Senator Higgins participates in IPU delegation

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins meets with the Director of Action Aid Bangladesh, Farah Kabir
Senator Alice-Mary Higgins meets with the Director of Action Aid Bangladesh, Farah Kabir

In April 2017, Senator Alice-Mary Higgins joined an Irish delegation to the Interparliamentary Union General Assembly in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  The IPU provides an opportunity for parliamentarians from around the world to dialogue and debate on issues of peace, cooperation and democracy. This session of the General Assembly focused on issues of international security, the Sustainable Development Goals and global economic inequality.

Senator Higgins represented Ireland at the Standing Committee in Sustainable and Development, Finance and Trade and the Standing Committee on Peace and International Security. She contributed to the debates on the inclusion of women in driving forwards the Sustainable Development Goals and argued for the importance of supporting civil society voices domestically and internationally.

Senator Higgins spoke and voted on a number of vital amendments to a controversial motion on "preventing outside interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states". She argued opposed aspects of the resolution which would have served to constrain civil society voices and give greater recognition to non-election regimes. After a prolonged debate; some of these important amendments were very narrowly passed. 

In addition to attending the plenary meetings, Senator Higgins attended a number of side events including a gathering of Women Parliamentarians and a Forum of Young Parliamentarians – developing connections with the next generation of parliamentarians from across the world, including Kenya and Rwanda. Additionally, the Irish delegation met with a delegation from Mongolia to discuss trade links and opportunities for our education sector. 

The delegation took the opportunity to visit a Bangladeshi Concern Worldwide project funded by Irish Aid which delivers innovative supports for "pavement dwellers", the most vulnerable groups of homeless and displaced persons in Dhaka. In visiting this project the delegation drew connections with the drivers and solutions to the homelessness crisis across Ireland. The project emphasised the importance of dignity and empowerment of those it worked with – something which should be an important component of all programmes and policy relating to homelessness. 

Senator Higgins independently arranged to meet with Action Aid Bangladesh to talk about their work on 'Safer cities for Women and Girls'. Dublin was the first European city to sign up to this UN Safer Cities initiative and the meeting provided a useful opportunity to learn and compare actions and issues with those being taken in Dhaka. This sharing of information will inform Senator Higgins’ work at the Council of Europe in forming European policy on public safety for women and girls. Further she discussed gender budgeting with Action Aid representatives. Gender budgeting – the proofing of budgets from a gendered perspective – has been practiced in Bangladesh for many years and is a commitment under the current programme for Government. 

Returning from the General Assembly, Senator Higgins requested that the Leader of the Seanad allow time in the schedule to report back on the activities of the Interparliamentary Union delegation. The leader indicated that this would be possible in the Autumn. 

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Senator Alice-Mary Higgins has been an activist on climate change for over a decade and a consistent voice calling for action in the Seanad and as a member of the Oireachtas Climate Action committee.

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