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CPA Blog: 65th CPC preview from CPA Secretary-General

As Commonwealth Parliamentarians gather in Halifax for the 65th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference this week, Stephen Twigg, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) reflects on the crucial role they can play.

As the world seeks to address a wide range of daunting challenges, the importance of sharing best practice and knowledge amongst Commonwealth Parliaments and Parliamentarians has never been greater. Continuing to develop and enhance the performance of Commonwealth Parliamentarians has been the mission of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) since it was established some 111 years ago.

Canada and Newfoundland were two of the six original founding Members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in 1911. Today, as one of the CPA's nine Regions, the CPA Canada Region includes 14 CPA Branches made up of the Provincial and Territorial Legislatures as well as the CPA Canada Federal Branch at the Parliament of Canada.

The CPA organises its annual conference to address global political issues and developments in the parliamentary system through conference workshops and sessions for Parliamentarians representing Parliaments and Legislatures throughout the Commonwealth.

The CPA Canada Region last hosted the conference in 2004 and so the CPA is delighted to return to Canada for the 65th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, taking place in Halifax, Nova Scotia this week.

As one of the largest gatherings of Commonwealth Parliamentarians, this conference will address the main theme of: ‘Inclusive, Accessible, Accountable and Strong Parliaments: the Cornerstone of Democracy and Essential for Development’. The CPA’s annual conference offers the opportunity for Members of Parliament and parliamentary staff to benefit from professional development, mutual learning and the sharing of best practice with colleagues.

The timing of the 65th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference comes against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, global economic uncertainty, widespread financial hardship and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will be our first conference for almost three years, and I know that MPs across the Commonwealth are looking forward to the opportunity to come together at this important time. The pandemic has reminded us that we live in an inter-connected world community in which we have a shared responsibility to address common challenges.

Globally, the pandemic has highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of health systems including unequal access to vaccines. Parliaments and Parliamentarians have a vital role to play in promoting universal health coverage both within their own jurisdictions and internationally.

A similar challenge applies to education where children and young people across the world have seen significant disruption over the past two years. Once again, Parliamentarians have an important responsibility to hold governments to account on these commitments as well as ensuring that necessary legislation and budget measures are put in place.

With approximately 60% of the Commonwealth’s 2.6 billion citizens across its 56 countries currently under the age of 30 years, the Commonwealth has a responsibility to engage proactively with young people. The CPA’s Commonwealth Youth Parliament is an example of such youth engagement.

The Commonwealth can position itself strongly and unequivocally beside its citizens and help to tackle the inequalities that cause so much poverty and injustice in our societies. Parliamentarians have an important role to play in securing the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Parliaments have a duty to represent the people they serve – one way that they fulfil this responsibility is by being inclusive, accountable, open and transparent public institutions.

A key priority is the fight against climate change. Small Island Developing States have been powerful voices within the Commonwealth as they find themselves in the frontline of the battle to avert a climate disaster. The Commonwealth can help to amplify the voices of those who need the most urgent action to protect the environment and to promote sustainable development.

In recent years, we have seen increasing international concern about actions or policies that erode or threaten shared values like democracy, good governance and human rights. Within the Commonwealth, the CPA works with others to defend these values. Part of our work is to highlight the key role of Commonwealth Parliaments in upholding these principles.

Each of the 180 Parliaments and Legislatures within the CPA is a unique institution reflecting its own special historical evolution. What all Parliaments have in common is a capacity to strengthen democracy by acting as powerful agents of change. Success here is most likely if Members have the necessary support to carry out their parliamentary and constitutional responsibilities.

One of the CPA’s roles is to provide a diverse range of activities and initiatives to enable our Members to learn from and communicate with each other. This is one of the important functions of our three CPA networks – the CPA Small Branches, the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) and the Commonwealth Parliamentarians with Disabilities (CPwD). These networks serve to connect Parliamentarians so that they can learn from each other as well as providing platforms for their voices and common interests to be heard throughout the Commonwealth.

As Commonwealth Parliamentarians gather in Canada this week for the 65th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, they will reaffirm and celebrate our Commonwealth shared values. Let us hope that we can work together across the Commonwealth, and beyond, to learn lessons and dedicate ourselves once again to meeting the many challenges faced by Parliaments and citizens alike.

This blog article was also published in The Hill Times on 22 August 2022.

Related Resources

Engagement, Education and Outreach Handbook for Commonwealth Parliaments

This Handbook provides guidance to Commonwealth Parliaments and Legislatures on how to increase public engagement and outreach, to ensure the public get a greater say in how they are governed.

CPA Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures (2018)

Building on the Commonwealth Latimer House Principles on the separation of powers, the CPA Recommended Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures provide a framework for excellence in Commonwealth parliamentary and legislative practice.

CPA Strategic Plan 2022-2025

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Strategic Plan for 2022-2025 sets out its support for our membership of 180 Commonwealth Parliaments as well as how the organisation will advance and develop support to CPA Members through focusing on six core objectives and cross cutting themes that will be mainstreamed across CPA operations and workstreams.

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