The twelfth meeting of Commonwealth foreign affairs ministers will take place in New York this week alongside the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
On Thursday, 26 September, foreign ministers will meet in New York to discuss a range of Commonwealth priorities. The meeting takes place at a time of significant change for The Commonwealth. Its members adopted an historic Charter for the organisation in December 2012, which its Head, HM Queen Elizabeth II, signed on Commonwealth Day - 11 March this year.
Over the last two years, the Commonwealth Secretariat has undergone a process of renewal, prioritising its engagement with member countries based on The Commonwealth’s areas of comparative advantage.
The foreign ministers assembled in New York this week will review progress in implementing the 2011 recommendations of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group (EPG) report “A Commonwealth of the People: Time for Urgent Reform".
Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma will brief ministers on the Secretariat’s new Strategic Plan for carrying out this renewal mandate. He will apprise them of the Secretariat’s continued efforts to help member countries strengthen their democratic processes and institutions, as well as support sustainable development.
The Secretariat has seen a considerable rise in requests for such assistance in the last year. It has been invited to observe elections in over a dozen countries, including most recently, elections in Maldives, Rwanda and Northern Provincial Council Elections in Sri Lanka. And it is preparing to observe parliamentary elections in Cameroon at the end of September.
The Secretary-General will brief the foreign ministers on progress of his ‘Good Offices’ diplomacy to engage Commonwealth member states in addressing situations of political tension and conflict. The Secretary-General’s Good Offices continue to be an important instrument in ultimately preventing derogation from The Commonwealth’s core political values.
The Commonwealth Secretariat has established several initiatives to fulfil relevant EPG recommendations. Among other measures, it constituted a Commonwealth Expert Group to evaluate how best to access financial resources to support low-emission and climate-resilient development in small and climate-vulnerable states, including least developed countries.
The foreign ministers will also discuss Commonwealth perspectives on the successor goals of the post-2015 global development agenda - a subject which Commonwealth leaders will consider at the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka this November.
The Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting will also bring foreign ministers up to date on preparations being made for CHOGM. Both the Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka will provide briefings on these preparations.
Following the foreign ministers’ meeting, members of the nine-member Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) will meet in New York on Friday, 27 September. CMAG deals with serious or persistent violations of the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values. Its mandate enables it to engage preemptively and constructively with member states where The Commonwealth’s fundamental political values are seen to be under threat.
CMAG remains engaged on the political situation in Fiji, the only country currently listed on its agenda, and which remains fully suspended from The Commonwealth.
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