(2 April 2012) We start our day at the IPU by congratulating the delegation from Myanmar, who is sitting next to us in the plenary, on their successful and peaceful by-elections yesterday. During the day, a couple of other delegates also stopped by to convey their congratulations. Yesterday saw by-elections in Myanmar to fill 45 vacant parliamentary seats, and Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s and her National League for Democracy (NLD) were competing for and won their first elections since 1990, following San Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest after 22 years.
This morning, we represent PRI in the plenary and in the Third Standing Committee on Democracy and Human Rights. The latter is dealing with “Access to health as a basic right for women and children” and we used this opportunity to deliver a short statement on the specific healthcare needs of women and girl prisoners which remain mostly unaddressed. We encouraged the delegates to enact legislation in order to implement the UN Bangkok Rules.
In the plenary, the Global Parliamentary Report was presented, an 18-month study on what citizens expect from parliamentarians, how these expectations have changed and whether parliamentarians deliver on these expectations. One of its findings is that parliaments, supposed to be a link between citizens and government, are perceived to be closer to government than to people, that parliaments should change this balance and also deliver on the expectation that they hold governments to account.
Over lunch, we meet the Rt. Hon. Ann Clwyd MP for a fine-tuning of PRI’s side event scheduled for tomorrow evening, at which she will be speaking. PRI also met other members of the UK delegation, including Lord Judd, Lord Faulkner, and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, Nigel Evans.
In the afternoon, PRI’s statement in the General Debate is up. In order to get MPs interested in the issue of criminal justice reform, our statement starts off with a description of the concern relating to the excessive use of imprisonment, including pre-trial detention. Our statement recalls the very goals of criminal justice and how prison sentences are not always the appropriate and most effective tools to deliver them. The statement closes with the role of parliamentarians in penal reform.
Click here to read the full oral statement of PRI at the 126th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
It was interesting to hear in a couple of interventions today, including from the Swedish and Portuguese delegations, concerns raised with regard to the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill currently pending before the ninth Ugandan parliament, which criminalises acts of homosexuality, including the death penalty as a sanction in certain circumstances.
In between following the discussions in plenary and the Third Standing Committee, delivering our statements, and meetings, we had to chase the shipment of PRI material, which should have arrived on Sunday. It seems to be stuck in customs at the airport in Entebbe, but we are hopeful that it will arrive here later today so we can finally set up our information stand. Yes, there are also trivial things to do as an NGO representative.
Speaking of NGOs: A national newspaper reports that 2,000 delegates from 120 countries have come to Kampala to attend the Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. At the same time, it is only a handful of NGOs who attend, and besides PRI the only NGO on the speakers list is Human Rights Watch.
It looks as though the motto of this Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union – “Parliaments and people: Bridge the gap” – could see some simple improvements by enhancing access of civil society to the IPU meetings.