Deputy Secretary-General, at Inter-Parliamentary Union Event, Stresses Importance of Accountability, Gender Balance, Inclusiveness, Confronting Corruption

28 November 2011

Deputy Secretary-General, at Inter-Parliamentary Union Event, Stresses Importance of Accountability, Gender Balance, Inclusiveness, Confronting Corruption

28 November 2011
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Deputy Secretary-General, at Inter-Parliamentary Union Event, Stresses Importance

Of Accountability, Gender Balance, Inclusiveness, Confronting Corruption

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) parliamentary hearing on “Strengthening Accountability for a More Peaceful and Prosperous World” in New York on 28 November:

Political accountability is central to meeting the generational challenges of today’s world.  Poverty, crime and violence thrive in States that are not accountable.  Countries with corrupt and repressive institutions — where the rule of law is weak — face a greater risk of civil wars, criminal violence and terrorism.

This was documented in this year’s World Bank World Development Report.  But we do not need a study to appreciate the damage caused by repressive Governments.  The Arab Awakening was a reflection of the fundamental human longing, especially among young people, for democracy, dignity and accountable Governments.

Political accountability and democratic governance are inseparable.  Both are essential to peace, development and human rights.  As parliamentarians, you embody political accountability.  At your best, you hear citizens and express their will.  You check the power of Governments.  You pass laws that foster just societies.  You promote peaceful dialogue to overcome tensions.  And you ensure that national resources are distributed fairly.

As a former parliamentarian myself, I fully appreciate the challenges you face.  But, I also understand the rewards.  This gathering is a chance for you to share ideas about how the United Nations system can work better with IPU.  We share the same goals:  to promote democratic governance and to translate international commitments into national realities.

There are four ways parliaments can help achieve this.  First, practise accountability.  That means holding regular, credible and transparent elections.  And it requires a solid legal framework guaranteeing freedom of speech, assembly and the media.  But, accountability goes beyond providing people with the right laws and a chance to go to the polls.  It demands the participations of citizens, especially young people, in day-to-day public affairs.  When you carry your constituents’ views back to your capitals, you create a strong bridge between people and their Government.

Second, represent your populations.  In too many countries, a room full of Members of Parliament looks nothing like a sample of the country’s people.  Women account for fewer than 20 per cent of parliamentarians globally.  That is well short of the 30 per cent target.  We need to bring more women into parliaments — not just for the sake of gender balance, or to inspire a generation of girls, or to harness the talents that women can bring, but because all of society benefits when women are equal.  We also have to do more to ensure that minority groups have seats in parliaments.  The best way to achieve this is to nurture citizens from these groups and give them the skills and opportunities to embark on a life of public service.

Third, squarely confront corruption and organized crime.  These erode political accountability and democratic governance.  Like termites, corrupt practices hollow out weak institutions from the inside.  And they destroy people’s trust in the State.  Parliaments around the world need to step up and block corruption in its tracks.  You have many ways to do this.  You can pass legislation that requires transparent budgets.  You can criminalize corrupt behaviour.  And you can establish independent ombudsmen with the staff and power they need to fight corruption.

Fourth, make sure individuals let go of power when their time is up.  And when the separation of powers is under threat, be vigilant and assert yourselves.  The peoples of your countries count on you to be front-line defenders of democratic governance and constitutionality.

As you know, the Secretary-General shares your vision of a bold strategic partnership between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.  We are proud of our strong relationship.  We stand ready to work closely with you for greater political accountability.  And we welcome your new, five-year strategy, “Better Parliaments, Stronger Democracies”.

As that platform states, IPU is “contributing a parliamentary dimension to the work of the United Nations”.  We deeply appreciate this contribution.

Let’s make the most of this meeting today, and continue building our partnership tomorrow — for the sake of the billions of people in our world who deserve true democracy.

Thank you and the best for your deliberations.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.