The Parliamentarian
2020: Issue Four: SOCIAL MEDIA AND PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY IN THE 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.
 
SOCIAL MEDIA AND PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY IN THE COMMONWEALTH  
There has been a huge growth in the use of social media in recent years across the world. Commonwealth Parliaments are still exploring how to best use social media effectively in their communications strategies. Finding a way to produce engaging, non-partisan content to interact with stakeholders is a major challenge for all institutions, but perhaps particularly for Parliaments.

The use of social media raises therefore a number of challenges to Parliaments and, to a large extent, requires these institutions to engage in a new style of communication beyond the traditional institutional one. 

The challenge for individual Commonwealth Parliamentarians is even more acute as they have to grapple with providing engaging content for their constituents and the wider world while often facing abuse online and challenges to their messaging. However, the benefits for Parliamentarians of being able to speak directly to a wide audience without the ‘filter’ of the media provides huge opportunities for Members of Parliament, especially during elections. Social media is able to provide connections through spontaneous and informal reactions; social media implies a persona behind its input which gives Parliamentarians the opportunity to ‘connect’ with their audience.

Social media can also provide many barriers to democracy as personal data is manipulated and ‘fake news’ is spread virtually at a ferocious pace. 

This issue of The Parliamentarian examines the many issues around social media and democracy in the Commonwealth.

Hon. Justin B. N. Muturi, EGH, MP, Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya and the Chairperson of the Executive Committee of the CPA Africa Region examines the role of social media in parliamentary engagement and looks at how public participation can be expanded for democratic growth.

Hon. Nathan Cooper, MLA, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta writes about how Parliaments can embrace social media and digital technology and provides examples of how the Legislative Assembly of Alberta has opened new doors in the COVID-19 pandemic era.

The Chair of the UK Parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Media, Chris Elmore, MP reflects on how social media has responded to the current global pandemic and asks if the digital pandemic of misinformation threatens our best hope of ending the current crisis.

Canadian Member of Parliament, Ms Yasmin Ratansi, MP examines the role of social media in connecting with constituents and the impact of social media in elections and asks if social media should be censored and what the role of Parliamentarians could be.

The Deputy Director of the Research Wing at the National Assembly of Pakistan, Ms Nighat Paristan provides examples of social media interaction from Pakistan and suggests that social media can be called a ‘game changer’ in bridging the gap between Parliament and the people.

The Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP), Hon. Shandana Gulzar Khan, MNA (Pakistan), writes about the impact of social media on Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians in particular and asks whether social media will be, and should be, the primary tool for Commonwealth Parliamentarians to uphold democracy.

The CPA Small Branches Chairperson, Hon. Niki Rattle, Speaker of the Parliament of the Cook Islands writes about the positive impacts of social media on small territories and legislatures, not least in her own jurisdiction of the Cook Islands, but cautions that we need to ensure that social media does not undermine democratic norms and processes.

In addition to looking at social media and democracy, this issue of The Parliamentarian also examines other current issues in the Commonwealth.

The Chairperson of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Executive Committee, Hon. Emilia Monjowa Lifaka, MP (Cameroon) in her View article shares her opening address to the 49th CPA British Islands and Mediterranean Regional Conference hosted by the Parliament of Malta and CPA Malta Branch with a virtual meeting held from 24 to 25 September 2020 on the theme of ‘The Role of Parliaments and Parliamentarians in Times of Crisis’.

The CPA Secretary-General, Stephen Twigg in his View article for The Parliamentarian focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Commonwealth and the role of Commonwealth Parliaments. He also examines the role that the CPA can play and identifying the CPA’s strengths to best meet future challenges.

Shri N. K. Premachandran, MP, a Member of Lok Sabha, the Lower House of the Parliament of India provides an article on sustainable development in a globalised world.

Former Joint Secretary of the Lok Sabha Secretariat, Rup Narayan Das examines the role of Parliament in foreign policy with particular reference to examples from India.

Fergus Drake, Chief Executive of Crown Agents, asks why Parliamentarians are key to enhancing accountability in health service delivery and provides examples of the work that his organisation has done in several countries.

The City of London’s Remembrancer, Paul Double, LVO, OStJ, writes about his ancient role and the many links between the City of London and the Commonwealth.

New technology in the UK Parliament has brought automated speech software trials to the Hansard Team and this is described by Jack Homer, Deputy Editor of the Official Report in the UK’s House of Commons.

In the third of his three-part series for The Parliamentarian, Parliamentary Consultant at the Lok Sabha Secretariat at the Parliament of India, Mr Ravindra Garimella, looks at the origins and history of some of the parliamentary expressions and practices used in Commonwealth Legislatures and in this issue focuses on the role of ‘filibustering’.

This issue of The Parliamentarian features several articles on the issues surrounding greater equality in Parliaments. Hon. Mboni Mohamed Mhita, MP, Member of the National Assembly of Tanzania shares her presentation to the CWP Africa Region Gender Sensitization Workshop in October 2019 on the barriers to women’s participation in elections in the Africa Region.

Amanda Ellis is the Executive Director of Global Partnerships for the ASU Global Futures Laboratory and Professor of Practice at Thunderbird School of Global Management in the USA and she shares her article on ‘Building Forward Better’ - why women’s leadership matters during COVID-19 and beyond.

An article by the Global Parliamentary Unit at the World Bank examines how stronger youth and female political representation can transfer knowledge and best practices to those who aspire to become more democratically representative.

This issue of The Parliamentarian also marks two anniversaries: the 400th anniversary of the first sitting of the Parliament of Bermuda and the 70th anniversary of the re-opening of the UK Parliament’s House of Commons after its destruction during the Second World War. 

The Parliamentary Report and Third Reading section in this issue includes parliamentary and legislative news from Canada Federal; British Columbia; Trinidad and Tobago; India; New Zealand; the United Kingdom; Sri Lanka; and Australia Federal. 

The CPA Headquarters Secretariat would also like to thank Mr Stephen Boyd, Secretary for the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics at the Parliament of Australia, for his dedication and commitment as the parliamentary correspondent for the Parliament of Australia for The Parliamentarian for many years and for his parliamentary service to the Australian Federal Parliament on his retirement. His parliamentary reports and articles about the Parliament of Australia over many years have provided a record of events for future generations and a source of interest for other Commonwealth Parliaments and Legislatures who want to share their experiences of parliamentary democracy. 
 
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 24/11/2020/CPAHQ