Post-pandemic Parliaments on the agenda at 50th CPA British Islands and Mediterranean Regional Conference in Northern Ireland
Parliamentarians and parliamentary staff from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) British Islands and Mediterranean (BIM) Region attended the annual Regional Conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland last week.
The CPA Regional Conference, hosted by the Northern Ireland Assembly from 21 – 22 September 2021, focussed on the theme of ‘Post-Pandemic Parliaments.’ Across the course of two days, the Acting CPA Chairperson, Hon. Ian Liddell-Grainger MP (UK), the CPA Secretary-General, Stephen Twigg, and more than 50 Speakers, Members of Parliament, Clerks, and officials participated in a series of workshops on the impact that COVID-19 will have on the future of parliamentary democracy. Sessions explored topics such as emergency legislation, the future of hybrid Parliaments, and vaccine responses, acknowledging the common challenges that the pandemic continues to pose for Parliaments and Legislatures in the Region and elsewhere in the Commonwealth.
At the opening of the CPA Regional Conference, delegates were welcomed to Northern Ireland by Alex Maskey MLA, Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly and President of the CPA Northern Ireland Branch who said:
“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world, and all our individual jurisdictions, has been unlike anything in living memory. The Northern Ireland Assembly, like all legislatures, had to review its procedures almost overnight and adapt and innovate at speed to ensure that the essential legislative, scrutiny and accountability functions of the Assembly could continue. This Conference provides an opportunity to assess and share experience about how parliamentary institutions have adapted to this emergency situation and consider lessons to inform us as we hope to increasingly focus on the pandemic recovery.”
Above: Alex Maskey MLA, Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, speaks to delegates at the opening of the Regional Conference. To view further images of the event please click here.
The programme, designed to showcase Northern Ireland’s history and diverse economy, featured a tour of the Parliament Buildings, known as Stormont, and a visit to the Balmoral Show, Northern Ireland’s largest agri-food event, where a series of presentations were given on the future of the agri-food industry post-COVID.
The CPA Regional Conference expanded upon existing work done by Branches both within the Region and across the entire Association. COVID-19 is the 2020/2021 Strategic Theme for the CPA BIM Region and in August a report was published examining the lessons that Parliaments can learn from the different responses to COVID-19 across the Region.
Above: Hon. Samantha Sacramento MP (Gibraltar), the CWP British Islands and Mediterranean Regional Representative, presents at a workshop.
During the Conference, the CPA Acting Chairperson and the CPA Secretary-General met with representatives from the many CPA Branches in attendance. At the CPA BIMR AGM, the CPA Secretary-General outlined how the CPA is supporting Parliaments to lead the pandemic recovery. He said,
“Mutual learning is a crucial part of the response to the pandemic and at the core of the mission of the CPA. To make Parliaments stronger, more effective and fully independent, we must learn from each other. The CPA will continue to provide a forum for Parliamentarians and parliamentary staff to come together and share their ideas and strategies as the pandemic recovery continues.”
Above: CPA Secretary-General Stephen Twigg speaks at the CPA BIMR Annual General Meeting.
In the margins of the Regional Conference, the CWP BIM Steering Committee also met to discuss upcoming activities and the network’s ongoing efforts to make Parliaments more gender-sensitive institutions.
At the conclusion of the Regional Conference, Hon. William Humphrey MBE MLA, Chairperson of the CPA Northern Ireland Branch, said:
“I hope that this Conference has shown that Northern Ireland is a changing place. It’s for all of us to work together, in Northern Ireland and in the Commonwealth, to share information to ensure that the challenges we face will be met together. Our different experiences will make us stronger together as Members of the CPA.”
Reflecting on the Regional Conference, the Acting CPA Chairperson, Hon. Ian Liddell-Grainger MP added,
“It was fantastic to be in Belfast for the CPA British Islands and the Mediterranean Regional Conference. Hosting a hybrid event gave us a great opportunity to meet in-person again and share what we have learned in the last year-and-a-half about adapting the institution of Parliament in an emergency. The CPA thrives on sharing best practice and, as we look ahead to the pandemic recovery, close collaboration between Parliaments will be essential to strengthen the resilience of our institutions.”
Above: Acting CPA Chairperson, Hon. Ian Liddell-Grainger MP (UK, left) talks to CPA Northern Ireland Branch Chairperson, William Humphrey MBE MLA. To view further images of the event please click here.
Throughout 2021, the Northern Ireland Assembly has been marking 100 years since the creation of Northern Ireland and the first sitting of the old Northern Ireland Parliament. To mark the Anniversary, the Assembly hosted a series of Virtual Lectures on the history of Northern Ireland, and a Parliament Buildings Open Day, featuring an exhibition on ‘100 Years of Women Members,’ is scheduled for November 2021.
The CPA British Islands and Mediterranean Region is one of the nine regions of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. It consists of thirteen Legislatures, from the United Kingdom, one of the largest Legislatures in the Commonwealth, to Alderney, the smallest. The Regional Secretariat is based within the CPA UK Branch, and undertakes a number of programmes, including Election Observation Missions to Crown Dependencies and UK Overseas Territories.
Image credits: Michael Cooper Photography / NI Assembly / CPA Secretariat
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. The CPA is an international community of around 180 Commonwealth Parliaments and Legislatures working together to deepen the Commonwealth’s commitment to the highest standards of democratic governance.
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