Members of Parliament from SI member parties from different continents accredited to the 127th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which took place in Québec City from 21 to 26 October 2012, held an informal meeting on 23 October convened by the Socialist International to exchange views on the agenda and work of the Assembly and on the establishment of a parliamentary social democratic network within the framework of the IPU and its 155 member parliaments.
Present at the meeting were parliamentarians from Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Cape Verde, Cyprus, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, New Zealand, Niger, Palestine, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Turkey, United Kingdom and Venezuela. The meeting was chaired by the SI Secretary General.
Participants also used the opportunity to present a brief outline of some matters of concern. These included issues relating to political developments in their countries, and in some cases affecting the work of their parliaments or where there were restrictions on parliamentarians. Amongst these was the situation affecting Mongolia, where members of parliament from the MPP, an SI member party, are being denied the right to a parliamentary caucus and where democratic issues resulting from the last elections exist. Also highlighted were cases affecting parliamentarians from Turkey and Palestine who are imprisoned; the threat posed by terrorism to people and to the political institutions in certain countries, as for instance in Pakistan where the SI-member party, the PPP, is defending democracy; human rights violations, issues relating to gender or sexuality, or the existence of a lack of respect for the work of parliaments, including in established democracies. It was also underlined that in too many instances the management of economies and capital flows often eroded democracy and social democratic objectives. These were challenges which social democratic parliamentarians around the world were working to overcome.
There was a strong feeling among participants that alongside the well established regional parliamentary groups in the IPU, it was important that social democratic parliamentarians from all continents should continue to convene and pursue efforts to strengthen the political dimension of their work within the IPU. The recognition of this political dimension was borne out by the fact that, responding favourably to our request, the IPU had granted an official status within the organisation to the Socialist International.
Participants were also very keen to maximise the potential of the IPU and the opportunities it offered to strengthen the ideals of parliamentary democracy worldwide, and to this end agreed on developing as broadly as possible the network of members of parliament from our political family thus contributing positively to the work of the IPU, both in content and direction.
In this context, it was pointed out that at times there could be seen an increase in fundamentalist positions in the IPU assemblies, so no substantial headway was being made on issues that were priorities for our parties, such as gender equality and other rights. It was further considered by some that procedural matters in the IPU could also be addressed.
On particular areas of concern, and where the human rights of parliamentarians were called into question, there were broad expressions of support for valuable initiatives of the IPU such as the sending of fact-finding missions and other visits or public statements, all of which were to be encouraged.
The setting of future agendas of the IPU assemblies, aiming for instance for 2014, was suggested as a focus of attention for parliamentarians from our political family, to be included in the forthcoming discussions of this group. These could center perhaps on a single core issue as an overall topic, for example the current economic system, whose negative effects were undermining democracy and the best ideals of the IPU.
Those participating expressed enthusiasm about maintaining these informal meetings as a useful forum and on further developing the global network of social democratic and labour parliamentarians. It was agreed that in advance of the next meeting in conjunction with the IPU Assembly to take place in Quito in March 2013, the SI Secretariat would consult members with a view to identifying the issues for discussion.
In addition to this informal meeting in Québec City, a fruitful discussion on a range of issues relating to the work of the IPU and our own ambitions and contributions for preserving the ideals of the IPU, was also held by the SI Secretary General with the President of the IPU, Abdelwahed Radi.