148th Assembly of IPU spotlights importance of parliamentary diplomacy

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Hon. Advocate Jacob Francis Nzwidamilimo Mudenda, Speaker of Parliament, and Hon. Mabel Memory Chinomona, President of the Senate are currently in Geneva, Switzerland attending the 148th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) being held under the theme “Parliamentary Diplomacy: Building Bridges for peace and understanding”.

The spring edition of the IPU Assembly has drawn over one thousand six hundred (1 600) delegates including fifty-five (55) Speakers and fifty-five Deputy Speakers from one hundred and forty-eight (148) IPU Member Parliaments. Furthermore, thirty-six percent (36%) of delegates are women while twenty-seven percent (27%) are young Parliamentarians.

According to the 2023 statistics obtained by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, fifty-six (56) countries across the globe were experiencing armed conflict. Consequently, some of these conflicts have a negative global impact on world economies. Inaccessible grain and fertilizer supplies curtailed the movement of goods and services resulting in devastating consequences of humanitarian crisis. In this context, the IPU is applauded for providing a much-needed platform for Parliamentarians to exercise Parliamentary diplomacy through dialogue to complement the peace and security efforts by the United Nations and other multilateral humanitarian organisations.

The Hon. Speaker Mudenda and other delegates from the SADC region are expected to articulate conflicts in the region and how Parliamentary diplomacy through dialogue can resolve the current conflicts. The theatre of conflicts in the SADC region includes the Cabo Delgado and Eastern DRC areas.

The IPU has been consistent in leading conversations about women’s empowerment and increasing the participation of women in politics and decision-making positions. Accordingly, Hon. Chinomona is expected to share Zimbabwe’s progress and best parliamentary practices in the area of gender parity during the Forum of Women Parliamentarians.

As has become standard practice at IPU Assembly meetings, the SADC Group and Africa Geopolitical Group convened on 22nd March 2024 to discuss and reach a consensus on issues affecting the region and the continent. The meetings provide a focused approach in tackling issues under consideration by the global Parliamentary body. Of special note is that Speaker Mudenda continued to receive commendations for his sterling contribution to the work of the IPU among the SADC Parliaments and in the Executive Committee during his four-year tenure as he represented SADC Parliaments and the Africa Geopolitical Group. Subsequently, Hon. Speaker Mudenda was presented with a certificate of distinction by Hon. Roger Mancienne, Speaker of the Parliament of Seychelles and President of the SADC Parliamentary Forum in recognition of his “Outstanding commitment and excellence in serving the African Geopolitical Group and the SADC Region as a Member of the IPU Executive Committee”.

In keeping with the spirit of the theme of the Assembly, both the SADC and Africa Geopolitical Group resolved to support the submission of an Emergency Item submitted by South Africa entitled, “ Raising awareness of the International Court of Justice provisional measures for Israel about Palestinians in Gaza, and of the need for urgent action on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza”, for inclusion on the Agenda of the IPU. This emergency item will be married with Algeria’s proposal in terms of Rule 11(2) of the IPU Statutes which allows for such a composite approach.

Hon. Tulia Ackson, President of the IPU and Speaker of the Parliament of Tanzania addressed both the SADC and Africa Geopolitical Groups in her maiden appearance since election to the position of President of the IPU in October 2023. President Ackson expressed gratitude to Africa for the election support and pledged to deliver on her campaign promises as well as to ensure that the continent’s challenges receive due attention at the international fora.

Speaking during the same Meetings, Hon. Nelly B.K. Mutii, Speaker of the National Assembly of Zambia and Africa’s representative to the IPU Executive Committee apprised participants on key decisions and recommendations from the IPU Executive Committee. Notably, the IPU Executive Committee has constituted a Sub Committee to scrutinize the various submissions on the amendment of IPU Statutes as submitted by Member Parliaments and respective Geopolitical Groups. Accordingly, she called on Africa to take an active role in the process. She highlighted some of the proposed amendments as follows:

  • Gender rotation of the IPU Presidency
  • Reduction of the IPU Youth Parliamentarian age from 45 years to 40 years
  • Introduction of Portuguese as an Official Language of the IPU.

Regarding the IPU Task Force on the Ukraine-Russia conflict, the Executive Committee noted the progress registered by the IPU Task Force in dealing with the conflict. Accordingly, the Executive Committee resolved to maintain the Task Force. The Executive Committee further resolved that the IPU should also entrench its presence on other related conflict resolution initiatives by other bodies such as the upcoming Geneva Peace Summit being organised to resolve the current global conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East. Similarly, the Executive Committee noted and acknowledged the efforts made by the IPU President following her meetings with authorities from both Palestine and Israel over the conflict in Gaza. To that extent, the Executive Committee resolved to await the detailed report which will be presented by the Standing Committee on Middle East Affairs during the Assembly’s general debate.