In the clamour of events surrounding the UN General Assembly, one that has been receiving increasing attention is the Annual Parliamentary Hearing at the United Nations.
As the United Nations reaches out to new stakeholders to help it grapple with the major objectives on the international agenda, parliaments are a natural choice for such a partnership. They are constitutionally endowed with legislative powers that entitle them to approve national budgets, reallocate funds or cut them as they see fit. They oversee action by Governments and their observance of international commitments. Parliaments also play a key role in ensuring broad support from national constituencies for the multilateral agenda and in galvanizing effective action on their home territory.
These are the principles that have guided the steady development of relations between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). From the Cooperation Agreement signed between the two organizations in 1996 to the permanent observer status in the General Assembly granted to the IPU in 2002, new and imaginative forms of cooperative action have been set in motion.
At the First Conference of Presiding Officers of National Parliaments in New York in August 2000, speakers pledged to provide a parliamentary dimension to international cooperation, and in particular to the work of the United Nations. This commitment was welcomed by the heads of State or Government attending the Millennium Summit in New York a few days later, who in their Millennium Declaration resolved to "strengthen further cooperation between the United Nations and national parliaments, through their world organization--the Inter-Parliamentary Union--in various fields, including peace and security, economic and social development, international law and human rights, and democracy and gender issues".
Cooperation between the IPU and the United Nations serves to provide support to the world Organization. But members of parliament are elected to scrutinize the executive, and the parliamentary oversight role applies--or should apply--with equal force to the United Nations and other worldwide multilateral agencies. The IPU has made no secret of its conviction that the principle of democratic accountability must apply to multilateral...