The Commonwealth, as an association of peoples and governments, is enriched by Nauru’s membership. Nauru’s unique history and heritage form part of the diversity of the Commonwealth, dating from when it first joined in 1968. For its part, Nauru gains from access to the networks of 54 member governments, as well as professional associations and civil society, through the sharing of resources, experiences and opportunities.
This was my first official visit to Nauru, reflecting this country’s welcome return to full participation in Commonwealth programmes.
I was honoured to be received so warmly during my visit, and I depart with great appreciation and a first-hand understanding of Nauru’s national challenges and priorities.
All of my meetings afforded the opportunity to gain an up-to-date perspective of how the Commonwealth is viewed and how we may be of greater assistance and relevance to Nauru. My discussions covered many areas of the Commonwealth’s work as a trusted and collaborative partner in advancing our core values of democracy, development and respect for diversity.
During this visit, I had the honour of calling on the President, HE Sprent Dabwido. I also met the Speaker of Parliament, Hon Ludwig Scotty; the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Health and Sports, Hon Dr Kieren Keke; the Minister for Finance and Education, Hon Roland Kun; and the Minister for Transport and Telecommunications, Hon Riddell Akua. I also met Members of Parliament, and warmly appreciated the opportunity to visit Nauru Secondary School. Members of my delegation further had the opportunity to meet with senior officials from the Government of Nauru, to discuss our potential work together in more detail.
I briefed His Excellency the President and the Honourable Foreign Minister on current Commonwealth priorities, especially our agenda of reform and renewal. Our goal is to ensure that the Commonwealth remains responsive to the needs of its citizens and is more impactful in its activities.
At the last Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Australia in October 2011, the leaders agreed to a number of recommendations by an Eminent Persons Group to reform and renew the Commonwealth. The essence of these reforms is to sharpen the impact, strengthen the networks, and raise the profile of the Commonwealth; and to achieve greater practical commitment to our 2009 Affirmation of Commonwealth Values and Principles.
We are on track with the Commonwealth’s reform agenda. The networks and collaboration between the wide range of Commonwealth organisations and governments are being strengthened; and a web-based platform has been created - Commonwealth Connects - to enable Commonwealth networks to develop and work together in future interactively and through sharing knowledge and best practices and in creating partnerships.
In my discussions, I drew attention in particular to the proposed Commonwealth Charter, the text of which is currently being considered by Heads of Government. The Charter will be our contemporary statement of Commonwealth identity, which we hope to have adopted by the end of this year.
The Commonwealth has exercised a special responsibility to protect and promote the needs of small and vulnerable states. In this regard, the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Assistance (CFTC) is an important instrument for providing support to Nauru in meeting its governance and development needs.
Some of the key areas where Nauru has already received CFTC support in recent years include delimitation of maritime boundaries; training of public servants including the development of a code of conduct and strengthening public procurement; the preparation of a case study on education for sustainable development; support for Nauru’s participation in the Universal Periodic Review, and training on human rights for prison officials; participation in regional capacity-building in the legal and judicial sector, including training to combat corruption and financial crimes; and trade negotiation capacity-building.
We are committed to enhancing our support for the Commonwealth’s values and Nauru’s national priorities, consistent with Nauru’s National Sustainable Development Strategy. We will continue to deliver Commonwealth technical assistance in partnership with the Government of Nauru and in coordination with other development partners.
Nauru is the current Chair of the 44-member Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). We have agreed to support Nauru in this global leadership role as it seeks to advance the sustainable development goals of small island states, including by commissioning research and convening consultations on issues of common interest. The Secretariat is already working closely with regional institutions to take forward the practical sharing of experience and information regarding climate change financing. We will continue this work to secure access to climate change finance for small states, supporting Nauru’s advocacy on this critical issue as AOSIS Chair. We also stand ready to explore ways to assist Nauru to achieve access to climate change finance to meet its national needs.
In April 2013, the Secretariat is convening a conference on public administration and governance in very small island states, with pan-Commonwealth participation anticipated. We are very pleased that Nauru has agreed to participate, and look forward to its valuable contribution as the smallest Commonwealth member state.
We were pleased to learn of recent developments making information and communication technology (ICT) more accessible to the people of Nauru. In that context, we are responding positively to the Government’s request to assist in the development of a national ICT strategy for Nauru.
National elections in 2013 will be another milestone in Nauru’s democratic journey. The Government of Nauru has indicated its interest in making use of Commonwealth expertise to prepare for the elections – including through possible assistance for voter education – and for observation of the elections in due course. We have agreed to explore this further with a view to responding positively in these areas.
We have committed to providing further support as required for Nauru’s implementation of human rights obligations, including its participation in the Universal Periodic Review process.
Nauru’s Parliament has recently enacted an impressive amount of new legislation. This has generated a challenge in raising public awareness to enable effective implementation of new laws, and we are ready to discuss further how the Commonwealth may be able to assist with this.
We have encouraged Nauru to make full use of the expertise and opportunities provided by the regional Commonwealth Pacific Governance Facility, which is advancing Commonwealth projects in the region in support of the governance pillar of the Pacific Plan.
We agreed to conduct a high-level retreat for cabinet ministers and heads of government departments in Nauru, in order to strengthen the effective working relationship between the political and administrative branches of government.
We also agreed to develop a project to build understanding of the policy development process, and practical capacity to develop policy, in the public service.
We have agreed to support Nauru’s participation in the Commonwealth-Malta Third Country Training Programme in 2013, focusing on diplomacy and public administration for small states.
We have agreed to provide assistance to Nauru in managing its public debt, including making available the extensive policy and research results already undertaken by the Commonwealth on this subject. We will explore the provision of Commonwealth expertise as well as the potential value for Nauru of Commonwealth debt management software.
We also agreed to make available, if required, further technical expertise to reinforce Nauru’s existing efforts in the negotiation and management of natural resource exploitation.
The roles of women and youth in the development of society were discussed, and I commended the government for its recent accession to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
We discussed the challenges of increasing the participation of women in politics. The Commonwealth will continue to take forward its work in this area at the regional level in coordination with existing initiatives. A Pacific colloquium on women’s leadership will be organised by the Commonwealth in 2013, and we look forward to Nauru’s participation.
We welcome Nauru’s re-engagement with the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) through its participation in a number of recent regional CYP events. We have agreed to explore how the CYP can further support the empowerment of young Nauruans, especially in enhancing life skills and entrepreneurship opportunities.
I informed the President and other members of the Government of Nauru about the development orientation desired by the Chair at next year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which will take place in Sri Lanka. This forthcoming Commonwealth summit’s consideration of socio-economic development will be of interest to Nauru where the challenges of empowering and delivering economic growth and opportunity to its communities is felt strongly.