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Some 18 delegates from over 10-member countries of the Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) are in Jamaica for a three-day Regional Staff Development Workshop.

The workshop, organised for procedural clerks serving the region's parliaments, got underway Friday morning at the Four Seasons Hotel, St. Andrew, under the theme: ‘The Role of the Procedural Clerk in the 21st Century’.

Over the three-days, attendees will participate in an extensive slate of working sessions. Topics to be covered include: ‘Impartiality of Clerks and Relationship with Parliamentarians’; ‘Committee Administration and Procedure in Committees’; ‘The Legislative Process and the Role of the Legislative Counsel’; ‘The Budget Process and Supply/Appropriations’; and ‘Succession Planning: Shaping Clerks for Tomorrow’.

Scheduled presenters include:  former Clerk of the Canadian Senate and Parliament, Paul Belisle; Deputy Clerk of Jamaica’s Houses of Parliament, Valerie Curtis, and Chief Parliamentary Counsel, Albert Edwards.

Speaking at Friday’s brief opening ceremony, House Clerk and CPA Regional Secretary, Heather Cooke, noted that procedural clerks are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that legislators are well informed, in order to execute their duties.

“We have the undertaking to ensure that the necessary practices are in place to make the legislative process both effective and transparent. Just as soldiers arm themselves before going into battle, so we need to equip ourselves with the requisite skills for our duties. We need to continuously update our skills so that they remain relevant in this fast paced rapidly changing 21st century environment,” Mrs. Cooke stated.

In his remarks, Government Senator, Floyd Morris, who represented Senate President, Rev. the Hon. Stanley Redwood, noted that the CPA was established as a means of “strengthening parliamentary democracies within the Commonwealth Group of Countries”.

He noted that through a series of mechanisms, the organisation has been developing programmes and initiatives aimed at assisting in that process.  The workshop, he added, is one such effort “to ensure that procedural clerks are equipped with the latest techniques, the latest information, (and) the latest know-how, as to how to facilitate and improve the parliamentary deliberations”.

In pointing out that the workshop’s theme was fitting and appropriate, in light of the increasing role that procedural clerks have to play in the region’s parliaments, Senator Morris said the event will, among other things, expose the participants to best practices in parliamentary procedures within the region.

“I am certain that you will come out much better off, in terms of the sharing of the experiences across the region, and that you will go back to your various jurisdictions and implement what was transmitted during this regional development workshop,” Senator Morris said.

The CPA was founded as the Empire Parliamentary Association in 1911, with its first branches being: Australia, Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom (UK), with the latter administering the association.

In 1948, the name was changed to CPA, and allowed all branches a part in the administration of the organisation. The branches comprising 68 nations, are grouped into nine Commonwealth regions – Africa; Asia; Australia; British Islands and Mediterranean; Canada; Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic; India; Pacific, and South-East Asia. The Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic Region comprises 17 countries, primarily in the Caribbean.