Amitav Banerji, Director of the Commonwealth Secretariat Political Division, delivered a speech on behalf of the Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, at the 60th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
Focussing on democracy and development, as well as repositioning the Commonwealth for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Mr Banerji highlighted the fundamental political values set out in the Commonwealth Charter. For example parliamentary democracy as a distinctive feature of the Commonwealth; he also acknowledged the parliamentary links forged and continually strengthened by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
He went on to speak about the role of election management bodies in ensuring the quality of a country’s elections. Underscoring the role of the Commonwealth Electoral Network, he explained: ‘Election management bodies can make a crucial difference. Our aim is to ensure that election management bodies are upholders of the highest electoral standards.’
The Secretariat has assisted member countries to strengthen their democratic institutions and processes, for example through the provision of technical assistance and by organising the observation of elections. Since 1991, the Secretariat has sent over 120 observer groups to elections in member countries.
Mr Banerji explained the position of the Commonwealth by saying that while democracy and development are goals in their own right, they are also interconnected and mutually reinforcing. Referring to the conference theme of Repositioning the Commonwealth for the Post-2015 Development Agenda, he referenced the statement adopted by Commonwealth leaders on this topic on the 25 September, in New York.
The conference was inaugurated in the morning by the President of the Republic of Cameroon, His Excellency Paul Biya. This is the first time Cameroon has hosted the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference.
During the course of the conference several workshops will be held, exploring the role of parliamentarians in such themes as ‘Unity and Diversity’, ‘Joining Hands for Women’s Rights’, ‘Transparency and Accountability’, ‘Placing Young People at the Centre of Sustainable Development’, ‘Financial Oversight’ and ‘Public Trust’.
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has been the voice of parliamentary democracy across the Commonwealth for more than nine decades. Since the turn of the millennium it has also been speaking out for the right of parliaments and parliamentarians to play a more active role in the development of their countries.