LUSAKA, 24th March, 2016 (WAM) — Having strongly condemned the terror attacks in Brussels as a brutal assault on democracy and core human values, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, IPU, on Wednesday called for a wide range of actions to counter the growing global threat of terrorism.

In a resolution on peace and international security adopted at the conclusion of the 134th Assembly in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, IPU Members proposed a multi-faceted approach to dismantling terrorist networks, combatting hatred, and counteracting terrorist propaganda.

The resolution stressed the “absolute need” for international anti-terror cooperation to be stepped up. Among the nearly 30 action points identified, it urged parliaments to legislate to combat pro-terror websites and to criminalise acts such as travelling abroad to commit terror, recruiting and training terrorists or funding terrorism.

IPU Members also called for action to cut the risk of extremism taking root by tackling poverty, discrimination and unemployment while increasing dialogue, education and youth empowerment measures.

In a statement in reaction to the attacks in Brussels, IPU President, Saber Chowdhury, pledged that the organisation would do its utmost to engage all groups in social and political processes. Members would work to make parliaments more representative institutions to provide a space and mechanism for political differences to be resolved through discussion and negotiation.

Underscoring the relevance and tragic timeliness of the resolution on terrorism, he called on all members to follow up on the commitments made at the assembly.

Among these were ways to rejuvenate democracy and restore public confidence in political institutions and politicians, whose images have been undermined by a growing disconnect with the people, lack of transparency and corruption.

In a document outlining how parliaments and parliamentarians could help rejuvenate democracy and give the world’s young people a voice in political decision-making, IPU Members stressed that responses to rising extremism must be based on more democracy, not less. Ensuring young people had opportunities and a viable future would help defeat radicalism.

“It is time for action to bring about a democratic renaissance,” said Chowdhury. “Political institutions have too often failed to open up to young people. Our institutions have not kept up with the fast-changing and increasingly interconnected world into which young people have been born.”

The assembly’s main theme of rejuvenating democracy was prompted by statistics showing declining youth voting trends at a time when the world’s youth population is at its highest-ever level.

IPU Members committed to adapting and modernising their parliaments so they become inclusive, open institutions capable of delivering a better future for youth. Quotas to raise the number of young people in parliament, using modern technology to increase political engagement and transparency, and boosting political empowerment through the inclusion of civic education on school curricula were some of the proposed solutions.

A separate and comprehensive IPU resolution addressed the threats posed by armed conflict and terrorism to the world’s cultural heritage, including the destruction of historic sites and the looting of artefacts to fund extremism. The tragic destruction of Palmyra in Syria, one of the most important ancient sites in the world, was the latest example of the need to find effective ways to protect cultural heritage. The resolution recommended that intentional destruction should be defined as a war crime.

It urged states to become party to the 1954 Hague Convention and its protocols, dealing with the protection of cultural property in armed conflict, and all other relevant UN Conventions. Parliaments were also urged to take all action in their power, including ensuring that laws were in place to prosecute perpetrators.

Parliamentary measures to protect cultural heritage from the impact of mass tourism, climate change and urbanisation were also identified.

Nearly 640 MPs from 126 countries, including 79 Speakers and Deputy Speakers, attended the IPU Assembly in Lusaka, jointly organised with the Zambian Parliament.

WAM/tfaham/Moran