Ecuador and Bangladesh Elect Women Speakers for the First Time
17 May 2013
Gabriela Rivadeneira (left) and Dr Shirin Chowdhury (right) are the first women speakers of their parliaments. © periodico expectativa (left), © Wiki News Time (right)
The election of Gabriela Rivadeneira as Ecuador’s first woman speaker of parliament in mid-May comes hard on the heels of another such first. Earlier in the month, Bangladesh also elected Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury as its first ever speaker of parliament. This brings the total number of women speakers in the world to 41 in 39 countries.
Dr. Chowdhury, a former minister for women and children affairs and member of the Awami League Party, was unanimously voted into office after the previous speaker Abdul Hamid became President. Bangladesh now has women in three of its top four political posts. Previously a Supreme Court lawyer, she worked on many human rights cases involving constitutional issues. She has also been involved in efforts to tackle violence against women, including the finalization of a law on domestic violence.
In Ecuador, Gabriela Rivadeneira took office on 14 May at the opening session of the new parliament. The 29-year-old member of the ruling party, PAIS Alliance elected as MP for the first time in elections in February 2013, is also the youngest speaker of parliament in Latin America. Two more women were chosen as deputy-speakers of the Ecuadorian parliament. Women now account for 40 per cent of MPs in Ecuador. Rivadeneira says she intends "to build a renewed assembly that is closer to the people".
Despite these successes, women still account for only 15.4 per cent of all speakers of parliament in the world.
IPU Members Back Democratic Governance as a Post-2015 Development Goal
15 May 2013
MPs want democratic governance as a stand-alone UN development goal. © Flickr/noboundariesorg
Results from a survey carried out during the 128th IPU Assembly in Quito have revealed that 80 per cent of MPs back democratic governance as a
stand-alone objective for the United Nations Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Nearly all (96 per cent) of the 240 MPs surveyed from 619 MPs
present in Quito, believed that the key elements of democratic governance – participation, transparency and accountability – should be embedded into the
other SDGs to ensure their success. Men and women MPs from all regions and both developing and developed worlds participated in the IPU survey. They were
also virtually unanimous (99 per cent) in their belief that democratic governance was necessary for sustainable development. It is an issue that is also
resonating outside the political sphere. Respondents to the UN’s MY World survey, which allows all
citizens of the world to have their say on what the next set of development goals should be, have ranked the need for honest and responsive governments
third most important goal, just behind education and health.
IPU is advocating for democratic governance to be included as a stand-alone goal in the new SDGs to replace the current Millennium Development Goals when
they expire in 2015. Its members adopted the Quito Communique on sustainable development at the
conclusion of the Quito Assembly, which not only argues for development aimed at ensuring global well-being but also for strengthening the key institutions
that can bring this about. It’s a message that IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson will be underlining at the third session of the Open Working Group on SDGs at the UN Assembly which runs 22nd to 24th May in New York.
New Disaster Model Law to Help Save Lives
15 May 2013
The Model Act gives a legal framework for a better response to natural disasters. © IPU
A new Model Act aimed at providing national parliaments across the world with a legal
framework to ensure a more effective aid response to natural disasters and so lessen the impact of catastrophes on human lives has been produced by the
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, IPU and the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).
Global experience has shown that domestic regulatory hurdles have hindered urgent life-saving assistance, while ad hoc relief has sometimes resulted in the
provision of poor, inappropriate or even unnecessary aid. Few countries currently have specific legislation in place to respond to disaster situations.
Laws can either create bottlenecks in delivering aid or, alternatively, support a swift disaster response. The Model Act draws on internationally accepted
guidelines and provides parliaments with comprehensive rules and procedures to be better prepared in the wake of a disaster. Such regulation would allow
faster entry and implementation of aid assistance which is all too often hampered by local customs and immigration laws. Amongst other things, it would
also help disaster-hit countries to properly manage and co-ordinate aid with overseas relief providers to make sure the right aid goes to the right places.
"Responding to and managing international disaster assistance is proving to be increasingly complex,” said Bangladeshi MP Saber Chowdhury. “This Model Act is an important starting point tool that legislators can make good use of in terms of developing their own laws and protocols."
