​The 139th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union took place in Geneva from 14 to 18 October. Participants included all IPU statutory bodies: the Executive Committee, the Governing Council, the Standing Committees, the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, the Committee on Middle East Questions, as well as the IPU’s Forum of Women Parliamentarians and Forum of Young Parliamentarians.

In Geneva, only the Standing Committee on Democracy and Human Rights considered a draft resolution dealing with the strengthening of inter-parliamentary cooperation on migration and migration governance. Taking inspiration from the UN Global Compact for Migration, the resolution led the committee to long discussions until its adoption in plenary. Switzerland was represented by the National Council members Christian Lohr and Margret Kiener Nellen.

The Assembly endorses the importance of taking action against the devastating effects of global warming, and decided to consider an emergency item. The request submitted by the delegations of the Seychelles, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and the Federated States of Micronesia, which was passed by 1,106 votes to 311 (248 abstentions), took into account the main points of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and was primarily intended to support and guide the development of the Rule Book and Guidelines for implementing the Paris Agreement.

Two members of the Council of States (CS) and five members of the National Council (NC) made up the Swiss delegation in Geneva:

  1. CS Andrea Caroni (PLR/AR), delegation president
  2. NC Christian Lohr, (PDC/TG), delegation vice president
  3. NC Margret Kiener Nellen (PS/BE)
  4. CS Filippo Lombardi (PDC/TI)
  5. NC Felix Müri, (UDC/LU)
  6. NC Laurent Wehrli (PLR/VD)

NC Céline Amaudruz (UDC/GE)

Debates and milestones for Switzerland:

NC Céline Amaudruz addressed the Assembly during the general debate on the role of parliaments in promoting peace and development in an age of innovation and technological change. In particular, she underlined the importance of the legislative bodies of each country in defining general policy and the role of the IPU as a platform for the exchange of information, as well as the possibility for parliaments to encourage governments to share knowledge and technology. She also reminded parliamentarians of their duty to use and promulgate the solutions afforded by science.

On the margins of the session of the Forum of Women Parliamentarians, PACE President, CS Liliane Maury Pasquier (PS / GE) and the President of IPU, Gabriela Cuevas Barron presented a study jointly prepared by the IPU and PACE on ‘Sexism, harassment and violence against women in parliaments in Europe’. Both women noted the frightening results of the study.

The most lively discussion in plenary session was certainly on the question of organising a panel discussion by the Committee on Democracy and Human Rights. The theme of this meeting will be ‘The role of parliaments in ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and ensuring respect for human rights of LGBTI persons’, which already gave rise to very heated reactions in plenary at the 137th Assembly in St Petersburg.

In Geneva, the assembly was not even able to complete its work because of the discussions on this subject during its closing session. Consequently the IPU Executive Committee felt compelled to propose a solution and proposed a vote at the 139th Assembly on the following question: "Do you agree that the Assembly can change the work plan and agenda of the Standing Committees?" The proposal was adopted by the members of the national delegations (874 voted in favour; 671, against with 120 abstentions). With this unprecedented decision, the IPU puts in place a censorship mechanism!

The High-Level Advisory Group on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism, of which Margret Kiener Nellen, a member of National Council, is vice president, was forced to modify its composition. This came in response to the many points of criticism levelled against the group for not representing the countries most concerned with this issue. The group, previously comprising 12 members, will now comprise 21 members from the national parliaments, appointed by their respective geopolitical groups (and no longer invited by the IPU Secretary General) and on the basis of their expertise. As a result of these changes, the Twelve Plus Group will now be represented by 5 members (compared to 3 previously), making it, together with the African group, the best represented group. The members of the Twelve Plus Group will propose their five candidates in Doha. The High-Level Advisory Group on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism is intended to provide a forum for pooling and coordinating parliamentary action in the fight against terrorism.

Switzerland takes up new posts in the IPU:

The Executive Committee’s Sub-Committee on Finance elected Margret Kiener Nellen as President for a term expiring in October 2020.

Laurent Wehrli was also elected as a member of the Committee on Middle East Questions. His candidacy had been proposed by the Twelve Plus Group. He succeeds Felix Müri, a member of the National Council.

Christian Lohr, a member of the National Council, has been appointed co-rapporteur in the Standing Committee on Democracy and Human Rights. The report is on "Achieving universal health coverage by 2030: The role of parliaments in ensuring the right to health."

IPU Statutes and Revisions Procedure

The IPU Executive Committee considered the proposed amendments to the Statutes and Rules of the IPU in June. Five of the amendments, unanimously supported by the Executive Committee, were distributed to all IPU members and adopted by the Governing Council and the Assembly at the 139th Assembly of the IPU. The amendments adopted concerned in particular the functions of the IPU’s statutory bodies and the role of the president of the organisation.

Future assemblies:

Following Argentina’s last-minute cancellation, the 140th Assembly will take place in Doha, Qatar in April 2019 (6-10.04.2019). The 141th Assembly will be organised by Serbia in autumn 2019.

More information on the official IPU website.