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Commonwealth and Francophonie meet ahead of global summits

3 May 2012
"Two large, seriously committed organisations that champion the voices and concerns of the marginalised and vulnerable have a crucial contribution to make" - Commonwealth Secretary-General

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma met his La Francophonie (OIF) counterpart Abdou Diouf on 2 May 2012 to discuss continued collaboration between the two organisations, whose joint membership accounts for around 100 of the world's countries.

Their meeting took place in Paris, France, ahead of two major global summits in June where issues of economics, environment and sustainable development will dominate the agendas.

From 18 to 19 June, Mexico will host the G20 meeting of the world's major economies. The two Secretaries-General have a practice established by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the G20 summit in Canada in 2010, of meeting the incoming G20 Chair to outline the key priorities of the Commonwealth's and La Francophonie's vulnerable and developing states.

"Our meetings with the G20 Chairs are an opportunity to strengthen the global legitimacy of the G20, by ensuring that the priority views and concerns of small and vulnerable economies are reflected at the G20 table even if there is no seat for those states," Mr Sharma said.

A meeting is being pursued in the coming weeks with Mexican President, Felipe Calderón, in his capacity as Chair of the G20 for 2012 and Chair of the G20 Los Cabos summit.

Days later, the UN Rio+20 conference on sustainable development takes place in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro.

In Paris, Mr Sharma presented a seven-point proposal for joint Commonwealth-Francophonie advocacy and capacity development. He stressed the significance of the two associations speaking out on behalf of their poorest, smallest and most vulnerable states.

"The joint credibility of what we say makes an impact on all those with whom we speak. Two large, seriously committed organisations that champion the voices and concerns of the marginalised and vulnerable have a crucial contribution to make," Mr Sharma said.

The Commonwealth Secretariat has collaborated with the OIF on a number of initiatives concerning innovative finance for development, building green growth and green economies, food security, trade policy and debt management.

"Our work is oriented towards ensuring that we contribute politically and technically on the issues that are already on the G20 agenda, so that the voices of those not at the G20 table are taken into account. We also aim to make an annual contribution to the top priority issue identified by each incoming G20 chair, and have been consequently addressing the common challenges shared by many non-G20 states in pursuing sustainable development and building low-carbon and climate-resilient green economies.

"There are opportunities ahead for the Commonwealth and La Francophonie to put forward a cohesive set of actions around which the international community can rally to support developing countries in a practical and affordable way, both at the G20 and at the Rio+20 conferences," Mr Sharma explained.

The proposals developed by the Secretariat include advocating for international recognition of the shared needs of poor, small and vulnerable states; investment in their natural resource base; knowledge sharing of good practice around climate resilient and low carbon economies; environmental governance; and viable financing options and implementation frameworks to support actions required for sustainable development.

Given the renewed global focus on green growth and the green economy - the former a new key priority for the G20 and the latter, a theme for the Rio+20 - Mr Sharma said it was the right time for the two organisations to maximise their collective advocacy.

The two leaders also discussed developments within their respective organisations, with the Commonwealth Secretary-General updating Mr Diouf on progress towards implementing the 2011 Eminent Persons Group report on Commonwealth reform and renewal.

Later, Mr Sharma visited the British and Commonwealth Women's Organisation - a support  network for women with over 300 members who have Commonwealth roots and live in Paris.

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