The host country prepares the conference program in consultation with the Secretary to the Standing Committee.
The program includes:
CSPOC membership is restricted to the Speakers and Presiding Officers of national parliaments of all independent sovereign states of the Commonwealth. It consists of 22 bicameral parliaments and 30 unicameral parliaments for a total of 74 members from 52 nations (up to 180 people attend a typical conference, including the Clerks/Secretaries-General).
Delegates are Speakers and Presiding Officers of national parliaments as stated above. If a Speaker or Presiding Officer is unable to attend the CSPOC, a substitute may be sent, customarily a deputy.
The Clerks and Secretaries-General of national parliaments are invited to attend as observers. When the host is a federal state, the Speaker or Presiding Officer may extend an invitation to the Speakers and Presiding Officers from other jurisdictions within the country. Invitations may also be extended to presiding officers from other jurisdiction (e.g. the Channel Islands, Scottish, Wales or Northern Ireland Legislatures).
It has also been customary to invite as an observer to the Conference the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA).
Invited High Commissioners and guest speaker(s) are not observers at the conference. They are usually invited to attend only the Opening Ceremony and the reception or dinner that follows.
The official delegation therefore includes the following:
In an effort to limit the number of participants at the conference, it has been customary that delegates and observers attend without staff. If a delegate wishes to be accompanied by other person(s) /staff, the host country is under no obligation to provide hospitality. All the meetings and events are intended for delegates, observers and their spouses/partners.
Agenda items are determined by the Standing Committee every two years and are forwarded by the Secretary of the Standing Committee to all CSPOC members. The Secretary is also responsible for preparing the Chair's annotated agenda.
The host country usually invites a guest speaker to give a keynote address at the opening ceremony. It is customary that the guest speaker be a high ranking official (e.g. Head of State, Head of Government, Chief Justice or Minister). The guest speaker prepares his/her own speech and makes it available to the delegates, observers and guests after the opening ceremony.
The lead presenter introduces the business item to be discussed. The lead presenter is chosen by the Standing Committee in consultation with the Secretary of the Standing Committee. Each lead presenter prepares his/her own presentation.
If a break-out group format is chosen, the chair of each break-out group presents a report of the discussion in his/her group. The report is prepared with the assistance of a rapporteur (usually a parliamentary staff member). The chair is selected by the Standing Committee in consultation with the Secretary to the Standing Committee.
The host country will hold a reception/dinner after the opening ceremony, a lunch and dinner the next day and a lunch /reception after the closing plenary session. Formal invitations can be prepared for ceremonial and hospitality events but are not mandatory. One evening is kept free to allow High Commissioners the opportunity to receive their respective delegations.
The host country prepares a program for persons accompanying conference participants. It may also organize social events or sidetrips which are open to all participants (delegates, observers, spouses/partners). The host country may also assist participants in arranging visits to local points of interest and institutions.
The Secretary to the Standing Committee will forward to the host country a list or database of names, addresses, fax numbers and email addresses of all the CSPOC members. The host country is responsible for issuing invitations as well as sending out information packages and registration forms to be completed by delegates and observers. Participants are required to send their registration/travel forms directly to the host country.
Some delegates have very long names, honorifics and titles which cannot be accommodated in databases. Registration forms should specifically request that participants indicate clearly how they wish their names to appear on official lists, badges, etc.
The host country also sends out invitations to the observers and guest speaker(s) of its choice. Guidelines for issuing invitations for hospitality events should be clearly defined so that participants know in advance if they are invited to a function or not.
All expenditures associated with the organization of the conference are borne by the host country.
Accordingly, the host country is responsible for the following expenses:
Delegates, observers, accompanying spouses/partners and staff are responsible for the following expenses:
Prior to the conference, the host country provides participants with all relevant information regarding the airport where they will land and the hotel where they will be staying. The host country should also inform participants of entry requirements or provide a website address containing information on visas, passports, vaccines, customs, firearms, duty-free articles and airport taxes if applicable.
Each national parliament is responsible for their members' traveling arrangements to and from the city where the conference is being held, and for providing the host country with their travel itineraries.
Delegates generally arrive together in small groups. Arrangements can therefore be made at the airport for a lounge where light refreshments can be served while delegates are waiting for ground transportation. If possible, the host country should set up a welcome desk at the airport to assist delegates clear and handle luggage. Those High Commissioners wishing to greet delegations at the airport could also use the desk.
The host country provides ground transportation for all participants between the airport and the hotels, the conference site, the official receptions, visits and tours.
The host country should prepare a list of arrival times in order to determine how best to greet the participants and to let them know what type of ground transportation is available during the conference (shuttle buses, coaches, taxis, cars with drivers, car rentals, parking facilities etc.).
Departure forms should also be made available to the participants in order that the host secretariat be able to organize return transportation to the airport.
The host country ensures that an adequate number of reasonably priced rooms are available in hotel(s) near the conference site. While not essential, it is customary for the host country to set aside number of suites and deluxe rooms which are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. A description of the hotel accommodations should be included in the information package sent to all participants.
The host country should:
When entering into an agreement with the hotel(s), flexibility is required as to when the final list of names has to be provided; if possible, the agreement should include a proviso that changing names or canceling reservations does not entail additional costs for the host country.
If the conference is held at a hotel, the final date to confirm reservations should be set as close as possible to the conference date to allow for catering changes. (At the 2004 Conference, the reception, meals and activities were planned for 250 persons, including observers from the Canadian region, the High Commissioners and a few special guests.) The plenary meeting room could accommodate 180 persons.
Organizing a conference requires a large number of staff. The following can be used as a guide in setting up a conference secretariat:
The host country arranges for the following meeting rooms:
The conference may be held at the host Parliament or at the hotel where the delegates are staying. Staff should have access to the conference rooms two days prior to the start of the conference to allow for set up.
