Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) was founded in 1889 predating the League of Nations and United Nations in order to create dialogue between parliament members around the world. Primarily, IPU is a collection of a majority of the parliaments (National Assemblies) in the international system that enables the parliament members to cooperate and discuss a variety of issues. Since the founding of the UN in 1945 the IPU has been sponsored by the UN to promote positive change on contemporary issues. This global organisation of parliaments works to establish democracy, peace and cooperation among peoples. The current IPU assembly is being held in Dhaka, Bangladesh with 171 different sovereign parliaments being represented from a jurisdiction of 6 billion people in the world. This assembly has majority of the Speakers or the Deputy Speakers of these participating parliaments who are attending the assembly in Dhaka. The assembly is taking place from 1-5 April 2017.
The IPU is a strong advocate for representative democracy, where all populations from all forms of backgrounds are represented in their parliaments and in the IPU. The IPU works to fulfil the respective government’s legislative and oversight roles in order to guarantee people’s rights and liberties. The development of society and infrastructure are also important at the IPU conferences.
The primary objective of this assembly is to discuss economic, political and social inequalities in order to come up with suitable solutions. The key issues discussed in the first two days of the summit are income and wealth distribution disparity, responsibility to intervene in a humanitarian crisis and the respect of sovereignty. The remaining days will engage in social inequalities such as inclusion of women in workforce in order to drive development, sustainable economic development in the developing countries.
The IPU has a target of reducing inequalities in all fronts, including women, youth and the disabled. There are youth and women’s forums in the IPU which engages the each of the groups in their own conventions discussing the challenges regarding their respective issues. In addition, there are resolutions that are passed in the IPU which are in synchronisation with UN. Also the spirit of democracy is promoted by the semi annual gathering of the IPU.
The youth forum has addressed the challenges such as rise of ‘neo-extremist’ ideologies and terrorism. It is widely argued the rise of such radical populism is related to the increasing unemployment and career prospects for the youth. Also in developing countries the lack of proper education and training leaves a significant amount of people behind in the global market. The wealth disparity, as was mentioned in the opening ceremony by the current President of the IPU Mr. Saber Chowdhury 1% of the world’s wealthiest individuals own more than the remaining 99% of the population in the globe today. This remains the most significant challenge in terms of wealth disparity. Nevertheless, the emerging and developing countries are rapidly increasing the job opportunities for the youth of the countries and engaging them in politics, social development and various economic activities.
The women’s forum has addressed the challenges that are faced by women in developed and the developing countries. The majority of the countries have male dominated parliamentary members and leadership. Additionally, the wage disparities of certain countries are an issue. The example of Bangladesh where the all the leaders of the political parties (AL, JP and BNP) and a significant number of MPs and government officials are women. Also the inclusion of women in the booming industrial market of Bangladesh has transformed Bangladesh into one of the fastest growing economies in the world today. It is noteworthy to mention that Bangladesh remains the highest in gender equality in South Asia and continues to improve as the results from the last few years have suggested. The lack of inclusion of women in some countries has forced them to lag behind in economic growth; therefore the IPU promotes universal education of women and equal job opportunities.
The IPU in the recent past engaged in discussions on human development issues, there has been memorandum signed on 23 March to increase efforts to engage the parliamentarians in the fight against diseases such as AIDS, TB and Malaria. These three diseases are the most dangerous diseases that affect majority of human population, primarily in the developing countries. The notion to start up a collective fund facilitates the countries and the international community to effectively combat these diseases and improve the quality of life in developing countries.
The IPU also focuses on Peace and Security, and this is one of the fundamental principles of the IPU. The IPU summits advocate for the elimination of conflict through political dialogue between conflicting states. For example, IPU is the only body that allows the Palestinian and Israeli parliament members to communicate in order to address the issues regarding the long standing conflict. Also the President of the IPU on the inaugural speech have advocated the two-state solution of this conflict which is widely accepted by all members of the international community and also condemned the illegal settlements of the occupied territories by Israeli settlers. Also in his speech he mentioned a peaceful solution in the Korean peninsula and advised against an arms race that may further endanger the people of the region. In the IPU the North and the South Koreans are able to have dialogue regarding their conflicts and this enables a platform for countries that are diplomatically cut-off to mitigate.
The IPU is a strong advocate for human rights however; one of the important issues regarding the recent summit was the responsibility to intervene by some countries in a conflict. The human rights violations in Eastern European conflicts, the North African and Rwanda crises were all discussed. However, the majority consensus of the 171 participating parliament representations were that the responsibility to intervene must come through the UN i.e., abiding international law and not taking action in to the hands of a few states. This is also echoed in the General Assembly of the UN where majority of states have criticised the recent advents of some states in intervening in conflicting countries without the consent of the UN General Assembly and the Security Council.
One of the important innovations of this summit was that the government of Bangladesh as the hosts have taken the initiative to make this summit a Carbon Neutral summit. All the Carbon Footprint generated due to this conference being organised, the own initiative of the country will reduce its overall Green House Gases (GHC, CO2) emissions to balance it out in order to promote Sustainable Development. The participants will engage in discussions on the subject of climate change and develop goals for international development and sustainability.
- bdnews24.com (2017) IPU delegations call on foreign minister, thank Bangladesh, Available at: http://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2017/04/02/ipu-delegations-call-on-foreign-minister-thank-bangladesh (Accessed: 02-April-2017).
- huffingtonpost.co.za (2017) Mbete: “I will without any delay begin a process in the consideration of the requests submitted”, Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.za/staff-reporter/mbete-i-will-without-any-delay-begin-a-process-in-the-consider_a_22022370/ (Accessed: 02-April-2017).
- IPU (2017) Inter Parliamentary Union: For Democracy, For Everyone, Available at: http://www.ipu.org/english/home.htm (Accessed: 02-April-2017).
- jamaicaobserver.com (2017) New IPU and UN Women map shows women’s representation in politics stagnating, Available at: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/magazines/allwoman/New-IPU-and-UN-Women-map-shows-women-s-representation-in-politics-stagnating (Accessed: 02-April-2017).
- thedailystar.net (2017) IPU meeting will be carbon neutral, Available at: http://www.thedailystar.net/politics/ipu-meetinng-will-be-carbon-neutral-1384741 (Accessed: 02-April-2017).
- thedailystar.net (2017) Tuvalu, Central Africa Republic new IPU members, Available at: http://www.thedailystar.net/country/tuvalu-central-africa-republic-new-ipu-members-1385188 (Accessed: 02-April-2017).