IPU Committee rejects idea of a UN Parliamentary Assembly

23. March 2010

In the run-up to the third World Conference of Speakers of Parliament that is organized by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and planned to take place in Geneva from 19th to 21st July, a preparatory committee of the association made clear that it rejects the idea of a UN Parliamentary Assembly. Documents prepared for the 122nd Assembly of the IPU in Bangkok, Thailand, from 27th March to 1st April 2010 published by the IPU contain decisions taken at a preparatory meeting in November 2009 in New York. According to the minutes, “the Committee opposed the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly which it deemed incompatible with the strategy for parliamentary interaction with the United Nations.”

Prof. Daniele Archibugi, Research Director at the Italian National Research Council and advisor to the European Union, the OECD and several UN agencies commented that “I am always surprised to see that the Inter-Parliamentary Union is so much resistant to the idea of a world parliament.” According to Mr Archibugi, “there are about 40 international organizations that already have parliamentary assemblies, but not the most important of all of them, namely the UN.”

A representative of the Secretariat of the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly said that the opposition inside the IPU was “unfortunate.” He added, however, that the view expressed by the Committee in November isn’t unanimous: “In the past, the Speakers of Parliament from Uganda and Kenya, for instance, have expressed a different opinion.”

Members of the IPU frequently claim that it is already providing the “parliamentary dimension” to the UN. Proponents of the idea by contrast hold the view that “the proposed UNPA and the IPU would be complementary institutions” and that “a UNPA would provide a response to the democratic deficit in global governance which the IPU in its current structure is unable to offer.”

According to Prof. Uwe Holtz, who was a member of the German parliament for over 20 years and a member of German IPU delegations, “the campaign has good reasons to promote a Parliamentary Assembly at the UN. Different ways towards its establishment are conceivable. The IPU could serve as an important platform.”

Dr. Claudia Kissling, an expert at the Committee for a Democratic UN., a Berlin-based think tank specialized on “parliamentary representation in global institutions”, agreed that the IPU could be a starting point to develop a UNPA. She added, however, that “unfortunately there are no signs for this to happen in the near future. Therefore a parallel strategy has to be pursued that on the one hand consequently pushes for the establishment of a UNPA and on the other does not conflict with the IPU’s current role.”

In a resolution adopted in October 2007 by the Pan-African Parliament, the African Union’s parliamentary body called for the establishment of a UN Parliamentary Assembly and suggested that this “in no way contradics the valuable and highly esteemed work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.”

The IPU is an umbrella organization of 151 national parliaments. It is currently presided by the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Namibia, Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab.