IN THE WORLD: OBJECTIVES, FUNCTIONS
AND AREAS OF INTEREST
Secretary-General of the Senate (Chile)
On discussing the wide and varied context of the inter parliamentary organizations, institutions and networks operating today in the world, we must remit necessarily to the process of globalization, which defines and determines the political, economic, and social activity in the world. Fast development and massive use of global communication systems have facilitated integration and social interaction, promoting the free flow of ideas, together with a dynamic exchange of experiences. In concrete terms, this almost infinite dialogue capacity (personal or virtual) has not led to a univocal or totalizing vision of human existence; rather the contrary: it has promoted the functional integration of countless initiatives and actions that were previously disseminated.
This functionalist perspective of globalization explains why inter parliamentary relationships are defined today around a varied set of interests, going from the geopolitical and geo-strategic to an impressive amount of specific subjects. The tendency of MPs to organize or interact themselves around more limited, and paradoxically less “global” objectives, is the prevailing characteristic of the current inter parliamentary context. Various and multiple ways of organization, more than integration into a sole or excluding association, determine legislators’ behaviour in their dimension of supra national participation. This
phenomenon does not seem surprising, since several academic studies on the global phenomenon define globalisation as the occupation of supra national strategic spaces on a limited scope. Actually, the consolidation of regional and sub-regional political or economical blocks, or associations based on specific affinities is a clear example of this process.
To analyze the multiplicity of the inter-parliamentary phenomenon is an interesting challenge, since it is no more limited only to classical international parliamentary assemblies, but to a variety of institutions or free adscription networks, organised for the achievement of shared objectives. An interesting first verification is precisely to emphasise that there are few parliamentary organizations with a global. To the already known institutionalised and
centennial experience of the “Inter Parliamentary Union” (IPU), we can add “Parliamentarians for Global Action” which has consolidated as a free adscription world parliamentary network, with about 1.300 legislators associated, characterised for developing virtual political debates and a world yearly meeting, plus topic seminars in different continents. Its core interest is precisely the main topics in international politics. From the perspective of inter parliamentary cooperation, we must stress the work done by the so called “Parliamentary Centre” a Canadian initiative, performing parliamentary promotion
projects in four continents, with the aim of strengthening professional capacity of legislators and improving accountability and transparency. This organ has a political-technical optic, with a greater emphasis on training and concrete action.
At the level of regional interests and motivations, we find multiple inter parliamentary actions, with different emphasis and institutional developments. Within the so called regional parliaments, we appreciate the will of its authorities to achieve a juridical status similar to that of the European Parliament, so as to become a co-legislator of its governmental counterpart. However, as regional integration processes in other continents is weaker, that objective is far off in the case of the Latin American Parliament, the Andean Parliament, the Central American Parliament and the Pan African Parliament. Currently, these “parliaments” can be considered as political forums which allow the collaboration and
interaction of MPs, with regional integration objectives.
In a parallel way and searching the objective of establishing as the parliamentary counterpart of an intergovernmental agency or organ of integration, there is a series of “parliamentary assemblies” or “forums” providing political support for those bodies. This trend is particularly significant in Africa, with the “ECOWAS Parliament”, the “SADC Parliamentary Forum”, the “East African Community Legislative Assembly”; meanwhile in Asia we have the “ASEAN Inter Parliamentary Organization”. In the case of Eurasia, there is the “Parliamentary Assembly of the Eurasian Economic Community”, the “Inter
Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States” and the “Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation”. In Europe there are organizations of this kind, even though with a greater institutional consolidation, as the “Parliamentary Assembly of OSCE”. The case of the “Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe” is a different one, since it is based on a solid juridical foundation supported by the Constitution of the Council of Europe.
Within the scope of sub regional interests, there is a series of more spontaneous initiatives; however they are dynamic and participating. They take the form of associations of parliaments or parliamentarians, as is the case of the “Baltic Assembly”, the “Barents Parliamentary Conference”, the “Benelux Parliament”, the “Inter Parliamentary Forum of the
Americas”, the “Parliamentary Confederation of the Americas”, the “Arab Inter Parliamentary Union”, the “African Parliamentary Union”, the “Conference of
Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region”, the “Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum”, the
“Association of Senates, Shuras and equivalent Councils of Africa and the Arab World”, the “Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation” and a very pro-active organisation:
“European Parliamentarians for Africa” (AWEPA).
In another category we can locate parliamentary associations or assemblies whose essential purpose is to deliver political support to certain international agencies, as is the case of the “NATO Parliamentary Assembly”, the “Parliamentary Network of the World Bank” and the “Assembly of the WEU”.
From another perspective, we can observe a special interest of national MPs in organizing themselves on the basis of a cultural-idiomatic identity. Its objective is to preserve and promote shared values and a common language. Francophone MPs develop an intense political agenda in the “Parliamentary Assembly of Francophonie”, meanwhile the
Anglophone ones do that in the “Commonwealth Parliamentary Association”. In both cases,
they carry out a fruitful political dialogue and training complementary programs. Likewise, we verified a surprising organising capacity of MPs around a wide variety of concrete topics. Associations, groups or networks are operating fluidly in at least 10 thematic areas: poverty, corruption, HIV/Aids, education, gender matters, demographic topics, cultural-religious identity, disarmament and peace, business, ethnical identity and environment. In most of these organizations, conventional work methods or are actively combined with virtual ones.
