President Zuma to open the 59th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference

29 August 2013

The President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Jacob Zuma, will officially open the 59th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (CPC) at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on Monday, 2 September 2013.

The President, the 2013 Vice-Patron of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), will address more than 600 Parliamentarians and parliamentary officials.

Representatives of approximately 175 Commonwealth Parliaments and Legislatures will attend the conference which started today and will be held till 6 September 2013. The aim of the conference is to identify effective solutions to developmental challenges facing Commonwealth countries.

The discussions will include a debate on the new Charter of the Commonwealth, a statement of the organisation’s fundamental principles which was agreed by Heads of Government and signed earlier this year by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Commonwealth. The Queen is also the Patron of the CPA.

The four-day conference will be chaired by the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Hon Mninwa Mahlangu, who is also this year’s President of the CPA. Discussions will be held in the Sandton Convention Centre, as will two other parliamentary meetings which immediately precede it.

The first meeting, on 30 and 31 August, is the 33rd Small Branches Conference for close to 75 Parliamentarians from assemblies representing 500,000 people or fewer who will discuss the advancement of parliamentary democracy and development in many of the world’s smallest states.

The 3rd Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Conference will be held on 1 September to bring together approximately 100 women Parliamentarians who will consider issues around the theme “Engendering Democracy” to help raise the numbers of women elected to Commonwealth Parliaments and Legislatures and to assess policies to raise the economic and social status of all women.

The Chairperson of the CPA Executive Committee, Rt Hon Sir Alan Haselhurst, MP, of the United Kingdom House of Commons, said the transnational nature of development issues today means Commonwealth MPs are turning to each other to identify policies which respond effectively to these phenomena.

“Commonwealth Parliamentarians are particularly well placed to discuss issues with each other and work towards solutions through having shared experiences and a common language and institutions. Through these inter-parliamentary discussions the Commonwealth seeks consensus amongst its member states which we hope will then turn into a global consensus,” he said. As well as the Charter, Commonwealth MPs will discuss policy options for such other global issues as reaching the Millennium Development goals by the 2015 target date, accessing rural land, sharing resource revenues, caring for an ageing population and separating powers between the different branches of government.

The Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP), Hon Alix Boyd Knights, MHA, Speaker of Dominica’s House of Assembly, said the CWP Conference will give female Parliamentarians an opportunity to exchange experiences in methods used around the Commonwealth to advance the political representation and economic status of women. CPA Secretary-General Dr William F. Shija said the Small Branches Conference will discuss such issues as the relationship between education and employment and the capacity of small states for ethical tax-raising.

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is composed of the Parliaments and Legislatures in 52 of the 54 Commonwealth nations and their overseas territories. It has a membership of close to 17,000 Members of national, state, provincial and territorial Assemblies. The only Commonwealth country not currently in the CPA is Brunei, which does not have an elected Parliament. The CPA Branch in Fiji Islands is in abeyance as the South Pacific country does not currently have a democratically elected Parliament.