The Asian Parliamentary Assem- bly’s (APA) Standing Committee on Social and Cultural Affairs meeting was declared a success after adopt- ing all nine resolutions and another additional resolution proposed by Russia during the two-day event that ended yesterday.

Speaker Jigme Zangpo, who was unanimously elected as the chair- man of the committee, said every parliamentarian from the 21 coun- tries urged him to convey to Their Majesties the Kings their apprecia- tion of preservation of Bhutanese culture.

Speaker Jigme Zangpo said, “The meeting was truly a meeting of minds and it’s going to benefit the 4.4 billion people in all the Asian countries and beyond.”
The secretary general of APA, Dr Mohammad Reza Majidi, said the parliamentarians return to their native countries impressed with the way Bhutanese preserved the culture.

“We go back as ambassadors of Bhutan to extol the virtues of Bhu- tan’s vibrant culture and diversity,” he said. “We’ve learnt a lot from Bhutan.”

Chairperson of National Council, Sonam Kinga (PhD), in his closing remarks, said building friendship and partnership among the Asian countries was crucial for no country could walk into the future in isolation.

He said that the meeting was the beginning of many such multilateral parliamentary meetings and interactions. The chairperson shared the story about the high level support Bhutan enjoyed during its admission bid to the United Nations in 1971. He named a number of Asian countries, including Bangladesh, Bahrain, Pakistan, and Syria that supported Bhutan’s membership to the UN on account of its natural beauty, rich culture and traditions.

“These countries were not referring to Bhutan as an economic power, but as a country rich in culture and traditions,” he said. “The very subject we have been discussing in this meeting,” he said.

The 10 resolutions cover a wide range of issues of mutual interest such as culture, information technology, health equity, migrant workers, corruption, woman parliamentarians, inter-faith dialogue, smuggling of cultural objects, drug trafficking, and humanitarian aid to the Asian countries going through a humanitarian crisis.

The adoption of the resolutions followed two days of vigorous deliberation among more than 100 parliamentarians from 21 countries, including 12 parliamentarians from Bhutan.

The ten resolutions of the Standing Committee will be submitted to the Executive Council of the APA and further to the 10th Plenary for the final adoption.

The resolution on measures to promote cultural diversity and protect cultural heritage in Asia underlines the significant role parliaments play in promoting cultural diversity and multicultural dynamism. It calls for APA member parliaments to consider, among others, facilitating intercultural dialogue, people-to-people interactions, common legislations, and instituting an award for Asian artists.

The resolution on ICT, how integration among the peoples of Asia could be enhanced through information and communication technology, calls upon the APA member parliaments to voluntarily commit their services and resources for the creation of a ‘Virtual Asian Parliament’, which is expected to result in a model Asian parliament.

The Standing Committee’s resolution on health equity asks APA member parliaments to cooperate and collaborate on bringing equity in health services.  The resolutions urge parliamentarians to rectify international conventions on health and push for relevant policies.

The resolution on migrant workers underlines the importance of establishing a national legal framework as well as a broad legal framework for the protection of migrant workers in the region.

The committee also came out with a resolution on corruption underlining the importance of preventing and combating all forms of corruption at all levels, including money laundering and abuse of power.

The resolution on women parliamentarians the standing committee called upon parliamentarians to adopt legislations to encourage women’s participation in social, cultural, economic, and political affairs.

The resolution on inter-faith dialogue underlines that inter-faith harmony, particularly in Asia, ‘is of utmost importance for the survival of mankind and the promotion of the culture of peace, security, and tolerance’. It urged parliaments to promulgate laws to enhance tolerance for religious beliefs of others.

One of the resolutions states that losing cultural items to smuggling is a threat to the richness of Asian cultural heritage and, therefore, calls for a national strategy and a legal framework to combat it.

The resolution on combating the smuggling of cultural items calls for the ratification of the International Convention for the Safeguarding of World Natural and Cultural Heritage and the International Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The committee also drew a resolution on illicit drug trafficking calling for a review of relevant legislation, exchange of information and best practices, and enlisting civil society as partners of parliaments.

The final resolution underlines the urgent need to extend humanitarian aid to countries facing a humanitarian crisis such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Myanmar.

The next APA committee meeting will be in Cambodia.

Tshering Palden