In the area of poverty we identify the “African Parliamentary Network on Poverty Reduction”; in the ambit of fighting corruption there is GOPAC, which is the “World Organization of Parliamentarians against Corruption” (with an active parliamentary
participation in the five continents); in the combat against AIDS we have the “Coalition of African Parliamentarians against HIV/AIDS”; in matters of gender equity, we ca find the so called “Gender Network”, acting all over the world, and the “Network of Women Parliamentarians of the Americas”; in the demographic field, MPs have grouped in the “Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development”, the “Inter American Parliamentary Group on Population”, the “Inter-European Parliamentary Forum on
Population and Development” and the “African and Arab Forum of Legislators on Population”; in the area of education, there is the “Forum of African Parliamentarians for Education” working quite close to UNESCO. MPs having as their objective the
strengthening of their respective cultural-religious identities have grouped around the “Inter
Parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy” and the “Parliamentary Union of the Organization
of the Islamic Conference Member States”. In the areas of disarmament and peace, we find
the “Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament, the “World Parliament for Safety
and Peace” and “The Great Lakes Parliamentary Forum on Peace”; meanwhile, in the
business and finance sector we identify the “International Association of Business and
Parliament”, which is a forum of permanent dialogue between businessmen and legislators.
In terms of ethnic identity, we find the interesting work developed by the Saami Parliamentary Council in Scvandinavia. Last but not least, in the category of the environment, we enhance the “Globe Organization of Legislators for a Balanced Environment”, with branches in three continents.
At the end of this analysis on the inter-parliamentary organizations all over the world, we are able to appreciate that the main characteristic of the ways adopted by legislators to associate themselves is diversity; it is diverse in at least four aspects: thematic interests, objectives, structures and working methods. It is also diverse in the intensity of the work they display, even though practically all organizations we mentioned are fully active. There is another outstanding feature: they usually interact, associate and cooperate themselves, rather than compete or generate institutional conflicts.
Allow me a last consideration. In this communication we have tried to do a factual verification of the inter-parliamentary world today. We do not try to state whether it is more effective a model where all inter-parliamentary relations and interests are routed towards a sole big world organization or whether this great diversity gives more freedom, wide criteria and more participation. This subject matter may be left for a different political-institutional analysis.
Mr Anders Forsberg, President, commented on how international organizations took
parliamentarians away from Parliament! Many committees were established in such organizations and sometimes there was a risk of duplication and competition between them. The Swedish experience was that international organizations were much easier to set up than to close down. For example, he mentioned that a European Mediterranean Parliamentary Association had been established for Mediterranean countries and at the same time the IPU had set up a similar organization.
Dr Ulrich Schöler (Germany) thanked Mr Carlos Hoffmann-Contreras for his overview.
He said it was helpful to know what action was being taken. A former Speaker of Parliament had been asked to report to the European Speakers on rationalising the international network of organizations; it was thought that would be possible to close down one of the networks. He thought that it was better to focus on fewer international organizations. Duplication happened and very often little was known about the work done by the committees within those organizations. He noted that the former Speaker’s Report had been based on a questionnaire and that it was strange that replies differed from the expressed views of Speakers. He thought that the reason for this was that officials were compiling the replies and they asked members of international delegations for their views, who clearly wanted international bodies to continue.
On the other hand, some international organizations on the Government side, such as the World Bank, IMF etc, had no parliamentary control. He asked what efforts were being made in other Parliaments to control such international organizations.
Mr Anders Forsberg, President, said that a key question was how to anchor
international work into the daily work of Parliaments. For example, did the IPU delegation report back from conferences?
Ms Heather Lank (Canada) in reply to Mr Forsberg’s point said that in Canada a report was made to both Houses by a member of the delegation within 28 days. There were times when there was a follow-through.
Mr Colin Cameron (WEU) noted that unfortunately Mr Mateo Sorinas had had to leave and that neither he nor Mr Cameron would be able to be in Cape Town because of a clash with a Council of Europe meeting. He thought it might be possible to present a communication on cooperation between international associations on a later occasion in Geneva.
The WEU was in the interesting situation of being an international association without a body but which was subsumed into the European Union. He said that he might make a contribution on this subject next year in Geneva. He noted that new bodies were accredited to the IPU and that there was a plethora of such international associations. Mr Carlos Hoffmann-Contreras agreed with Dr Ulrich Schöler that duplication between
international associations was a problem. The OSCE and the Council of Europe might both seem to be doing the same job.
Mr Alain Delcamp (France) said that the World Bank presented a particular problem
because they avoided parliamentary scrutiny but attracted the attention of individual parliamentarians. It was necessary for such parliamentarians to be supported by their individual Parliaments. He also noted that there were institutional difficulties and gave as an example the European-Mediterranean organization. An Assembly was being established and the question ought to be posed as to what its purpose was. How could it be coordinated with other organizations?
Mr Anders Forsberg, President, said the role of the IPU as a coordinator had been
raised. The first meetings on this issue had focused on the role of the IPU in the context of its relations with the United Nations.