Date: 6 Jul 2012
Speaker: Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma
Location: Gros Islet, Saint Lucia
Prime Minister Dr Anthony, other distinguished Heads and leaders of delegations, Secretary-General La Rocque.
Thank you for this much appreciated opportunity to address the CARICOM Conference of Heads of Government. Above and beyond the fact of our sharing so many members, CARICOM and the Commonwealth share many current concerns and long-term goals.
We have positive evidence of the beneficial outcomes arising from our collaboration and cooperation. In measuring our progress in the Commonwealth, we do so against the yardstick of how our efforts and interventions improve the long-term stability and resilience of Caribbean communities, and the impact this has on the welfare of this region’s citizens.
The Commonwealth Secretariat provides capacity-building support and direct programmatic assistance to Caribbean member countries in social and economic development areas such as education; health; gender issues; and youth development. The Commonwealth lead on combatting non-communicable diseases – an initiative from our Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago – led to a global UN conference and outcome. We support maritime boundary negotiations and ocean governance; legislative drafting; judicial and electoral training; and trade policy analysis and facilitation. We support the development of national policies for micro, small & medium enterprise, and tourism.
We also partner with CARICOM on education initiatives such as ICT competency frameworks for teachers; the CARICOM Working Group on Early Childhood Education and Development; and the CARICOM Tertiary Education Task Force.
We organise regional fora which support the strengthening of financial literacy. We assist countries in the management of debt. In public sector development programmes, in the last five years, we have provided technical and general training to over 1,300 public servants in the Caribbean.
In the rule of law, we support member states with implementing international conventions on transnational crime and management of serious economic and financial crimes. Our human rights work focusses on supporting member states to establish national human rights institutions and with the preparation, implementation and follow-up of Universal Periodic Review processes.
We have opened a Commonwealth office in Geneva as a hub for small states’ engagement with the full range of multilateral agencies that are located there, and to provide the option for members to establish a diplomatic presence. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and Bahamas will become tenants in this office over the next few months and are warmly welcome.
Mr Chair, the Commonwealth is committed to deepening all this work alongside member states and to strengthening partnerships with regional organisations at multiple levels.
In this context, I wish to thank the Executive Director of the 5Cs – the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre – for his generous tribute to the part played by the Commonwealth Secretariat in supporting the Centre, particularly with the establishment of a unit focussing on the social and economic implications of climate change. This was instrumental in developing the implementation plan on climate change which has now been approved by you collectively as the region’s Heads of Government.
Mr Chair, allow me briefly to address what might be called ‘20/20’ issues. Not 20/20 cricket – although, as I’m sure you will understand, the temptation to discuss cricket is always strong when I am in the Caribbean – but Rio+20 and the G20.
These are two arenas, of great global importance, to which the Commonwealth has attached high priority. We have been instrumental in achieving measurable progress that will, I believe, be of significant and long-lasting benefit to this region.
Last month in Brazil, at the ‘Rio+20 Earth Conference,’ we worked with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, the Indian Ocean Commission, and the Pacific Regional Environment Programme. Our shared focus was on ‘Small Island Developing States Solutions for Sustainable Development’. The result was that those three regional organisations signed landmark agreements to co-operate with each other on practical steps that will deal with the effects of climate change and promote sustainable.
The cooperation will cover issues such as ocean resource management, climate change financing mechanisms, skills training and development, and youth engagement. We will now turn to converting these expressions of political will into concrete plans of action.
Turning to the recent G20 Summit, we have continued the joint engagement of the Secretaries-General of the Commonwealth and La Francophonie with the G20 Chair. We convey the concerns of those of our members not represented around the G20 table - particularly those of the smaller, poorer and more vulnerable states. The G20 must not be an enlarged magic circle of the G7 or G8. For the legitimacy of the policies it espouses, it must have a sense of trusteeship for those not at its table, and a willingness to be inclusive.
The Commonwealth has been able to magnify the voice of the small and unrepresented. In seeking to be this voice for the voiceless, we stressed to the Mexican Chair that G20 prescriptions for dealing with global crises and economic challenges can only be truly global solutions if they take into account the priorities and concerns of small, poor and vulnerable states.