Office of the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament inaugurated in Rome
The President of the IPU, Mr. Pier Ferdinando Casini, and the United Nations Under- Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Mr. José Antonio Ocampo, inaugurated in Rome, in November, the Office of the Global Centre for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Parliament.
The Centre was inaugurated in the presence of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Mr. Franco Marini and Mr. Fausto Bertinotti. The Speaker of the Egyptian Poeple's Assembly, Mr. Ahmed Fathy Sorour, and the President of the Pan-African Parliament, Mrs. Gertrude Mongella addressed the gathering, along with the Italian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Patrizia Sentinelli.
The new Centre seeks to promote the utilization and mainstreaming of information and communication technologies (ICT) in parliamentary activities in order to make parliaments more open, transparent and efficient, but also to enhance inter-parliamentary cooperation. The Global Centre for ICT in Parliament also aims to strengthen the role of parliaments in promoting organic laws and strategies for the development of the information society.
Established in Tunisia last year during the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the Centre promotes the exchange of information and experiences among parliamentarians, parliamentary staff, national and international institutions, the private sector and civil society organizations. It intends to also promote partnerships and joint initiatives in the sphere of new information and communication technologies.
The Centre, an initiative supported by the Italian and Egyptian parliaments, came into being thanks to the IPU, the world organization of parliaments, and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. It is being funded by the Directorate General for Development Cooperation under the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Italian Chamber of Deputies has furthermore undertaken to convene in spring next year the first ever inter-parliamentary conference at the Global Centre.
Hearing helps shape a culture of conflict prevention
With a record attendance of some two hundred members of parliament, the 2006 Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations focused on the dual issue of conflict prevention and post-conflict peace building. The event took place at the New York Headquarters of the United Nations on 13 and 14 November and brought together key decision-makers within the United Nations in the area of peace and security and parliamentarians from relevant select committees for a frank exchange of views. Catalysts for this year's Hearing were the establishment of a new United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, which is already beginning work in Burundi and Sierra Leone, and the release of a major new report by the United Nations Secretary-General on conflict prevention.
As in past years, the purpose of the discussion was to help parliamentarians better understand both the action and thinking of the United Nations on a critical issue, while also providing their own political input.
At the end of the two-day interactive debate, participants, including several Speakers of Parliament, emerged with a series of recommendations on ways and means for parliaments to play a greater role in helping the United Nations and national governments move from a culture of reaction to conflict to one of prevention of conflict. As noted in the report of the Secretary-General, such a shift would not only save countless lives but would also cost relatively little to implement. Participants agreed that if the world could afford to spend nearly a trillion dollars on the military, it surely could spare more resources on eliminating the causes of conflict.
If there is one overarching conclusion of the Hearing, it is that parliaments must assume greater ownership of the peace-making and reconciliation process at the national level. In practical terms, this will entail investing more in education to empower citizens and assist in national dialogue, implementing more inclusive economic and social policies to quell popular discontent, including more women in national reconciliation processes and in decision-making in general, enacting more stringent measures to control the circulation of small arms, and working to eliminate corruption in politics, as well as in the military and the judiciary, so as to restore the people's confidence in the institutions of the State - the locus of peaceful dialogue. Chaired by IPU President, the meeting began with introductory remarks by the President of the General Assembly, Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa (Bahrain), and by the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Mark Malloch-Brown (on behalf of Secretary-General Annan).
Following a recent resolution of the General Assembly, beginning this year the Parliamentary Hearing was elevated from being an IPU event hosted by the United Nations to being a joint IPU-UN event. The change, which the IPU welcomes, will require direct coordination with the United Nations in the planning and organization of the event in future years.