Action on drugs to be focus of IPU-UN parliamentary event ­

 The world drug problem and how to address it will be the focus of a major parliamentary hearing at the United Nations in New York on 8-9 February.  Hundreds of MPs
 from around the world as well as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, IPU President Saber Chowdhury and UN Office on Drugs and Crime Executive
 Director Yuri Fedotov will attend the event, which is jointly organized by IPU and the UN. The hearing, The World Drug Problem: Taking Stock and
 Strengthening the Global Response, will review progress parliaments made on the issue since a plan of action on illegal drugs was adopted by governments
 in 2009. The plan set 2019 as a target date for eliminating or significantly reducing supply, demand and associated criminal activity such as money
 laundering. MPs, experts and representatives from international organizations and civil society will examine the problem and the global
 response, focusing on key areas such as finding the most effective solutions to new and existing challenges, increasing international cooperation, and
 identifying the links between drug trafficking, organized crime and corruption.  They will address the underlying question of whether the
 so-called war on drugs, which relies on a law-enforcement solution to the problem of illicit drugs, is working as intended. The MPs will also explore
 whether drug policy needs rethinking in light of the new people-centred Sustainable Development Goals.  

 IPU missions to push for progress on MPs human rights cases ­ IPU's Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians will carry out several
 human rights missions in the coming months to push for progress on cases involving the abuses of the human rights of MPs.   In a range of decisions
 adopted by the IPU Committee during a three-day meeting on cases concerning a group of 40 MPs, priority has been given to missions to Cambodia, the
 Maldives and Venezuela.  A mission to Cambodia in mid-February will investigate an increasing number of cases, including last year's attacks on
 MPs Kong Sophea and Nhay Chamreoun and the legality of new action taken against opposition leader, Sam Rainsy.  In the Maldives, the Committee will
 examine what the authorities are doing to follow up on allegations concerning threats and attacks against MPs and to better understand
 developments in the case concerning the murder of an MP, Afrasheem Ali in 2012.  A mission to Venezuela will investigate a case where three MPs have
 been prevented from taking their parliamentary seat, as well as other long-standing cases. The IPU Committee, which is currently investigating
 cases concerning more than 270 MPs globally, also adopted decisions on cases from Colombia, Niger, Palestine, Rwanda and Turkey. 

 Asian summit focuses on cutting tobacco deaths ­ A summit of Speakers of Parliament from South Asia will explore practical ways to achieve the
 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a particular focus on improving health by cutting tobacco use. The Speakers will aim to identify ways to cut
 deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) from the current annual toll of 38 million people by one third by 2030.  Tobacco is a leading cause of NCDs
 such as cardiovascular and lung diseases, cancer and diabetes. It is used by an estimated 384 million people in South Asia with at least 1.1 million
 people killed annually by its use in India and Bangladesh alone. Obstacles to cutting its use include low taxation, lack of funding for prevention and
 health care, weak implementation of laws and strong tobacco industry influence.  The summit is expected to highlight governance gaps, develop a
 national and regional roadmap for action, and put systems in place to monitor progress and establish accountability. It will also put the
 spotlight on SDG 16, through which countries committed themselves to building transparent and effective institutions.  As key institutions of
 democracy, parliaments will be encouraged to examine whether they are fit for purpose to implement the SDGs by assessing the way they pass laws,
 oversee the work of governments, set budgets and represent citizens.

 The event, in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on 30-31 January, is being organized by IPU and the Bangladeshi Parliament in cooperation with the
 Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an international non-profit organization.

 Major health promotion role for IPU President - IPU President Saber Chowdhury has accepted an invitation to join a high-level group on  Every
 Woman Every Child, a global movement led by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The initiative champions the health of women, children and
 adolescents.   The group will advise the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Global Strategy on Women's, Children's and
 Adolescents' Health.  The group's members comprise leaders from governments around the world, the international business community, philanthropists and
 prominent young people.

