USAID Offers Protection to Journalists & NGOs Facing Defamation Lawsuits

By Thalif Deen

The world’s news media — both under authoritarian regimes and democratic governments– continue to come under relentless attacks and political harassment.

“Freedom of the press is the foundation of democracy and justice. It gives all of us the facts we need to shape opinions and speak truth to power. But in every corner of the world, freedom of the press is under attack,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on World Press Freedom Day May 3.

Journalists and media workers, he said, are directly targeted on and offline as they carry out their vital work. They are routinely harassed, intimidated, detained and imprisoned.

At least 67 media workers were killed in 2022 — a 50 per cent increase over the previous year. Nearly three quarters of women journalists have experienced violence online, and one in four have been threatened physically, according to the UN.

But there is also an increase in non-physical attacks, including defamation lawsuits against media organizations challenging their legitimate right to free expression.

The Washington-based US Agency for International Development (USAID) last week launched Reporters Shield, a new membership program that protects journalists around the world– who report in the public interest– from defamation lawsuits and legal threats.

Established as a U.S.-based nonprofit organization by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, Reporters Shield has been described as “a first-of-its-kind global program that defends investigative reporting around the world from legal threats meant to silence critical voices”.

USAID, which has a long history of fostering the growth of independent media across the world, plans to work with Congress to contribute up to $9 million in seed funding for this groundbreaking new program to support media outside the United States, according to a May 2 press release.

In a statement released last week, USAID said investigative journalists and civil society organizations reporting in the public interest are increasingly facing lawsuits that aim to harass and silence them by burdening them with the cost and time of a legal defense until they abandon their stories or go out of business entirely.

Reporters Shield will help to reduce these risks through training and pre-publication review, as well as funding legal representation to fight lawsuits and other legal actions meant to intimidate and financially burden reporters.

In order to keep the program sustainable, member organizations participating in Reporters Shield will pay reasonable annual fees that are based on a variation of factors, including location of the outlet and how many stories they produce a year.

“To be considered for membership in Reporters Shield, an organization must be legally registered and focus primarily in news, public interest, and/or investigative reporting; publish reporting in print and/or online; have non-profit status or transparent ownership; be independent from political, commercial, or other undue influence or interference; and have editorial independence and adhere to professional editorial standards”.

Reporters Shield is accepting applications worldwide and will be reviewing them in a phased approach, with some regions receiving benefits in the coming months, and others added later this year and in 2024.

Interested organizations can find more information and apply for membership by visiting

The development of Reporters Shield has been supported by the generous pro bono legal support of the law firms of Proskauer, Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer PC, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.

Mandeep S. Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer at CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organizations (CSOs), told IPS “these are hard times for media freedoms due to disinformation and attacks on civic space spurred by deepening authoritarianism, denigration of democracy through populism and consolidation of wealth by oligarchs”.

Uncovering serious human rights violations and high-level corruption, he pointed out, is becoming increasingly dangerous and costly for investigative journalists and civil society activists.

When few companies are ready to sign the Anti- Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) pledge and crafty politicians are busy undermining the independence of judiciaries, this initiative comes at a critical time,” he declared.

According to the Anti-SLAPP pledge by Global Citizen, an international education and advocacy organization, strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs, are not a legitimate business strategy for companies.

“The private sector thrives in functioning democratic societies, where the right to freedom of expression is a respected bedrock principle and where everyone can express their views without fear of intimidation or reprisal”.

“Lawsuits and legal tactics meant to silence civil organizations and human rights defenders aren’t just bad for societies, they’re also damaging to companies. When companies stifle free expression, they limit their ability to manage risk related to their operations and global supply chains.”

As companies that are committed to operating in societies where people are able to exercise fundamental rights, said Global Citizen, “we pledge to: define Strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs, as both lawsuits and legal tactics that are designed to silence critics and abridge citizens’ ability to exercise fundamental rights.”

— Refrain from engaging in SLAPPs against human rights and environmental defenders and civil society organizations that support affected rights-holders.

