LAHORE - At the concluding session of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) on Wednesday, the elected representatives of the member countries identified 23 areas of mutual cooperation with special emphasis on ending the menace of terrorism by addressing the prolonged, unresolved conflicts and unending situations of occupations which they regarded as the root cause of terror.

The elected representatives from 42 Asian countries who gathered in Lahore from December 1 to December 3, for seventh Plenary Conference of APA, expressed concern over terrorism, violent extremism, intolerance, xenophobia and religious or racial profiling, reiterating their strong and unequivocal condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

They reaffirmed that terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilisation or ethnic group; and recognised that the member states must take measures to combat terrorism and fully fulfil obligations under international law as well as principles and purposes of the charter of the United Nations.

In the joint declaration, the parliamentarians of the member countries underscored the need to strengthen cooperation to deal with the menace of terrorism, besides addressing its root causes like prolonged, unresolved conflicts and unending situations of occupations. They further underlined the need for promotion of inter-religious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace as an effective step towards combating terrorism and violent extremism.

They welcomed all initiatives, including adoption of the United Nations General Assembly’s resolutions entitled “Promotion of inter-religious and intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace” and “A world against violence and extremism.”

They further reaffirmed their support for the right to self-determination of the people under colonial domination and foreign occupation. They also expressed the resolve to establish “Asian Integrated Energy Market” by utilising the strength of West Asia in the energy sector to help propel East and South Asia to effectively improve their energy sector.

Underscoring the need for streamlining the financial architecture of the region in order to prioritise economic cooperation, generating the need for trade, commerce, and investment to counter economic instabilities, they realised the importance and urgency of a ‘greener’ Asia, with improvements in air quality, warranting the reduction of harmful emissions, while discouraging deforestation, undertaking billion trees reforestation initiative and encouraging clean resources to minimise climate change and environmental degradation.

The representatives of the member states reiterated their resolve to pursue internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals post-2015 and strive for collective strategies to eradicate poverty which has interwoven and complex causes throughout the region.

They called for streamlining the financial structure of the APA according to the individual economic standings of the member countries for effective budgeting, optimised functioning and smooth running of the APA, enabling it to perform its responsibilities and duties to its full ability and potential.

Recognising the importance of parliaments in protection of human rights and cultural diversity in Asia, they urged member parliaments to promote interfaith harmony and harmonise their efforts for respect of all religions.

The communiqué also called upon the APA member parliaments to promote and share the technological advances of globalisation in Asia and create an environment for free flow of information to bridge the digital and technology divide across Asia. They urged the member parliaments to engage in effective networking to improve health systems, by acknowledging the social determinants of health (SDH) as major elements to devise a comprehensive strategy for health equity in Asia.

Supporting the establishment of APA “Virtual Parliament” as an interactive platform for achieving and strengthening the objectives of the APA, they urged the member parliaments to protect the rights of migrant workers, especially women, by devising, where possible and appropriate, legally binding tools and adopting internationally agreed covenants.

They expressed the resolve to materialise the establishment of Asian Parliaments against Corruption (APAC) to curb corruption and enhance parliamentary collaboration to create anti-corruption frameworks. They recognised the importance of addressing the issue of under-representation of women in various economic and political spheres, including parliaments, the need for promotion and protection of their rights, including increasing their contribution towards economic development of the entire region. They also reaffirmed support to establish an annual coordinating meeting of APA Women Parliamentarians.

They urged member parliaments to formulate strategies to combat the growing menace of smuggling of cultural items in Asia through effective legislation. They realised the implications of illicit drug production, trafficking and consumption in Asia, and urged the APA members to further strengthen ongoing efforts and existing structures for effective coordination and cooperation in this regard.  The signed document underlined the need for developing better understanding and awareness among the people of Asian nations through various means, including establishment of APA Media Forum so as to encourage media interaction and journalistic exchanges, and to disseminate more widely and effectively the activities of the APA in the context of the road map towards an Asian parliament.

The APA recognised that the Parliament of Pakistan had played a pivotal role in the transformation of the Association of Asian Parliaments for Peace (AAPP) into Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) while the Senate of Pakistan is effectively contributing to laying the foundations of the Asian Parliament.

The members also agreed to promote dialogue to find a peaceful resolution of conflicts in Asia besides recognising the right of countries to develop peaceful use of nuclear energy in accordance with IAEA safeguards and all relevant UN resolutions.

The declaration denounced Israel’s repeated violations of the international law and UN resolutions as well as its blatant aggression that has claimed thousands of civilian lives in Palestine. The APA showed its commitment to promotion and protection of core human values that strengthen society as a whole while seeking alleviation of poverty through policies that share prosperity through their respective populace.

The representatives of the member states also established the ‘Special Committee on Creation of the Asian Parliament’ (SCCAP) with its office based in Islamabad, to work on a single agenda of developing consensus within member parliaments to formulate a roadmap to achieve this significant objective.