Frequently asked questions

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (CPC) 2011 will bring together over 600 Parliamentarians and parliamentary staff from 137 Commonwealth Parliaments and Legislatures to exchange views on global political issues and developments in the parliamentary system.

First held in 1948 in the UK, the CPC 2011 will be hosted in the UK from 21-28 July 2011 to mark the centennial year of the CPA, formally the Empire Parliamentary Association, which was founded in Westminster on 18 July 1911. 

As a solution-seeking rather than decision-making body, the conference is a forum for parliamentarians to exchange views and ideas in an open forum. 

The CPA General Assembly and Executive Committee will meet during the conference, as will the Society of Clerks-at-the-Table, the CPA Small Branches Conference, and the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Steering Committee.

The CPA International Secretariat is responsible for the organisation, content and conduct of the meetings, while the CPA UK provides the conference facilities, accommodation, hospitality and local transportation where necessary.

It is the 6th time that the UK has hosted the conference since 1948. This is the 57th CPC.

For more information please see What is CPC 2011? 

Centennial of Empire Parliamentary Association, predecessor to Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, was founded in the House of Commons in July 1911.

The founding values, principles and priorities of the CPA (below) are still valid today. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference provides an opportunity for countries to share best practice, learn from and support each other, particularly in tackling areas of weakness. The UK Parliament and CPA UK Branch are committed to promoting and strengthening Commonwealth values. It is appropriate to mark the Centennial of the CPA in the country where it all began – the UK.

Commonwealth values:

  • global consensus building;
  • sustainable development and the alleviation of poverty;
  • fundamental human rights; 
  • equality for women; 
  • support for democracy; 
  • growth of democratic institutions which reflect national circumstances;
  • the rule of law;
  • the independence of the judiciary;
  • just and honest government.

In the run-up to Olympics and Diamond Jubilee in 2012, it is particularly important given Her Majesty’s status as Head of the Commonwealth and Patron of the CPA. 

The conference is held each year but it is over 10 years since UK last hosted, and the UK will not be expected to host for another 10 years.

The theme of the conference will be ‘Reinforcing Democracy,’ which was decided by the CPA International Executive Committee from a list of options proposed by CPA member branches. The theme is relevant to all CPA member legislatures as each looks to strengthen the principles on which its parliament operates.

Other themes will be explored during the conference, notably ‘Women as Agents of Change,’ the Commonwealth theme for 2011, which will be explored both in a workshop at the main conference, at the Small Branches Conference, and at the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians’ Conference.

Workshops will consider further themes, including:

  • ‘The Commonwealth in the 21st Century’
  • ‘Parliament and reforms – raising the benchmark’
  • ‘Commonwealth initiatives in handling migration issues’
  • ‘Enhancing good governance and accountability: improving probity and performance’
  • ‘The world economy and obstacles facing the Commonwealth’
  • ‘Technological threats to national, international and personal security’
  • ‘The role of parliamentarians in advancing the transfer of agricultural technology and research’

The 31st Small Branches Conference will look at:

  • Commonwealth initiatives in handling migration issues
  • Countering threats to the stability of democracies: piracy, drug trafficking and terrorism
  • Women as agents of change in small societies
  • Strengthening democracy in small states: youth leadership training, citizen involvement and parliamentary reform.

There will also be meetings of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians, the Society of Clerks-at-the-Table, regional meetings and meetings of the International Executive Committee.

Delegates will also have the opportunity to arrange one-on-one bilateral meetings to discuss specific regional issues or other shared interests.

CPC 2011 brings together over 300 parliamentarians from across the nine regions of the CPA. These individuals are parliamentarians from upper and lower houses of their legislatures.

The legislatures may be national, provincial/state or overseas territories.

Parliamentary delegations represent government, opposition and minority parties and the CPA and CPC value these voices equally. It is the only organisation to do this.

The delegates attending represent a wide variety of interests not specifically the Commonwealth.

The UK delegation comprises of 10 delegates and 10 observers from all major parties and across both Houses.

The CPA is the parliamentary arm of the Commonwealth, and the professional association of parliamentarians in Commonwealth legislatures.

Its mission is based on Commonwealth values, and aims to advance parliamentary democracy by enhancing knowledge and understanding of democratic governance.

It seeks to build an informed parliamentary community that is able to deepen the Commonwealth's democratic commitment and furthers co-operation among parliaments and legislatures.

Each national and state/provincial legislature in the Commonwealth is invited to form an autonomous branch of the CPA. Thus, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK Branch (CPA UK) is the association of UK parliamentarians at Westminster. However, each of the devolved assemblies in the UK also has a CPA Branch that is comprised of their respective Members.

The Presiding Officers of legislative chambers are normally the Branch Presidents, while the leaders of the parliamentary parties are Vice-Presidents. The Clerk or Secretary-General of the legislature acts as the Secretary of the Branch. CPA UK has an externally appointed Branch Secretary due to its high number of annual activities.

As every Branch is autonomous, its activities are managed by an Executive Committee of parliamentarians elected annually by their colleagues, and are representative of all main parties.

The CPA UK undertakes international relations work on behalf of the wider CPA and the Houses of Parliament. Its mission is to promote the advancement of parliamentary democracy by enhancing knowledge and understanding of democratic governance.

For more information please see What we do.

The Commonwealth consists of one third of the world’s population, more than half of which is under 25, and accounts for US$3 trillion worth of trade, so nurturing our relationships within the Commonwealth is essential to maintaining the UK’s position in the global economy. For example, it gives us a unique relationship with India, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

The UK is home to large groups of Commonwealth diaspora, with, for example, over 4% of England’s population composed of people of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin.

The Coalition Government, the FCO and DFID are renewing their focus on the Commonwealth – ‘putting the “C” back in FCO,’ (December 2010) – so strengthening these relationships is very much in line with the UK’s wider approach to international relations.

The work of the CPA over the last 100 years has been key in supporting emerging democracies such as Rwanda, which demonstrated its commitment to the values of the Commonwealth and CPA as evidenced by its application to join both, with no prior relationship to the UK, in 2009. 

The CPA is unique in bringing together legislators from a vast range of nations, from all geographic regions and at all stages of development, from established and wealthy states such as the UK and Australia, to fast-growing powerhouse economies, such as India, to fledgling democracies such as Rwanda.

On issues such as the global economy, food security and climate change, it allows a range of viewpoints to be shared from more varied circumstances than organisations such as the G8/G20. It also values national, state/provincial and overseas territories’ legislatures equally and extends this equal voice to parliamentarians from government, opposition and minority parties, and is the only organisation of its kind to do so. 

The conference is timed to take place during summer Recess, so as not to interfere with other parliamentary business.