The Parliamentarian 2021: Issue One - Empowering small Parliaments to tackle big challenges

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VIEW FROM THE CPA SECRETARY-GENERAL

THE COMMONWEALTH CAN LEARN VITAL LESSONS FROM THE UNIQUE CHALLENGES FACED BY THE CPA SMALL BRANCHES AS THE NETWORK MARKS ITS 40TH ANNIVERSARY Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Stephen Twigg

2021 marks the fortieth anniversary of the CPA Small Branches network. As we reflect on the progress and achievements of the CPA Small Branches over the past four decades, let us consider the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. I am grateful to everyone who took the time to participate in the consultation on the CPA’s next Strategic Plan. We heard from Members of the CPA and from external organisations. An evident strength of the CPA is our diversity – we represent Branches both large and small in all parts of the Commonwealth and, importantly, we include sub-national legislatures as well as national ones. The CPA Small Branches network embodies our shared commitment to diversity both in providing a voice for smaller jurisdictions within the CPA and in engaging the full range of voices within the network itself. This is reflected in the network’s own Strategic Plan which is a powerful and ambitious document from which the wider CPA can learn as we take forward our planning for the future. Last summer, the CPA Small Branches network held two online webinars jointly with UNESCO to explore the role of legislators and decision-makers in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) on Agenda 2030 and sustainable development with a particular focus on biodiversity. One webinar was for the Pacific Region and the other for the Caribbean and Indian Ocean. These webinars were organised with UNESCO’s Small Islands and Indigenous Knowledge Section. They provide an excellent example of how the CPA works with other international organisations to promote our shared values and commitments. There is huge scope for us to do more in partnership with global bodies both within the Commonwealth family and more widely, including other parts of the United Nations. Many SIDS find themselves in the frontline of the battle against climate change. They are often the most powerful advocates of urgent action to protect the environment and to promote sustainable development. The CPA Small Branches network brings many of the SIDS together with other small jurisdictions to share knowledge and promote best practice. With COP26 being held in Glasgow later this year, there is an opportunity to give a renewed sense of urgency to tackling the climate crisis. 10 | The Parliamentarian | 2021: Issue One | 100 years of publishing

In 2019, the Commonwealth recognised good practice with their first ever Awards for Excellence in SDG Implementation in Small States. Malta received the Award in recognition of its wholeof-government approach to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In January 2020, Malta hosted the CPA Small Branches Workshop on Sustainable Economic Development. Also awarded were Namibia for its alignment of policy at the local level and The Bahamas for creating institutional mechanisms that focus on education, energy reform and improving infrastructure. Parliamentarians have an important role to play in securing the implementation of the Global Goals. Of course, this responsibility is universally held but I think that many of the CPA’s Small Branches have shown leadership here from which we all have an opportunity to learn. In particular, let me thank Hon. Niki Rattle and Hon. Angelo Farrugia, both have held the position of CPA Small Branches Chairperson and both are the Speakers of their respective Parliaments in the Cook Islands and in Malta. Both are powerful advocates for the CPA Small Branches network both within the CPA and externally. The past year has been dominated by the impact of the COVID19 pandemic. First and foremost, there is the health impact with the tragic loss of so many lives. It is vitally important that vaccination programmes are available throughout the world. As Anne Gallagher, Director-General of the Commonwealth Foundation has rightly said, the Commonwealth should act as a champion for Small States to ensure that they are not left behind as the vaccines roll out. It is both a question of justice and mutual interest that we address this with seriousness and urgency. The economic and fiscal effects of the pandemic are being felt globally – in high, medium and low-income countries and by both large and small jurisdictions. Vulnerable communities face the greatest challenges. Many SIDS are highly reliant on income from tourism, so they have been especially hard hit. The CPA will work with other organisations to support Parliamentarians to play a full and productive part in delivering sustainable and equitable development in the difficult months and years ahead. 2021 is also the 110th anniversary of the CPA itself. To mark this milestone, we are planning a range of webinars over the coming


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