Former Commonwealth Secretary-General and New Zealand Parliamentarian, Sir Don McKinnon ONZ GCVO has delivered the first Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Lecture in the CPA Pacific Region speaking about the challenges democracies face globally and how to overcome them.
Delivering the CPA Lecture at the Parliament of New Zealand, Sir Don McKinnon spoke on the subject of ‘Dark clouds over democracy’ and said that democracy was facing big challenges across the Pacific Region as well as across the Commonwealth but that it still offered a system everyone could participate in. Sir Don McKinnon is a former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand. He also held the role of Secretary-General of the Commonwealth between 2000 and 2008.
The Commonwealth occupies a special place in the world and stands for the enduring Commonwealth political values which include democracy, human rights, the separation of powers, good governance and the rule of law, as stated in the Commonwealth Charter.
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Lecture was attended by over 100 guests including the Speaker of the Parliament of New Zealand, Rt Hon. David Carter MP and the Speaker of the Parliament of Samoa, Hon. Leaupepe Toleafoa Apulu Fa’afisi MP, together with Members of the New Zealand Parliament, parliamentary staff, members of the diplomatic corps and representatives of many international organisations. The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Mr Akbar Khan also attended the lecture and said: “I am delighted to attend the first CPA Pacific Region Commonwealth Parliamentary Lecture delivered by Sir Don McKinnon, which could not be more fitting given his outstanding contribution to parliamentary democracy in his region and across the Commonwealth. We live indeed in turbulent times and it is of immense value to hear his views on the current political climate, how it affects the Pacific Region and how Parliamentarians and Legislators can work together to strengthen democracy.”
The New Zealand Parliament Speaker, Rt Hon David Carter MP, said it was an important time to host such a lecture. He noted: “Cynicism and disinterest in politics can lead to a decline in voter turnout and destabilises the very legitimacy of our representative democracies. Parliamentarians need to remain vigilant and reach out to citizens who are not currently engaged. The silver lining is that we have many of the tools in our hands already, as long as we are committed to being progressive and as open and transparent as practicable.”
The CPA Lecture was hosted by two New Zealand Members of Parliament, Paul Foster-Bell MP, Regional Representative for the CPA Pacific Region and Munokoa Poto Williams MP, Vice-Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) and CWP Pacific Regional Representative. Mr Foster-Bell MP said he was delighted to host the lecture on behalf of the Pacific Region of the CPA: “The CPA brings together an international community of over 180 Commonwealth Parliaments and Legislatures, representing more than 17,000 Members of Parliament. It’s now in its 106th year and is continuing to work to deepen the commitment to the highest standards of democratic governance, promote human rights and international peace and order, including the right to participate in free and fair elections.”
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Lecture Series is a global programme of Commonwealth lectures that offers Members of Parliament and guests a unique opportunity to hear from distinguished former and current Parliamentarians and Policy-Makers who have made an outstanding contribution to their nation’s democracy and to the institution of Parliament and all that it represents. The inaugural Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Lecture was given by former UK Lord Speaker, Rt Hon. Baroness D’Souza CMG at an event held in London, UK.
Collectively, this series of lectures will contribute both to the CPA’s continuing dialogue within its membership and to reach out beyond to other stakeholders such as members of the international community, the diplomatic corps, civil society and the wider public with the lectures being available online through the CPA website and CPA YouTube channel.