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Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly

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In Canada and internationally, the campaign for a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) continues to make steady progress.

In Canada, the number of parliamentarians in the current parliament who support the UNPA now stands at 45. This fall the WFMC national office sent MPs and Senators personalized letters inviting their endorsement of the campaign’s international appeal. To help with the lobby campaign to recruit more UNPA supporters from among current Canadian parliamentarians, contact the WFMC office (or 613 232-0647).

Internationally, the campaign has been endorsed by nearly 1,500 current and former members of parliament from over 100 countries and by nearly 20 former heads of state and foreign ministers,
hundreds of non-governmental organizations, distinguished personalities, and academics from some of the world’s leading universities. Supporters include six current UN Special Rapporteurs elected by the Human Rights Council. Recent high profile endorsements include the Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Laureate John Hume and a resolution passed by the Pan-African Parliament.

Rationale and characteristics

A United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) would provide parliamentary representatives with an opportunity to formally engage with the UN. As a parliamentary complement to the UN system, a UNPA would improve the representative character and democratic legitimacy of the world organization and strengthen the credibility and capacity of the UN to promote democracy,
human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals.

A UNPA could be set up by the UN General Assembly as a semi-autonomous body under Article 22 of the UN Charter. Alternatively, it could be created through an intergovernmental treaty
followed by a cooperation agreement with the UN. Neither mechanism requires Charter reform. States could choose whether their UNPA members would be directly elected or appointed from among national parliaments or regional parliaments (thereby including representation from political opposition and minorities). The principle of degressive proportionality could be utilized as a
basis for distribution of seats.

Initially, a UNPA could be endowed with largely consultative functions. A UNPA could be seen as part of the efforts towards UNGA revitalization. Important lessons can be learned from
parliamentary assemblies that already exist at numerous intergovernmental organizations, such as the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, NATO, the
African Union and Mercosur. In particular, the development of the European Union’s European Parliament may be instructive.

Interim steps towards a UNPA

Interim steps paving the way toward creation of a UNPA could include the establishment of a UN Parliamentary Network as suggested by the Commission on Global Security, Justice and
Governance (2016), the establishment of Global Public Policy Committees as suggested by the Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations–Civil Society Relations (2004) or the creation of a
Global Parliamentary Group as suggested by the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization (2004).

History and support

A UNPA was first suggested in 1948. After the Cold War, support was voiced, inter alia, by the Liberal International (1992 and 2005), the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Canadian House of
Commons (1993 and 2007), the InterAction Council (1994), the European Parliament (1994 and 2011), the Commission on Global Governance (1995), the World Commission on Culture and Development (1995), the Socialist International (2003), a majority of Swiss parliamentarians (2005), the World Federation of United Nations Associations (2006), the Pan-African Parliament (2007 and 2016), the Green World Congress (2008 and 2012), the Argentine Senate and Chamber of Deputies (2008/9), the Latin-American Parliament (2008), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (2009), in the report of the World Economic Forum’s Global Redesign Initiative (2010), the Parliament of Mercosur (2011), and the East African Legislative Assembly (2013).

In 2007, the Campaign for a UNPA was launched with the support of former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to coordinate and strengthen pro-UNPA efforts internationally.

A survey across 18 countries published in 2005 indicated that on average 63% supported the reform proposal while only 20% rejected it. Popular support for a UNPA overwhelmingly exceeded the proportion of the population opposed in all surveyed nations.

In 2008, the government of Switzerland expressed a supportive view. Speaking at a Commonwealth Summit, the foreign minister of Malta supported a UNPA in 2013. In 2015, Italy expressed its interest in the initiative. In 2016, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, expressed her continued support.

The UNPA Campaign is presently exploring whether there might be sufficient interest at the UN to start an intergovernmental Group of Friends of a UNPA. Such an informal group would
help to stimulate greater interest among UN member states, explore interim solutions, examine pertinent issues (such as funding) and determine a political route forward towards implementation.

Based on a recent UNPA campaign concept note,with files from WFMC Executive Director Fergus Watt

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