— Recognize the critical role that civil society organizations and human rights defenders play in creating a profitable enabling environment for the private sector.

— Encourage partners and suppliers within our value chain to refrain from engaging in SLAPPs to silence legitimate activism.

IPS UN Bureau Report


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UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists

Credit: Shutterstock
On World Press Freedom Day 2023, UNESCO will organize a special anniversary event at UN headquarters in New York, marking the 30 years since the UN General Assembly’s decision proclaiming an international day for press freedom.

This anniversary edition of World Press Freedom Day will include a full day of activities at the UN Headquarters on 2nd May. Partners from the media, academia, and civil society are invited to organize events in New York and around the world centered on this year’s theme.

By Audrey Azoulay
PARIS, May 1 2023 (IPS)

Freedom of the press is the cornerstone of democratic society. Without a debate of ideas, without verified facts, without diversity of perspectives, democracy is a shadow of itself; and World Press Freedom Day was established to remind us of this.

For the international community, it is first and foremost a question of combating the impunity that still surrounds crimes of which journalists are victims, with nearly nine out of ten murders of journalists going unpunished.

This, for instance, is the objective of the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the issue of Impunity, which UNESCO has been leading for ten years. It is also about ensuring that independent media can continue to exist.

With the digital revolution, the information landscape and its modes of production and distribution have been radically disrupted, jeopardizing the viability of independent professional media.

To ensure that information remains a common good in the digital age, our Member States, through the Windhoek +30 Declaration of 2021, have undertaken to support independent journalism, ensure greater transparency of online platforms, and develop media and information literacy.

We will not be able to do this without the actors who now have significant control over access to information: the digital platforms. This is why UNESCO held the “Internet for Trust” conference in February, as an essential step towards the development of principles to regulate digital platforms.

This is a fundamental issue, because it involves both protecting freedom of expression and fighting disinformation and hate speech. Thirty years after the first World Press Freedom Day, we can see how far we have come and how far we still have to go.

So, let this Day be an opportunity to renew our commitment, within international organizations, to defending journalists and, through them, press freedom.

Footnote: As the UN Organization responsible for defending and promoting freedom of expression, media independence and pluralism, UNESCO leads the organization of World Press Freedom Day each year.

This year’s celebration will be particularly special: the international community will mark the 30th anniversary of the proclamation of the Day by the United Nations General Assembly.

It will serve as an occasion to take stock of the global gains for press freedom secured by UNESCO and its partners in the past decades, as well as underline the new risks faced in the digital age.

IPS UN Bureau


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Audrey Azoulay is Director-General of UNESCO Source

A Proposal for a UN Freedom of Information Act Never Got Off the Ground

Credit: UNESCO Attribution 3.0 IGO
Celebrated every 3rd of May, this year’s theme for World Press Freedom Day will be “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of Expression as a Driver for all other Human Rights.”  

By Thalif Deen

The United Nations has consistently been a vociferous advocate of freedom of the press – and, most importantly, the right of journalists to report without fear of reprisals.

But regrettably, the UN is also one of most opaque institutions where transparency is never the norm.

Journalists, rarely if ever, were able to get any on-the-record comments or reactions from ambassadors, diplomats and senior UN officials because most of them follow the advice given to Brits during war-time censorship in the UK: “Be like Dad, Keep Mum”.

As Winston Churchill once remarked: “Diplomacy is the art of telling people ‘to go to hell’ in such a way that they ask for directions.”

But as a general rule, most ambassadors and diplomats did not tell us either to go to hell or heaven– but avoided all comments on politically-sensitive issues with the standard non-excuse: ”Sorry, we have to get clearance from our capital”.

But that “clearance” from their respective foreign ministries never came. Still, it was hard to beat a response from a tight-lipped Asian diplomat who told me: “No comment” – and as an after-thought, added: “And Don’t Quote Me on That”.

And most senior UN officials, on the other hand, never had even the basic courtesy or etiquette to respond to phone calls or email messages even with an acknowledgment. The lines of communications were mostly dead.

