U.S. Senator and UNPA Supporter Benjamin Cardin Wins Re-Election
The first sitting U.S. parliamentarian to endorse the establishment of a UN Parliamentary Assembly easily secured re-election in U.S. elections last month.
Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland has served in the U.S. legislature since 1987, first in the lower chamber and then, from 2007, in the upper chamber. His re-election in November was to a second six-year term in the U.S. Senate. He won his seat again by a better than 2:1 margin. He endorsed the establishment of a UNPA in October 2011.
Mr. Cardin has a long-standing interest in foreign affairs, democratization and human rights. He serves on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and is co-chair of the U.S. Helsinki Commission. This latter role also engaged him in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He served as Vice President of the Assembly until last year. His engagement and leadership in the intergovernmental parliamentary body encouraged the Campaign to approach him as a likely supporter of a UNPA.
Mr. Cardin’s endorsement of a UNPA came after a committed outreach effort by the Campaign’s U.S. coordinator, Mr. Tony Fleming, who also happens to be a constituent of the Senator.
Mr. Fleming met with the Senator’s legislative staff on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, then with his staff at the Helsinki Commission. Over the course of several conversations, Mr. Fleming shared the Campaign’s goals and discussed the costs, timing, logistics, representation and accountability of the proposed Assembly. In addition to meetings with legislative staff, he met with officials at the U.S. State Department to introduce the Campaign and to gather their perspective on the proposed assembly. At two of these meetings, the Secretary-General of the international Campaign, Andreas Bummel from Germany, participated as well.
During the annual meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in summer 2011, Senator Cardin met with several other OSCE PA members at a sidebar convention about the UNPA proposal. Canadian Senator Consiglio Di Nino and Swedish parliamentarian Åsa Lindestam had each previously endorsed the Campaign and encouraged Senator Cardin’s support. At the meeting, they largely agreed on the objectives of establishing a UNPA in the future and on the need for a very specific plan of action with steps for the short, medium and long term if the project was to succeed.
The Co-Chair of the UNPA Campaign, the European parliamentarian Jo Leinen, expressed his encouragement to the Senator in a letter on other human rights efforts. In response, Senator Cardin concluded from the discussions so far that...to the extent that the establishment of a UNPA would bring more transparency, oversight and effective governance to the Secretariat and other structures of the United Nations, I would support its establishment.
A number of former U.S. officials have recently added their support, including former Senator Adlai Stevenson and former Representative Paul Findley of California. Mr. Cardin is the first sitting U.S. parliamentarian to endorse the proposal of a UN Parliamentary Assembly, and his broad respect across the U.S. political spectrum encourages Campaign supporters in the United States.
Internationally, more than 800 sitting members of parliament and over 300 former elected representatives are on record as supporters of a UNPA.