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Global issue 20

network The Long View its best”, despite both of them heading up organisations that are not affiliated to the commonwealth Commonwealth. Delegates also spoke about the way that organisations could potentially work together in future, possibly hiring a professional fundraiser who could work for more than one organisation or having regular meetings to share contacts and experience. One speaker also suggested that Commonwealth organisations needed to look at other ways to modernise by utilising online petitions, for example, in the vein of change. org and Avaaz, as well as other social media to get their messages across. “I wonder whether, in fact, if Commononwealth civil society organised on a world scale, online petitions directed to all the governments, as well as the Commonwealth Secretariat, Left to right: Rita Payne, Kamalesh Sharma, Patsy Robertson and Babli Sharma on Commonwealth Day 2014 might well be a more effective advocacy and lobbying tool than these desperate last funding, now that it has moved so far from minute little chats in corridors at CHOGM.” its original remit. Others called for the organisation Most people who spoke at the conference to become more accountable. wanted to stress the important contribution Towards the end of the day, one speaker that Commonwealth organisations could referred to the value of the Commonwealth make in terms of helping to deliver Commonwealth ‘brand’. “Any Commonwealth body that policies on the ground. One goes out of existence, or that de-Commonwealthises pointed out that civil society organisations itself, diminishes the Commonwealth. could be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the Secretariat Similarly, if the Commonwealth and proposed a model where the Secretariat is perceived as more valuable, people will uses Commonwealth organisations to wish to join and finance Commonwealth organisations. deliver its policies on improving democracy and development, as well as asking them to “I do not feel that the future of the Commonwealth reflect back to its officers what the impact can be left to governments or has been on the ground. to small intergovernmental bodies. Governments Some even went as far as to question have other things to worry about – it whether there was a need for the Foundation will be left for civil society to push for the to continue to receive Commonwealth vitality and utility of the Commonwealth, using 84 l www.global -br ief ing.org f i rst quar ter 2015 global its networks to identify areas where it can make a contribution to the lives of citizens.” Tributes were paid at the end of the conference to Sir Peter Marshall, former Deputy Secretary-General of the Secretariat, who had chaired one of the sessions. He had turned 90 in 2014, so conference delegates raised a glass to his health and enjoyed a slice of birthday cake. Katie Silvester and Jade Fell * The conference was held under Chatham House rules, which means that Global cannot attribute anything said by speakers or delegates at the conference. The speakers named in the article agreed that Global could name them ‘This doesn’t look to me like a declining Commonwealth’ The Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Office will be taking on two people to liaise between the Secretariat and Commonwealth organisations “promoting practical collaboration between accredited Commonwealth organisations and individual divisions of the Secretariat”, Kamalesh Sharma told delegates. The details are still a work-in-progress, the Secretary-General explained, but recruitment will begin soon. “At least two meetings per annum will be held by the Commonwealth Secretary-General with intergovernmental organisations,” he said, adding that there would be consultation with the relevant organisations about the arrangements in due course. Plans are also afoot to open channels for accredited organisations to be able to articulate their concerns at ministerial meetings via written submissions that would be circulated to member governments by the Secretariat. “These would not just be lying on a side table, it would be something that is integrated into the papers that are being handled.” The Commonwealth Connect website will be used to publish a quarterly report “of the ways in which the Secretariat has delivered on the mandate to strengthen consultations and liaison in an institutionalised way”. Sharma also wanted to set the record straight on the way that the Commonwealth is perceived in the member countries he visits, in response to speakers who had questioned whether it is still held in the esteem it once was. He spoke of an unexpectedly large crowd that had shown up to hear him speak in the Bahamas. “They were all a young crowd, and from their questions it was very clear that they had been reading our website and were very ambitious about the Commonwealth. “Young people are absolutely crucial and I am delighted that there are so many initiatives that are coming up. The Commonwealth Youth Council was recently reconstituted – it is the largest youth council in the world. The Commonwealth Students’ Association has been constituted and is also, I believe, the largest. We also have the most vibrant young entrepreneurs’ body in Asia, which is, hopefully, now being taken as an example for other regions of the Commonwealth. And the Youth Climate Change Network is coming up. “This doesn’t look to me like a declining Commonwealth. It is a Commonwealth which is on the rise. We have to seize the opportunity.”


Global issue 20
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