THE CPA Secretary General, Stephen Twigg today reminded legislators participating in the CPA post-election seminar in Nuku’alofa on the importance of MPs engagement with their constituents.
His comments came when the three-day seminar concludes today.
Mr. Twigg said some people do not like social media as their means of accessing information on Parliament, but it is incredibly important for MPs to be accessible to the people.
He said MPs can use traditional means like meeting and addressing constituents in town hall. “Being accessible is important, how you communicate with your constituents is incredibly important.”
Mr. Twigg visits Tonga for the first time. While in the Kingdom, the former UK MP was keen to engage with the youth and children. Yesterday, he visited two schools including Tonga High School and Ocean of Light. He was very impressed with the student’s questions on CPA among other issues and said this is a true testament of good education in Tonga.
Hence, he encouraged MPs engagement with children and young people, not only they are the citizens of today, but they are the citizens of tomorrow. He said Parliament is an excellent institution to reach out to them and there is more they can do to engage with them.
Principal Clerk of Committee in the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives of New Zealand Parliament Committee Gabor Hellyer also acknowledges the importance of youth engagement as part of its outreach program. Aotearoa Parliament education program focuses on young people because they are the future leaders.
Education resources on the relevance of Parliament to the people and making Parliament accessible to young people are among key information of the New Zealand Parliament outreach program.
He said in New Zealand young people have a low level of understanding of the legislative process. Hence, their education program focuses on school visits, online platforms’ visits, Speaker’s outreach program and Youth Parliament held every three years.
Hellyer said there is also outreach program where they identify young people with totally no knowledge about Parliament. “They bring them in and work with Parliament, letting them create messages that could be accessible for young people to see.”
He said “it is something that can start small, but it is something to build more understanding in the community. “
Hon. Jan Logie a Green Party MP of the New Zealand Parliament also shared that the Speaker’s outreach program focuses on making Parliament more accessible to young people. She said parliamentarians from different parties travel and take Parliament to remote areas. They visit schools and conduct school mock debate. It is an opportunity for the MPs to engage with young people and seeking their views and perspectives on Parliament.
“It is encouraging for the MPs to hear amazing questions raised by the young people. We let them know they can engage with MPs and how to contact them ... It is an opportunity to strengthen community engagement and to understand the need for their voices to be heard.”
In terms of young people’s lack of understanding of the legislative process, ‘Eua 11 MP, Dr. Taniela Fusimālohi strongly believes for the youth to fully understand how Parliament works or the political system, content information should be incorporated into the education system. “Education is the key and doing it in the curriculum, it’s a core thing.”
Hellyer also pointed out that building relationship with other organization is also key to help disseminate information on Parliament. The New Zealand Parliament helps with the content information on Parliament and they are hoping for cirruculum modules in the education system to help generate better public understanding of Legislature.
On inclusion and participation session, it was highlighted “Parliament that are reflective of the population which they serve will be seen as legitimate by the public and better placed to represent the interests of the people. It is also essential to achieving and maintaining a diversity of perspective within Parliament.
New Zealand MP Hon. Jan Logie stressed the significance of engaging with a wider community including the civil society and the most vulnerable groups to provide support for them and to help identify issues that MPs are responsible for and can make a difference in their lives.
Hon. Logie said it would be helpful to improve the quality of legislation and policies if legislators engage with wider audience including the vulnerable communities. “…the marginalized groups like the disabled feel they do not have a valid place in the society, if their voices are not heard.”
Participants were also taught on how to engage with wider stakeholders including the civil society to get their input into the way Parliament works while utilizing the public, organization and specifically the media to encourage information dissemination.
The three-day event is part of a capacity building and professional development of MPs for new MPs and returning MPs from the Pacific including Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Tuvalu and Tonga - a joint CPA initiative with the Office of the Legislative Assembly of Tonga.