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Commonwealth to host very small states conference

5 April 2013
Meeting will explore solutions to public administration challenges faced by small member countries

Leaders from across the Commonwealth’s small states will attend a high-level conference on governance at Marlborough House, London, from 23 to 25 April 2013.

The meeting will focus on finding workable solutions to the challenges of governance, policy and public administration in very small states, which account for 19 of the Commonwealth’s members.

Small states share specific concerns and common interests, relating to their small size and geographic isolation and have a limited ability to reap the benefits of economies of scale. Most of these small nations are also islands, often largely dependent on international trade and particularly susceptible to external shocks. Added to these economic challenges are environmental vulnerabilities and limited institutional capacity of the public sector.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said: “The Commonwealth has always been committed to supporting our smaller member countries. This is a brand strength of the organisation. Principles of equity and inclusivity globally are at the heart of the Marlborough House Declaration by Commonwealth Heads of Government.

“This conference is, I believe, the first ever to focus on finding answers to the specific challenges these nations are facing in developing a public administration to meet the expectations of their citizens, and the joint responsibility of the political and administrative leadership towards that end.  The conference will seek practical ways to promote the interests of our smaller member states, including in their capacity to access climate financing and to benefit from e-governance.”

An effective working relationship between elected politicians and senior public officials is a critical precondition for enabling good governance, and empowering government to deliver sustainable development. Small, or micro-states, benefit best from models that take into account their unique characteristics. The meeting aims to identify good practices and creative solutions, as well as document success stories and promote sharing and comparative experiences.

Commonwealth Connects, which provides secure online communities of practice, will host an ongoing collaboration and pool of experts to provide consultation, mentoring, and advice on areas of need for very small states.

Delegates at the conference will also benefit from a workshop on improving public administration to address the challenges of climate change, with a focus on policy and human resource issues.

For the last 20 years, the Commonwealth has carried out politically sensitive development work at the centre of government, including planning retreats for cabinet ministers and permanent secretaries during critical periods of transition, such as after elections.