SI meeting at 130th Assembly of the IPU in Geneva

18 March 2014

Within the framework of the 130th Assembly of the IPU held in Geneva from 16 to 20 March 2014, the Socialist International held its regular meeting of parliamentarians from SI member parties attending the Assembly.

Parliamentarians from Albania, Andorra, Belgium, Cape Verde, Chile, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Finland, Haiti, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Namibia, Pakistan, Palestine, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and Uruguay took part in the discussions which addressed some of the key issues of concern on the agenda of the IPU and in particular focused on developments in Cyprus, the Middle East, Mali, Haiti, Uganda and the question of Migrations.

Opening the meeting, the SI Secretary General Luis Ayala referred to previous meetings the SI had organised at preceding IPU Assemblies and underlined the positive feedback he continued to receive, both from member parties as well as institutionally from the IPU, on the value of providing a forum for enhancing the political and ideological dimension of such gatherings of parliamentarians. He hoped that this concept could be developed in the future by the IPU with the creation of formal parliamentary groups, as existed in national and regional parliaments.

The Speaker of the Namibian National Assembly, Theo Ben Gurirab, a former President of the IPU, spoke of this important moment in the life of the IPU as it celebrates its 125th year of existence. He recalled the struggle of the liberation movements over the years, including in his own country, and he acknowledged the important role played by the Socialist International in the decolonisation of his country as well as its continuing support today. He welcomed the good tradition in the SI of seizing opportunities for meeting, sharing and listening to each other.

Representatives from Cyprus, from the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities, presented their views and their respective policies in regard to the unresolved conflict there, and on the newly resumed negotiations between the leaders of the two communities which had begun on 11 February. It was highlighted that the interests of the Cypriot people needed to be the primary concern in the search for peace. Participants in the meeting expressed their satisfaction that the SI was a rare forum where representatives from both sides of the conflict could sit at the same table and express their views and concerns.

Members from Fatah informed the meeting on current developments in Palestine and the recent increase in violence, highlighting the main issues of contention. Israeli occupation continued, and the news emanating from the previous day’s meeting between Presidents Abbas and Obama was not encouraging. The Quartet had left the US to play the role of peace-maker on its own. They pointed out that illegal measures being taken by Israel against the Palestinian community in Jerusalem and the issue of refugees remained a serious point of contention. They highlighted that the question of including the word ‘Jewish’ in the name of the Israeli state was hotly contested and that the archives of 1948 had revealed that President Truman had with his own hand crossed out the word ‘Jewish’, recognising at that time that it was not acceptable. They renewed their appeal for help in making Israel accept international resolutions and abide by international law.

In relation to Mali, the participants were heartened to hear from the representative of the RPM, Mali, of the improvements that could be seen in the country since President Keita took office in September 2013 and the gradual move the country was making towards national reconciliation. In November the Mali government had organised a general assembly on decentralisation and in December it had brought together different communities to focus on how to end the crisis based on a process of decentralisation, including a frank and open dialogue for sustainable development with peace and security as the only conditions. A draft bill on truth and reconciliation was due to be voted on in March, and there were various other draft bills in process to encourage all members of the population. She underlined that the continued support of the Socialist International and the international community at large was crucial for the success of these initiatives in Mali.

The issue of Migration was also addressed by participants. The implications for the Mediterranean region were discussed, and the representative from Malta spoke of the impact on his country, which was already the most densely populated in Europe. It was reported that the EU Council and Commission had agreed on a number of measures, but real action was needed. This was seen as a human rights issue both for the migrants and the recipient countries, and was a phenomenon which affected all regions of the world. The case of Cape Verde, which is part of the ‘mid-Atlantic corridor’, was also illustrated, as well as the need to address the issues behind migration, including the illegal trafficking of human beings. The gathering took note that a meeting of the SI Migrations committee was scheduled to take place in Tangiers, Morocco, on 2-3 May.

The representatives from Haiti and the Dominican Republic exchanged views on the question of the people of Haitian origin born and living in the Dominican Republic whom the Dominican court had declared were not citizens of that country, a ruling that affected many thousands of people. It was reported that Caricom and the Organization of American States had taken up this matter and it was noted that a Committee had been created in the Dominican Republic to examine this issue. Meanwhile, the Haitian representative expressed concern over the safety of those people and asked for international engagement in finding a solution.

Participants at the meeting voiced deep concern over the Anti-Homosexuality Act signed on 24 February 2014 by the Ugandan President, despite previous assurances that he would not do so. It was stated that this Act violates the fundamental human rights of the LGBT community and legitimises discrimination and abuse. It was agreed that a public statement would be made on this subject, reflecting the concern of the participants at the meeting and protesting against this unacceptable action by the Ugandan regime.

Before reaching its conclusion, the meeting also addressed the question of the elections within the IPU for its next Secretary General following the announced departure of Anders B. Johnsson who had served in that post for 16 years, and the forthcoming election in October 2014 of the next IPU President.