IPU e-Bulletin n°11

Geneva, 19th November 2015

Paris and Lebanon attacks will mobilize greater parliamentary action against terrorism – IPU President Saber Chowdhury and Secretary General Martin Chungong have condemned the horrific terror attacks in Paris and Lebanon last week which have left more than 170 people dead. Expressing solidarity with the French and Lebanese people and parliaments in a letter to their Speakers, they have pledged to continue mobilizing the parliamentary community on concerted and effective measures to counter terrorism in all its forms. The IPU flag was flown at half-mast as a mark of respect for and solidarity with the people of both countries.

MPs to push for action on critical climate change threat - MPs from around the world will meet in Paris in December to galvanize action on the global threat posed by climate change, and influence the major UN summit being held simultaneously in the city.   The MPs will urge world leaders at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 11th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, commonly known as the COP21/CMP11 summit, to agree specific means by which their pledges will be turned into reality. They will stress the urgency with which the climate change threat must be addressed and the vital role of parliaments in delivering change. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Hollywood star and Founding Chair of R20 – Regions of Climate Action - Arnold Schwarzenegger, are among a wide range of key speakers at the event. Read more

Call to action on statelessness - IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong will urge parliaments to step up their efforts to assist the world’s 10 million stateless people when he addresses a conference in South Africa later this month. MPs and staff from more than 30 parliaments and parliamentary assemblies will identify measures they can implement to combat statelessness, which deprives many people of basic rights but which can be solved with relatively simple changes to laws and practices.  Statelessness stems from a variety of factors, including discrimination and the redrawing of national boundaries. The conference, which takes place in Cape Town on 26-27 November, has been organized by IPU, the South African Parliament and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. Read more.

Supporting Myanmar’s new MPs – With about 400 of the 664 MPs in the new parliament in Myanmar being first time parliamentarians, efforts are under way to ensure they are ready for the challenge of political life when they take up their seats in February 2016. The new MPs will have in hand a members’ handbook and guide prepared by parliamentary staff with the backing of an IPU-UNDP parliamentary support programme. Each House will have a handbook that sets out parliament’s mandate and operational procedures to help the MPs carry out their duties in both the House of Representatives and House of Nationalities. A guidebook provides practical information on navigating parliament, including the services of the parliamentary administration. The IPU-UNDP programme is also supporting a formal induction programme for the MPs, as well as providing help on Information and Computer Technology, infrastructure, training and development.  Since 2012, IPU has been working with the Myanmar Parliament to support development of its functions and processes, and to build a parliamentary culture.

Registration of new Egyptian MPs marks new step on democracy roadmap - More than 250 parliamentarians elected in October in the first phase of a two-stage election have so far undergone a formal process of registration and welcome by Egypt’s  parliamentary secretariat, giving them key practical information about the institution.  The process has been led by parliamentary administrative authorities, in line with guidance from IPU teams during several consultations over the past two years.   The same process will be used to register and welcome MPs elected in the second stage of voting. This is due to take place in the coming weeks.  IPU has been working alongside the parliament to ensure that MPs are fully equipped for their role as the country continues on its roadmap to democracy. 

Nigeria’s young MPs launch national group - IPU’s Forum of Young Parliamentarians is inspiring the establishment of youth caucuses within national parliaments.  A Nigeria chapter of the Forum has been set up on the initiative of the Speakers of Parliament and MP Raphael Igbokwe, a board member of the IPU Forum.  The caucus aims to support youth participation in politics, empower young MPs and ensure there is a youth-led platform of influence in parliament on youth-related matters.  IPU is working to re-engage young people in formal democratic processes, both by supporting young MPs and increasing youth engagement in politics and in voting.  In 2014 only 1.7 per cent of the world’s MPs were aged under 30.  IPU believes the under-representation and under-engagement of youth are a threat to democracy and represent a loss of critical input to public life.

