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Post-2015 SDGs and fight against global terrorism dominate Hanoi agenda

The 132nd Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly was convened in Hanoi, Vietnam from 28 March to 1 April 2015 with over 1,500 participants including 715 parliamentarians from 132 parliaments, with 51 Speakers and 201 women MPs. Full details of the Assembly’s agenda and key documents are available on the IPU website.

The UK Delegation, led by the BGIPU Chair, Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, also included Robert Walter MP, Baroness Hooper, Lord Judd, Lord Chidgey, Lord Dholakia and Lord Faulkner. Both Lord Dholakia and Baroness Hooper participated in the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians and associated events, specifically marking the 30th anniversary of the IPU’s primary forum for women MPs and issuing a call for action on women’s political empowerment. Acknowledging the important role to be played by men in these efforts, including through the prominent global #HeforShe campaign of which he is an active supporter, the BGIPU Chair, Mr Burt MP, also signed a declaration in support of creating a better world for women and girls.

Following extensive hearings on cases of concern, the IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians committed to carrying out human rights missions to the Maldives, Malaysia and Mongolia in the coming months based on decisions adopted on the closing day of the Assembly. The IPU also launched the IPU Common Principles for Support to Parliament with a ceremony in Hanoi recognising the more than 60 parliaments and other organisations which have signed up to the Common Principles since adoption at the 131st Assembly last October.

In his capacity as IPU Vice-President, Robert Walter MP also participated in IPU Executive Committee deliberations throughout the course of the meeting, including the IPU’s Sub-Committee on the Future IPU-UN Cooperation Agreement. The BGIPU Chair, Mr Walter and Lord Dholakia represented the UK in meetings of the European and others geopolitical Twelve Plus Group which issued a declaration on the difficulties facing Ukraine following Russia’s blatant attack on its sovereignty and continuing incursions of Russian troops into its territory.

The key theme of the General Debate at this Assembly was, “The Sustainable Development Goals: Turning words into action” which provided an opportunity for the IPU’s membership to adopt the Hanoi Declaration calling for recognition of the key role to be played by parliaments in holding the world’s governments to account in meeting the mooted post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. In his speech to the Assembly, the BGIPU Chair highlighted the UK Parliament’s very active series of debates and select committee reports on the post-2015 agenda as one example of how all parliaments need to play an active role in shaping the world’s sustainable development outcomes, including overseeing their effective implementation.

In an Emergency Item resolution, selected by vote, IPU Members strongly condemned all terrorist acts and the steady escalation in such violence. Acknowledging that terrorism was not limited to any one religion, nationality or ethnic group, members expressed concern at the on-going threat terrorism poses to international peace and security. They highlighted the need for attention to be paid to civilians, in particular women and girls, in countries where organizations such as Boko Haram and the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as Daesh, were active. The item included a call for concerted and collective action, including by parliaments, to address the scourge of global terrorism.

Lord Judd, as Chairman of the IPU Committee on Middle East Questions, chaired meetings of the group to explore ways in which the IPU could progress its efforts to ensure legislators in both countries take concrete action in support of Middle East peace efforts. In a format which heard from prominent Speakers in the region, there was also broad support among the IPU membership for the Committee to play a more active role in other challenges facing the region, including in relation to the situation in Syria.  The was agreement that the Committee would be consulted in preparations for the despatch of an IPU parliamentary mission to Syria in the near future.

Other UK delegates were active participants in the core standing committee work of the IPU Assembly. The Standing Committee on Peace and International Security adopted a resolution on “Cyber warfare – A serious threat to peace and global security” and the Committee on Human Rights and Democracy adopted a resolution on “International law as it relates to national sovereignty, non-intervention in the internal affairs of States and human rights”. The Committee on Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade adopted a resolution on “Shaping a new system of water governance: Promoting parliamentary action on water and sanitation” while the UN Committee looked at a number of items including parliamentary capacity to monitor implementation of the SDGs.

In addition to the core multilateral work of the Assembly, the UK delegation also undertook a focused programme of bilateral meetings with parliamentary counterparts from Ukraine, Cuba, Burma, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Maldives, Bangladesh and Ethiopia. Key themes including global peace and security issues, particularly the threat of terrorism and extremism, European security issues, human rights, trade and development matters and opportunities for inter-parliamentary cooperation as well as discussing the upcoming UK General Elections. We also undertook at officials levels detailed exchanges on capacity building opportunities with Burma and Afghanistan with the hope of continuing technical cooperation to strengthen the operations of both parliaments.

Parallel to the IPU Assembly, UK parliamentary officials also participated in the meeting of the Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments which discussed working methods of different Parliaments. The UK delegation was also honoured by a reception hosted by the UK Ambassador to Vietnam, HE Ambassador Giles Lever, which included meeting many of the impressive members of Vietnam’s Youth Parliament which is a political participation initiative supported by the UK Mission in Hanoi. BGIPU was particularly grateful to our Vietnamese hosts and our appointed liaison officers who provided outstanding assistance to the delegation throughout their stay in Hanoi.