Three days of global Commons

Andrew Tuggey

The 57th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference looked to the future while celebrating a century of exchanges and engagement between parliamentarians from around the world. 

On 25 July 2011, in the British parliament’s magnificent Westminster Hall, Princess Anne welcomed a record 600 MPs representing 137 legislatures for the 57th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference. The conference, entitled ‘Reinforcing Democracy’, took place almost precisely 100 years after the Empire Parliamentary Association – which became the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) in 1948 – was born under the very same roof. 

Princess Anne stressed the importance of the CPA mission of 2011 to work towards strengthening both nascent and existing democracies: “‘Reinforcing democracy’ is a very good title, but there are no easy answers,” she said. “Maintaining strong democracies is hard work and it is up to us all to play our part in the process.” 

The conference ended on a high with UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague not only paying tribute to the past, but heralding a vigorous, active future for the Commonwealth as the organisation moves to re-position itself on the global stage. 

Cameron told delegates that he is often asked if he believes the Commonwealth to be “modern, mainstream or practical”. “My answer to all three arguments is ‘yes’,” he continued. “Yes it is modern and relevant because we no longer live in a world of super powers but in a world of networks and friendships – and that makes the Commonwealth as relevant as it has ever been.” 

He was followed by Hague who said the UK is poised to take strategic steps to embed the organisation in its thinking on foreign policy. “From our very first day in office I pledged to put the ‘C’ back into the FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office]. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that this government has rediscovered the Commonwealth and placed it once more back at the heart of how Britain views the world.” 

The prime minister and foreign secretary addressed the assembly after the lively election of a new chair for the CPA Executive Committee, Sir Alan Haselhurst MP. He pledged an era of greater unity, communication and good governance, saying that at its centenary, it was important to acknowledge that more must be done to raise the CPA’s international profile. 

He undertook to devote himself to increasing the participation of women and to providing swift responses to human rights issues. “It is frequently said we are a family. This is a family I want to strengthen and see expand,” said Sir Alan.

About the author:

Andrew Tuggey is Director of the Commonwealth and International Relations, CPA UK


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