When I complained to the media-savvy Shashi Tharoor, a former UN Under-Secretary-General, head of the one-time Department of Public Information (DPI) and a prolific author, he was explicit in his response when he said that every UN official – “from an Under-Secretary-General to a window-washer”—has the right to express an opinion in his or her area of expertise.

The US Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which dates back to 1967, has provided the public and mostly the press in the United States the right to request access to records from any federal agency—and has been described as “the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government”.

As a result, some of the newspaper scoops and insider information in the US mainstream media have come following requests from American journalists under the FOIA.

But a longstanding proposal for a FOIA at the United Nations has failed to get off the ground due largely to the inaction by the 193-member General Assembly, the UN’s highest policy making body, resulting in the lack of transparency in the inner workings of the UN and its Secretariat.

So has the proposal for a UN Special Envoy to deal with safety of journalists—dead on arrival (DOA).

Andreas Bummel, Executive Director, Democracy Without Borders, told IPS: the UN is an institution that exercises public authority directly and indirectly with over 30,000 working in the Secretariat (plus the UN system worldwide).

“As such, it needs to be accountable not only to its member states but to citizens and the public at large.

Establishing a proper freedom of information procedure at the UN will be an important tool to enhance this, declared Bummel, co-author of “A World Parliament: Governance and Democracy in the 21st Century.”

Martin S. Edwards, Professor and Chair, School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University in the US, told IPS: “I must admit I don’t know the legal angles here. This having been said, it’s pretty clear to me that the only way forward for the UN in an era of political division is greater transparency”

Greater efforts to “tell your story better” are not enough. You can’t advocate for “effective, accountable, and inclusive” institutions at the national level without it, within the UN system too. Things like access to information are an essential step in that direction, he added.

In the US, federal agencies are required to disclose any information requested under the FOIA unless it falls under one of nine exemptions which protect interests such as personal privacy, national security, and law enforcement.

In Australia, the legislation is known as Right2Know; in Bangladesh, the Right to Information (RTI) provides resources for those seeking to file a request with government agencies; in Japan, the Citizens’ Centre for Information Disclosure offers help to those interested in filing requests; in India, the Right to Information: a Citizen Gateway is the portal for RTI; Canada’s Access to Information Act came into force in 1983 and Kenya’s Access to Information Act was adopted in August 2016, according to the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD).

And Sweden’s Freedom of the Press Act of 1766 has been described as the “oldest in the world.”

While FOIA covers access to federal government agency records, the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) guarantees access to state and local government records. All 50 states in the US also have freedom of information laws that govern access to these documents, though the provisions of the state laws vary considerably.

The Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which is mandated to oversee press freedom, defines Freedom of Information (FOI) as the right to access information held by public bodies.

According to UNESCO, the FOI is an integral part of the fundamental right of freedom of expression, as recognized by Resolution 59 of the UN General Assembly adopted in 1946, as well as by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which states that the fundamental right of freedom of expression encompasses the freedom to “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

FOI has also been enshrined as a “freedom of expression” in other major international instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and the American Convention on Human Rights (1969).

In an interview with IPS back in 2017, Samir Sanbar, a former UN Assistant Secretary-General who headed the one-time Department of Public Information (DPI), said the right to information is an integral part of U.N. principles.

But providing that right—even the basic information available in the public domain– has been stymied both by member states and the UN bureaucracy, he added.

He pointed out that the need to “inform the peoples” is implicitly indicated in the UN Charter.

But implementing it was “a basic issue I had experienced throughout my work, with both certain government officials– including those publicly claiming open channels– and many senior U.N. Secretariat colleagues”.

Those who believed “Information is Power” were very hesitant, to what they perceived was sharing their authority with a wider public, said Sanbar who served under five different UN Secretaries-General.

“It was most evident that when I launched the now uncontested website, a number of powerful Under-Secretaries-General (USGs) and Permanent Representatives cautioned me against “telling everyone what was happening” (in the UN system) and refused to authorize any funds.”