MPs Explore Ways to Reduce Risks from Disasters at Global Platform
15 May 2013
Parliaments’ role in disaster risk reduction under discussion at Global Platform. © Flickr/EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection
A joint meeting organized by IPU and UNISDR to determine how parliaments can minimise the threat of natural disasters will take place at the fourth session
of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in Geneva on 20 May 2013. It is the last Global Platform session to take place before the new
post-2015 development goals are finalized. The parliamentary meeting will identify the roles and responsibilities of MPs in helping to prevent disasters
and reduce their impact. In the last 12 years, 1.2 million people have been killed and a further 2.9 billion people affected by disasters, causing an
estimated 1.7 trillion USD in damages. A high level of disaster risk is often the consequence of inadequate development planning and practices which fail
to assess and manage risks and as a result, increase the vulnerabilities of communities. Strong parliaments and transparent, accountable and democratic
governance are essential for building resilience to natural disasters and enabling sustainable development, as outlined by IPU in the Quito Communique from the 128th IPU Assembly in Ecuador this year.
Role of Parliaments in Supporting Human Rights to be Examined
15 May 2013
UN Human Rights Council is to explore working relationships with parliaments. © Flickr/United Nations Photo
The role of parliaments and MPs in promoting and protecting human rights will be discussed for the first time at the next meeting of the UN Human Rights Council
(UNHRC) in May. IPU Secretary-General Anders B. Johnsson and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, will address a specific panel on how
parliaments can more effectively contribute to the work of the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which monitors human rights records in individual
countries. With few national parliaments involved in the UPR, the event aims to formalize the working relationship between parliaments and UNHRC with IPU
calling for a more systematic parliamentary involvement. The event will also raise awareness of the Council and its work amongst parliaments whilst
conversely examining how the Human Rights Council can input into the work of parliaments and IPU.
IPU to Monitor Trial of Thai Political Leader
15 May 2013
Thai Political leader, Jatuporn Prompan, is facing charges of terrorism. © Wikimedia Commons/Kung Dekza
IPU is to send a legal expert to observe the trial of Jatuporn Prompan, leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) and a
prominent figure during the ‘Red Shirt’ demonstrations that took place in Bangkok between March and May 2010. Prompan, who was elected as an MP in 2011 for
the successful Pheu Thai Party whilst in detention, is facing charges of taking part in an illegal gathering that contravened the state of emergency
imposed during the demonstrations and charges of terrorism in relation to arson attacks that occurred whilst Prompan was already in police custody.
In May 2012, the Thai Constitutional Court ruled that Prompan’s detention on election day and his consequent failure to vote, meant that he not only lost
membership of his political party but also disqualified him from serving as an MP.
The trial observation follows the adoption of an IPU resolution on the case at the 128th
Assembly in Ecuador. The resolution expressed concern that Prompan was convicted of charges of defamation which, in concurrence with the
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, it believes should not be considered a
criminal offence. It also called on the Thai authorities to do everything they can to reconsider Prompan’s disqualification and ensure that current legal
provisions are in line with international human rights standards.
Expert Support to Review Maldivian Sexual Harassment Bill
15 May 2013
IPU experts will review Maldives’ Sexual Harassment Bill. © UNDP Maldives
IPU will be lending its support to the parliament of Maldives for a new bill on sexual harassment. It follows a successful collaboration with the
country’s parliament on domestic violence legislation adopted last year. In consultation with parliament, IPU will select a mix of independent regional and
international experts to review the bill which aims to end sexual harassment in the workplace and in the provision of goods and services. Based on
experience and knowledge of best practices on sexual harassment laws around the world, the experts will make recommendations to the parliamentary committee
in charge of studying the bill. The finalized bill is due to be voted upon in late June. “This bill on sexual harassment is another milestone in the
Maldives’ efforts to tackle all forms of violence against women,” says Kareen Jabre, head of IPU’s Gender Partnership Programme. “It shows again there is a
drive and commitment to improving women’s lives in a country where such violence is prevalent.”
IPU-Supported Gender Assessment Leads to Progress in Turkish Parliament
15 May 2013
The Turkish parliament took part in an IPU/UN Women supported gender self-assessment. © IPU
The Turkish parliament has taken a significant step forward in becoming gender-sensitive by taking action on recommendations made in a gender
self-assessment. Carried out with the support of IPU and UN Women in December 2012 and led by the parliament’s Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), the
aim of the self-assessment was to find ways to better integrate gender equality into the Turkish parliament’s functioning and its structures. The EOC now
has a bigger team to address gender disparities within parliament whilst the inclusion of a woman MP on the Plan and Budget Committee means that all but
one of the parliamentary committees now has a woman on it. Furthermore, a five-year strategic plan for the parliament contains a specific objective on
raising awareness of the problems faced by women working in parliament. The Turkish parliament has done much to create family-friendly facilities in recent
years, mirroring IPU’s own call for gender-sensitive infrastructures for parliaments. Provisions include a crèche for the children for MPs and staff, and
facilities for new mothers.
