Finance Ministers and Senior Officials of the 54 Commonwealth nations met for the first time in Washington DC in a meeting hosted by Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma and chaired by Canada’s Finance Minister, the Honourable James Flaherty. Focussed and productive discussions took place on a range of economic and financial policy issues and Ministers identified measures that could be taken forward within the Commonwealth and the wider international community.
1. Ministers thanked the IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss Kahn and World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick for attending and providing their insights and welcomed the range of initiatives being taken to respond to the challenges of the smaller and most vulnerable countries as they seek to recover from crisis. Ministers emphasised the challenges faced by small island countries and vulnerable states and asked that the international financial institutions continue to take all possible steps to ensure that their concerns are included in current reform efforts. They stressed the importance of the strong replenishment of the World Bank’s concessional lending arm, the International Development Association. They welcomed the openness of the Bank and Fund to work more closely with the Commonwealth.
2. Ministers discussed recent developments in the global economy and valued the opportunity to share their diverse experiences. They shared their experiences with the economic crisis and the difficult recovery they face. Ministers stressed the importance of continued international policy dialogue and coordination as the global recovery begins to take hold. They welcomed the opportunity the Commonwealth provides for dialogue between G20 and non G20 members and stressed in particular the need:
3. Concerns were expressed regarding economic developments in the smallest and most vulnerable Commonwealth countries. Economic growth in these countries has generally been below the global average and many face difficult debt management challenges. They recognised that the debt challenges facing less economically resilient small countries were exacerbated by exogenous shocks. They urged the Secretariat to work closely with the Multilateral Financial Institutions to develop new instruments to develop effective crisis response facilities for vulnerable countries and further explore appropriate debt relief proposals.
4. Ministers agreed that there is no easy answer or quick-fix to difficult debt challenges. They welcomed the substantial progress in debt management made by countries including the innovative debt restructurings undertaken by some Commonwealth members. Ministers stressed the importance of technical assistance needed to build debt management capacity and encouraged the Secretariat to intensify its work with large technical assistance providers such as the World Bank and IMF.
5. Ministers discussed the challenges and opportunities in promoting low carbon infrastructure and environmentally sustainable growth. They recognised the key role Finance Ministers should play in this work. The efforts of several Commonwealth countries who shared their experiences in supporting sustainable development were applauded. Ministers supported the advancement of a successful outcome at the UN climate negotiations in Cancun, and welcomed the planned workshop of an environmental finance conference by the Commonwealth Secretariat in early 2011.
6. Ministers welcomed a report from the Commonwealth Ministerial Debt Sustainability Forum and endorsed the recommendations of our Senior Officials for further Commonwealth work on aid effectiveness and financial inclusion, including efforts to mobilize increased financing for SMEs.
7. In conclusion, the new format and timing of this year’s meeting was welcomed and ministers said they were looking forward to meeting in Washington in October 2011.