“I had to raise a team of DPI volunteers in my office, operating from within the existing budget, to go ahead and eventually offer computers loaned from an outside source, to certain delegations to realize it was more convenient for them to access news releases than having to send one of their staffers daily to the building to collect material from the third floor.“

Eventually, everyone joined in, and the site became one of the ten best official sites worldwide.

“We had a similar difficulty in prodding for International World Press Freedom Day through the General Assembly. It seems that even those with the best of intentions– since delegates represent official governments that view free press with cautious monitoring– are usually weary of opening a potentially vulnerable issue,” said Sanbar, author of the book “Inside the U.N. in a Leaderless World’.

This article contains excerpts from a 2021 book on the United Nations—largely a collection of political anecdotes– titled “No Comment – and Don’t Quote Me on That,” available on Amazon. The link to Amazon via the author’s website follows:

IPS UN Bureau Report


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The Need for a Strong Legal Treaty on Business & Human Rights

The open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights was established in 2014 in response to Human Rights Council resolution 26/9 with a mandate to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

By Simone Galimberti
KATHMANDU, Nepal, Mar 31 2023 (IPS)

The ongoing discussions on an internationally treaty, described as a “legally binding instrument” on business and human rights, remains one of the most neglected issues that should instead command the attention of the public.

Such a legal tool would bind companies to uphold high standards and most importantly, it would entail mandatory guarantees for accessible and inclusive remedy and therefore, clear liabilities for victims of alleged abuses perpetrated by companies.

It all started in 2014 when two nations of the South, Ecuador and South Africa successfully pushed for a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council on the establishment of a so called “international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights”.

By reading the title of the resolution you can immediately realize that one of the conundrums being discussed is the overarching scope of such treaty especially in the reference of the nature of the companies being subject to it.

In practice, would only multinational or also national private corporations come under its jurisdiction?

Interestingly, at the Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG) created to draft the text of the treaty, many developing nations, for example, like Indonesia, were strongly advocating for only multinationals to be included.

This is a position of convenience that would exclude local major operators involved in the plantations business from coming under scrutiny of the treaty.

Other complex issues are centered on the liability especially in relation to instances where a corporation is “only” directly linked to the harm rather than cause.

As explained by Tara Van Ho, a lecturer at the University of Essex School of Law and Human Rights Centre, if “a business is only “directly linked to” the harm, it does not need to provide remedies but can instead use its “leverage” to affect change in its business partners.”

The difference between causing or contributing to harm and instead being only liked to it can be subtle and remain an exclusive debate among scholars, but its repercussions could or could not ensure justice to millions of people victims of corporate abuses.

Another point of attrition is the complex issue of the statutes of limitations and the role of domestic jurisdiction over the future treaty.

With all these challenges, after 8 years of negotiations, the drafting is moving in slow motion amid a general disinterest among state parties, as explained by Elodie Aba for Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

An issue that should capture global attention has instead become a realm of technical discussions among governments, academicians and civil society members without generating mass awareness about it.

The need for a treaty related to abuses of corporations is almost self-evident, considering the gigantic proofs that have been emerging both in the North and South.

Despite nice words and token initiatives, the private sector has been more than often keen to close its eyes before abuses occurring through its direct actions or throughout its supply chains.

Amid weak legislations, especially in developing countries, the hard job of trying to keep companies accountable, until now, has depended on a set of non-binding, voluntary procedures formally known as the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The Principles, prepared by late Harvard Professor John G. Ruggie in his capacity as UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, proved to be a useful but at the same time inadequate tool.

It has been useful because it was instrumental in raising the issue of human rights within the corporate sector, something that was for too long and till recently, a taboo.

In order to further mainstream it, for example, a UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights has been established as a special procedure within UN Human Rights.

Along the years, this independent group, composed by pro bono academicians, has carried out considerable work to strengthen both the understanding of and the adherence to the Principles.

