Departure Statement by Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma after visiting Namibia, 31 July - 2 August 2012
2 August 2012
I have had a very productive visit to Namibia, and depart with a strong appreciation of this country’s priorities and a clear sense of direction for a stronger and enlarged programme of cooperation between Namibia and the Commonwealth in future.
This has been my first visit as Secretary-General, and my objective was to take some direction on the Commonwealth’s reform and renewal and to determine first-hand how the Commonwealth can strengthen and deepen its cooperation and partnership with Namibia. I would like to thank the government and people of Namibia for the warm and generous welcome extended to me and my delegation.
Namibia is an active and valued member of the Commonwealth family and has made important contributions to the association since joining in 1990, after independence. Equally, the Commonwealth remains committed to Namibia on its paths of democracy, development and respect for diversity — the main pillars of the Commonwealth.
I would like to thank the President, His Excellency Hifikepunye Pohamba, for receiving me, and for his wisdom and advice on how we can continue to strengthen the work of the Commonwealth so that it can add value both in Namibia and globally.
I met the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon Utoni Nujoma; the Chief Justice, Hon Peter Shivute and the Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon Dr Theo-Ben Gurirab. I also met the Leader of the Opposition Mr Hidipo Hamutenya and the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Namibia, Ms Notemba Tjipueja.
As usual in a visit of this kind, I also met the community of resident Commonwealth High Commissioners and their representatives.
I apprised His Excellency the President on the current situation in respect of the reform programme of the Commonwealth. His Excellency President Pohamba attended the landmark Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Australia last year which saw the endorsement of the reform process.
The essence of these reforms is to sharpen the impact, strengthen the networks, and raise the profile of the Commonwealth; and to achieve greater practical commitment to our shared 2009 Affirmation of Commonwealth Values and Principles, which builds on the Harare Principles and other earlier Commonwealth declarations. The Affirmation includes a strong commitment to our shared values as well as to our principles embracing inclusiveness and transparency.
We are on track with the Commonwealth’s reform agenda, as has been encouraged by Namibia. The networks and collaboration between the wide range of Commonwealth organisations and governments are being strengthened; and a web-based platform has been created - Commonwealth Connects - to enable Commonwealth networks to develop and work together in future interactively and through sharing knowledge and best practices.
One example is the stronger mandate given to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to become more active and positively engaged where there are challenges to our shared Commonwealth political values including democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Namibia served with distinction on CMAG over four years, at the time when we developed its new and enhanced mandate, which demonstrates its commitment as a member state to our values and principles.
Namibia is a substantial partner under the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation. The collaboration includes ongoing assistance through national projects for public debt management using the Commonwealth debt management software; support to the aquaculture sector for improved fresh water fishing; enterprise development; and support for customer service training in the tourism sector.
The Election Commission of Namibia is already an active member of the Commonwealth Electoral Network, a platform that brings our members together to discuss and promote best practice, share knowledge and experience, and create partnerships. Our objective is to advance the highest electoral standards through peer exchanges and support.
The Commonwealth is also supporting the Office of the Ombudsman, which is responsible for promotion of the observation of human rights in Namibia. Members from the office have participated in several Commonwealth workshops and training programmes.
Our Commonwealth trade advisers and trade policy analysts stationed at the SADC Secretariat work with Namibia. Namibia is able to avail itself of their services to develop sound trade policies. A Commonwealth expert is currently working with the Magistrates Commission to develop a technically competent and efficient group of magistrates.
Namibia is also being assisted by a Commonwealth expert in dealing with local government reforms. Commonwealth technical assistance to reform Namibia’s Electricity board is helping to make it a more effective regulator.
Namibia also benefits from Commonwealth programmes delivered at regional and pan-Commonwealth levels. These include governance, development and youth networks offered through the Commonwealth Youth Programme in Lusaka, Zambia.
Other programmes at regional and pan-Commonwealth level from which Namibia benefits, include training in legislative drafting and combating money laundering.
Nationals of Namibia continue to benefit from training to enhance public sector development and reforms in priority areas. A major programme of assistance is being provided in human resources planning for the public service. In the last five years, 125 nationals of Namibia have been trained.
In this period of global financial pressure and uncertainty, the Commonwealth recognises the unique challenges faced by many of its member states, particularly those with small populations, in pursuing their social and economic goals. Women and the youth in an ever - younger Commonwealth are a particular concern.
The Commonwealth has always exercised a special responsibility to protect and promote the interests of small states. A conference on small states is being convened on 17-18 September 2012 in London to address the challenges of economic resilience and growth of small states. We look forward to Namibia’s participation.
We have also agreed to explore ways of strengthening the Electoral Commission of Namibia in a number of areas, including on implementation of forthcoming reform of the Electoral Act; training of judicial officers in the application of the electoral law; training of parliamentarians, political parties, media practitioners and members of civil society on the electoral cycle and elections; strengthening the capacity of the Electoral Commission to monitor media performance during elections; and exploring ways of developing a more efficient and effective election dispute resolution mechanism.
We have agreed to strengthen our assistance to Namibia in close coordination with other development partners, in a number of areas. We intend to explore new projects to strengthen the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Human Rights Commission. We have agreed to explore new work by the Commonwealth family of organisations to strengthen Parliament and the Judiciary once requests are developed by the relevant Namibian authorities.
Finally, I left the Commonwealth’s headquarters in London as the 2012 Olympic Games got underway. I wish Namibia’s athletes the very best for success.
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