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The 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament closed with the adoption of a declaration on the need to secure global democratic accountability. Over 130 Speakers of Parliament gave their assent to a text that affirmed how accountability and representation lie at the heart of democracy.

Full text of the Declaration adopted by the Conference [PDF]

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At the United Nations level, my view is that the relevant statutes need to be amended to give room for the participation of parliaments in decision making. For instance it can be made a requirement that every decision of the UN General Assembly or the UN Security Council is subjected to some form of a parliamentary process before it becomes binding. We can do this by strengthening the existing international parliamentary forums like the Inter-Parliamentary Union to co-determine with the UN General Assembly or Security Council the shape of world policies.

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Opening the conference, the IPU President alluded to the time, ten years previously, when he had been President of the UN General Assembly at the time of the Millennium. The moment had been a pivotal one for parliaments seeking a voice in international affairs, and he had helped ensure that they were not forgotten in the Millennium Declaration. A similar impulse of democratic vigour was needed to rekindle faith in the fulfilment of the development goals which had sprung from the Millennium.

The UN Secretary-General then commented on how diverse the audience before him was. By that very diversity, parliaments were the voice of the people. He had, he said, witnessed at first hand the birth pains of democracy in the Republic of Korea, and the stability and prosperity that were its rewards. At a time of crisis and challenge, said Mr. Ban, let us deepen our strategic partnership.

The meeting went on to hear a report on how parliaments organise their work with the United Nations, presented by the Vice-President of Uruguay. Senate President Astori singled out good practices in different parliaments as examples of parliamentary involvement. The Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa reported on parliaments working to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Speaker Sisulu referred to the crucial oversight function of parliaments in making the goals a reality. His report emphasised the need for parliaments to table national reports on the MDGs. It was for parliaments to ensure that commitments to the MDGs were reflected in national budgets.

The meeting then heard a presentation by Rose Mukantabana, Speaker of the Rwandan Chamber of Deputies, on global standards for democratic parliaments. Ms. Mukantabana said that parliaments should apply themselves to the task of drafting standards which they should apply to themselves. Only then would they be firmly placed to require more accountability of government at both the national and global levels. Only then would they be able to provide a sound foundation for democracy. This preliminary part of today’s meeting closed with an update on the IPU’s relations with the United Nations from its Vice-President, Geert Versnick of Belgium. The IPU, said Versnick acted as a catalyst in facilitating interaction with the world of the United Nations and helping to make sure that the views of the parliamentary community were heard at the United Nations. Substantive cooperation with the UN’s specialised agencies had been developing fast since permanent observer status had been awarded to the IPU in 2002. The present challenge was to develop a common strategy for ensuring more coherent support by parliaments to the work of the United Nations.

Reports on progress since the 2005 Speakers’ Conference:
Meeting the Millennium Development Goals [PDF]
Building global standards for democratic parliaments [PDF]
Strengthening the IPU and its relationship with the United Nations [PDF]

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Democracy has proven its power across our shared agenda. That is why I am troubled by recent reversals. There have been unconstitutional changes of government, in Africa and elsewhere. There have been coups and illegal seizures of power… Such threats remind us that there is nothing inevitable about democratic development. It comes through hard work, vision, leadership and sustained effort.

The IPU is bringing the voice of the world’s people to the work of the United Nations. It is helping to integrate global issues into the work of national assemblies all over the world. At this time of crisis, let us deepen our strategic partnership, between the United Nations and the IPU, between the United Nations and national parliaments.

Full text: Remarks to the Inter-Parliamentary Union World Conference of Speakers of Parliament

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