Commonwealth Local Government Forum

Considering representative democracy

27 February 2024

 

Democracy was the focus of an event hosted by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) on 20 February, looking at the status of representative democracy worldwide. Commonwealth representatives, scholars and students gathered at the historic Goodenough College campus in Bloomsbury.

 

Participants were welcomed to the event by Alice Walpole, Goodenough College’s Director and a former UN Assistant Secretary-General. CPA Secretary-General and former British politician Stephen Twigg then chaired two panel discussions.

Democratic backsliding

The first panel examined the danger of democratic backsliding. Speakers from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and the Constitution Unit at University College London (UCL) offered analyses of key trends in electoral and democratic participation around the world, while postgraduate students from Kenya and Canada discussed their experiences of activism in their home countries.

Artificial intelligence and democratic governance

The second panel explored the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and democratic governance. Anne Gallagher, Director-General of the Commonwealth Foundation, Dr Kiran Hassan, Coordinator at the Institute for Commonwealth Studies and Lennard Metson, a researcher from the Department of Government at the London School of Economics, shared insights on AI’s impact on elections, privacy and decision-making. The deliberations underscored the imperative for ethical AI frameworks that uphold democratic values.

Grass roots actions

The event provided an excellent opportunity to highlight the work of CLGF and remind participants that democracy was not simply confined to the national level - local government, grass roots actions and a ‘bottom-up’ approach were equally important to the evolution and effectiveness of democracy. The discussion looked at the inclusion of minorities and the role of the Commonwealth Women in Local Government network was described, detailing how the overarching network had led to the establishment of several national and regional networks. Many of these have developed on-line materials to support women in public service. With many of the barriers and challenges applying to both the national and local level, and to marginalised groups, these resources could be of help more widely.  

 

The event concluded with a short talk by the CPA Secretary-General Stephen Twigg, who reflected on his career in the UK Parliament and shared his thoughts on the future of democratic governance in the Commonwealth.

 

Find out more about the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

 

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