Inter-Parliamentary Union And Its Role Term Paper

While this analysis of these early forms of public international unions is not complete, it does suggest that they were beginning to identify the wide range of interests involved in modern international commerce and what was required to mediate disputes rather than war over them. According to Bowett (1970), despite the growing body of research into the history and purpose of international public unions, the authorities have not reached a consensus on their classification; however, the constitutional developments and innovations made by the public unions are important considerations for policymakers today because they presaged those made by contemporary inter-governmental organizations (Bowett, 1970). In the first instance, the trend towards permanence of association was distinct, no matter whether it was in the form of permanent deliberative or legislative organs working with administrative organs (i.e., the Metric Union, Telegraphic Union, the UPU, and so forth) or of periodic conferences operating within the framework of a permanent bureau such as the Industrial Property or Railway Freight Transportation (Bowett, 1970).

The departures from the unanimity rule are of equal significance, Bowett suggests, especially when taken together with the assignation of legislative powers as in the Rhine Commission. Furthermore, it is also important to note the tendency to distinguish the Convention, embodying general rules, from the Reglement, which contained the detailed implementation of those rules and permitted amendment by a much simpler process. The representation of interests other than those of States, whether they be dependent territories, private companies or associations, and with or without the right to vote, injected a realism and degree of practicality which was of the utmost significance for future development (Bowett, 1970). According to this author, the approaches of weighted voting and of proportionate budgetary contributions pointed the way to the solution of extremely difficult problems to which the principle of the equality of States provided no effective answer. The author adds that, "The outstanding problem was one of co-ordination of the activities of the many unions, and at this juncture one may profitably pass to the attempt by the League of Nations to secure some form of overall direction and co-ordinating authority" (Bowett, 1970 p. 8).

According to Feldman (2005), today, "The nation-state is frequently cast as an entity in crisis, as a relic that cannot withstand the shock of globalization. Its viability and legitimacy are threatened by instant global communications, push-button investment strategies, outsourced manufacturing, increased international migration, and vociferous national minorities. Europeans, in particular, have challenged the nation-state through the deepening and widening of the European Union (EU)" (p. 214). Not surprisingly, then, a number of public international unions such as the European Parliament (EP) have emerged in recent years in response to the growing need for mediation and peaceful cooperation among the 200 or so nations of the world.

The European Parliament is a legislative assembly of the European Union (EU); launched in 1958 as the "Common Assembly," the European Parliament was originally comprised of representatives who were selected by the national parliaments of EU member countries (European Parliament, 2006). In 1979, though, members of the EP were elected by direct universal suffrage to terms of five years; today, membership in the European Parliament exceeds 700 members (European Parliament, 2006). Like in other representative legislative bodies around the world, the number of members in the EP per country differs depending on the respective population of the member country; for instance, today Germany has 99 members, the most of any country, but tiny Malta just has five members (European Parliament, 2006).

Members sit in political, rather than national, groups. Transnational groups include the Party of European Socialists, the European People's Party, and the European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party. The Parliament meets annually for about 12 one-week plenary sessions in Strasbourg, France. Most other work (e.g., committee meetings) takes place in Brussels. The Bureau, which is responsible for the Parliament's budgetary, administrative, and organizational matters, is headed by a president and 14 vice presidents who are elected from among Parliament members to terms of 30 months. The Parliament is subdivided into 17 specialized committees, including those on foreign affairs, budgets, agriculture, economic and monetary affairs, employment, women's rights, citizens' freedoms and rights, the environment, and regional affairs. Temporary committees also are established on occasion to address issues of particular concern. The Parliament is assisted in its work by a Secretariat, which spends much of its time translating and interpreting between the European Union's 20 official languages (European Parliament, 2006).

The European Parliament was originally a consultative body only; however, the organization's powers have increased in some areas as a concomitant to the "Europeanization"...


For instance, this Parliament now exercises veto power in most areas relating to economic integration and budgetary policy; in some areas of significant concern to members (e.g., agriculture and tax harmonization), the Parliament's role is less pronounced (European Parliament, 2006). In addition, the organization also serves as a democratic check on other EU institutions; for example, the EP must approve and is empowered to remove the president, the primary EU executive, of one of the EU's four major governing bodies: the Commission. The Parliament also has the power to censure the Commission with a two-thirds vote of its members, thereby forcing the Commission to resign. While such a censure has never been voted, the entire Commission resigned rather than face such a motion in 1999 (European Parliament, 2006).
Private International Unions.

The Industrial Revolution and innovations in communication, transportation and other technologies gave rise to the need for specific types of private international unions to help mediate various types of conflicts that were beginning to emerge in this dynamic international environment. In this regard, Bowett (1970) notes that, "The nineteenth century saw, therefore, an impressive development of associations or unions, international in character, between groups other than governments. This was followed by similar developments between governments themselves in the administrative rather than the political field" (p. 4). This author adds that These unions or associations sprang from the realisation by nongovernmental bodies, whether private individuals or corporate associations, that their interests had an international character which demanded the furtherance of those interests via a permanent international association with like bodies in other countries. The World Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840 was perhaps the first of these "private" conferences, many of which led to the establishment of some permanent machinery of association. Between 1840 and the beginning of the First World War something like 400 permanent associations or unions came into existence (Bowett, 1970).

The variety of interests that became represented by these types of unions include these importance examples:

The International Committee of the Red Cross (1863);

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (1869);

The International Law Association (1873);

The International Dental Federation (1900);

The International Literary and Artistic Association (1878); and,

The International Chamber of Commerce (1919) (Bowett, 1970).

The rapid growth of these private unions created the need for an oversight agency and in 1910, the Union of International Associations was created to help coordinate their activities and to codify the conditions of their respective memberships. While all of these organizations had unique interests and priorities, they all shared some commonalities, including the following:

They all possessed a permanent organ;

The object of each union must be of interest to all some nations and not ones of profit; and,

Membership should be open to individuals or groups from different countries (Bowett, 1970).

From the constitutional perspective, these private international unions possessed several other interesting characteristics; for example, they all emphasized the need for permanent, as opposed to ad hoc, association and for periodic, regular meetings. In addition, Bowett notes that a number of these unions established a small but permanent secretariat. According to this author:

Many [private international unions] demonstrated by their membership the artificiality of a rigid distinction between 'public' and 'private' unions based upon function; membership sometimes comprised States, municipal authorities, national groups and societies and private individuals. Today, bodies like the International Council of Scientific Unions, the International Commission for the Scientific Exploration of the Mediterranean Sea, the International Statistical Institute, and the International Hospital Federation demonstrate the co-operation of States and individuals within the same association. (Bowett, 1970 p. 5.)

According to Bowett, in many cases, the activities of these private unions emphasized he need for State action. The author notes that, "In some cases this was brought about by treaty, and the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross in promoting the Geneva Conventions of 1864, 1906, 1926 and 1949, or that of the International Maritime Committee in promoting the Conventions on the Safety of Life at Sea of 1914 and 1929 are good illustrations of this" (p. 5). Other examples of the success of the private unions caused the establishment of a public union in the same field; not surprisingly, private activity was in the vanguard of this movement and State activity followed (Bowett, 1970). In this regard, the International Congress of Weights, Measures and Moneys in 1867 was the predecessor of the Metric Union, the International Association of the Legal Protection of Labour…

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Bell, Lynda S., Andrew J. Nathan and Ilan Peleg. 2001. Negotiating Culture and Human Rights. New York: Columbia University Press.
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