 The Global Strategy includes a roadmap aimed at ending all preventable deaths within a generation and ensuring the well-being of everyone at risk.
 It highlights that the health of women, children and adolescents is critically important to almost every area of human development and progress
 and has a direct impact on the successful attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders in 2015. IPU has made a
 strong commitment to the Global Strategy  to build on and further expand the contribution of parliaments in improving women's, children's and
 adolescents' health everywhere. I am delighted to have been invited to join the High Level Advisory Group to the UNSG and look forward to contributing
 to its work, said President Chowdhury. Parliaments and their members are key to delivering on the health challenges which Every Woman Every Child is
 addressing. I look forward to promoting their role in this critical issue.

 Turkish Parliament launches equality role model mission - A project to ensure gender equality is placed at the heart of Turkey's parliamentary work
 has been launched. Working alongside IPU and UN Women, Turkey's Grand National Assembly will support women's leadership and ensure equality
 becomes a mainstream issue in all parliamentary business. Through the project, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
 (SIDA), the Grand National Assembly is aiming to become a role model on gender equality, with changes benefiting not just female MPs but also their
 male counterparts, parliamentary staff and commissions.

 Making equality a reality is everyone's responsibility, both men's and women's, said IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong. It requires the full
 respect for women's rights, backed up by solid action on women's empowerment and equal participation at all levels of decision-making across every sector
 in society. Parliaments, with the power to change social and economic norms through political representation, legislation and oversight of government, are the obvious place to start.

The project in Turkey is part of IPU's global commitment to working for gender equality with parliaments around the world. Kenya community events boost gender equality target - Hundreds of citizens and local leaders around Kenya have attended community outreach events to promote awareness and support for the constitutional requirement of women MPs accounting for at least one third of all MPs in the country, and proposals to achieve this.

 Kenya currently ranks joint 74th in IPU's world rankings of women in parliament with less than 20 per cent of women in the National Assembly and
 nearly 27 per cent in the Senate. Backed by IPU and led by the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association, the outreach underscored that constitutionally,
 no more than two thirds of parliament can be made up of the same gender. Several Bills on meeting the target are now before parliament but no
 consensus has been reached on the best way forward. Informing the public and decision-makers on the issues and the added value of gender-balanced
 institutions is, therefore, a national priority. More than 1,000 people, nearly half of them men, took part in 17 community events held in 12
 counties at the end of 2015. Young people made up nearly 40 per cent of those taking part.  Local advocacy teams were also formed and will continue
 to promote the issue.

 Public debate on the two-thirds gender rule has been on-going for some months, with new laws needed in time for the 2017 general election. IPU has
 contributed to this debate through an advisory mission in July 2015. In recent years, IPU has provided support to legal reforms in Egypt and Tunisia
 to increase women's participation in parliament.

 Stage set for TEDx Transforming Lives event - Eleven inspiring speakers with powerful stories to tell are preparing to share their ideas on Transforming
 Lives at a TEDx event in Geneva on 11 February.  The event will celebrate and spread the word about the global impact of Geneva-based international
 organizations.  It is being organized and hosted by colleagues from the UN Office at Geneva and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, with support from nine
 other associated agencies, including IPU. The speakers include innovators, public health and energy specialists, human rights defenders and
 humanitarians, all of whom have made a real difference in people¹s lives around the world.  Among them are three parliamentarians: Zimbabwean
 democracy advocate Thabitha Khumalo, Turkish inclusion champion Safak Pavey, and UK iRights campaigner Baroness Kidron. The event takes place at the
 Palais des Nations - home of the UN in Geneva. It will be webcast live via from 1500 to 1900 CET.

TEDx Talks showcase ideas or arguments worth spreading in talks that have to be less than 18 minutes. Official viewing parties can
 also be staged, where events are streamed live onto a large screen to an audience of 100 people or fewer.  The TEDx Place des Nations event is the second of its kind.

