During the 140th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) which took place in Doha, Qatar, from 6 to 10 April, the Socialist International held its meeting of parliamentarians from SI member parties attending the Assembly. The meeting was chaired by the SI Secretary General and included the participation of speakers of parliament, deputy speakers, senators, members of parliament and other representatives, from Albania, Angola, Argentina, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, Ghana, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Pakistan, Palestine, Portugal, San Marino, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela, and representatives of the Global Fund and of the IPU’s group for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Participants shared valuable information on the current situation, priorities and challenges in their respective countries and parliaments. The meeting’s discussions also included exchanges on the emergency items that were due to be voted on by the Assembly.

A recurrent theme in the discussions was the devastating consequences of the cyclone Idai that had hit south-eastern Africa, affecting millions of people across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, as well as the projected long term recovery, which desperately needed international help. While it was noted that there was much support in the Assembly in favour of the emergency item on this subject, it was pointed out that this was above all a humanitarian emergency. The other emergency item presented was “Ensuring international protection for the Palestinian people, rejecting Israeli authority over the occupied Golan Heights, promoting the values of peaceful coexistence among people and religions and combatting all forms of racism and intolerance”. The situation of the Palestinian people also counted with widespread sympathy and concern along with calls for the urgent need to give renewed impetus to the drive for a two-state solution which, as pointed out by the SI Secretary General, was a fundamental policy of the Socialist International.

The question of equal participation of women in office was highlighted by a number of participants, with various delegations reporting on the improved percentages in their countries. In the case of Mexico, for instance, as a result of electoral reform, it was noted that for the first time the country enjoyed in effect parity in both houses. Attention was also brought to the increasing youth representation in politics.

Terrorism and violent extremism was a current serious challenge affecting many countries around the world, combined with trafficking, ethnic conflicts, and in some cases the systematic killing of women, children and the elderly. It was reported that Pakistan suffered the highest casualty rate in terms of civilian population and armed forces killed in action against terrorism. In the case of Venezuela, violence from criminal gangs run by the government persisted, detaining citizens for protesting against the regime, and the meeting heard how opposition forces in Albania were using violence as a tactic replacing normal political discourse.

The dire humanitarian, political and social crisis that prevailed in Venezuela, coupled with the high corruption rate among officials of the government, was a subject of grave concern. It was noted that members of the announced delegation to this IPU Assembly had been detained at the airport on departure, forbidden from leaving the country and had their passports removed, in violation of their immunity. The meeting heard from parliamentarians of two SI member parties, one from Voluntad Popular who managed to get to this Assembly only because she was now exiled in Colombia having been persecuted by the regime, and the other from Acción Democrática who had left the country not via the airport but by walking across the border. The Venezuelan representatives underlined the constitutionality of the actions of Guaidó, based on a constitution created by Hugo Chavez himself, and reiterated calls for the release of all the political prisoners. As Venezuelans, the representatives said they were aware that the solution for Venezuela lay in their hands, and in that quest they counted on the support of the Socialist International family.

The need for all SI member parties and organisations to reinforce and reassert their social democratic ideological and political commitments in dealing with world issues was stressed. It was pointed out that in the case of Europe, the challenge now was the composition of the next European Parliament and to what extent the anti-Europe, anti-migration, extremist forces, would prevail. In the face of the increasing nationalism and populism, it was further emphasised that the true meaning of socialism needed to be reiterated in order to win back the electorate and to adequately address the issues that made people feel disenfranchised. True socialism was freedom, democracy, social justice and rights, and today more than ever, it was necessary for all to work together to ensure that our common values prevail.