On 18-20 June, representatives of Commonwealth parliaments met at Wilton Park to review and update the 2006 Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Benchmarks on Democratic Legislatures.
The meeting, organised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) and Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) under the Commonwealth Partnership for Democracy (CP4D), brought together representatives from the Maltese, Canadian, Indian, Pakistani, New Zealand and Australian Capital Territory parliaments, as well as from UNDP and NDI.
The CPA Benchmarks have provided a minimum standard to be met by all Commonwealth Parliaments and a description of how a Parliament should act, behave and function. They reflect the deep democratic traditions across the Commonwealth and help Parliaments to strengthen their procedures in response to changing practices and political developments in their own countries.
At Wilton Park, the delegates reiterated the Commonwealth’s strong commitment to deepening the democratic systems in each member state as reflected in the Commonwealth Charter. This commitment applied to all the Commonwealth’s parliaments, which included some of the smallest and some of the biggest in the world. The work to update the Benchmarks needed to reflect this diversity and to incorporate a range of commitments that the international community had made in the past 12 years, particularly in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Delegates agreed that responsibility for addressing improvements in procedures remained with each parliament but the Benchmarks should be a helpful tool for them, and for civil society and other organisations in supporting them with this work.
The updated CPA Benchmarks include measurements for Parliaments to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the recommendations contained in the Commonwealth Charter.
SDG 16 centres on the peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development and the role of effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Effective parliaments are one of the principal institutions of any functioning democracy and they are central to the attainment of SDG 16, the development agenda and all the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals.
In 2018 and 2019, the Commonwealth Partnership for Democracy will promote use of the benchmarks in 18 Commonwealth focus countries. Reform-minded parliaments will be able to carry out self-assessments to identify areas for action. The benchmarks will also benefit political parties and civil society organisations who wish to campaign for reform at national level.
Welcoming the adoption of the new benchmarks, the Chief Executive of Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), Anthony Smith CMG, said:
“Feedback from legislators is clear: the updated CPA Benchmarks constitute an invaluable international reference which can help develop more effective and inclusive democracies.
“Under the Commonwealth Partnership for Democracy, WFD and its partners are ready to support Commonwealth parliaments who wish to carry out reviews based on CPA Benchmarks and SDG16 indicators.”
About the Commonwealth Partnership for Democracy (CP4D)
The Commonwealth Partnership for Democracy (CP4D) aims to build trust in democratic institutions and support the political engagement of minorities and vulnerable groups in 18 developing countries across the Commonwealth.
The £4m two-year programme was launched by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson at the 2018 London meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government. It is managed by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and implemented by Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) in partnership with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (secretariat and UK branch) and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum.