December   
2009

Vol 9 - No. 6


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COMMONWEALTH MEETING



                       Photo Courtesy: CHOGM 2009 

Leaders Hail Commonwealth’s Success
in Trinidad and Tobago

‘CHOGM has truly answered that the Commonwealth, as an institution, is very much relevant’ – Malaysian Prime Minister

World leaders were quick to praise the Commonwealth following the biennial Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago on November 27-29, 2009.

Of the 49 countries that attended the Meeting, 34 were represented by their Heads of State or Government. 

The Opening Ceremony of the Meeting included an address by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth. 

The summit was praised by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as providing the “momentum for success” for crunch UN climate talks in Copenhagen starting December 5. 

Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who attended the summit alongside Ban Ki-moon and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said: “I will leave Trinidad fully convinced that it will be possible to reach an ambitious agreement in Copenhagen.”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown claimed that the agreements reached at CHOGM on a host of issues would help to “influence what happens at the United Nations, the G20 and in every world summit”.

He said: “The rest of the world should know that the Commonwealth stands together and is ready to act in a united way. So I can say to you, 60 years after its birth, this historic family of nations, which is the Commonwealth, is proving its worth.”

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd added that some in the past have been too quick to “underestimate the unique nature of the Commonwealth voice”.

Climate change was a major topic of discussion at this year's CHOGM, due to the proximity of the meeting to the Copenhagen climate change summit, but also because many Commonwealth states are particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming.

The member states of the Commonwealth called for an “internationally legally binding agreement” on climate change to be agreed at the Copenhagen conference in December. Leaders also pledged support for a fund to help poorer countries tackle climate change. 

In the CHOGM Communique, Heads of Government, in the 60th anniversary of the Modern Commonwealth, adopted the Trinidad and Tobago Affirmation on Commonwealth Values and Principles.

Commonwealth Heads of Government in the The Declaration of Port of Spain affirmed the key role of partnerships in forging a more sustainable and equitable future for all people.

 

Leaders agreed to admit Rwanda which becomes the 54th member of the Commonwealth. Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma telephoned Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, late on 28 November 2009 to convey the leaders’ decision. 

The Commonwealth Heads of Government welcomed the emphasis on young people in its Declaration on young people , titled ‘Investing in young people’.  They "welcomed the emphasis on young people with its theme of thecommonwealth@60: ‘serving a new generation’..." and "acknowledged "with gratitude the role and active contributions of young people in promoting development, peace, democracy, and in protecting and promoting other Commonwealth values such as tolerance and understanding, including respect for other cultures. We recognise that the future successes of the Commonwealth rest with the continued commitments and contributions in these ways of our young people."

The Declaration noted "the principles of youth development endorsed by Commonwealth Youth Ministers, and affirm our own support for the Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment." 

Gender equality is one of the fundamental principles of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth’s work towards advancing gender equality is guided by the Commonwealth Plan of Action for Gender Equality 2005-2015. To take stock of the real impact on the lives of women in the Commonwealth, a Mid Term Review of its Plan of Action for Gender Equality 2005-2015 was launched.

Other highlights:

  • Heads urged the Secretary-General to work with Commonwealth countries to “develop options for strengthening the relationship between Commonwealth members and the G-20 as well as with other relevant multilateral fora.”

  • Commonwealth leaders called on the Secretariat to provide assistance to countries keen on sharing information on issues relating to the Reform of International Institutions.

  • The Secretariat was requested to continue implementing all elements of the Lake Victoria Commonwealth Climate Change Action Plan, with a particular emphasis on “supporting small states and least developed countries in advancing their own strategies and policy frameworks on adaptation and towards carbon-neutral and climate-resilient economies.” The Secretary-General was also asked to explore “the potential for a partnership between the Commonwealth, the World Bank and others, to provide specific programmes of support to vulnerable countries”.

  • Heads urged “the Secretariat to continue work in all the areas that would assist small states in their endeavour to implement crisis-resilient growth and development strategies.”

The CHOGM is the supreme body of the Commonwealth. It is convened every two years to review global, political and economic developments and to conduct a strategic overview of the Commonwealth's work in support of the interests of member countries.

The objective of this Summit is to engage leaders of the Commonwealth in discussing global and Commonwealth issues and to agree upon collective policies and initiatives. All nations, regardless of size, have an equal say and vote at this meeting. All CHOGM decisions and initiatives are reached only by consensus.

CHOGMs are distinct from other international meetings in that heads of government meet in an informal retreat setting.

 

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