The opening ceremony and plenary sessions can be held in the Chamber of the host Parliament or in a hotel meeting room that can accommodate between 175 to 200 people, classroom style, with chairs at the back for guests and staff. No simultaneous interpretation is required as the working language of the conference is English. At the front of the room, there should be a raised platform with a head table for six people and a speaker's podium. A table could be set up at the entrance to the room to accommodate four staff members.
The number of rooms required for the working sessions is determined by the number of topics on the agenda and at the time of the sessions. The number of people per group depends on interest expressed for each topic, as indicated to the Secretary and confirmed during the conference. The preferred seating arrangement is a hollow square or a U-shape. Inside the meeting rooms, tables can be set up for documents.
The rooms should be equipped with a projection system and laptops with technical support standing by. The host country provides the furniture, equipment and supplies required in all offices and meeting rooms.
In 2004, the following equipment was used:
The reproduction unit should have one high-volume photocopier/printer.
A verbatim report of the conference is required. The host country is responsible for ensuring that all conference proceedings are recorded. These recordings should be transcribed and forwarded to the Secretary to the Standing Committee.
The host country provides the sign-posting to indicate the location of meeting rooms and offices. The host country provides stationery for use in meeting rooms (writing paper and pens).
The host country may wish to inform participants that it does not cover the cost of long distance and hotel telephone calls and ask them to verify with their own telephone service providers if they can use their cellular telephones or wireless PDAs abroad. The host country provides mobile telephones (limited number) and telephones for use by its staff members and fax machines for general communications.
Conference registration should take place in a central location where identification photos and information kits can be handed out. This ensures that each participant is greeted appropriately prior to the conference. It is best if the Secretariat is located apart, or at least visually separated, to avoid heavy traffic in the working areas. If the conference is held at the hotel, conference registration can be done immediately after participants have checked in at the hotel.
At the conference registration, the host country provides participants with their identification badge, a draft list of participants, the Conference Handbook which contains the program, a biography booklet, invitations to social functions as well as the conference material. Because of last minute cancellations and/or substitutions, a final list of participants should be handed out to all delegates no later than the day following registration.
Each delegation is asked to submit, well in advance, pictures of participants for the biography booklet. The pictures can also be used for the identification badges. The badges can be color-coded using the following categories to assist the host country staff in coordinating activities:
The Conference Handbook is prepared in close collaboration with the Secretary to the Standing Committee. A large number of handbooks should be available at the registration desk and for the conference staff. High Commissioners and special guests should also be provided with a copy. The Program for Accompanying Persons is prepared by the host country and can be included in the Conference Handbook or printed separately. In order to reduce waste, tourist brochures or any information the host country believes maybe helpful or interesting can be displayed on tables.
If the host country believes that members of the press would be interested in covering the conference, it should prepare a communication plan and provide an on-site media relations officer. It is customary to send a press release to members of the media a week prior to the event. Only the plenary session(s) is open to accredited members of the press.
Copies of all speaking notes should be available for participants and the media.
The host country provides participants with refreshments throughout the conference. Participants should be provided with water during plenary and working sessions. Refreshments such as coffee, tea and soft drinks should be available during the breaks. The breaks usually occur once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Participants should be advised of the smoking policy.
The office includes:
Pay phones should be available for local, long distance or international calls. Fax machines are optional.
If possible, an Internet Café should be provided to participants with access to e-mail and internet research at the conference site. At least eight to ten computers should be available to avoid long queues. The hotel may offer access to Internet as part of the contract agreement, which would reduce costs. For security reasons, the Conference Secretariat Office should be set up on a different server system.
The host country should provide the participants with emergency numbers for health and security matters. Participants should be advised prior to the conference that they are responsible for all medical expenses and that health insurance coverage should be obtained. High Commissions should be made aware that their assistance will be required if participants are unable to pay for their medical needs.
A nurse or doctor should be on call for the duration of the conference. Some security measures that the host country may wish to consider are:
The conference begins with the opening ceremony and is usually followed by a opening reception and dinner. The protocol office is responsible for selecting of a room large enough to accommodate approximately 250 people (theatre style) with a platform at the front for six people and flags. The host country may choose to tape this event and may invite the observers from other jurisdictions within the country, special guests and the High Commissioners to this function.
Presiding Officers officially begin the conference with a procession, wearing their ceremonial regalia. The order of speeches can be as follows: welcome remarks by the host; an address by the former host; an address by the guest speaker; and closing remarks by the host of the future conference.
Two sets of flags comprising those of the host country and the participants' countries are normally required. One set is placed outside the main building used for the conference and the other behind the podium in the plenary hall. Only national flags are displayed and are flown in alphabetical order (English).
The host country is responsible for preparing scenario notes for the opening ceremony. Copies of the speeches can be made available.
There is no official gift exchange policy, only guidelines which call for reciprocity in the case of a visitor who comes bearing gifts. It is customary that each delegate receive a gift from the host and that each observer receive a gift from the host Clerk or Secretary General. In choosing gifts, consideration should be given to the:
All gifts (and gift boxes) should be inspected for flaws or defects and should include a "compliments of" card. In packaging the gifts, their destination should be kept in mind. If gifts need to be shipped, they should be protected from possible damage.
As part of the official program, a group photo is taken following the opening ceremony and is given to all Speakers and Presiding Officers following the conference. It is up to the host country to determine if a photographer should be hired to cover the different activities of the conference. Photos taken during hospitality activities and official meetings can be put on display in the reception area and made available for purchase by participants, or transferred on to CDs and distributed to delegates.