There is no doubt that there have been attempts at going deeper, especially from the legal point of view on the Principles, especially on their articles related to right to remedy, the thorniest issue.

In this regard, the Accountability and Remedy Project have been providing a whole set of insights through multiple consultations and discussions, a process that still ongoing with the overall purpose of making a stronger cases on “the right to remedy, a core tenet of the international human rights system”.

Yet principles, UN Global Compact, are toothless tool and showed considerable limitations, starting from the most obvious element, the fact that they are not binding.

In the meantime, in 2021 the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, on occasion of their 10th anniversary of the Principles, launched road map for the next 10 years.

It is actions, despite their intrinsic limitations due to the nature of the Principles, should be supported but more financial resources are indispensable. Yet finding the financial resources or better the political will to do so remains an issue.

A recommendation from late Prof. Ruggie to create a Voluntary Fund for Business and Human Rights did not go anywhere.

“The Fund would provide a mechanism for supporting projects developed at local and national levels that would increase the capacity of governments to fulfill their obligations in this area as well as strengthen efforts by business enterprises and associations, trade unions, non-governmental organizations and others seeking to advance implementation of the Guiding Principles”.

Even more worrisome is the fact that till now a new Special Representative for Business and Human Rights has not been appointed yet.

Having an authoritative figure, especially a former head of state rather than an academician, could help bring more visibility to the ongoing “behind the curtain” discussions related to the need for a strong Treaty.

Such a political figure could not only command a stronger attention on the issue but also provide “cover” to the delicate work of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, complementing and strengthening its mandate.

Engagement with the education sector, law and business schools, as advocated by a report published by Business and Human Rights Asia, a UNDP Program, can be essential.

Together with a stronger media coverage, students and academicians can help elevate the issue of human rights and its linkages with the private sector.

We could imagine competitions among students at national and international levels on how the principles can be better implemented as a “bridge” tool towards a binding legal mechanism.

Students could also have a major say on the opaque drafting process of this treaty.

At the end of the day, there will be compromises and shortcomings, but with a bigger bottom-up approach, a strong Treaty could become a “global” Escazu’, the first ever binding environment agreement in Latin America and the Caribbean.

UNDP with its Business and Human Rights Asia unit that recently organized in Kathmandu an excellent 4th UN South Asia Forum on Business and Human Rights. But it could also be bolder.

The forum did a great job at giving voice to indigenous people, one of the key stakeholders in the global negotiations for the treaty.

A lot of discussions were rightly held on the impact of issues like climate change and migration and their links with businesses’ attitudes and behaviors towards local populations.

Yet, there was no conversation nor on the treaty nor on the future evolution of the principles. It might certainly be an issue of a limited “mandate” but UNDP could, together with UN Human Rights, be a neutral enabler on a global discussion on the treaty and on how the Principles can further evolve while we wait for such a legal tool.

The Principles should also be better linked with the UN Compact, creating more synergies and coordination between the two.

The fact that nations like France, Germany and the Netherlands have been stepping up with new vigorous legislations in the field of business and human rights is extremely positive.

Equally important is the commitment of the EU to come up with Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) or the OECD to revise its Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct but the nations behind these initiatives must commit to the drafting process of the Treaty.

Otherwise, we run the risk that discussions will continue without anyone caring about them. Such an unfortunate situation must truly be “remedied’ with the right smart mix, political will, starting from the Secretary General and a powerful alliance of progressive nations in the both South and North driving the process and involving other peer nations.

Ultimately civil society must also step up beyond their technical and legal recommendations and truly engage the people.

Simone Galimberti is the co-founder of ENGAGE and of the Good Leadership, Good for You & Good for the Society.

Opinions expressed are personal.

IPS UN Bureau


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International Women’s Day, 2023World Parliaments Could Take Another 80 Years to Achieve Gender Parity Among Legislators

Despite advances in gender representation in legislative bodies, the track record of women in the executive branches of government – as heads of state or heads of government — remains low.

