Mr Sharma’s visits to these three Commonwealth member states are part of his regular visits to Commonwealth capitals to meet leaders. They are aimed at promoting global and regional cooperation and at identifying ways in which the Commonwealth can advance its values – including democracy, rule of law and sustainable development – and through practical assistance programmes.
Botswana will be the first country visited, from 29 to31 July. There, Mr Sharma will be received in audience by President Seretse Khama Ian Khama. He will then go on to Namibia from 31 July to 2 August, and meet President Hifikepunye Pohamba. The tour will conclude with Swaziland, from 2 to 4 August, and a meeting with His Majesty King Mswati III. The Secretary-General will also meet the foreign ministers of these three countries.
Another important feature of the visits will be meetings with officials, civil society leaders and professional networks, including business and the media. The objective is to ensure that the concerns and priorities of a wide range of national leaders and representatives are reflected in the Commonwealth’s current programme of reform and renewal. This programme is aimed at sharpening impact, strengthening networks and raising the profile of the association.
Speaking in London ahead of his tour, Secretary-General Sharma said: “Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland face distinct challenges of scale and vulnerability associated with their small population sizes and limited opportunities for economic diversification. Membership of the Commonwealth enables these countries’ concerns and voices to be heard on the world stage. It offers forums in which they can exchange insights and experiences with other Commonwealth small states that help reduce vulnerability and increase both economic and social resilience.”
Referring to Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland as “valued members of the Commonwealth,” he added: “Our guiding Commonwealth values of democracy, development and respect for diversity are the bedrock on which we take joint practical action to advance the welfare and prosperity of all our citizens and the stability of the communities in which they live and work. These values, and the need to work towards greater economic inclusion for growth, have resonance right across Southern Africa.”