Small states, big challenges

Wonderful Khonje

Drawn together by the same pressing needs and priorities, representatives from Commonwealth small states convened in London to discuss the current economic, social and environmental challenges and find practical solutions to enhance growth and overcome vulnerability.

The small states of the Commonwealth gath­ered at Marlborough House, London, to ex­amine key development concerns and share practical lessons and policy options for build­ing resilience at the Second Global Bien­nial Conference on Small States. Thirty-one countries were represented at the conference, which took place from 17-18 September.

The agenda for the biennial meeting was crafted through a consultation with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the World Bank at the Experts Meeting on Growth and Development in Small States, held in Malta last November. Five priority focal areas were chosen based on the current and most pressing needs and priorities of small states: green growth; tourism development and local economy linkages; enhancing growth through regional integration; migra­tion and development; and practical ways to build resilience.

At the meeting, delegates discussed the five priority areas and further highlighted the need for international support mechanisms for sustained growth. These discussions were centred on a series of policy research papers that had been jointly commissioned by the Secretariat and the World Bank.

Participants also analysed the prevailing practice of promoting regional integration only in regards to international trade. This, they concluded, disregards a number of ac­tual economic benefits. Given the limited institutional and human capacities, small internal markets, limited diversification op­portunities, failure to acquire economies of scale, reliance on strategic imports, and reduced financial resources, participants called for efforts to unlock new develop­ment opportunities through integration around functional cooperation, and to ad­dress the wider development challenges and social policy responses.

Participants welcomed the deepening partnership between the Commonwealth Secretariat and the World Bank Group, recalling its genesis during the Joint Task Force on Small States of March 2000. They saw many emerging opportunities for advancing the interests of small states, including a strengthening of the Common­wealth-Francophonie-G20 relationship, consultations to address the emerging glo­bal discourse on the post-2015 development framework, and the upcoming 2013 Com­monwealth Heads of Government Meeting and 2014 UN Conference on Small Island Developing States.

It was agreed that the Commonwealth Secretariat will convene the Third Global Conference on Small States in 2014 and develop a practical programme of work, in collaboration with small states, develop­ment partners and international institutions.

About the author:

Wonderful Khonje is Economic Officer at the Economic Affairs Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat


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