By Thalif Deen

For the first time in history, says a new report from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), not a single functioning parliament in the world is “male-only”.

Is the increasing number of women in parliaments a singular achievement for gender empowerment? Or is it the result of mandatory legislative quotas for women’s representation in world’s parliaments?

According to the latest IPU report, Women in Parliament 2022, women’s participation in parliament has never been as diverse and representative as it is in many countries today.

The findings are based on the 47 countries that held elections in 2022. In those elections, women took an average 25.8% of seats up for election or appointment. This represents a 2.3 percentage point increase compared to previous renewals in these chambers.

Brazil saw a record 4,829 women who identify as Black running for election (out of 26,778 candidates); in the US, a record number of women of colour (263) stood in the midterm elections; LGBTQI+ representation in Colombia tripled from two to six members of the Congress; and in France, 32 candidates from minority backgrounds were elected to the new National Assembly, an all-time high of 5.8% of the total.

The report said legislated quotas were again a decisive factor in the increases seen in women’s representation.

Thomas Fitzsimons, IPU’s Director of Communications told IPS there are many factors that explain the successes of the countries that have made progress.

For example, he pointed out, technological and operational transformations, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have increased the potential for parliaments to become more gender-sensitive and family-friendly.

“The influence of gender issues on election outcomes, with increased awareness of discrimination and gender-based violence, as well as alliances with other social movements, also helped drive strong results for women in some of the parliamentary elections,” he noted.

“But if we had to choose one primary factor, it would be legislated quotas. Legislated quotas enshrined in the constitution and/or electoral laws require that a minimum number of candidates are women (or of the under-represented sex),” he said.

Chambers with legislated quotas or combined with voluntary party quotas produced a significantly higher share of women than those without in the 2022 elections (30.9% versus 21.2%).

“As for the future, we need to accelerate the momentum which is still too slow. At current rates of growth, it will take another 80 years before we reach parity,” Fitzsimons declared.

Antonia Kirkland Global Lead — Legal Equality and Access to Equality Now, told IPS it is encouraging to see IPU’s data revealing that more women than ever are in political decision-making roles globally, and there has been an overall increase in the number of women in both government and parliamentary posts.

IPU’s data clearly demonstrates that quotas on women’s representation have had a positive, big impact. Countries applying quotas have enjoyed a 9.7% increase in women in parliaments in comparison to countries without, she said.

“However, it is lamentable that women are still so underrepresented at all levels of political decision-making, accounting for only 9.8% of Heads of Government and just over a quarter of MPs. It is also deeply concerning that gender parity in parliaments is at least 80 years away if we continue at the current pace.”

With the World Bank finding that only 14 countries have full legal equality between women and men, and UN Women gaging it will take another 286 years to eliminate gaps in legal protections, duty bearers must create a safe and empowering environment for women to engage in politics that fosters greater legal equality, said Kirkland.

She said more needs to be done to increase women’s political representation by understanding and removing obstacles that impede women’s participation in the public sphere and decision-making.

“To accelerate gender parity in parliaments, we need an end to sex-discriminatory laws in all areas of life which hold women back from engaging in politics in the first place.”

Political parties should highlight the importance and advantages of gender diversity, and implement initiatives that involve women in politics at all stages and within all branches of the political arena.

IPU’s report, she pointed out, shows that a shocking percentage of women in parliament are subjected to gender-based violence and sexual harassment in their own parliaments, on the streets, and in the digital world. Concerted efforts are required to tackle head-on gender-based violence and abuse targeting women politicians both online and offline.

Governments, parliamentarians, the private sector, and civil society need to seize every opportunity – such as the upcoming UN Global Digital Compact – to work together so that women are protected from online abuse. Perpetrates and those who facilitate or provide platforms for such abuse must be held accountable.

“Tackling this problem would result in less self-censorship by parliamentarians, greater interest from girls and young women to serve in government, and ultimately stronger democracies that are both more peaceful and gender-equal, declared Kirkland.

