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Observations on the 1993 CPA Conference in Cyprus
David Warner

Monday, September 6: The opening ceremony went smoothly. The President of the House of Representatives Alexis Galanos, in his address of welcome referred to the importance of the discussion of the role of the United Nations and to the contribution of the Commonwealth towards the implementation of U.N. Resolutions and decisions. This is obviously an important issue for Cyprus; with Turkey defying repeated U.N. General Assembly and Security Council Resolutions to withdraw its troops. The Commonwealth's consistent support of Cyprus was acknowledged.

Canadian Senator William Doody spoke about how delegates had seen the consequences of the Turkish invasion. He urged all CPA members to encourage their governments to support Cyprus' initiative. Canada was also represented at the opening by Jean-Pierre Saintonge, Speaker of the Quebec Assembly and President of International Association of French Speaking Parliamentarians (AIPLF) called for greater co-operation between CPA and AIPLF in tackling the challenges of assisting emerging democracies.

The afternoon was the business meeting of our organisation and featured, in addition to the customary annual report and financial statement, a lively discussion on the adoption of a new constitution. Constitutions always seem to spark differing views. This debate was resolved amicably and successfully.

Tuesday, September 7: The Opening Plenary featured speeches by the President of Cyprus, Glafcos Clerides, Lady Chalker, UK Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the Speaker of Lok Sabha, India all of whom spoke passionately for the need to find a peaceful resolution to the unhappy situation in Cyprus. There were several thought-provoking speeches by delegates representing every region of the Commonwealth on the general theme of the conference.

Later I attended the panel session on the role of Commonwealth Parliaments in Promoting Equitable Development between the Developed and Developing Countries. In general terms it was my observation that most developing countries accept and in many cases welcome the advent of aid being tied to financial accountability and human rights records. These countries, however, are not well served by receiving of outdated equipment. Sharing information, modern systems, technologies and human resources are as vital to a developing nation as financial aid. It was a stimulating session and one which helped to substantiate the proposal which I would advance at Thursday's panel session.

Wednesday, September 8: The address in the morning by the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Emeka Anyaoku, was a sparkling highlight of this Conference. This articulate Nigerian provided a stimulating focus on the challenges facing CPA as it attempts to assist both Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries who are trying to establish stable, democratic parliaments. I have no doubt that Mr. Anyaoku's combination of enthusiasm, determination and wisdom will mean success for the Commonwealth's efforts to assist. A lively question and answer period followed the speech. The difficulties confronting Fiji, Gibraltar, Hong Kong and Cyprus were discussed, with requests for renewed efforts by the Commonwealth and where appropriate, the UN to find acceptable solutions.

The afternoon's panel session was on the need for Commonwealth Parliaments to integrate the perspective of women into mainstream political issues. While the situation varies from one jurisdiction to another, in general terms women continue to be under-represented in Commonwealth Parliaments. The panel discussion offered suggestions and challenges as to how societies could strive to achieve gender balance in our parliaments as well as providing women's perspectives on the issues which come before parliaments.

Thursday, September 9: I felt quite privileged to have an opportunity to be one of the panel members for In a Time of Movement Towards Multi-Party Democracy. What Is the Contribution and Future of CPA?" This would be a brief opportunity to propose a number of initiatives for CPA to consider. I suggested that CPA organise and mobilise volunteer Members, former Members, professional staff and former professional staff in providing assistance in monitoring the electoral process and the practical assistance of establishing democratic parliamentary system of governance. Our help should not be limited to the Commonwealth. In particular, CPA should be able to respond quickly to requests from former Soviet bloc countries and Central America countries. In the Commonwealth we have a vast reservoir of talented human resources, as yet untapped. There are 10,000 elected Members and likely at least 20,000 former Members and countless staff and former staff. It is not hard to find the talent. The challenge is to organise effectively. If CPA demonstrates the will then the next step is to blend our human resources with the Commonwealth Secretariat's access to financial resources. In world where turmoil and terror, hunger and hatred are all too common, not to share our inheritance of a peaceful parliamentary system would be a crime. Working together, however, we can help to create a better world.

The session produced an excellent response to my suggestions. I am encouraged to proceed further and will do so with great vigour.

The late afternoon featured a visit to the divided city of Nicosia. The Mayor of Nicosia met us and escorted us to a UN sentry post where we could view, from a platform, the other side of the wall, into the Turkish occupied portion of the city. I did not realise that the city has been deserted for 18 years. A once beautiful capital city is nothing more than rubble and ruins.

We were greeted at the Presidential palace by the President of Cyprus, Mr. Clerides. The outdoor reception gave delegates an opportunity to discuss what they had seen at the "green line" as well as the Cyprus situation in general.

Friday, September 10: This is the concluding day of the Conference, with summary reports from the panels, election of officers, resolutions and closing ceremonies. The Commonwealth is a source of strength in the quest to create a more peaceful and civilised world. This Conference was valuable in furthering such a worthwhile cause. The challenges facing certain Commonwealth countries as well as developing democracies in eastern Europe and Central America are formidable. Yet the Commonwealth has both a responsibility and the resources to meet the challenges. This Conference was a boost to the needed efforts.

Canadian Parliamentary Review Cover
Vol 16 no 4

Last Updated: 2020-09-14