This is the second time that Belgrade has hosted an IPU Assembly; the 52nd Assembly was held in Belgrade in 1963 so we are happy to be back. We are certain very important outcomes was result from the deliberations of the Assembly
Martin Chungong made double history in 2014 by becoming the first African and first non-European to be elected as IPU Secretary General. He has more than three decades of experience and knowledge of parliaments at national and international levels. He has dedicated his professional life to promoting and building democracy worldwide. After 14 years working in the Cameroonian Parliament, he spent more than 20 distinguished years within organization before being elected IPU Secretary General—the eighth person to hold the position. He had previously served as Deputy Secretary General and Director of Programmes. He has become a leader in his field through his work on developing programmes to help parliaments become more transparent, accountable, representative and effective democratic institutions. Martin Chungong has further contributed to establishing governance benchmarks to strengthen democracy, as chair of the Management Committee on Accountability of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Governance Network. He has also built an impressive portfolio in the promotion of dialogue and conflict resolution, issues that remain at the heart of our global work. His focus on helping coun-tries emerge from conflict or in transition has been widely acknowledged by our membership and partners globally. Since 2012, Martin Chungong has made a push to strengthen parliamentary engagement on sustainable development and account-ability through his role as Parliamentary Representative on the Steering Commit 7tee of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, an international group which helps nations, business and organizations work better together to end poverty. As part of IPU’s commitment to gender parity, Martin Chungong is an International Gender Champion, part of a network of decision makers, male and female, who have committed to breaking down gender barriers. He is also leading IPU’s work to dramatically reduce maternal and child mortality rates through effective legislation and its implementation, as well as ensuring governments’ account-ability to international commitments in this area. A linguist by training, Martin Chungong speaks English, French and Spanish. He holds degrees from both the University of Yaoundé and the University of Ottawa. He has been made a Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Pléiade, an honour awarded by what is now known as the International Organisation of La Francophonie to people who have distinguished themselves in the service of its ideals of cooperation and friendship.
Is this your first time in Belgrade? What is your impression of the Serbian capital city?
— Indeed, it is my first visit to Belgrade and to Serbia in general. I am delighted to be in Belgrade, in this beautiful and dynamic city. Serbia has a special place at the IPU as it was one of the first members of the IPU, joining in 1891, shortly after the organization was founded in 1889. This is the second time that Belgrade has hosted an IPU Assembly; the 52nd Assembly was held in Belgrade in 1963 so we are happy to be back. We are certain very important out-comes was result from the deliberations of the Assembly.
How did you choose the theme of the 141st IPU session: Strengthening international law: Parliamentary roles and mechanisms, and the contribution of regional cooperation?
— We chose this theme in partnership with our Serbian hosts working closely together to refine the theme and build the program. Since the IPU’s creation 130 years ago, political dialogue, the rule of law and the peaceful resolution of conflict through parliamentary diplomacy have remained its guiding principles. However, we are beginning to see cracks worldwide in the rule of law and respect for international agreements – so our 141st Assembly is an opportune moment to encourage the parliamentarians of the world to recommit to these principles and the importance of parliamentary diplomacy and dialogue. Indeed, as at all IPU Assemblies, we facilitate hundreds of parliamentary bilateral meetings to encourage greater regional cooperation and understanding between its Member Parliaments.
You are an exception to the 125-year-long tradition of only Europeans helming the Inter-Parliamentary Union. You were also the first African to be elected as a high official of this body. How did this come about?
— I have dedicated all of my professional life to promoting and strengthening parliaments and empowering parliamentarians. After 14 years working in the Cameroonian Parliament, I spent more than 20 years within our organization in various capacities including Director of Programmes, Di-rector of Democracy and as Deputy Secretary General before being elected IPU Secretary General—the eighth person to hold the position in our organization’s 130-year history. I believe that the membership of the Organisation, in electing me to this office, was convinced of my capacity, on account of this experience, to help the Organisation deliver on its mandate. I am heartened by this trust which has been my driving force throughout my tenure. I am very keen to live up to this trust. The IPU should have the capacity to reflect the voice of parliaments on the global scene and to mobilise parliaments worldwide in support of global commitments and their implementation at the national level.
You are particularly noted for your work pertaining to the development of programmes to help parliaments become more transparent, accountable, a true representative and effective democratic institutions. What do you think of the Serbian Parliament? Are you familiar with its work?
— At the IPU, we are keen to promote the values and principles of democracy as practiced by parliaments. We work hand in hand with parliaments to make them more representative and inclusive to reflect all the people. In our view, the more representative a parliament, the stronger the democracy and the better able to address effectively the expectations of all of society. The Serbian parliament is making good progress from this point of view. For example, 38% of Serbian MPs are women, well above the global average of 24%. Serbia ranks 27th out of the 193 countries in the world. Furthermore, the parliament is particularly youthful, with close to 45% of MPs under 45 years old, which is important to ensure youth engagement and mobilization in politics. The IPU has been pleased to work with the parliament to assess and strengthen its capacity to contribute to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.