Thursday, 21 June 2012
Parliamentarians for Global Action
On Monday this week the parliament welcomed Mr Ross Robertson, Labor member for Manukau East in the New Zealand parliament, deputy speaker in that parliament and also the international president of the Parliamentarians for Global Action or PGA. Mr Robertson came to Canberra from New Zealand for the purpose of reinvigorating the Australian branch of the PGA, which was formerly led by the member for Lingiari, now Minister Warren Snowdon. I want to thank the many members and senators from all parties who came to hear Mr Robertson and Minister Snowdon speak and who have now joined the PGA. I was honoured to have been elected chair of the new Australian branch of the PGA; Senator Simon Birmingham was elected deputy chair, the member for Page was elected secretary; and the member for Moore was elected treasurer.
When founded in Washington DC in 1978 at the height of the Cold War, the PGA focused primarily on the critical need for the disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons; however, over its 30-year history and with an ever-changing geopolitical landscape, the organisational brief has evolved and expanded to remain current with issues of global concern. The activities of the PGA now focus on a broad range of initiatives aimed at fostering democracy, conflict prevention and management, international law and human rights, and population and environment issues—all of which fall into three broad project categories: Sustainable Development, Health and Population, Peace and Democracy, and International Law and Human Rights.
The PGA is now the largest transnational network of more than 1,300 individual parliamentarians from more than 100 parliaments in all regions of the world. It is a non-profit, non-partisan action-oriented body working on specific campaigns, including the universal ratification of the International Criminal Court Rome Statute and promotion of the new UN Arms Trade Treaty, among others. The PGA's program of work is under the political direction of an executive committee of 15 members, which allows the PGA to effectively push policies at the national, regional and international levels. I am pleased to report that a mandatory 60:40 gender ratio is in place for the membership of the executive committee.
The executive committee is elected by a 40-member international council representing the chapter heads from all regions around the world. In that sense, it is a truly democratic institution. The PGA works closely with the UN system through the advisory body of the UN Committee for PGA. The PGA's headquarters is in New York. Its secretary general is Ms Shazia Rafi and the director of projects and senior program officer is the very dynamic andcapable Peter Barcroft. The senior director of PGA's International Law and Human Rights program based in the Hague—focusing on the International Criminal Court universal ratification campaign—is another amazing person, Dr David Donat Cattin.
Three years ago I had the privilege of participating in a PGA visit to Jakarta which was for the purposes of a working meeting on the International Criminal Court hosted by the chairs of Commission 3—Law and Human Rights Commission; Commission 1—Defence and Foreign Affairs; and the Legislative Council of the Indonesian parliament. During the course of this meeting, Indonesian parliamentarians from all major political parties called for the swift completion of the process of national accession to the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court. The working meeting, attended by more than 50 participants, was opened by the PGA Indonesia Chair, Dr Theo Sambuaga MP—Chair, Commission 1—and closed by the PGA Indonesia Secretary, Ms Nurshyabani Katijasungkana MP—Deputy Chair, Commission 3. Both lawmakers stressed the importance of the ICC as a tool to fight impunity and prevent atrocities.
While in Jakarta, we also met with representatives of civil society, NGOs and the media. Unfortunately, Indonesia has yet to ratify the ICC's statute, but we believe it would be particularly significant and influential within the region if such a large power as Indonesia were to ratify this important human rights treaty and the PGA will continue its efforts in this regard. I note that just last week PGA called for the release of International Criminal Court Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor and her colleagues from detention in Libya. One hundred and twenty-one states have ratified or acceded to the Rome statute of the ICC. PGA members played an active role and directly contributed to the ratification by 75 of the states from all parts of the globe. No other parliamentary institution or organisation is involved in a campaign for the universality of the Rome statute.
Another campaign the PGA is conducting is the promotion of a new UN arms trade treaty. Currently at the United Nations, the 193 member states are negotiating this text, which if agreed upon will greatly improve transparency in the global arms trade. The final negotiating conference will take place in July this year at UN headquarters in New York, so it has been very important to try to have as many parliamentarians from around the world sign up to the global declaration. (Time expired)