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Commonwealth Secretary-General's departure statement following St Kitts and Nevis visit

15 May 2013
"The Commonwealth will continue to speak out internationally and to advocate on the interests of small island states" - Kamalesh Sharma

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma visited St Kitts and Nevis from 12 to 14 May.

I was honoured to be received so warmly during my visit to St Kitts and Nevis, and I depart with an enriched and first-hand appreciation of a valued member of the Commonwealth, its national challenges and priorities.

During my visit, the Prime Minister Dr Rt Hon Denzil Douglas received me, and I am most grateful for the time he kindly set aside for our meetings. I also met with other members of the Government including the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Works, Housing and Utilities, Hon Asim Martin; the Minister of Justice, Homeland Security, Labour and Foreign Affairs, Hon Patrice Nisbitt; the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports, Information Technology, Telecommunications and Posts, Hon. Glenn Fitzroy Phillip; the Minister of Health, Social and Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs, Hon Marcella Althea Liburd; and the Attorney General Mr Jason Hamilton. I also called on the Leader of the Opposition, Hon Mark Brantley and the Premier of Nevis, Hon Vance Amory.

All of my meetings were purposeful and informative, and afforded the opportunity to gain an up-to-date perspective of how the Commonwealth’s work is viewed and how we may be of greater assistance and relevance to the people of St Kitts and Nevis.

This year - 2013 - marks the thirtieth anniversary of both independence and membership of the Commonwealth for St Kitts and Nevis, and it was therefore particularly timely to visit in order to underline that the Commonwealth remains committed to being a practical, active and relevant partner of St Kitts and Nevis in its national priorities and as this country progresses on its chosen path to economic resilience, sustainable development, and a strengthened and enduring culture of democracy.

In particular, in keeping with its solidarity with small states, the Commonwealth will continue to speak out internationally and to advocate on the interests of small island states on issues such as debt, access to climate change finance, and supporting human development.

The Commonwealth is establishing a High Level Mission on Small States Debt this year, which will be a small group of Commonwealth leaders, who will carry forward international profile raising and advocacy about the challenges of debt and liquidity faced by small states, and to look at practical approaches to overcome their challenges. I am very pleased to announce that the Prime Minister has accepted my invitation to chair and lead this Commonwealth High Level Mission, which among its activities will meet in Washington in October for discussions in particular with the leaders of key international financial institutions and Commonwealth and G20 economies. The Mission will then report the outcomes of its work to the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in November 2013.

St Kitts and Nevis has been a longstanding contributor to the shared resources of our association, which is reflected in particular in the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation. This country’s partnership in the CFTC has generated significant returns in the form of technical assistance, which notably includes more recently for St Kitts and Nevis:

  • On-going international technical expertise to define and negotiate this country’s maritime boundaries with St Eustatius, and to finalise exclusive economic zone boundaries with St. Barthelemy, Antigua and Montserrat;
  • The development of a marketing plan including strategies to promote the services sector, a strength of its economy, internationally;
  • Since 2010, the Commonwealth has supported the Caribbean Telecommunications Union to help establish the Caribbean Centre of Excellence (CCoE) as a self-sustaining and revenue-generating institution, and to help St Kitts and Nevis use ICTs more effectively for development;
  • The provision of technical experts in trade negotiations based at the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in St Lucia; in legislative drafting based at the CARICOM Secretariat in Guyana; and, in climate change based at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belize;
  • Support for the judiciary, including training in the investigation and prosecution of complex transnational crimes, and strengthening capacity in St Kitts and Nevis on combatting money laundering;
  • Public Service training, such as leadership enhancement for ten senior civil servants including eight newly-appointed Permanent Secretaries;
  • Debt assistance in the form of software and technical expertise to undertake financial and payment modelling in order to manage public debt;
  • The development of a common tourism policy for the OECS, including deployment of an expert who has helped achieve the completion of a Partial Scope Trade Agreement for St Kitts and Nevis with Brazil that is expected to help increase the value of exports to over US$30 million with the value-added effect of increasing employment.

As a result of my visit, we have agreed to deepen the Commonwealth’s partnership and collaboration with St Kitts and Nevis in the years ahead. We will pursue possibilities for new assistance in the following areas:

  • Supporting the culture and institutions of democracy – assisting in the implementation of recommendations made in the past by Commonwealth election observers including the development of a media code of conduct that provides equitable access to the media for all political parties during elections where progress is being made; support to the Boundaries Commission, where progress is also already being made to reflect better the population changes and movements that have occurred since the boundaries were last determined in 1984; support for the development of legislation governing finances during election campaigns; and, strengthening the transparency and inclusiveness of the appointment process for the Supervisor of Elections and Election Commissioners. We will also seek to strengthen the capacity of the Election Commission to achieve Commonwealth standards and norms through collaboration and participation in the Commonwealth Electoral Network – a global and online gathering of senior Commonwealth electoral officials;
  • Youth – working with the government to establish a national youth policy as well as a national youth council, just as both of these are being established or advanced in other Commonwealth member states, in recognition of the critical importance of ensuring the views and needs of young people are taken into account in all relevant aspects of public life and public policy;
  • Human Rights – assisting to follow up those recommendations from the last United Nations Universal Periodic Review in Geneva which have been accepted by St Kitts and Nevis, particularly the establishment of a national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles and to ensure its accreditation to the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions; and
  • Areas for continuing technical co-operation were also identified.

Our shared Commonwealth values, principles and goals – for the people of St Kitts and Nevis as for the citizens in all our 54 member states – are to be found in the Charter of the Commonwealth, which was adopted by Commonwealth leaders in December 2012 and signed by HM Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth, in March 2013. The Commonwealth Secretariat looks forward to advancing the Charter practically in St Kitts and Nevis through the new initiatives for collaboration that have arisen during this visit. Our objective is to provide every Commonwealth citizen with dignity, access to their rights, and opportunity.

I renew my deep appreciation for the courtesy and kindness extended to myself and my delegation, and I look forward to the opportunity of returning to St Kitts and Nevis in future.