Some of the dignitaries at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference
Some of the dignitaries at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference

Commonwealth Parliaments role in addressing global challenges

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 112 years ago.

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.

This is the first time that the CPA Ghana Branch and the Parliament of Ghana will host the conference and so the CPA is delighted to be in Accra for the 66th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference this week.

The CPA Africa Region is very active within our nine Regions, and this will be the 17th time that the Region has hosted the annual conference. 

10th Anniversary

As one of the largest gatherings of Commonwealth Parliamentarians, this conference will address the main theme of: ‘The Commonwealth Charter 10 years on: Values and Principles for Parliaments to uphold’.

The ten-year anniversary of the Commonwealth Charter offers an opportunity to review the relevance of its values and principles, as well as measuring how the Commonwealth is progressing against these commitments.

For the CPA, as the parliamentary wing of the Commonwealth, many key articles within the Commonwealth Charter influence its work – including Article I on Democracy; Article II on Human Rights; Article VI on the Separation of Powers between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary; Article VII on the Rule of Law; Article VIII on Good Governance; Article IX on Sustainable Development.

The Charter also influences the work of our networks – Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (Article XII Gender Equality); CPA Small Branches (Article XIV Recognition of the needs of Small States); and Commonwealth Parliamentarians with Disabilities (Article XVI Role of Civil Society) as well as our youth work (Article XIII Importance of Young People).

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 66th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference comes against the backdrop of conflict, global economic uncertainty, widespread financial hardship and the ongoing impact of global pandemics.

I know that MPs across the Commonwealth look forward to the opportunity to come together and we are reminded that we live in an inter-connected world community in which we have a shared responsibility to address common challenges.

With the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development at its midpoint, the association is committed to fostering the values of the Commonwealth and the UN SDGs across our membership and beyond.

Whilst our work relates particularly to SDG16, focusing on peace, justice and strong institutions, we are also committed to supporting parliaments and parliamentarians to play an active role in the delivery of all SDGs in their own jurisdictions, regionally and on an international level.

Parliamentarians have an important responsibility to hold governments to account on their global commitments as well as ensuring that necessary legislation and budget measures are put in place. I was pleased to be in New York earlier this month to launch the new CPA Parliamentary Academy course on the SDGs to coincide with the UN SDGs summit. 


With approximately 60 per cent of the Commonwealth’s 2.6 billion citizens across its 56 countries currently under the age of 30 years, in particular in the CPA Africa Region, 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.

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 almost 180 Parliaments within the CPA is a unique institution reflecting its own special historical evolution and the CPA represents legislatures at the national, state, provincial and territorial level.

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  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 Ghana this week for the 66th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, they will reaffirm and celebrate our Commonwealth shared values and our commitment to the Commonwealth Charter.

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.

The writer is the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

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