AIPA helps strengthen ASEAN integration

AIPA helps strengthen ASEAN integration

"With AIPA`s efforts, ASEAN integration would be stronger."
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Having a conference on the beautiful island of Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara Province must be inspiring and refreshing for ASEAN legislators taking part in the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA).

Bearing the theme of "Strengthening the Parliamentary Roles Towards ASEAN Community 2015", the 33rd General Assembly of AIPA was held September 16-22, 2012 and attended by delegations from the ten ASEAN member nations - Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Parliamentary observers from Australia, Belarus, Canada, China, Europe, India, Japan, South Korea and Russia also attended the meeting.

Further, there were honorary delegations from the ASEAN Supreme Audit Institution, National Parliament of Timor Leste, Pan Africa Parliament, the Indonesian Regional Representative Council (DDPD), ASEAN Secretariat representatives, Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network/Freeland Foundation`s ARREST program.

The ASEAN legislators discussed various draft resolutions, such as on the creation of a green economy to promote sustainable development, poverty eradication, as well as promoting the development and transfer of low carbon and environmentally-friendly technology research.

Regarding the Women Parliamentarians of ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (WAIPA), ASEAN female parliamentarians discussed draft resolutions on strengthening ASEAN in implementing MDGs road map, the role of parliamentarians in enhancing pro-women policies in the economic, health and education fields, and enhancing capacity building and training for women in rural areas.

According to Chairperson of WAIPA Session Nurhayati Ali Assegaf, who is also an Indonesian legislator, the number of female legislators in ASEAN member states is varied.

"In some countries, the figure is as high as 30 percent, while in others the figure is far lower", she said.

She further stated that female legislators should be able to occupy important positions and participate in decision-making activities. Pointing to Africa, she added that some African countries have female legislators holding important positions.

In the Lombok assembly, AIPA also agreed to adopt the recommendations of the AIPA Fact Finding Committees (AIFOCOM) from their meeting held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia in July 2012 on a plan of action to fight illicit drugs and the establishment of a technical working group on drugs.

The assembly also adopted documents on comprehensive cooperation with the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN WEN) concerning the green legislative agenda, ASEAN Foundation and the Pan-African Parliament.

The idea to establish AIPA was raised several years after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was formed in 1967 when there was a realization among parliamentarians that the strength of ASEAN emanates from the roots of its societies.

Therefore, closer cooperation among the respective legislatures and the parliamentarians, being the representatives of the peoples of ASEAN, would result in greater participation by the people of the ASEAN countries

At the initiative of Indonesia, the then-five ASEAN member countries - Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand - formed ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organization (AIPO). In 2006, AIPO was renamed as the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA).

Indonesia`s Vice President Boediono and ASEAN Chairman Hun Sen, who is concurrently the Cambodian prime minister, when speaking at the opening ceremony of the assembly in Lombok, emphasized the important role of AIPA in strengthening the integration of ASEAN.

"With AIPA`s efforts, ASEAN integration would be stronger," Boediono said, referring to the ASEAN Community 2015.

ASEAN has emphasized regional cooperation in the "three pillars", which are security, socio-cultural integration, and economic integration.

The regional grouping has made the most progress in economic integration by creating an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015.

Boediono also stated that "ASEAN parliaments, through their legislation and supervisory functions, could play an important role in settling conflicts among members or with outside partners."

"They can support and encourage their respective governments to keep giving priority to holding dialogues and implementing peaceful means for settlement of conflicts. That would be in line with the principles laid down in the ASEAN Charter," he noted.

Further, Boediono said AIPA could also help member countries improve their economic cooperation with countries outside ASEAN through programs such as "the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership" (RCEP), which was launched during the last ASEAN Summit and is scheduled to be ratified at the upcoming ASEAN Summit in November in Brunei Darussalam.

Indonesian House Speaker Marzuki Alie, who was the AIPA president for 2011-2012, said in his closing report that AIPA would play a more important role and determine the dynamism of Southeast Asia.

Every resolution adopted reflects the strong common concern towards various problems in the region and the need for correct approaches to overcome them, he said.

He appreciated the resolutions that had been produced by the Political, Economic, Social Committees and Women AIPA Committee.

The AIPA president, however, emphasized that AIPA needs to build mechanisms to implement its resolutions.

He further said that in the past 35 years the spirit of ASEAN had continued to grow.

General assembly meetings and various AIPA activities have continued the process, from year to year, to bring AIPA to a stage of better understanding of aspects that strengthen the solidarity of AIPA members to support ASEAN`s integration and transformation.

He stated AIPA would help narrow the economic gaps of people in the ASEAN member countries.

"AIPA has noted that to achieve economic equality, various instruments would be needed, such as strengthening the role of small and medium businesses," he said.

Efforts to help ASEAN member countries meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) by 2015 were seriously discussed at the assembly.

"We admit that levels of development in ASEAN member countries vary. And we have decided to ask AIPA members to boost the achievement of the MDGs in 2015," Indonesian chief delegate Priyo Budi Santoso said at the AIPA general assembly. Priyo added that although the targets were quite ambitious, hope must remain strong.

Marzuki described the atmosphere during discussions as dynamic and said all delegates from ASEAN member countries, as well as observers, actively participated in the discussions.

With the closing of AIPA`s 33rd General Assembly, Indonesia handed over the IAPA presidency to Brunei Darussalam, which will host the 34th General Assembly of AIPA in Bandar Seri Begawan in September 2013.