Departure Statement by Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma after visiting Kingdom of Swaziland, 2-4 August 2012
4 August 2012
The Commonwealth, as an association of peoples and governments, is enriched by Swaziland’s membership. Swaziland has its own unique history, tradition and heritage which form part of the rich diversity of the Commonwealth. For its part, Swaziland gains from access to the networks of 54 member governments as well as professional associations and civil society through the sharing of resources, experiences and opportunities.
This was my first official visit to Swaziland — a visit that comes more than a year later than planned, owing to the Iceland volcanic ash clouds that prevented the planned visit in April 2011.
I was honoured to be invited and to be received so warmly during my visit, from 2 to 4 August. I depart with appreciation and also a substantial and first-hand understanding of Swaziland’s national challenges and priorities.
All of my meetings were candid and informative, and afforded the opportunity to gain an up-to-date perspective on how the Commonwealth’s work is viewed and how we may be of greater support and relevance to all in Swaziland. My discussions covered many areas of the Commonwealth as a trusted and collaborative partner in advancing our core values of democracy, development and respect for diversity.
We are committed to working in support of the Commonwealth’s values and Swaziland’s national priorities with vigour, and in particular to support Swaziland’s efforts to build consensus and to become a more resilient, democratic and prosperous society.
During this visit, I had the honour of calling on the Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon Mtiti Fakudze; the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon Chief Mgwagwa Gamedze; the Minister for Youth and Sports, Hon Hlobisile Ndlovu; and the Chief Justice, Hon Michael Ramodibedi.
I met the UNDP Resident Representative Mr Israel Dessalegne; Commonwealth High Commissioners resident in Swaziland as is customary in all my visits to member state capitals; and, Commonwealth experts working in Swaziland.
I also met the Chairperson of the Elections and Boundaries Commission, Chief Gija Dlamini; the Acting Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission, Mr Sabelo Masuku, and other Commissioners; the Executive Director of the Coordinating Assembly of Non-Governmental Organisations, Mr Emmanuel Ndlangamandla along with representatives from civil society; and, representatives of the media.
I briefed the Honourable Prime Minister and others in my meetings on current Commonwealth priorities, especially our agenda of reform and renewal. Our goal is to ensure that the Commonwealth remains responsive to the needs of its citizens and more impactful in its activities.
At the last Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Australia in October 2011 – at which Swaziland was represented by the Honourable Prime Minister – the leaders agreed to a number of recommendations by an Eminent Persons Group to reform and renew the 54-member Commonwealth.
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.
We are on track with the Commonwealth’s reform agenda, as has been encouraged by Swaziland. 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, through sharing knowledge and best practices on-line and creating new partnerships.
In my discussions, I drew attention in particular to the enhanced mandate given to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) -- the guardian of the fundamental political values to which all Commonwealth member states have committed themselves. There is now in place recognition by the Government of Swaziland and all other Commonwealth member governments that CMAG should engage more constructively and actively to protect and promote democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and constitutionalism.
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. We therefore must be committed to the real empowerment of youth and women as part and parcel of the development agenda.
The Commonwealth is supporting the Junior Achievement Swaziland, a youth initiative aimed at building entrepreneurial skills.
We have also supported the work of young people in providing peer support to each other in sharing information and practices on prevention of HIV/AIDS, provided under the Commonwealth’s ‘Youth Ambassadors for Positive Living’ programme. This programme was piloted in Swaziland and I welcomed the advice of the Minister of Youth Affairs that the programme is being enlarged into a nation-wide programme.
The Commonwealth has always exercised a special responsibility to protect and promote the interests of small states. A Commonwealth 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 are very pleased that Swaziland will be represented and look forward to its participation.
The Commonwealth has a special responsibility to advocate and promote the interests and needs of small states and vulnerable states. In this regard, the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Assistance (CFTC) is an important instrument for providing support to Swaziland in meeting its development needs.
Some of the areas where Swaziland already receives CFTC support include:
The Commonwealth has provided training to 246 public servants from Swaziland in the last five years.
Swaziland is also benefitting from a series of programmes delivered and implemented at a regional level, such as the ‘Hub and Spokes’ programme which provides trade policy analysts and advisers to countries in the region to support the development of sound policies.
We will continue to deliver Commonwealth technical assistance in partnership with the Government of Swaziland and in coordination with other development partners, especially the United Nations Development Programme. Our priority in the next few years will be on strengthening further some of the key institutions of State on which the confidence of society and protection of all citizens’ interests can be advanced.
We therefore agreed that the Commonwealth would with partner Swaziland to strengthen the National Human Rights Commission, according to its most pressing priorities, such as the recording and management of complaints and appeals, and the development of a human rights base-line report to support the development of civic education programmes on human rights.
We agreed to explore new activities to support the Anti-Corruption Commission in its important work, notably in strengthening its capacity to investigate and to bring cases to trial by providing a Commonwealth expert as a mentor for investigators in their important work.
We will explore further the establishment of a Law Reform Commission in partnership with our network of Commonwealth accredited organisations in order to strengthen the rule of law and the Judiciary.
The Commonwealth remains ready and willing to provide other support to assist Swaziland in achieving its development and growth goals.
We agreed to build on the Commonwealth’s earlier work on e-governance by developing a programme of support to expand ICT coverage and use in Swaziland.
Next year will be a landmark year for Swaziland in its democratic path, with elections to be held for the second time under the new Constitution. In that regard, a fundamental value to which all Commonwealth members are committed is freedom of assembly: it is important to the Commonwealth that all citizens are given the opportunity to express themselves freely and responsibly, and especially during the period of elections. Likewise, a vibrant, free and responsible media is a critical element in any democratic culture.
The Commonwealth observed the last elections in 2008 and made a number of recommendations. In preparation for the elections in 2013, we have agreed that the Commonwealth will provide new projects of assistance to support the Election and Boundaries Commission, which are expected to focus on developing guidelines for campaigning, guidelines for the media, technical assistance to develop a civic and voter education manual, and assistance for a computerised registration system. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Secretariat has already provided assistance for a number of new electoral reform Bills which are shortly to be considered by the Government, and we look forward to those Bills thereafter being debated in the Parliament and enacted.
The Commonwealth has been pleased to provide assistance to the judiciary for a number of years, and this will continue. An independent and effective judiciary is fundamental to all Commonwealth members and their societies, as reflected in our Latimer House Principles.
We have agreed, in principle, to provide a seminar for all concerned parties on the separation of powers to be held in 2013 after the elections.
I take this opportunity to convey my condolences to His Majesty King Mswati III at this time of bereavement.
In conclusion, I thank the Government and people of the Kingdom of Swaziland for the warm hospitality extended to myself and the delegation accompanying me and all the arrangements made.
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