Foreign ministers from Commonwealth countries meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, have called for inclusive policies that address the concerns of small states.
The Commonwealth Ministerial Meeting on Small States held on 12 November 2013 was part of a series of events in the lead up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) later this week.
Speaking during a press conference at the end of the meeting, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said: “Small states are a core constituency for the Commonwealth, and working with them provides the bedrock for much of our work.”
The Secretary-General said the meeting buttressed this year’s CHOGM theme: ‘Growth with Equity; Inclusive Development’.
“All Commonwealth societies should be better equipped to benefit from progress and increasingly able to share the dividends of prosperity. None should be left behind. This has ever been the driving spirit of the Commonwealth,” he said.
He added: “Now is the time to make our distinctive Commonwealth voice heard loud and clear for small states, and for our member states collectively to contribute to international and regional processes for shaping of the post-2015 global development framework – particularly from a small states perspective.”
He said that with 2014 being designated International Year for Small Island Developing States, and Samoa, a Commonwealth member state hosting the Small Island Developing States Summit, the meeting provided a timely opportunity to provide input to the agenda.
The Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, Prof G.L. Peiris, who chaired the meeting, said that for development to be inclusive, it must deliver tangible benefits to improve the quality of life of the citizens of the Commonwealth.
“Our central challenge today is to make development a reality for our people and improve their quality of life. It must not appear remote to them," Prof Peiris said.
He added that the major constraint facing small states include lack of access to finance for development, huge debt burdens, and inability to access concessionary funding from international lenders.
“Debt is a crippling burden for many small states,” he said.
Speaking at the same press conference, the Foreign Minister of Barbados, Senator Maxine McClean, said the vulnerabilities of small states are preventing them from achieving social goals such as education and health.
The Foreign Minister of Mauritius, Dr Arvin Boolell, thanked the Commonwealth for championing the cause of small states and putting them on the global agenda.
View and download meeting and press conference images and videos from the Commonwealth Digital Library: assets.thecommonwealth.org