UK active in pursuing strong outcomes for 130th IPU Assembly
The 130th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly was convened in Geneva from 16 to 20 March 2014 with around 1,450 participants comprising some 726 parliamentarians from 141 parliaments, including over 50 Speakers and 223 women MPs. This was a landmark meeting of the world’s parliaments in marking the IPU’s 125th anniversary which also saw the election of new Secretary-General, Mr Martin Chungong, who will replace at the end of June 2014, Mr Anders B. Johnsson, who was widely praised for his 16 year leadership of the organisation.
The UK delegation was led by the BGIPU Chair, Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, and included BGIPU Vice-Chair, Mike Gapes MP, Rt Hon Ann Clwyd MP, Lord Judd, Lord Dholakia PC OBE DL, Baroness Miller, Ian Liddell-Grainger MP and Jeremy Corbyn MP. In addition, IPU Vice-President, Robert Walter MP also participated in IPU Executive Committee deliberations, including interviewing candidates for the post of IPU Secretary General prior to the eventual Governing Council vote which saw Mr Chungong successful by an overwhelming majority on 20 March. The IPU also welcomed the Legislative Assembly of the Kingdom of Tonga as its 164th member. Full details of the Assembly’s agenda and key outcomes are available on the IPU website and the results are available here.
Members of the UK delegation played leading roles in a number of capacities in the course of the Assembly. Lord Judd, as President of the IPU Committee on Middle East Questions, chaired meetings of the group including a joint session between Israeli and Palestinian representatives. He subsequently reported to the Governing Council on progress on the IPU’s efforts to facilitate deeper dialogue between legislators on both sides. Ann Clwyd MP, as Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, worked to finalise the Committee’s resolutions on 101 cases in 14 countries (out of a total caseload of 270 MPs in 43 countries) including undertakings to conduct missions to consult further with the relevant authorities regarding particular cases.
The UK delegation leader, Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, was also a panellist in a discussion looking at the reasons for the high turnover of MPs in elections. Mr Burt and Ms Clwyd had also jointly contributed to the General Debate on “The IPU at 125: Renewing our commitment to peace and democracy” highlighting the pivotal role played by UK parliamentarians to the organisation throughout its history and the important work carried out by the IPU in defence of the human rights of the world’s parliamentarians.
Based on Committee designations reflecting individual expertise and interests, other UK delegates were also active in the core committee work of the IPU Assembly. This included negotiation of a 1st Committee resolution on ‘Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: The contribution of parliaments’ highlighting parliament’s important role to scrutinize policy and hold governments to account on disarmament obligations, a 2nd Committee resolution on ‘Towards risk-resilient development: Taking into consideration demographic trends and natural constraints’ and a 3rd Committee resolution adopted regarding ‘The role of parliaments in protecting the rights of children, in particular unaccompanied migrant children, and in preventing their exploitation in situations of war and conflict’.
Drawing on a current report of the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, of which he is a member, Mike Gapes MP spoke on the need for greater international assistance to address the situation in the Central African Republic. In addition, along with our IPU Executive Committee Vice Chair, Robert Walter MP on behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Mr Gapes also used this occasion to call in the strongest possible terms for Russia to abide by its international obligations with regard to its actions in Ukraine, particularly registering the collective concerns of the UK delegation regarding developments in Crimea. In joining other parliamentary counterparts in such calls, and through our role on the IPU Executive Committee, the UK was also instrumental in ensuring the President of the IPU issued a statement at the conclusion of the Assembly highlighting the concerns of parliamentarians that resolution of conflicts such as Syria, Ukraine and the Central African Republic must always be pursued through mutual dialogue, without resort to threats or use of armed aggression; a call based on the fundamental principles of the IPU since its inception 125 years ago.
In addition to the core multilateral work of the Assembly, the UK delegation also undertook a focussed programme of bilateral meetings with parliamentary counterparts from priority countries to discuss issues of mutual concern and plan future parliamentary exchanges. At the 130th Assembly, UK delegates met with their counterparts from Argentina, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Bahrain, Palestine, Israel, Iraq and Iran, in addition to less formal exchanges with parliamentarians from many other countries.
Parallel to the IPU Assembly, UK parliamentary officials also participated in the meeting of the Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments, constituted as a consultative body of the IPU, which discussed the law, procedure, practice and working methods of different Parliaments to improve those methods and enhance technical and practical co-operation between Parliaments.