Canadian Parliament Puts Spotlight on Violence Against Indigenous and Other Women
30 April 2013
Women take to the streets to draw attention to murdered or missing indigenous women. © Flickr/Thien V
The Canadian parliament is taking a series of measures to tackle worrying levels of violence against women. A special committee
established by the House of Commons focusing on violence against indigenous women heard its first testimonies from witnesses on 25th April. The
committee, holding the same powers as a Standing Committee, has the mandate to carry out hearings on the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in
Canada and propose solutions to address root causes of such violence. The Canadian lower house of parliament recognized the government’s responsibility to
provide justice for victims, heal families and work with partners to put an end to the violence. A disproportionate number of indigenous women and girls in
the North American country – three times more than among the general female population - have suffered violence, gone missing or been murdered over recent
decades. Citing data from the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), a recent Human Rights Watch report on the issue said 582 indigenous women had
gone missing or were murdered in recent decades, 39% of them since 2000. The same rate among the general Canadian population would have seen the
disappearance or murder of 18,000 Canadian women and girls since the late 1970’s. High levels of poverty, unemployment and racism are believed to be among
root causes. “The disappearance and murder of so many Aboriginal women is deeply disturbing. The Special Parliamentary Committee must focus its attention
to provide answers and meaningful action to ensure the safety, equality and human rights of all Aboriginal women,” says MP Libby Davies, vice-chair of the committee and Chair of IPU’s Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS and Maternal and
The Canadian Senate is also planning a general debate on violence against women early next month following a notice of inquiry by Senator Don Oliver, member of both IPU’s
Executive Committee and its Gender Partnership Group. According to Canadian police data, nearly 177,000 Canadian girls and women over 15 years of age were
victims of violence in 2011. IPU has been working to mobilize parliamentary action on violence against women since 2008 and greatly welcomes the Canadian
parliament’s efforts to tackle an issue that affects women all across the world. In the past two-years, it has supported six parliaments in developing
legislation on violence against women, including Maldives which last year adopted a law against domestic violence.
Strengthening Democracy in a Tech-Empowered World
30 April 2013
IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson © IPU
IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson has urged parliaments to make better use of new technologies to engage and inform citizens and weaken the
influence of political lobbies. Speaking at a two-day event organized by the National Democratic Institute (NDI), International IDEA and others on Governing Democratically in a Tech-Empowered World in the U.S. state of California last week, he stressed technology’s role in
strengthening democracy, speeding up the way politics is done and in making the political process more transparent and inclusive. He called for more
support in parliaments’ use of technology to fulfill its democratic mandate given that many parliaments still lack fundamental IT infrastructure and
skills. There was also a need for more innovative use of technology in establishing dialogue between MPs and the public to find political solutions that
meet public interest.
Work on Development Plan for Democratic Republic of Congo Underway
30 April 2013
A long-term IPU-UNDP development plan for the DRC parliament will focus on identified priority issues including human and technical resource needs. © L. Marzal/IPU
IPU and UNDP are working on defining a long-term development plan for the parliament of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) following a recent mission
there. The two organizations, which have been providing support to the DRC parliament since 2006, have just concluded a three-year programme which included
carrying out an organisational audit of the legislative body and training for MPs and parliamentary staff. Amongst other things, the audit highlighted the
need for greater understanding on the roles and responsibilities of both parliamentary staff and MPs in their everyday work, updating internal
parliamentary rules and procedures, rationalising legislative and budgetary processes and improving information flows. The IPU-UNDP development plan
covering 2013-2017, will focus on priority areas such as on-going human and technical resource needs. It will cover all political groups and both houses of
parliament. The central African country, long-affected by conflict and political crises, saw its first democratic elections in more than 40 years in 2006
when presidential elections were held. They were followed by parliamentary elections for both the National Assembly and the Senate.
Myanmar Parliamentary Study Trip to South Korea
30 April 2013
Myanmar parliamentary staff are working to better service the information and research needs of MPs. © BeckerFraserPhotos CC BY-NYC
Parliamentary staff from Myanmar have visited the Korean National Assembly Library in Seoul as part of an on-going IPU programme of support to the
Myanmar parliament. During the IPU study trip, employees of the Myanmar Library Committee learnt from their Korean counterparts how to better service the
information and research needs of MPs. A series of IPU missions to Myanmar to help define parliamentary priorities as the country began its transition to
democracy identified, amongst other things, an urgent need for better information facilities to help MPs in their legislative work. As a result, alongside
wider IPU activities funded by the Swedish development agency, Sida, IPU has begun helping the Myanmar parliament to improve information resources and
capabilities. A three-year plan, supported by IPU, for the development of the Library, Research and Information Services has recently been approved by the
Myanmar parliament. The plan includes the design of a new integrated IT system to improve communication between departments and enhance the functioning of
parliament itself. IPU experts will undertake a further mission to Myanmar at the beginning of May to train staff in library resources management policies.
