016

Martin Chungong welcomes new ambassadors to IPU Secretariat ©IPU/Jorki

In a round of courtesy visits with new Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in Geneva, IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong met with Ambassadors Deyana Kostadinova of Bulgaria, Aviva Raz Shechter of Israel and Yackoley Johnson of Togo.

“I am pleased to welcome the new ambassadors and express my commitment to continuing our work with them on the challenging issues facing their respective parliaments,” explained Mr. Chungong.  As a Geneva Gender Champion, Mr. Chungong also applauded the fact that two out of the three permanent representatives he met last week are women, adding to the growing number of women ambassadors in Geneva.

“It is very encouraging to see more women taking up such high-ranking posts,” stated the IPU Secretary General, as he reiterated his personal commitment to gender equality.

The Israeli Ambassador expressed her appreciation for the outcomes of a recent roundtable organized by IPU with MPs from the Middle East, including Israel and Palestine. They examined ways to resolve the region’s critical water shortage.

Mr. Chungong and Ambassador Johnson discussed IPU’s efforts to end the child labour and trafficking in Africa while the meeting with the Bulgarian Ambassador focused on the parliamentary dimension of the work of the UN. They also discussed the empowerment of women and IPU’s initiatives to facilitate the sharing of experiences and best practices on this issue.