Parliamentary dialogue and diplomacy were at the centrestage of 140th IPU Assembly from April 6-10, in Doha, Qatar, as over 800 legislatorss from 160 countries convened in the world’s biggest platform for global parliamentary exchange.
In the final Doha Declaration endorsed at the Assembly, lawmakers from national parliaments underlined the critical role of education to enhance peace, security and the rule of law as well as support democracy and human rights.
IPU President, Gabriela Cuevas, said “the IPU is celebrating its 130th anniversary which in itself is proof of continuity and the important role of the global organisation of parliaments. It also puts a heavy responsibility on us as parliamentarians to seek effective and sustainable solutions to ensure a peaceful and inclusive future. Access for all to quality education is vital to fight xenophobia, extremism and ensure viable democracies that work for all the people.”
IPU Secretary General, Martin Chungong, said “It is important that we’re meeting here to reaffirm the IPU’s global role as a bridge builder between parliaments. Peace-building and mediation is in the DNA of the IPU which was founded on the values of dialogue, exchange and understanding. 130 years later, these values are still very much at the heart of what we do.”
Access to education can also ensure youth are less susceptible to the radicalising influence of terrorist or extremist groups. Countering terrorism and extremism featured prominently at the Assembly with the announcement that the IPU will receive $2.1 million from the UN in a five-year initiative to support parliamentary action to disrupt and mitigate the effects of terrorist activity.
Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General from the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, underlined the importance of parliamentary action to bring legal frameworks in line with international counter-terrorism instruments and agreements.
Delegates also heard the powerful testimonial of Ms Falmata Bunu, a community leader from a displacement camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria, who escaped after being abducted by Boko Haram.
In addition, the Assembly adopted a new resolution condemning the use of mercenaries and foreign fighters. In the resolution, put forward by Ukraine and Jordan, parliamentarians reaffirm the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity of states, and non-interference in the domestic affairs of another state.
The resolution expresses grave concern at the scores of human rights violations perpetrated by mercenaries and foreign fighters against civilian populations, particularly women and children. It sets out a framework for parliaments to take legislative measures to prevent the recruitment, financing, or transit of mercenaries or foreign fighters.
Cyclone Idai and climate change
Parliamentarians voted overwhelmingly on an emergency resolution calling for urgent action to support Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai. The resolution was submitted by the Netherlands.
The effects of the cyclone are likely to have been exacerbated by environmental degradation, such as deforestation. Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique on the night of 14-15 March 2019, the day the One Planet conference began in Nairobi.
The cyclone was one of the worst tropical cyclones on record bringing torrential rains and high winds to southern Africa, causing widespread flooding and landslides, and leaving a trail of devastation in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. It is estimated that well over 700 people died, 1,500 were injured and 110,000 people were displaced.
The IPU emergency resolution calls on all parliaments to contribute to flash appeals by the United Nations for the three countries. It asks the United Nations to focus on the most vulnerable people stranded without clean water or food, especially women, children, and the elderly.
In response to this, the resolution urges countries to take more action on climate change to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement by investing in climate-resilient programmes for the most vulnerable and supporting affected countries in developing resilience mechanisms and disaster risk reduction.
In 2018, at the 139th Assembly of the IPU, members voted on an emergency resolution put forward by a group of Small Island Developing States, demanding immediate action on climate change. The IPU has been working with parliaments to help them implement the Paris Agreement and find ways of mitigating the effects of climate change.
At a panel discussion at the Assembly, parliamentarians also evaluated policies to reduce energy poverty by mobilizing more investment in renewable energies. The event included the launch of the new IPU-UN Environment publication ‘Shades of green: an introduction to the green economy for parliamentarians’.
The Assembly also adopted another resolution on “The role of fair and free trade and investment in achieving the SDGs, especially regarding economic equality, sustainable infrastructure, industrialization and innovation”.
The resolution, submitted by Australia, Ghana and Serbia, reaffirms the vital importance of a rules-based multilateral approach to trade and investment to deliver fair development outcomes, especially as outlined in the broad goals and specific targets contained within the Sustainable Development Global framework.
It also reaffirms the contribution that fair and free trade can make to reducing poverty, inequality, instability, and conflict, and to building economic capacity, self-sufficiency, international cooperation, and peace.