The Transformation and Renaming of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organisation (AIPO)

to the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA)

The forming of a forum for ASEAN Member Parliaments to discuss and deal with issues in the region began with the first ASEAN Parliamentary Meeting (APM) in the mid ‘70s. Succeeding meetings led to a name change from APM to the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organisation (AIPO).  In 2006, the organization was renamed as the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA).

The Beginning

Indonesia hosted the inaugural ASEAN Parliamentary Meeting (APM) from 8 to 11 January 1975. The second APM Meeting was then held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 20 to 23 August 1975.

The third APM was hosted by the Philippines in Manila from 29 August to 2 September 1977. In this meeting, the draft Statutes of the AIPO was unanimously agreed upon.

The first AIPO General Assembly (GA) was held in Singapore from 26 to 28 September 1978.

The Initial Idea for an ASEAN Parliament

During the third AIPO GA in Jakarta in 1980, the Philippines initially endorsed the establishment of an ASEAN Parliament.  What followed was a consensus among the AIPO members that the creation of an ASEAN Parliament would be a long-term AIPO goal.

In the said GA and in the next Assemblies, several resolutions aimed towards the establishment of an ASEAN Parliament were adopted. One was the “Resolution on the Creation of AIPO Study Committee for the   Proposed AIPO Secretariat” adopted during the 1980 GA. The meeting reiterated the importance of establishing a permanent secretariat in view of the increasing role and activities of AIPO within the framework of ASEAN cooperation.

Also approved during the same GA was a resolution on the creation of a Study Group that will look into the possibility of establishing an ASEAN Parliament.  Through the resolution, Member Parliaments agreed in principle to the idea, which the Philippine delegation proposed.

The General Assembly adopted the said measure; however, all felt it was not time yet to form a Study Group due to different historical backgrounds and separate parliamentary systems of the ASEAN Member Countries.

Some delegations were of the view that if such a Study Group is formed, it should only conduct a preliminary study and was entrusted to also conduct a parallel study on the formation of an AIPO Permanent Secretariat. It was the general sentiment, though,  that the plan of establishing an ASEAN Parliament be kept alive, because the objective is desirable and it would, at the same time, project the image of ASEAN cohesiveness.

In 1981, the Fourth GA in Malaysia adopted a resolution on the establishment of an ASEAN Parliament. The resolution focused on the study of the proposal, whose progress could be tracked once the Permanent Secretariat is created.

The sub-committee formed to look into the matter also recommended that each Member Country designate a group within its Parliament to likewise go over the proposal so that delegations to the AIPO might become conversant with the style and structure of a regional parliament.

In 1982, the General Assembly in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia adopted the Resolution on the Proposal to Study the Establishment of an ASEAN Parliament.

The GA resolved that the Committee was of the view that the establishment of an ASEAN Parliament was a long-term objective and that a thorough study had to be made towards the attainment of this objective. The Committee noted that the independent studies so far undertaken by the Member Countries of ASEAN had not yet been completed.

The GA in Manila, Philippines in 1983 adopted Resolution No.GA 3-83 on the establishment of an ASEAN Parliament.

The Seventh General Assembly of AIPO in Bangkok in 1984 adopted Resolution GA7/Org/Res-2 on organizational matters, which resolved that AIPA members agree to continue to study the concept of  establishing an ASEAN  Parliament,  which aim to strengthen AIPO to be a more workable unit, and recommended agreements on matters of common interest to all ASEAN member countries.

The GA of AIPO in Manila, the Philippines in 1989 adopted Resolution No.GA26-89 on the Recommendation on the Establishment of ASEAN Parliament

The General Assembly resolved that the Heads of Delegation of Member Parliaments consider the inclusion of an ASEAN Parliament in the Agenda of the AIPO 11th Working Committee and General Assembly in Singapore.

The GA also noted that the Philippines expressed the view that since the AIPO president, in his official address on the 9th AIPO GA, had spoken favorably for an ASEAN Parliament, Member Countries should look at the possibility more closely.

Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, however, felt that as there were more pressing problems at home, the time for the establishment of an ASEAN Parliament was not yet opportune and that it should be deferred to a later date.

The 1990 General Assembly of AIPO in Singapore adopted Resolution No.11GA/17-90, which was on the establishment of an ASEAN Parliament.

This resolution resolved:

  • That the time was not yet opportune for the setting up of an  ASEAN Parliament,
  • That AIPO Member Parliaments shall conduct internal studies on the merits and demerits of an ASEAN Parliament, the results of which should be forwarded to other Member Parliaments for information before the 12th AIPO General Assembly.

The AIPO GA in Bangkok Thailand in November 1991 adopted Resolution No.12GA/91/Res/0-18 on the ASEAN Parliament.

The Resolution resolved:

  • To recommend that the Thai National Group, at its own cost,  conduct an in-depth study of the merits and demerits of an ASEAN Parliament, along the lines of the European Parliament or other regional parliaments,
  • That Member Countries may assist the Thai National Group towards this in-depth study, while at the same time promoting a greater discussion within Member Countries on the feasibility of establishing an ASEAN Parliament.

The General Assembly of AIPO in Jakarta, Indonesia 1992, adopted Resolution No.13GA/92/Res/0-24 on the ASEAN Parliament.

This resolution approved the request of the Thai AIPO National Group to defer presentation of its in-depth study on the ASEAN Parliament and instead do so during the 14th GA.

The GA of AIPO in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1993 adopted Resolution No.14GA/93/Org/Res-08 on the study titled  “The ASEAN Parliament: The Study of Merit and Demerit of the Establishment of an ASEAN Parliament.”

