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 Geneva, 30 January 2009IPU Logo-bottom


President Theo-Ben GURIRAB Today, at the end of two days of consultations with the IPU Executive Committee meeting in extraordinary session, I wish to make the following statement:

My first point concerns the deplorable situation in Gaza and the broader political crisis in the Middle East. I wish to recall that the paramount objective of the Inter-Parliamentary Union is the establishment of peace in the region, with two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side within secure and recognized borders.

The IPU firmly believes that the only way to achieve this objective is through dialogue and negotiations, and never through the use of armed force and violence. We therefore call upon the parties to resume serious negotiations and reiterate our commitment to support all political initiatives to restart dialogue between the parties.

We support the legitimate government of Palestine and its elected parliament. We equally support efforts to unite the Palestinian people. It is imperative for them to speak with one voice as they move towards statehood.

We are outraged at the shocking loss of lives and destruction, including the bombings of United Nations premises and other manifestly civilian installations. We abhor all acts of violence against civilians, whoever perpetrates them.

It is imperative to alleviate the distress of the people of Gaza and attend to their urgent humanitarian needs. For this to be possible, it will be necessary to ensure a secure environment, open border crossings and establish humanitarian corridors. Most importantly, we call on Israel to ensure that access to Gaza is predictable, regular and comprehensive.

The international community must be ready to fund immediate assistance and we urge all countries to respond promptly and generously to the appeal now being issued by the United Nations. Similarly, we call on the international community to provide sustained support for reconstruction in Gaza following the widespread destruction caused by the Israeli invasion. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) must receive the support it requires to fulfil its mandate throughout the region.

We support the efforts of the United Nations to bring peace and stability to the region and in particular Security Council resolution 1860 (2009). We welcome the ceasefire that has been put in place and urge all parties to respect it. We insist that all parties abide by the rules of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and we believe that alleged violations of these rules during the recent fighting should be subject to an independent investigation that is acted upon.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union will assist the Parliament in Palestine to become a fully functional institution. It will also investigate possibilities for the rehabilitation of the Gaza Office of the Palestinian Legislative Council which was destroyed during the attacks. The IPU continues to call for the immediate release of the parliamentarians of the Palestinian Legislative Council who have been arbitrarily detained by the Israeli authorities.

We have discussed the need for an IPU fact-finding mission. In order to prepare for this, I will shortly be travelling to the region to consult with the Speakers of the Arab Parliaments and with the leaders of the Palestinian and Israeli Governments and Parliaments. I will report on these consultations to the IPU Governing Bodies at their forthcoming session in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

My second point concerns the global financial crisis. The Executive Committee has approved a set of proposals for the IPU to organize a parliamentary contribution to the efforts currently under way to address it.

The crisis has expanded beyond the world of finance and reached into the economies of all countries. The prospects for 2009 are bleak. Provisional ILO projections indicate that fifty million jobs or more may be lost. Some two hundred million workers, mostly in developing economies, could be pushed into extreme poverty. We stand at the brink of a crisis of enormous proportions with repercussions on our ability to produce enough food and alleviate human suffering.

I will shortly convene a group of members of parliament who have substantive expertise and experience of financial and economic policy, labour and social development issues, and food security and related areas. The group will prepare initial input to the work of the G 20 and the United Nations. The IPU will also host and facilitate the work of the Commission of Experts set up by the United Nations General Assembly President on reforms of the international monetary and financial system when it meets in Geneva in early March.

The IPU will convene a global parliamentary conference on the crisis. The conference will promote an inclusive and comprehensive global response. It will seek improved global governance through greater parliamentary involvement. It will make every effort to see that the global response to the crisis is gender balanced and includes women in the decision-making processes.

In essence, the conference will make proposals to ensure that parliaments, individually and acting collectively through the IPU, can secure greater accountability and transparency on all of these issues.

My third point relates to climate change. The year 2009 is an important milestone in our collective efforts to tackle climate change. In December, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will meet in Copenhagen. With the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol set to expire in 2012, a new international framework has to be agreed and ratified. The Conference in Copenhagen will conclude a new agreement and set the terms for long-term global climate cooperation.

A successful conclusion of this process will require the support of parliaments everywhere. Their approval is essential to ratification of the agreement and its subsequent implementation. We will therefore continue our campaign to mobilize parliaments in support of a new and enforceable agreement on climate change. We will accompany the United Nations in this process and, together with the Danish Parliament, we will organize a meeting for the parliamentarians attending the Conference in Copenhagen.

Lastly, we have discussed several other matters, including IPUís cooperation with the United Nations. However, the principal purpose of this extraordinary session of the Executive Committee was to discuss possible IPU initiatives in the face of this latest crisis in the Middle East, particularly in Gaza.

We are acutely aware that peace in the Middle East can only come about through political dialogue and negotiation. However, it is only the representatives of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples who can set the terms of a comprehensive and lasting peace agreement. All countries, large or small, within or outside the region, must ultimately contribute to this effort and not seek to impose their own terms for peace. It is with this conviction that I look forward to leading the IPUís efforts in support of peace in the Middle East.

Established in 1889 and with its Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the IPU, the oldest multilateral political organisation, currently brings together 154 affiliated parliaments and eight regional assemblies as associate members. The world organisation of parliaments has an Office in New York, which acts as its Permanent Observer at the United Nations.
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