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Ministerial Action Group hails Commonwealth role in peace-building at 50th meeting

17 March 2017

Foreign ministers on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) have underlined the Commonwealth’s role in promoting democracy and peace-building, at the group’s fiftieth meeting.

The ministers also acknowledged expressions of interest from non-member countries Togo and The Gambia in joining the Commonwealth family.

The Commonwealth is a “bearer of peace and harmony” said CMAG in a concluding statement issued following the meeting at the organisation’s headquarters, Marlborough House, on 17 March 2017.

It was the first time CMAG has met since the government of Maldives chose to withdraw from the Commonwealth.

The members expressed “sadness” at the Maldives government’s decision to leave, saying: “The Group hoped that the separation will be temporary, and expressed its support for regional countries to continue dialogue and engagement with Maldives.”

CMAG was established in 1995 to act as the custodian of the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values, including democracy, rule of law and human rights.

CMAG is made up of a rotating group of foreign ministers from nine countries, drawn from different regions, including the foreign minister of the Commonwealth Chair in Office. The current chair is Cyprus’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ioannis Kasoulides.

In their statement, CMAG conveyed its support to the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland’s ongoing efforts in considering applications from countries who have expressed an interest to join the Commonwealth.

“The Group noted Togo’s expression of interest and welcomed the Secretary-General’s ongoing exchanges with The Gambia’s President, His Excellency Adama Barrow and his Government, to discuss the country’s interest to return to the Commonwealth family.”

In attendance, in addition to the chair, were Guyana’s Vice President and Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Barrington Greenidge, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs M. J. Akbar, Kenya’s High Commissioner to the UK Lazarus O. Amayo, Malta’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr George Vella, Namibia’s High Commissioner to the UK Steve Vemunavi Katjiuanjo, New Zealand’s High Commissioner to the UK Lockwood Smith, and Pakistan’s Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.

Meetings of CMAG are convened by the Commonwealth Secretary-General with the Commonwealth Secretariat providing support. The next meeting takes place in New York in September 2017 during the United Nations General Assembly.