The resolution resolved to accept with gratitude the offer by the Thai AIPO National Group  to host another AIPO Study Committee Meeting in Bangkok the following year. The meeting was to rediscuss the Thai Study Report in detail and the various steps and measures that must be taken to achieve the ultimate goal of creating an ASEAN Parliament or any other body with similar functions.

It is worth noting that between 1994 to 2002, discussions on the forming of an ASEAN Parliament were not tabled in AIPO meetings and General Assemblies.

In 2003, during the AIPO GA in Jakarta, Indonesia, Resolution No.24GA/2003/Org/10, or the “Report by the Philippines on the Feasibility of Establishing an ASEAN Parliament,” was adopted.

This Resolution resolved to leave to individual Member Parliaments the decision to further study this matter and report to the GA in the near future.

The following year, the GA held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia adopted Resolution No.25GA/2004/Com/Org/06, which resolved that the AIPA set up a Study Committee on the possibility of establishing an ASEAN Parliament.

The Gradual Process in the Changing of AIPO to AIPA, as Reflected in the Adopted Agreements/Resolutions

The consensus to transform and rename AIPO to AIPA came after AIPO had been existince for 30 years. The change came after the passage of several resolutions on:

The Forming of an Ad-Hoc Committee on the Transformation of AIPO into a More Effective and Closely Integrated Institution (Resolution No.26GA/2005/Org/05) during the GA in Vientiane, Lao PDR in 2005.

As mandated by the 26th AIPO GA in Vientiane, Laos in September 2005, the AIPO Ad-Hoc Committee undertook the task to develop a transformation process for AIPO towards ensuring its effectiveness and relevance.  Such transformation was deemed a prerequisite for AIPO to better perform as an organization that could address opportunities and challenges in the region, particularly on the establishment of an ASEAN Community.   It is important to note that though the initial idea to set up a study committee was included in the resolution, there  was no consensus yet as to the establishment of an ASEAN Parliament.

In the resolution, the AIPA:

  • recognized the significance of ASEAN integration to cope with the challenges and uncertainties in the globalized era and to empower ASEAN to remain competitive in the globalized world,
  • was mindful of the increasing role of national parliaments of ASEAN countries as a catalyst to ASEAN Integration,
  • reaffirmed the collective action of AIPO Member Parliaments to strengthen AIPO and steering AIPO towards a more closely integrated parliamentary institution.

Pursuant to this, the Ad-Hoc Committee met March that year in Bali, Indonesia and in July 2006 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Within the period between these two meetings, a Technical Working Group also convened and met to undertake specific tasks given by the Committee.

Approval of the Report of the Ad-Hoc Committee

During the GA in Cebu City, the Philippines in 2006, Resolution No.27GA/06/O-10 ( Approving the Report on the Ad-Hoc Committee on the Transformation of AIPO into a more Effective and Closely Integrated Institution) was adopted.

The resolution took cognizance of the report of the AIPO Study Committe meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which was adopted at the 26th AIPO GA in Vientiane, Lao PDR in September 2005, that decided to change the Study Committee on the Possibility of Establishing ASEAN Parliament into the AIPO Ad-Hoc Committee on the Transformation of AIPO into a More Effective and Closely Integrated Institution.

As a result of the Study Committee report, the following resolutions were approved:

  • Resolution on the Amendments to the Statutes of AIPO
  • Resolution on the Guidelines for the Establishment of Regular Reciprocal Attendance in AIPA General Assemblies and ASEAN  Summits by AIPA and ASEAN Leaders
  • Resolution on the Guidelines and Criteria for the Appointment of the Secretary General of AIPA

As a follow up to Resolution No.27/GA/06/O-13, which was adopted during the 27th GA in Cebu City,  an Extraordinary Meeting of the Executive Committee was also held.

The Extraordinary Meeting of the Executive Committee

The Extraordinary Meeting of the Executive Committee happened from 16 to 19 April 2007 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It discussed the implementation of Resolution No. 27GA/06/O-13 on the Guidelines and Criteria for the Appointment of the Secretary General of AIPA.

The meeting also resolved to authorize the President of AIPA from Malaysia to appoint the Secretary General within three (3) months upon the adoption of the New Statutes of AIPA in line with Article 13.

In the same meeting, it was agreed that:

  • the identity, history and achievements of AIPO embodied in the previous logo should be preserved by only changing the name of AIPO to AIPA,
  • the Executive Committee accepted the change in the nomenclature from AIPO to AIPA, with the condition that the logo shall remain the same.

The First GA to use the new name (ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly , or AIPA), was the 28th GA held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in August 19 to 24,  2007.

One particular resolution during that assembly was Resolution No. 28GA/2007/Org/12, which approved the report of the Extraordinary Meeting of the Executive Committee that includes the appointment of the Permanent Secretary General of AIPA.

The Signing of the Statutes of AIPA and the draft of the Agreement on the Establishment of an AIPA Secretariat (Resolution No.28GA/2007/Org/04) took place during this GA, when the name change was officially completed.

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Sources:

  • AIPO 20 years ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organization, MPR/DPR RI, The House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia, Jakarta 1997
  • AIPO Asean Inter-Parliamentary Organization 25 years. Published by: The House of Representatives of The Republic of Indonesia. In collaboration with the AIPO Secretariat, Jakarta, Indonesia 2003
  • ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Organization AIPO 30th Anniversary
  • Documents, Agreements and Resolutions adopted in General Assemblies and Meetings of APM/AIPO/AIPA from 1975 to 2009