From the Commonwealth Secretary-General

Kamalesh Sharma

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings are booster stations on the journey of the Commonwealth. Our Heads give us fresh clarity, direction and resolve, and help consolidate our strengths. We deepen our own collective work and also lend distinctive Commonwealth wisdom and insight in meeting the world’s challenges. The Colombo CHOGM will also be noted for the significant contribution it has made to crucial and current Commonwealth and global concerns. 

Strong democracy, rule of law, promotion and protection of human rights and respect for diversity; inclusive and sustainable development; and a well-connected and networked Commonwealth – this succinct summary of collective Commonwealth priorities is, in fact, the trio of overarching goals set for the work of the Commonwealth Secretariat in our new Strategic Plan. Agreed after extensive consultation, it is the measure for our work over the next four years on behalf of our governments and peoples. The six strategic outcomes of the plan could well serve as banner headlines to describe the range and depth of Commonwealth collaboration:

– Democracy – greater adherence to Commonwealth political values and principles

– Public institutions – more effective, efficient and equitable public governance

– Social development – enhanced positive impact of social development

– Youth – young people more integrated and valued in political and development processes

– Development: pan-Commonwealth – more effective frameworks for inclusive economic growth and sustainable development

– Development: small states and vulnerable states – strengthened resilience of small states and vulnerable states 

These same priorities and emphases are picked up in the theme chosen for this CHOGM: ‘Growth with equity: inclusive development’, reinforcing the importance to our global family of fairness, inclusivity, growth and development. Taking place alongside the meeting of our leaders are pan-Commonwealth forums for business, youth and civil society. With remarkable representativeness drawn from many backgrounds and walks of life, these gatherings not only bring a richness of insight and experience from the diverse perspectives and broad scope of the extended Commonwealth family, but propel us forward in achievement as an organisation of the people. 

Being connected and networked encourages inclusion, greater knowledge and awareness, and partnerships. These are vital prerequisites for the advancement of our societies across all fronts, whether governance, economy, public services or unleashing the potential of youth. The Commonwealth Plan for Broadband Inclusion, currently being developed by the Commonwealth Secretariat in association with the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation and the International Telecommunications Union, aims to ensure reliable and affordable access to the digital world. 

Similarly, access to finance is a pressing Commonwealth concern given its implications for removing vulnerability and building resilience. Dismantling barriers that thwart borrowing by women and youth can transform communities with a far-reaching and long-lasting impact. The recommendations on climate finance will make it simpler for our small and vulnerable member states to secure and utilise existing sources of climate change finance. Creative approaches will be considered by our leaders to meet the severe financing and debt challenges of low- and middle-income countries. We hope to galvanise the potential of technical support we can give to each other, which is at present lying dormant. We hope to advance the potential of easier trade finance to encourage the exports of small states. 

These issues, and more, will again drive the Commonwealth into practical action when our leaders assemble in Sri Lanka for CHOGM 2013. They will be inspired by the same concern that no person or country is left behind, which has motivated the Commonwealth to take united action for seven decades.

About the author:

Kamalesh Sharma is Secretary-General of the  Commonwealth


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