At the regional level, the report said, six countries now have gender parity (or a greater share of women than men) in their lower or single chamber as of 1 January 2023. New Zealand joined last year’s club of five consisting of Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, Rwanda and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), at the top of the IPU’s authoritative global ranking of women in parliament.

Other notable gains in women’s representation were recorded in Australia (the strongest outcome of the year with a record 56.6% of seats won by women in the Senate), Colombia, Equatorial Guinea, Malta and Slovenia.

High stakes elections in Angola, Kenya and Senegal all saw positive strides for women. Wide divides characterized results in Asia: record numbers of women were elected to the historically male-dominated Senate in Japan but in India, elections to the upper chamber led to women occupying only 15.1% of seats, well below the global and regional averages.

The Pacific saw the highest growth rate in women’s representation out of all the regions, gaining 1.7 percentage points to reach an overall average of 22.6% women in parliament. Every Pacific parliament now has at least one-woman legislator.

In the 15 European chambers that were renewed in 2022, there was little shift in women’s representation, stagnating at 31%.

In the Middle East and North Africa region, seven chambers were renewed in 2022. On average, women were elected to 16.3% of the seats in these chambers, the lowest regional percentage in the world for elections held in the year. Three countries were below 10%: Algeria (upper chamber: 4.3%), Kuwait (6.3%) and Lebanon (6.3%).

Bahrain is an outlier in the region with a record eight women elected to the lower chamber, including many first-time lawmakers. 73 women ran for election to the lower chamber (out of a total of 330 candidates) compared with the 41 women who ran in the last election in 2018. Ten women were also appointed to the 40-member upper chamber.

The IPU is the global organization of national parliaments. It was founded more than 133 years ago as the first multilateral political organization in the world, encouraging cooperation and dialogue between all nations. Today, the IPU comprises 178 national Member Parliaments and 14 regional parliamentary bodies. It promotes democracy and helps parliaments become stronger, younger, gender-balanced and more representative. It also defends the human rights of parliamentarians through a dedicated committee made up of MPs from around the world.

For more information about the IPU, contact Thomas Fitzsimons at e-mail: or or tel: +41(0) 79 854 31 53

IPS UN Bureau Report


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This feature is part of a series to mark International Women’s Day, March 8. Source

How Emerging Economies Are Reshaping the International Financial System

The G20 or Group of Twenty is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union. It works to address major issues related to the global economy, such as international financial stability, climate change mitigation, and sustainable development.

By Ian Mitchell and Sam Hughes
LONDON, Feb 23 2023 (IPS)

It’s been 25 years since the 1997 Asian financial crisis led to the creation of the G20 forum for finance ministers; and 15 years since this became a leader-level meeting following the global financial crisis. During this period, there has been significant shift in the global finance and economic landscape.

The ascent of several emerging economies has seen their contributions to the multilateral finance system that supports development rise significantly. Our new report collates those contributions over the last decade for the first time. It charts how China’s annual contributions to the UN and multilateral development banks rose twenty-fold from $0.1bn to $2.2bn.

But it also looks collectively at a group of 13 rising economies whose developmental contributions to multilateral finance institutions have risen five-fold to over $6bn over the last decade.

These contributions now make up an eighth of the total; and have seen the creation of two new multilateral finance institutions.

In this piece, we draw out key findings from our analysis, including the balance between funding existing and new institutions like the New Development Bank.

We consider whether continued growth in the 13 emerging actors could generate enough new funding for development over the next quarter century, and even create an institution as large at the World Bank’s fund for low-income countries (IDA).

Despite recent rhetoric around the return to a bipolar world order, this report is evidence that a wide group of countries are already playing major role in the global economic and development system, and will continue to do so in years to come

The transformational effect of economic growth on the multilateral system

In 1990 most people in the world lived in low-income countries; by 2020, this share had fallen dramatically to just seven percent of people. Meanwhile, the share of the global population living in middle-income countries swelled from 30 percent in 1990 to 73 percent in 2020.

