Key events and meetings

Iana Seales

Small island developing states leave their mark on Rio+20

Three regional organisations have signed landmark agreements to cooperate on practical steps to deal with the effects of climate change and to promote sustainable development. The signing took place following a Commonwealth panel discussion titled ‘Across the Regions: Small Island Developing States Solutions for Sustainable Development’ at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).

The two memoranda of understanding were signed by the Indian Ocean Commission, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme on 20 June in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Launching an online workspace for Commonwealth organisations

On 25 June in Toronto, Canada, at the start of a two-day meeting of national electoral commissioners from around the Commonwealth, Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma launched Commonwealth Connects, an online collaborative workspace for member states. “The Commonwealth Connects workspace will allow electoral commissions in all our member countries to be in constant contact, to be informed, and to develop gold standards of best practice together,” said Sharma.

Commonwealth Connects provides an online platform to support and showcase the Commonwealth’s organisations and associations. The secure workspace is accessible to invited members through the Commonwealth Connects online platform.

Countries give their support to sport-based development programmes

Two days before the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 27 July, sports ministers and senior officials from 43 Commonwealth nations strongly endorsed a set of guidelines that will assist governments in strengthening Sport for Development and Peace approaches and incorporating sport-based activities into development programmes.

The framework, developed by the Commonwealth Secretariat, provides guidance on integrating sport into development areas such as health, education and peacebuilding. Among other things, the guidelines promote the inclusion of women and girls, marginalised communities and people with disabilities.

Secretary-General visits Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland

Kamalesh Sharma travelled to southern Africa for official visits to Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland between 29 July and 4 August.

In Botswana, Sharma called on President Seretse Khama Ian Khama and various senior officials to brief his hosts on current Commonwealth priorities, especially its reform and renewal agenda. He then travelled to Windhoek, Namibia, where he met with President Hifikepunye Pohamba and other key ministers, as well as opposition leader Hidipo Hamutenya, Electoral Commission Chair Notemba Tjipueja and resident Commonwealth high commissioners.

Sharma concluded his tour in Swaziland where he met with Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini and several ministers, Commonwealth experts and civil society representatives, human rights organisations and the media. They discussed areas in which the Commonwealth and Swaziland can work together to strengthen efforts to promote democracy, development and respect for diversity.

Nobel Prize winner calls for establishment of ‘right to trade’

The Nobel prize-winning economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz has called for an enshrining of a ‘right to trade’ in the global economic regime, as part of a new initiative to improve the performance of trade in the world’s poorest and most vulnerable economies.

The Columbia University don said this mechanism would enable developing countries and communities to bring legal action to the World Trade Organization against advanced countries whose policies materially impact their development by restricting their ability to trade. In a draft report for the Commonwealth Secretariat, he also proposed the establishment of a Global Trade Facility Fund to assist developing countries with their supply side capacity.

Stiglitz was speaking at a Commonwealth roundtable discussion on Aid for Trade on 29 August at Marlborough House in London, headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Pacific countries settle long-disputed boundaries

A series of historic treaties to settle maritime boundaries in the Pacific were signed at the 43rd Pacific Islands Forum in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, on 29 August. The seven treaties, drafted with assistance from the Special Advisory Services Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat, settle exclusive economic zones and continental shelf boundaries between Kiribati, Nauru, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau and the Marshall Islands. A number of these boundaries have remained unsettled for over 30 years due to the isolated nature of these countries, and their limited institutional expertise on legal and technical matters.

Mauritius hosts conference of education ministers

The 18th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (18CCEM) was held in Mauritius in August, focusing on the future of education in the Commonwealth and the post-2015 development goal framework. In addition to the ministers’ meeting, there were parallel forums for youth, teachers, education stakeholders and post-secondary and higher education leaders.

The first pan-Commonwealth Student Association was launched at the end of the four-day Youth Forum, as student leaders met alongside the education ministers of their countries. The association will enable student leaders from all regions of the Commonwealth to inform thinking and have a voice in key education decisions.

In addition, 18CCEM hosted the 2012 Commonwealth Education Good Practice Awards, which was presented to a community-based project from Rwanda that ensures equitable access to nine years of quality basic education and skills. The project, Nine Year Basic Education Fast Track Strategies, was initiated in 2009 as a response to a heightened demand for secondary education in Rwanda, following the successful implementation of universal primary education six years earlier. The winning project was one of 123 applications from 27 countries submitted for the third round of the awards.

About the author:

Iana Seales is a Commonwealth News Writer at the Commonwealth Secretariat


Post a comment

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Amnesty International