Byline: Mr. SERGIO PAEZ VERDUGO President of the InterParliamentary Union
(Speech delivered at the inaugural ceremony of the 112th Inter-Parliamentary Assembly.)
THE Inter-Parliamentary Union has come to the warm and welcoming lands of the Philippines in a context of major challenges for representative institutions and for those who work, day in and day out, for peace and the common good in the world.
We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the parliamentary authorities of the Philippines for their availability and for being such worthy hosts of the most important annual event of the worlds parliamentarians.
This 112th Inter-Parliamentary Assembly is a new opportunity to highlight the critical nature of the parliamentary function, the hallmark of which is a symbiosis of thought and action; of legislative action and political practice.
Here, in Manila, we must hold a productive and open debate on a topical, concrete and realistic agenda so as to make it possible to draw up effective and realistic international and national legislation addressing the problems that our constituents face.
Our agenda here in Manila addresses a set of issues that have an impact on peoples everyday aspirations: peace, freedom, justice, health and equitable growth. This will not be an exercise in highfalutin rhetoric, but rather an invitation to give form to legal standards promoting and guaranteeing these rights in practice.
Once again, we must put to the test the three elements that underpin the raison detre of a legislator: our political will, our vocation of service, and the noble struggle for the common good.
The need to work for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, the united fight to stem the uncontrollable spread of AIDS and the march towards effective global justice to end impunity are all subjects requiring urgent attention. Representatives must be sensitive to the popular will, and forever closer to the needs and aspirations of the people of the five continents.
Urgent action is also required to address the great challenge of our times and of the future, that of the growing migratory flows in all continents; it is needed to determine how to prevent the natural disasters that are part of our world and to channel and act dynamically and effectively when they strike, as well as to take parliamentary action to prevent trafficking in children and violence against women in situations of conflict. These concerns too will be part of our deliberations.
Consequently, we are called upon to initiate a broad and rich exchange of ideas and policies to give rise to a new platform of global progress founded on humanism, diversity, pluralism and effective solidarity.
The global agenda cannot be seen as a self-defined, unequivocal and closed slate, restricted to certain subjects, as large parts of the international system apparently would believe. The fight against terrorism must be comprehensive and include its various aspects, such as legal terror, or state terrorism, and point to aspects that lie at the root of these despicable phenomena.
Similarly, political freedom has its corollary in the ability of peoples to free themselves from hunger, poverty and the pandemics that increasingly threaten them.
For this reason, here in Manila the IPU will strongly assert the need for all of the worlds States to ratify the Rome Statute, with the objective of preventing and punishing crimes against humanity, thus promoting respect for international humanitarian law and human rights. In this way, we will contribute to ensuring justice, the rule of law, the maintenance of peace and international security.
We will advocate the incorporation in national laws of the obligations deriving from the Rome Statute and other relevant treaties, in particular respect for the definitions of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide and their respective criminal procedures. We will encourage national cooperation with the International Criminal Court in respect of information, financing, and procedures. We will work to ensure that States ratify the 12 international treaties on terrorism.
From our parliaments, we must bolster the historic trend taking root in the first few years of this new century, that a European judge has clearly and accurately delimited: "Countries that sign conventions on crime do not acquire a right, but rather an obligation to prosecute and judge the perpetrators of these crimes, wherever they occur: justice without barriers."
Another source of concern, especially among the developing world, is the meager progress made in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the insufficiency of resources currently available to reach those targets by 2015.
We, the Member Parliaments of the IPU, have the moral obligation to urge all those parliaments whose governments have adopted the Millennium Summit Declaration resolutely and willfully to support the implementation of these objectives in their respective countries, recommending the earmarking of funds for their programmes within the national budgets.
Similarly, we must encourage the parliaments of the developed countries to demand that their governments meet the commitments they have taken to assist vulnerable countries.
By the same token, we must continue to urge the parliaments of the developing countries to ensure that their governments mobilize the necessary resources for these objectives, fight corruption, pursue institutional reforms, adopt economic policies to stimulate growth and social equity, establish the Millennium Development Goals as their national strategy and apply the principles of good governance and fiscal transparency.
The new era of world integration offers unforeseen potential benefits which will not materialize unless a greater share of the world population is included.
We believe that the most important factor is the need to be inclusive in decisionmaking. More people should have access to political discussions affecting their lives and above all, more should benefit from growth, free trade and economic development. The Millennium Development Goals are the beacons which guide us towards democratic government and human development in all its aspects.
Just as terrorism is an abject attack against human dignity, there are other phenomena which every minute, everywhere in the world, obscure the lives of many human beings. The AIDS pandemic must be recognized as one of the major challenges jeopardizing life, the full enjoyment of human rights and indeed the future of the human race.
By taking up the subject of AIDS prevention and treatment in relation with inalienable human rights on the agenda of this Assembly, we are following up on and underscoring a systematic concern of the IPU in respect of this scourge, which we first expressed in the 1990s.
Today, we wish to give a strong signal to the international system, calling on the national States to recognize the existence, gravity and actual levels of infection of their populations. We must face up to and detect the magnitude of this pandemic so that urgent international assistance programmes can respond to the real needs that it has caused.
We have the duty to raise our voices to raise awareness among governments and international organizations so that they recognize that the exercise of the human rights of persons living with AIDS presupposes access for them, without discrimination, to health, social and legal services; and above all, access to medicines, in particular antiretroviral treatments.
Similarly, we must urge implementation of human rights strategies and policies for AIDS sufferers, in particular addressing their rights to education, work and privacy.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The major priorities of the IPU in recent years have been consistent work for peace and the steadfast promotion and consolidation of democracy in a complex context of globalization, sometimes with the spread of conflicts and the unilateral and authoritarian imposition of policies and actions at the international level.
The founders of this organization of the worlds parliaments have bequeathed to us a devotion to the principles of peace and fraternal harmony among peoples. We as the parliamentarians of our day are called upon to develop, in our policies, a culture of peace. Peace is not the flag of the weak before the great national and supranational powers. It is a way of living and acting courageously and boldly, and always putting forward the settlement of conflicts on the basis of reason and the law.
In a unipolar world, where policies are imposed by force, the culture of peace is built on the premise of dialogue and consensus, with a clear purpose, and a disposition, of all to compromise, and not just to make demands.
Democracy promotion is also an immense task. While quantitatively, there has been a consolidation of democracy, we can also see that democratic values have barely taken root in the conscience of many peoples.
The extent to which poverty has spread, the crisis of representation in political institutions, and sometimes the rarity or absence of institutions can all undermine democracy. We will therefore continue to promote the quality of the worlds representative organizations and their capacity genuinely to act as a catalyst of the aspirations of the people. Democracy requires action, training and experience in everyday life; it necessarily requires empathy between representatives and their constituents. It is only in this way that democratic processes can be vitally, rationally and emotionally accepted.
I should like to conclude by reminding you that next September we will be holding the Second World Conference of Speakers of Parliaments, at United Nations Headquarters in New York. Since the first conference was held five years ago, parliamentary participation in the international field has mushroomed quantitatively and qualitatively. The IPU has continuously and methodically contributed to this process.
We now see our Union, increasingly prestigious and strong in the international system, working to make a triple dream come true: that of consolidating the culture of peace, improving and deepening democracy, and having national parliaments that are highly respected and recognized.
Let us continue down this road. As a great South American thinker once said: "It is the possibility that a dream may come true that makes life interesting."