The Shura Council (parliament of Qatar) hosted the spring assembly of the IPU from 6 to 10 April in the Sheraton Convention Center in Doha. Despite certain countries’ threats to boycott this assembly, all the statutory bodies were able to convene. Qatar welcomed around 80 parliamentary presidents, 40 vice presidents and over 800 deputies from 160 national parliaments, including the Swiss Federal Assembly. The main theme of the 140th Assembly was that of parliaments as platforms for enhancing education for peace, security and the rule of law.
The Swiss delegation was made up of the following members of Parliament:
- Andrea Caroni (FDP/AR), Council of States member, delegation president
- Christian Lohr (CVP/TG), National Council member, delegation vice president
- Margret Kiener Nellen (SP/BE), National Council member
- Filippo Lombardi (CVP/TI), Council of States member
- Félix Müri (SVP/LU), National Council member
- Laurent Wehrli (FDP/VD), National Council member
During the assembly, members called for urgent international action to support Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe hit by Cyclone Idai. This was proposed by the Netherlands as an emergency item and was accepted. The IPU’s standing committees had a lot of business to attend to. The Peace and International Security Committee considered the non-admissibility of using mercenaries and foreign fighters and a means of undermining peace and human rights. Its draft resolution was subject to numerous amendments, including many proposed by Switzerland. Council of States member Filippo Lombardi repeatedly had to defend Switzerland’s position and its proposed amendments on behalf of the delegation. The Standing Committee on Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade proposed a draft resolution on the role of fair and free trade and investment in achieving the SDGs. National Council members Müri and Wehrli represented the delegation in this committee.
The Assembly also discussed the resources available to parliaments for improving gender equality and fighting terrorism.
The Governing Council took note the violation of certain parliamentarians’ human rights, including many in IPU member parliaments and of two statements by the president of the IPU concerning parliamentary diplomacy and the issue of the Golan Heights. Certain member states expressed reservations about this latter point.
National Council member Kiener Nellen was re-elected to the IPU’s High-Level Advisory Group on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism. Her term runs until April 2023 (and cannot be extended).
Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments (ASGP):
Alongside the Swiss parliamentary delegation to the IPU, the Secretary General of the Federal Assembly, Mr Philippe Schwab, travelled to Doha to attend and chair the meetings of the Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments.
Important events for Switzerland
National Council member Felix Müri spoke to the Assembly during the general debate on the role of parliaments as platforms to enhance peace, security and the rule of law. As outgoing president of the National Council’s Science, Education and Culture Committee, Mr Müri described his personal path in life culminating in election to the National Council as a demonstration of how the Swiss education and training system offers young people multiple opportunities for development and success. He said, «Everything is possible. The Swiss dual-track system of vocational education and training is one of the guarantees of our prosperity and of peace and security for our countries.» He also argued that parliamentarians have a duty to avoid elitist reactions and to take a pragmatic approach to the training of young people. Many of the participants praised him for being one of the few if not the only speaker to speak freely rather than reading out a pre-prepared text; this is sufficiently rare at the IPU to be worthy of note.
On the fringes of the 140th Assembly, the Swiss delegation sought information on the position of foreign nationals in Qatar employed in projects linked to the next football World Cup (2022) and the economic boom in the property sector. It therefore travelled to Lusail for a field visit and took part in a joint meeting organised by Romania (which holds the EU Council presidency) with the director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) office in Doha, and a representative of the Qatari Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs. Finally, the delegation visited the Dispute Resolution Committee, a sort of labour court which aims to resolve legal disputes more quickly and protect workers. All these meetings gave the delegation the opportunity to ask all the questions it had. The replies were considered encouraging, though a lot of progress still needs to be made.
The delegation also met the CEO of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, which invests significantly in Switzerland, to gain a better understanding of Qatar’s vision of the post-oil era and the development of its tertiary sector.
At the invitation of the Swiss ambassador in Doha, the delegation rounded off its trip with a meeting with representatives of Swiss businesses and organisations in Doha.
Further information is available on the IPU’s website: https://www.ipu.org/event/140th-assembly-and-related-meetings