IPU Secretary General gender pledge builds on equality record - IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong has pledged support for a new initiative on gender equality, building on his and the Organization’s ground-breaking record in the field.  The initiative – International Geneva Gender Champions – invites organizations to specify practical steps they will take to break down gender barriers, and sign a “Gender Parity Pledge”, committing them to work for equality in all Geneva-based discussions.  Secretary General Chungong vows that all IPU debates will include both male and female panellists, and that “parity debates” on a variety of topics, with equal gender representation on the panel will be held during IPU Assemblies. His other pledges include ensuring that at least 30 per cent of MPs attending Assemblies are women, and that decision-making structures will comprise at least 30 per cent women by 2017, rising to 40 per cent by 2020.  He also promises to ensure that all IPU’s parliamentary support programmes will not only promote gender equality but that equality will be put at the heart of all the Organization’s work. IPU’s work environment will also be assessed from a gender perspective by 2016. “Gender equality is the responsibility of all and progress will only be achieved if we all play our part. We need to challenge those who have not been playing theirs,” says the Secretary General. Read more

Push to tackle child marriage in Bangladesh – A concerted push is being made to cut the rate of child marriage in Bangladesh - one of the highest in the world – through a series of events targeting a wide range of groups, including MPs. Figures suggest 66 per cent of Bangladeshi girls are married before reaching the age of 18, the internationally recognized age for reaching adulthood. Although national figures are on a downward trend, the Bangladesh Parliament is trying to accelerate progress. Workshops for MPs, local officials and NGOs will aim to strengthen their work and help build birth and marriage registration systems - vital tools in the fight against child marriage.  An event to raise awareness among the general public is also taking place. Later on, MPs will also assess what further practical steps can be taken on the issue. The events, organized by the Bangladesh Parliament and IPU, are being supported by the Japanese foundation Worldwide Support for Development and the World Health Organization. Child marriage is regarded internationally as a breach of human rights. Child brides are at high risk of complications or even death in pregnancy and childbirth, HIV infection and domestic violence, and often lack access to health care and education. World leaders have for the first time prioritized the elimination of child, early and forced marriage under the Sustainable Development Goal of achieving gender equality. 

Stepping up work to protect women in Arab countries - The challenge of addressing the needs of women and girls during conflict in the Arab region has been put under the spotlight at a parliamentary workshop in Tunisia. Focusing on the landmark UN resolution 1325, which recognizes the disproportionate and unique problems faced by women in conflict and calls for their protection, MPs, parliamentary staff and representatives from Ministries for Gender Affairs,  institutions and organizations in Arab countries explored how the resolution could be put into full effect across North Africa and the Middle East. The region has in recent years been particularly hit by crises, conflict and violent extremism that continue to impact on millions of lives. Parliaments and their members can and must protect women and girls by legislating, budgeting and overseeing implementation of international commitments on rights and equality.  The meeting examined how Resolution 1325 could be integrated into parliamentary work, including through the passing or revision of laws, raising awareness and coordinating work with relevant government machinery and NGOs.  Issues such as marital rape, child marriage and protecting female refugees were put on the table, with MPs highlighting both current challenges and progress made in their own countries. The workshop was organized by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA) in cooperation with the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and IPU.  The participants will meet again early next year.

Fresh drive in “My Power for Women’s Power” initiative - IPU’s Meeting of Women Parliamentarians has launched a new drive in its campaign to build support for gender equality in parliaments around the world.  The women MPs have adopted an action plan (PDF) to help implement the My Power for Women’s Power campaign - which encourages MPs of both sexes to sign a commitment to working for gender equality.  Many hundreds of male and female MPs have joined the campaign since its launch in March 2015 and more signatures are encouraged.  The new plan of action suggests a range of follow-up initiatives for MPs who have already signed up, including publicizing the campaign through social and traditional media, passing or amending equality legislation, and pressing governments to deliver action and financial resources. MPs are also encouraged to support women running for public office and to ensure parliaments are gender-sensitive.  Meanwhile, IPU pledges to support MPs and parliaments wishing to advance gender equality in a variety of ways, including through legal advice, technical assistance and financial support.  The world’s parliaments have an average female membership of only 22.5 per cent. IPU has long promoted equality in parliaments and wider society, as well as within the Organization, and its meetings and events. The Meeting of Women Parliamentarians, formed 30 years ago, is a unique forum for women MPs to plug into and participate in international political decision-making.

Share your views on parliamentary oversight - IPU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have issued a call for written input to the second Global Parliamentary Report, which will focus on the power of parliaments to hold governments to account. All parliaments, organizations and individuals with an interest in parliamentary oversight are invited to share their views in writing, to help to shape the content and direction of the report. Submissions can focus on good practices, challenges and proposals for how to improve parliamentary oversight and government accountability. More than 300 parliamentarians have already taken party in surveys and interviews for the report, and a series of thematic debates is underway. Written input can be made in English, French, Spanish or Arabic. Submissions should be no more than 1,500 words in length and should state clearly who the submission is from. The deadline is 30 November 2015.