On the occasion of the 128th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) held in Quito, Ecuador, from 22 to 27 March 2013, the Socialist International organised its regular meeting of parliamentarians from the SI political family attending the IPU Assembly, on 24 March.
Present at the meeting were parliamentarians from Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Canada, Dominican Republic, France, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, Nicaragua, Niger, Palestine, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, San Marino, São Tome e Principe, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Turkey, United Kingdom and Zambia. The meeting was chaired by the SI Secretary General.
The discussions included an update on matters raised at the previous meeting in Quebec, exchanges on issues on the global agenda of our International, reviews of some national situations, brief reports on different areas of work by the IPU and recommendations for its future meetings.
The members from Mongolia informed participants that since the last meeting in Quebec, when it was reported that the SI member party, the MPP, was being denied the right to a parliamentary caucus, the situation had changed, their caucus was now functioning as it should, and they were very grateful to the Socialist International for its action and support in achieving this. The participants from Turkey reported that the situation raised at the previous meeting affecting the parliamentarians who were under detention remained very serious, as they, along with a number of intellectuals and journalists unfairly accused of planning to bring down the government, were facing life-time imprisonment. The judicial process was expected to conclude in the coming months, and they appealed for international attention on this case to be maintained. It was also reported that the situation of the imprisoned parliamentarians from Palestine which had been addressed at the last meeting continued unchanged and the Palestinian delegates, while recalling that there were at the same time many political prisoners other than parliamentarians, were grateful for the continued support and solidarity.
Addressing the impact of the financial crisis, the SI Secretary General updated participants on the discussions and decisions of the recent Council meeting held in Portugal. Participants from Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Canada, Poland, Sweden and France contributed with reports on developments in their countries and on the economic policies, efforts and views of their respective parties in confronting the present economic situation.
The crisis in Mali, which was highlighted at the previous IPU Assembly, was also a subject of attention. The SI Secretary General reported on the recent meeting of the SI Africa Committee in Niger which had focused on current developments in the Sahel region. The discussions in Quito included a report by the vice-chair of the commission for foreign affairs, defence and the armed forces of the National Assembly of France, who highlighted the broad international support for the action taken by her country in response to the request by the President of Mali, and the logistical support provided by the UK and the USA. The emphasis was now on training local forces to facilitate an early withdrawal and handover to African and UN bodies. The main concern for all participants was the need to secure the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Mali and provide the conditions for holding free and fair democratic elections as planned.
In reports on national situations, the meeting heard about developments in Haiti where there was a deficit of real democracy and repeated interference in the electoral process, including corruption. Added to this was the harsh reality of chronic poverty and the continuing difficulties resulting from the slow recovery from the earthquake, partly as the consequence of insufficient commitment by the international community. Regarding Turkey, the parliamentarians participating reported on their concern over the direction and authoritarian tendencies of the present government. As regards Morocco, it was reported that the new government, although democratically elected, was showing signs of incorporating religion in affairs of the state and it was feared that many democratic and social gains made in recent years were being eroded, notably concerning the role and level of participation of women in politics, which had already been significantly reduced. The meeting also received information on the situation of Ghana where successive democratic elections had been held without difficulties, despite a recent legal challenge by the opposition. The last elections had been widely monitored by international observers and declared as free and fair.
Reports regarding different areas of work within the IPU were addressed by several participants involved in those activities, including human rights, climate change, coordination of action between the IPU and the United Nations, and on the Middle East.
On the subject of strengthening the political dimension of the work within the IPU, the participants were of the view that it would be a positive development to advance on the coordination of positions on different items on the agenda of the IPU assemblies, and in particular on the emergency items which sometimes not all were sufficiently prepared for. It was proposed that a process of consultations should be undertaken in advance of the vote in the plenary, thus providing an opportunity for members to exchange opinions before casting their votes.
In summing up the discussions, the SI Secretary General took note of and appreciated the willingness of participants to contribute to our common purposes in strengthening the IPU and our shared social democratic ideals through our meetings at these assemblies. Before concluding, he reported on the positive exchange of correspondence with the Secretary General of the IPU, Anders Johnsson, and the very constructive personal talks he had held prior to this meeting with IPU President Abdelwahed Radi.