Myanmar’s parliament was re-established following national elections in 2010. Since then it has been extremely active in adopting new laws and improving
Building New Communications Skills Within Nigerian Parliament
30 April 2013
Nigeria National Assembly staff receiving written communications training at IPU © IPU
Nigerian National Assembly staff will be better able to support parliament and bring about improved policy and legislative results after receiving
tailored communications training at IPU’s Geneva headquarters. Following a request by the Nigerian parliament, 10 staff members learnt how to structure and
draft documents such as resolutions, press releases and policy briefs in order to produce well-researched and well-written material. Over the five-day
training, participants were also taught how to adopt a systematic, time-efficient and logical approach to writing, to understand audiences and to pass on
their newly-acquired skills to other parliamentary colleagues. The training should ultimately produce work that enables MPs to be better informed and
prepared in their legislative work and to improve parliament’s communications with citizens. Constructive use of data and information is essential to
advocate parliament’s work and influence key national decision-makers and opinion leaders.
G8 Commitment to Tackling Rape in Conflict Welcomed
15 April 2013
IPU welcomes the G8 Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict © Reuters
IPU has welcomed the decision by G8 countries
to work together to end sexual violence in conflict. The
Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, endorsed by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, UK and USA, identifies a series of practical steps to tackle the issue. These include not
granting amnesty to perpetrators of such crimes as part of peace negotiations and developing a comprehensive international protocol on the investigation
and documentation of rape and sexual violence in conflict. The urgent need to address sexual violence against women both in and out of conflict situations
was highlighted in both an
on safeguarding civilian lives and a unanimously endorsed
at its recently concluded 128
Assembly in Ecuador. The resolution called on parliaments to adopt laws and policies to prevent and criminalize sexual violence and to provide redress for
victims in times of peace and conflict, whilst a statement adopted by the IPU Assembly urged all parliaments to not only scrutinize existing laws on sexual
violence and their implementation by government but to also allocate appropriate resources to tackling the crime and protecting victims.
IPU Offers Platform for Young MPs
15 April 2013
Young MPs’ proposal for a Forum of Young Parliamentarians was adopted at the 128th Assembly in Quito © Lucía Romero, Ecuador National Assembly
IPU has put further emphasis on the importance of youth in democracy by establishing a new Forum of Young Parliamentarians. A proposal by young MPs to
create the group was unanimously adopted by the Organization’s General Council at its 128th Assembly in Quito. The Forum aims to ensure better
implementation of IPU’s resolution on youth participation in the democratic process, which recognises
that the involvement of young people in the political process is essential for a meaningful and lasting democracy. It aims to develop a programme of
support for youth participation and to work to build bridges between IPU and youth organisations. Youth movements have been instrumental in bringing about
significant political change in recent years as witnessed by the Arab Spring. However, despite social media and other channels allowing young people to
have a greater say on politics, their declining interest in formal political activities, including voting and party membership, is a threat to
participatory democracy. With a growing youth population in many parts of the developing world, parliaments need to boost youth participation. IPU
recommends harmonising the minimum age for running for parliament with that of the voting age in countries which haven’t yet done so. In addition to
addressing youth-related issues of global interest, the Forum also wants more young MPs to attend IPU Assemblies and aims to contribute to the achievement
of overall IPU objectives by giving a more democratic age balance to delegations and decision-making processes.
IPU Called to Assist Women MPs in Cote d’Ivoire
15 April 2013
Cote d’Ivoire has called on IPU to help MPs determine priorities for women’s rights for the next parliamentary agenda © Reuters
IPU is sending a team of experts to Cote d’Ivoire at the end of April to help MPs advance women’s rights in the country. Following a request for
assistance, IPU will be training all 24 of the country’s women MPs in the first of a series of measures to support the parliament. With so few women
represented in parliament, an IPU panel of experts will help the MPs identify the priorities for women’s rights ahead of the new parliamentary session for
which gender equality is a key concern. Cote d’Ivoire suffered an electoral crisis in 2010 which culminated in a brief but bloody civil war when President
Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after losing national elections. However, in a push for democracy, the first National Assembly for a decade was elected
in 2011, with 90 per cent of MPs holding office for the first time. The IPU training will reinforce MPs’ knowledge of women’s rights, give practical advice on
drafting and implementing effective gender-based legislation, examine the effectiveness of existing policies and legislation and look at ways both men and
women MPs can strengthen gender equality in wider aspects of parliamentary work. IPU will also assist the women MPs in establishing a plan of action on
women’s rights. Cote d’Ivoire currently ranks 110th in IPU’s world rankings of women in