The Parliamentarian
2019: Issue Two: The Commonwealth at 70: 'A Connected Commonwealth'

The Parliamentarian is the quarterly Journal of Commonwealth Parliaments published by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and features articles and news written by Members of Parliament and Parliamentary staff across the Commonwealth about international issues.
Few could have imagined seventy years ago, when the London Declaration was signed to create the ‘modern’ Commonwealth, that we would be reflecting on the successes of the Commonwealth many years later and looking forward to a renewed global partnership for the future. The origins of the Commonwealth stretch back much further than 70 years, but the signing of the London Declaration in 1949 marks the point at which the legacy of the British Empire was replaced with a partnership of equal member countries sharing a set of principles and values that was later enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter. 

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association emerged from the Empire Parliamentary Association, which had been founded in 1911. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association was re-established at a conference in London in October 1948, several months ahead of the London Declaration on 26 April 1949 when its new name was adopted. Since the modern Commonwealth came into existence, the relevance and value of the relationship has been reaffirmed and consolidated. For the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), its membership expanded across the CPA’s nine Regions and to over 180 Branches including national, state, provincial and territorial Parliaments and Legislatures. 

The annual celebration of Commonwealth Day has been celebrated around the Commonwealth on the second Monday in March every year since the 1970s and this year, the celebrations also included the 70th anniversary of the ‘modern’ Commonwealth. The 2019 Commonwealth Day theme focused on ‘A Connected Commonwealth’ which offers opportunities for the people, Parliaments, governments and institutions of the Commonwealth to connect and work together at many levels through far-reaching and deep-rooted networks of friendship and goodwill. CPA Branches and Regions across the network of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association marked Commonwealth Day 2019 in many ways and reports of these activities can be found in this issue of The Parliamentarian

The Chairperson of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Executive Committee, Hon. Emilia Monjowa Lifaka, MP (Cameroon) in her View article speaks about ‘A Connected Commonwealth’ and the role of young people in an extract of her speech given on Commonwealth Day this year.

The CPA Small Branches Chairperson, Hon. AnÄ¡elo Farrugia, MP (Malta) speaks of the importance of tackling climate change for the 53 Commonwealth countries, especially its 31 small and developing states which are often the least polluting but the first casualties of climate change in his View article. The CPA Small Branches Chairperson led a round table discussion on the theme of ‘The role of youth in combatting climate change through political participation’ on Commonwealth Day 2019 in London and the discussion included a wide range of views on climate change from CPA Commonwealth Day Youth participants and from Commonwealth Parliamentarians who joined the discussion.

In this issue of The Parliamentarian, the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP), Hon. Dr Dato’ Noraini Ahmad, MP (Malaysia) examines the impact of women’s suffrage and asks if this is a prerequisite to the gender equality agenda. The CPA Secretary-General, Mr Akbar Khan, reflecting on the 70th anniversary of the ‘modern’ Commonwealth in his View article, writes about the Commonwealth and its resilience in the 21st century. This article is based on remarks made by the CPA Secretary-General at a roundtable panel discussion hosted by The Institute of Commonwealth Studies and the School of Advanced Studies at the University of London.

As we mark the 70th anniversary of the ‘modern’ Commonwealth, we feature a number of articles by contributors from across the Commonwealth reflecting on the progress and future of the organisation.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt Hon. Patricia Scotland, QC reflects on the Commonwealth at 70 and outlines that by demonstrating the practical benefits of international collaboration and combined purpose, Commonwealth connection and collaboration, the Commonwealth can deepen its understanding of each other as interdependent and mutually supporting. 

Senator Hon. Dennis D. Moses is the Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and he writes in this issue of The Parliamentarian about the role of Parliamentarians in delivering on the Commonwealth’s agenda. Hon. Dr Richard Sezibera is the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for the Republic of Rwanda and he writes about the ‘Interconnected Commonwealth’ as well as looking ahead to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), due to be held in Rwanda in 2020.

The United Kingdom’s Minister for the Commonwealth and UN, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon writes about democracy and diversity at the heart of a fairer, modern Commonwealth and reflects on the UK’s role as current Chair-in-Office. The topic of ‘70 Years On: Moving forward together within the Commonwealth of Nations’ is examined in this issue by Hon. Carmelo Abela, MP, Malta’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion.

A Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Commonwealth in the UK Parliament, Lord Chidgey of Hamble-le-Rice reflects on CHOGM 2018 Outcomes and the United Kingdom as Chair-in-Office. Lord Collins of Highbury (United Kingdom) champions ‘A Peoples’ Commonwealth’ and asks us to look beyond Governments to include civil society and peoples’ groups.

This issue of The Parliamentarian also highlights several other topics and themes, events and activities. Hon. Chris Steel, MLA (Australian Capital Territory) writes about the discrimination faced by LGBT+ people in many Commonwealth countries that has been exposed by the recent law changes in Brunei.

Hon. Simon G. Pentanu, MHR is the Speaker of the Bougainville House of Representatives and he writes about the political and procedural challenges of a post-conflict Parliament and shares Bougainville’s own experiences. The importance of effective financial oversight in Commonwealth Parliaments was highlighted at the Commonwealth Association of Public Accounts Committees (CAPAC) Pacific Workshop, which took place recently in Suva, Fiji. Hon. Shabana Mahmood, MP is a Member of the UK Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and she shares her experience of the Pacific workshop.

In a year of anniversaries and celebrations, the Scottish Parliament is celebrating its 20th anniversary and Rt Hon. Ken Macintosh, MSP, the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, reflects on democracy and political participation in Scotland as the Parliament reaches this milestone anniversary.

Ravindra Garimella is Joint Secretary of the Lok Sabha Secretariat at the Parliament of India and a regular contributor to The Parliamentarian: Parliamentary Report section and in this issue, he examines the functioning of democratic institutions in India as he launches a new book on this topic.

A special report by the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians New Zealand Group examines ‘Sexism, harassment and violence against women Parliamentarians in New Zealand’ and Louisa Wall, MP and Jo Hayes, MP (New Zealand) provide a summary of the report for our readers.

This issue of The Parliamentarian also features news and reports of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) activities.

The Parliamentary Report and Third Reading section in this issue includes parliamentary and legislative news from Canada Federal, Trinidad and Tobago, India, New Zealand, Uganda, United Kingdom and Australia Federal. 

In 2019, The Parliamentarian is celebrating its 100th year of publishing and we will be publishing our centenary issue of the publication in early 2020 to mark 100 years since the first issue. If readers have any memories of the publication that they would like to share for an upcoming feature on the publication’s centenary, then please contact the Editor.

We look forward to hearing your feedback and comments on this issue of The Parliamentarian, on the issues affecting Parliamentarians across the Commonwealth and to receiving your future contributions to this publication.

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Updated 28/05/2019/CPAHQ