From the Commonwealth Secretary-General

Kamalesh Sharma

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGMs) are always about ‘raising the bar’: lifting our sights, lifting our standards and lifting our ambitions. CHOGMs are also about making practical plans for the journey ahead. We share a vision, set our sights on where we want to be and then find a way of travelling there together. Democracy and development have been the twin pillars of the Commonwealth. Both are about how we change the lives of our citizens for the better. That means taking steps to reduce vulnerabilities and boost resilience. 

So the theme chosen for CHOGM 2011 speaks of this ‘resilience’. And running through the meeting there will also be another leitmotif: ‘reform’. Indeed, those two words, ‘reform’ and ‘resilience’, have already become song-lines in the Commonwealth. They have guided our thinking during the process of consultation as options were prepared in readiness for consideration by heads of government at Perth. The goal is to improve our mechanisms for response and intervention so that we can move on in the Commonwealth towards a more prosperous, stable, just and equitable life for all our people. 

A headline mandate agreed at the last CHOGM asked the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to examine new ways in which its work could help lift adherence by member governments to the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values. These were set out with strengthened definition in the 2009 Affirmation of Commonwealth Values and Principles. Travelling the road together, we need to find practical ways of moving from aspiration to action. 

CHOGM 2009 also asked me to convene an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) to propose options to strengthen the networks, sharpen the impact and raise the profile of the Commonwealth. The EPG consulted extensively with Commonwealth bodies and the wider public, and the Group’s final report presents an eye-catching array of recommendations for reform. These too show how we can move from values and vision to practical action. 

The theme for Perth, ‘Building National Resilience, Building Global Resilience’, acknowledges the interconnectedness of our lives and fortunes. Resilience is acquired at multiple levels; there is interplay between the communal, institutional and individual dimensions just as there is between the national and global. In bringing together the leaders of a third of the world’s population, to discuss pressing concerns in an atmosphere of collegiality and trust, the Commonwealth lays the foundation and provides the building blocks for a global architecture that will be better prepared to withstand the upheavals and colossal challenges before us. 

This year has exposed the fragility even of economies and institutions that once appeared robust. It has made all of us only too aware of the vulnerabilities and weaknesses that exist in large and developed countries, as well as those of small island developing states. By continuing to evolve, and refining responses to suit changing needs, the Commonwealth, in its many manifestations, shows a vitality and resilience that equip it well to deliver benefit to the people of all our member countries, and beyond, as heads of government meet again to map not only our ambitions, but our actions for the future, and our contribution to the global good.

About the author:

Kamalesh Sharma is the Commonwealth Secretary-General


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