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Commonwealth reform agenda gains momentum

13 April 2012
Senior officials from Commonwealth countries advanced the Commonwealth’s reform and renewal agenda this week as they met on 12 and 13 April to examine recommendations to strengthen the association.

The meeting at Marlborough House in London, UK, headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat, was chaired by Gillian Bird, Deputy Secretary from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Speaking at the opening of the two-day meeting, Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said reform and renewal are the current watchwords of the Commonwealth, since the Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia, in 2011 adopted elements of recommendations to sharpen the impact, strengthen the networks and raise the profile of the association.

“More than half of the 95 recommendations from the Eminent Persons Group that found favour with leaders are already being advanced, some five months after the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting,” stated Mr Sharma.

He explained for example, that the number of and frequency of public statements about Commonwealth values had risen and that the association was sharpening its traditional focus on small states and maximising the Commonwealth’s contribution to the development goals of its member countries.

The Secretary-General also said that recommendations by leaders relating to the strengthening of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group - a group of foreign ministers tasked with monitoring adherence to the association’s values of respect for human rights, the rule of law and democracy - are being implemented.

The Senior Officials Meeting was convened to examine those recommendations of the Eminent Persons Group which Commonwealth leaders had asked be looked into further - taking into consideration of what it will take to implement them.

The other key focus of the London meeting was to discuss a draft Commonwealth Charter, meant to give better definition to the Commonwealth and what the association stands for. It is a draft charter that consolidates previous statements of affirmation of the fundamental values and principles of the association.

Deputy Secretary Bird expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the meeting. She noted that the group was able to examine each of the recommendations in depth and make recommendations on each to the Commonwealth ministers.

“We were able to engage in good, substantive exchanges on the Charter and the Eminent Persons Group recommendations, and find a way forward for the ministers to consider these when they meet in June and September this year. The Commonwealth leaders’ plans for these reforms to be adopted this year are very much on track."

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