Sri Lanka hosts CPA Asia Regional Human Rights Seminar for Parliamentarians 

The Parliament of Sri Lanka and the CPA Sri Lanka Branch has hosted a Commonwealth Regional Seminar on the Role of Parliamentarians in the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

The Seminar, hosted in partnership with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and the Commonwealth Secretariat, took place from 1 to 3 February in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Members of Parliament, Ministers and Human Rights experts attended the seminar from Sri Lanka and other Commonwealth Asia countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Maldives.

At the conclusion of the Commonwealth Regional Seminar on the Role of Parliamentarians in the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights the Kotte Declaration was adopted and issued. Click here for the Kotte Declaration.

Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe MP, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka opened the CPA Asia Regional Seminar on the Role of Parliamentarians in the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and at the opening ceremony delivered his keynote address. The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka outlined that a Seminar for Parliamentarians in Asia on realising Human Rights ‎is long overdue and in the case of Sri Lanka, the challenge is how to reconcile the people after the long war. He said that the task ahead for Sri Lanka is a difficult one as it involves balancing the issues of Reconciliation and ‎Accountability which are interdependent.

The Hon. Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka, Karu Jayasuriya MP believes that Parliament has a critical role to play in the days ahead for nation building in Sri Lanka.

The Director of Programmes of the CPA, Ms Meenakshi Dhar said: “The role of Parliament and Parliamentarians in the promotion and protection of human rights is vital as a marker of good governance and in the evolution of human rights. The ideals of human rights inform and deepen democracy. They are also a means of creating a fairer and more equitable world order.” To read the CPA's opening address please click here.

Karen McKenzie, Head of Human Rights at the Commonwealth Secretariat said: “This regional seminar is part of our ongoing collaborative programme of work with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Parliamentarians’ awareness and understanding of the international human rights system and standards is necessary to strengthen their role in rights protection and promotion.”

Over three days, Commonwealth Parliamentarians discussed human rights challenges in the region and considered practical actions to improve the situation by using their remits of law making and oversight of the executive. They also considered their relationship with the international human rights system including the work of the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review mechanism. Asma Jahangir, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Deepika Udigama, Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka were two of the human rights experts who supported this initiative.

Recognising the fundamental role of Parliament to promote and protect human rights, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat launched a series of regional seminars in 2013 aimed at strengthening the work of parliamentarians in improving their national human rights landscapes. The Asia Regional Seminar in Sri Lanka is the fourth in the series and seeks commitment to a practical set of actions set out in a declaration as well as support for the establishment of a regional network of parliamentarians dedicated to implementing the declaration.

The first seminar took place in Trinidad and Tobago in 2013 resulting in the establishment of the Commonwealth Caribbean Parliamentary Human Rights Group. The Africa regional seminar in Seychelles in March 2014 similarly resulted in the Commonwealth Africa Parliamentary Human Rights Group and the adoption of the Mahé Declaration. The Pacific regional seminar held in New Zealand in July 2015 produced the Pipitea Declaration and commitment by parliamentarians to support the establishment of a regional network of parliamentarians.

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association connects, develops, promotes and supports Parliamentarians and their staff to identify benchmarks of good governance and the implementation of the enduring values of the Commonwealth. 

For images of the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Regional Seminar on the Role of Parliamentarians in the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights please click here.
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