 Integrating gender into Ivorian parliamentary work - Promoting gender equality in the work of Côte d¹Ivoire's Parliament has received a major
 boost, with the staging of a workshop for parliamentary staff.  Fifty employees, including 18 women, took part in a three-day event, which
 equipped staff to integrate gender issues into the work of parliament.  It focused on building a common understanding of what a gender perspective
 means for women and men, and devising ways to implement this approach in the day-to-day work of parliament. The event included training on the main
 concepts of a gender-sensitive parliament. The workshop was followed by the creation of a gender committee of National Assembly staff members, which IPU will support
 as it defines its working methods and priorities.

 Participants in the workshop also suggested developing tools for integrating gender issues into all parliamentary work, organizing further training for
 staff and MPs, and creating a nursery or children's area inside parliament, all measures and strategies promoted by IPU to make parliaments more
 gender-sensitive institutions.

 Mauritanian MPs create action plan for equality ­ Women MPs in Mauritania have created an action plan to push forward work on gender equality. It
 followed training  in Nouakchott on strategic planning on the work of the women's caucus in parliament involving about 40 female MPs, civil society
 organizations and government officials. Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Mohamed Ghoulam Ould Hadj Cheikh addressed the opening and closing
 sessions with male MPs joining the occasion. The workshop, jointly organized by the parliamentary women's group REFPAM, IPU and the National Assembly,
 included training on frameworks for protecting women's rights. There were also open discussions, and women MPs from Morocco and Côte d'Ivoire shared
 their experiences of promoting gender equality reforms in parliament and running caucuses of female MPs. IPU support for this activity was funded by
 the UAE Federal National Council.

 The workshop led to a fully-fledged strategic plan for 2016-2018 with three main focuses: strengthening REFPAM and its members; ensuring parliament
 delivers on gender equality through studies, proposed laws and awareness-raising workshops; and building alliances and reaching out to
 civil society and other relevant groups. IPU will continue working with REFPAM to ensure the plan is implemented. Priority areas for 2016 include
 promoting new laws to combat violence against women and girls, and strengthening female MPs through study visits, training activities and other
 projects. IPU promotes the creation and strengthening of women's caucuses in parliaments to help female MPs increase their political
 impact by sharing common goals beyond party lines.

 Rwanda MPs urge action on civil registration - MPs in Rwanda have held a meeting with leaders of key government ministries as part of a drive to
 improve healthcare for women, children and adolescents. The country has made progress in cutting some maternal deaths, but more needs to be done in
 other areas such as reducing the number of children dying. The meeting discussed the urgent need for new and efficient systems to collect accurate 

information on births, marriages and deaths.  It followed visits by MPs to areas around the country to see for themselves the nature of the problem.

 The MPs say a nationwide campaign is needed to make the public aware of how the information is used to plan medical and social services.  The Global
 Strategy for Women's, Children's and Adolescents' Health  identifies civil registration and vital statistics as a key issue in order for women,
 children and adolescents to have access to services and entitlements and realize their rights to proper health care, education and basic social
 benefits. The meeting was the latest in a series of steps set out in an agreement with IPU to provide technical and financial support to Rwanda's
 Parliament in its efforts to build the capacity of MPs to fully exercise their oversight of laws and budgets and to raise awareness among the public
 of maternal, newborn and child health issues.  The agreement also supports the creation of new and efficient systems for collecting national
 Parliamentary support principles get 100th endorsement - The number of parliaments and other bodies to formally endorse new guidelines on the best
 ways of supporting parliaments has passed the 100 mark. The 100th endorsement for the Common Principles for Support to Parliaments came from UN Women,

 which works for gender equality and the empowerment of women. The nine principles include a specific call for parliamentary support to address the needs and potential of both men and

 women in the way parliaments are structured and run. The formal backing from UN Women was followed by endorsements from the UN Conference on Trade and
 Development (UNCTAD) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).  A total of 80 national parliaments, five parliamentary assemblies and 17 partner groups
 have now endorsed the principles. IPU is urging other parliaments to follow suit and add their own endorsements, which can be done by means of a simple
 letter to the IPUSecretariat from relevant parliamentary authorities.

 The principles, which highlight the importance of diversity and equality, are designed to help parliaments become more effective. They stress that
 parliaments must play a central role in their own development, and set out ways to ensure more effective cooperation with partners, including those
 from the UN system.