The Parliamentarian
2018: Issue Four: Human rights in the modern era: 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights

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.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) continues to be a momentous document, which reinforces international human rights law and inspires us to continue to work to ensure everyone can gain their freedom, equality and dignity. The UDHR was drafted by representatives from all across the world with different legal and cultural experiences, and was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris in 1948. It is said to be one of the most translated documents in the world, available in more than 500 languages.

The UDHR has helped people across the world to gain greater freedoms and equality. It has prevented violations of human rights through its enforcement; in some places, independence and autonomy have been achieved. While there are many challenges remaining and not all of the UDHR articles have been fully reached, the Universal Declaration has been a vital tool in securing essential human rights and freedoms.

The Commonwealth Charter provides a commitment to the rights expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights including the commitment to equality and respect for the protection and promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, without discrimination.

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) has engaged in the global discourse on a strengthened role for Parliaments and Parliamentarians in the field of human rights for a number of years and this issue of The Parliamentarian explores a wide range of topics linked to human rights as we reach the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Chairperson of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Executive Committee, Hon. Emilia Monjowa Lifaka, MP (Cameroon) in her View article looks at the role of Parliaments and Parliamentarians in implementing human rights. The Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP), Hon. Dr Dato’ Noraini Ahmad, MP (Malaysia) examines women’s economic rights in the light of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights with particular examples from the South-East Asia Region.

Hon. Anġelo Farrugia, MP, Chairperson of the CPA Small Branches (Malta) highlights the impact of climate change on the world’s smallest states and expresses the view that this is a human rights issue affecting the most vulnerable peoples of the world. The CPA Secretary-General, Mr Akbar Khan in his View article writes about the evolving role of Parliamentarians and of Parliaments to step up as key enablers of human rights and “to act as a check and balance on the policies of the Executive. This important role of Parliament sitting as it does at the centre of a nation’s domestic and international affairs should not be overlooked or under-estimated.”

This issue of The Parliamentarian features many contributions from across the Commonwealth on human rights. Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon is the United Kingdom Minister for the Commonwealth and UN and he writes about human rights in the modern era from his unique perspective. Rt Hon. Ann Clwyd, MP (United Kingdom) chairs the UK Parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group and she reflects on the role of Commonwealth Parliamentarians in safeguarding political and civil space.

Hon. Angela Thoko Didiza, MP (South Africa) pays tribute to Nelson Mandela: a true advocate for human rights when speaking to young leaders at a celebration event for Nelson Mandela International Day on 18 July 2018. Nelson Mandela International Day 2018, designated by the United Nations, marked 100 years since the birth of Nelson Mandela and was an occasion to reflect on his life and legacy.

The Human Rights Unit of the Commonwealth Secretariat provide an examination of ‘The role of Parliaments in the promotion and protection of human rights’ as well as highlighting the launch of a new global report on this topic, in partnership with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and the Universal Rights Group.

A group of academics have recently published a new book titled ‘Contemporary Human Rights Challenges: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its Continuing Relevance’ and we feature their introduction.

A member of the Editorial Advisory Board for The Parliamentarian and Secretary-General Emeritus of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF), Dr Carl Wright has been involved in defending and promoting the protection of human rights across the Commonwealth for a number of years and he writes for this issue about his personal journey in this quest. The renowned expert in election observation, Dame Audrey Glover looks at electoral rights and how to prevent fraud and manipulation when it comes to elections. The Chair of the Commonwealth Press Union Media Trust, Lord Black of Brentwood (United Kingdom) examines media rights and the battle for press and media freedom in the Commonwealth.

Hon. Dennitah Ghati, MP (Kenya) recently represented the CPA and the new Commonwealth Parliamentarians with Disabilities (CPwD) network at the first Global Disabilities Summit and she writes about the summit and disability rights for this issue. Senator Dr Floyd Morris (Jamaica) looks at human rights and persons with disabilities in the Anglophone Caribbean.

The South African Human Rights Commission looks at the status of human rights defenders in South Africa and argues that this is essential for ensuring the advancement of a peaceful, just and inclusive society for all. Hon. Jim Shannon, MP (United Kingdom) is the Chair of the UK Parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Freedom of Religion or Belief and he writes about realising the rights of freedom of religion and belief in the Commonwealth.

The National Human Rights Institution of Samoa provides an article contextualizing human rights from the perspective of a small state while Dr Audrey Aumua, Deputy Director-General of the Pacific Community (SPC), a regional organisation representing 26 Pacific Islands and Territories, looks at human rights in the wider Pacific Region.

Rt Hon. Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore (United Kingdom) is a Justice of The UK Supreme Court and a Parliamentarian and he writes about the right to justice and access to legal aid in the United Kingdom. Colin Nicholls, QC (Commonwealth Lawyers Association) and Genevieve Woods look at privacy rights in the modern era and provide a Commonwealth perspective on this issue. Deputy Emilie Yerby (Guernsey) writes about equality and human rights and the challenges of introducing relevant legislation for a CPA Small Branch like Guernsey.

This issue of The Parliamentarian also highlights a number of other topics. Hon. Richard Graham, MP (United Kingdom) introduces the new Commonwealth Partnership for Democracy (CP4D) and invites Commonwealth Members of Parliament to ‘Be part of the change!’ The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is a project partner in the CP4D project.

Lord Purvis of Tweed (United Kingdom) highlights a new report from the UK Parliament’s All-Party Group on Trade Out of Poverty, focusing on how trade and investment can help to remove people in the Commonwealth ‘out of poverty’ and provides an agenda for values-led trade, inclusive growth and sustainable jobs for the Commonwealth.

Over the last ten years, the State and Territory Branches of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) in the CPA Australia Region have participated in successful Branch-level ‘twinning’ partnerships with CPA Branches in the Pacific Region. Following a recent ‘twinning’ visit, Hon. M. T. Rene Hidding, MP (Tasmania) looks at the outcomes of the successful partnership between the CPA Tasmania and Samoa Branches.

Sir David Natzler is the eminent Clerk of the House of Commons in the Parliament of the United Kingdom and he writes in this issue of The Parliamentarian about the gathering of Parliamentary Clerks from across the Commonwealth in Toronto, Canada at the 54th General Meeting of the Society of Clerks-at-the-Table (SOCATT) of Commonwealth Parliaments. This issue also features a report on business continuity for Commonwealth Parliaments and the establishment of the Legislative Assemblies Business Continuity Network (LABCoN) by a group of Parliamentary Clerks and staff.

Eminent Parliamentarian and University Professor, Sugata Bose, MP (Lok Sabha, India Union) writes about the 3Ds: Democracy, Diversity and Development in Indian political thought.

The Parliamentarian continues to report on a number of significant anniversaries in the history of women’s suffrage and the passing of significant equality legislation across the Commonwealth this year. Reports in this issue include: Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians in New Zealand celebrating 125 years of women’s suffrage and historic milestones in politics; celebrating women’s suffrage in the Isle of Man with the visit of the Suffrage Flag; Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians from across the CPA Pacific Region meeting in the Cook Islands; a report from the inaugural International Congress of Parliamentary Women’s Caucuses in Ireland; Commonwealth African Women Parliamentarians helping to strengthen Women’s Parliamentary Caucuses in Lesotho; CWP UK Members holding a panel discussion on empowering women’s voices during UK Parliament Week.

The Parliamentary Report and Third Reading section in this issue includes parliamentary and legislative news from Canada Federal, British Columbia, India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Australia Federal. This issue also features an obituary for Somnath Chatterjee, the legendary Speaker of India (1929 – 2018).

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

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