Such a transformation implies a greater number of countries with the economic output to contribute internationally: widening and deepening participation in the multilateral system.

And this is just what we’ve seen. Over the decade to 2019, we find a group of emerging actors have significantly increased their contributions of development finance to multilateral organisations.

These include thirteen major economies outside the group of more established providers within the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), which tend to receive more attention.

Ten of these emerging actors are G20 members, including the BRICS—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—but others have grown quickly too: Argentina, Chile, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. Collectively, we refer to these thirteen emerging actors as the “E13.”

Over the decade, the E13’s annual contributions of development finance to multilateral organisations (both core and funding earmarked for particular purposes) have increased almost five-fold, from $1.3bn in 2010 to $6.3bn in 2019 (up 377 percent). And their unrestricted core contributions have risen even more: increasing from $1.0bn to $5.2bn (up 410 percent).

Of these core contributions, we see that those to UN agencies more than quadrupled over the decade, steadily rising from $0.3bn to $1.2bn (up 330 percent). But by far the most striking development in E13 core contributions has come from the creation and capitalisation of two new multilateral organisations: the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the New Development Bank (NDB).

The role of China

Although China has recently stepped back its bilateral finance efforts, its multilateral contributions increased steadily to 2019; and provided a third (34 percent) of the E13 total over the decade. Our colleagues have examined this in detail, including how China has the second highest aggregate voting share after the US in international finance institutions it supports.

Still, our analysis also highlights the importance of Russia, Brazil and India who each contributed over $3bn over the period and collectively contributed a further third of the total. While China’s multilateral contributions have been concentrated (59 percent) in new institutions it co-founded (see below), other providers have concentrated funding in traditional institutions: for example, Argentina, Chile and Mexico did not support the new institutions while for Saudi Arabia and UAE they were 17 percent and 21 percent respectively.

Creating new multilateral finance organisations

Over the ten-year period we examine, almost half of the E13’s core multilateral contributions were to the two new institutions (AIIB and NDB). After 2016, funding provided to these institutions made up over two-thirds of their contributions. Indeed, in 2016 the first financial contributions to AIIB and NDB causedE13 multilateral development finance to triple in a single year.

The E13 provided an additional $6.0bn of core funds for AIIB and NDB in 2016, without reducing their multilateral contributions through other channels.

Though annual contributions reduced to $3.1bn in 2019, AIIB and NDB still accounted for half of the E13’s multilateral development finance in that year, leaving their contributions at the end of the decade far ahead of the beginning.

Figure 1. E13 core and earmarked contributions of development finance to multilateral organisations (nominal USD billions)

Source: Authors’ analysis

Emerging actors fund a sixth of the UN system

As well as higher absolute contributions (Figure 1), the E13’s role in the multilateral system has also grown in relative terms (Figure 2). As a share of the level of finance provided by the 29 high-income countries in the OECD DAC, the E13’s core multilateral contributions rose from 5 percent in 2010 to 12 percent in 2019—more than doubling their relative significance.

This was largely due to the effect of AIIB and NDB (clearly seen by the 2016 peak), but we also see that E13 core contributions to the UN system steadily and quickly rose as a share of the DAC level across the decade: from 5 percent in 2010 to 17 percent in 2019.

Figure 2. E13 core contributions of development finance to multilateral organisations as a share of contributions from DAC countries

Source: Authors’ analysis

A look to 2050—what role might the emerging economies play?

As the economies of the E13 continue to grow, what might this mean for their multilateral contributions in the future? Figure 3 shows how the share of economic output provided as development finance to multilateral organisations (either core or earmarked) tends to increase with higher levels of income per capita.

Though the relationship is steeper for the DAC than the E13, even the E13’s current trajectory implies a significant increase in future multilateral development finance from this group.

Ian Mitchell is Co-Director, Development Cooperation in Europe and Senior Policy Fellow at the Center for Global Development. Sam Hughes is a Research Assistant at the Center for Global Development.

IPS UN Bureau


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