Wednesday, November 2, 2011

11th Commonwealth Summit

The three-day Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) concluded in Perth (Australia) on 30 October. The meeting did well to highlight the issues related to security and hunger as these affect a vast section of humanity.
Eliminating Terrorism
The 11th CHOGM collectively pledged to fight terrorism by preventing the use of their territories for terrorist acts or financing and also vowed to accelerate efforts to combat piracy and strengthening maritime security in the Indian Ocean.
The 54-nation bloc, in its joint communiqué, committed to "unequivocally preventing the use of their territories for the support, incitement to violence or commission of terrorist acts".
They also agreed to work towards implementing the necessary legal framework for the suppression of terrorist financing, and preventing the raising and use of funds by terrorists, their front organizations, and transnational terrorist organizations.
Terrorism continues to pose a major threat despite billions of rupees having been spent on eliminating the scourge. The CHOGM communiqué rightly expressed its commitment to prevent the use of its territory by any nation for promoting terrorism. It also called for suppressing funding sources for acts of terror.
How it goes about forcing certain countries like Pakistan to stop using terrorism for their geopolitical objectives remains to be seen. Terrorists may be down but they are not out. They continue to claim lives in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. India’s maintenance of its tight vigil has paid dividends.
Economic Issue
On economic front, the CHOGM communiqué noted the “impasse” in the Doha round and urged the trade ministers’ World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in December to make “substantive progress” as well as make a formal “anti-protectionist pledge”.
The leaders at the Perth Meeting also agreed to reduce the cost of remittance transfers by removing barriers to remitting and encouraging greater competition in the transfer market, by endorsing the World Bank’s General Principles for International Remittance Services.
International Security Problem
As regards the international security issue, piracy was another issue that figured prominently in the communiqué as the group maintained their commitment to a stable and secure national and international environment.
In addition to accelerating efforts to combat piracy and to strengthen maritime security, including through enhancing the capacity of coastal states, the communiqué also urged the international community to recognize that the menace of piracy in the Indian Ocean cannot be effectively tackled in the absence of political stability and security in Somalia.
The leaders at the meeting expressed the view that the international community must ensure stability in the poverty-stricken African nation. Poverty drove most Somalians to take to piracy. Thus, the cause of eliminating poverty wherever it exists, too, must get precedence along with the need for providing stability. They affirmed support to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and its Seventh Review Conference in December 2011 and pledged to continue tackling the root causes of conflict, including through the promotion of democracy, development and strong legitimate institutions.
The Perth Summit also agreed to combat people smuggling and human trafficking by clamping down on illicit criminal organizations and bringing the perpetrators of these crimes to justice, while protecting and supporting the victims of trafficking.
Grouping Reforms
The 11th CHOGM indirectly sent out the message that the grouping of 54 former British colonies would not allow any kind of discrimination on the basis of one’s sex. The call for reforms by the Eminent Persons’ Group (EPG) led by former Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi needs to be given a serious thought.
The leaders at the Perth meeting agreed to adopt one third of the 106 recommendations of an eminent persons group to make the grouping more relevant in current times, but virtually rejected the proposal for a human rights commissioner. Faced with a tough task of ushering in reforms, leaders of the 54-nation bloc had asked their foreign ministers to work overnight on recommedations of the 11-member EPG, which had gone public with its criticism.
Climate Change
With many of the Commonwealth nations being low-lying islands, the Perth meeting agreed on a slew of measures to promote action on climate change, including a push to find better ways to fund mitigation and adaptation projects.
Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed said a number of the EPG recommendations touched upon the issue of climate change and all have been accepted by the CHOGM leaders.
The issue of climate change is not of the future. It is happening now and we must deal with it now
India's Development Agenda
India returns with a feeling of satisfaction from the CHOGM, having managed to keep the 54-nation grouping focused on the development agenda.
Dismissing the general perception that the meeting was a failure because it did not accept the reform agenda set by some countries, Vice President Hamid Ansari, who headed the Indian delegation at CHOGM, said the Commonwealth has been an organization that has evolved slowly and could not be pushed into “instant” action. “We reiterated our perspective on institutions - that we needed to strengthen existing institutions rather than create new ones,” Ansari said in a clear reference to the effort by some developed nations to push through the creation of a Commissioner for Human Rights. The contentious recommendation was contained in a report by an EPG comprising civil society members, and some member-nations had sought to link its acceptance to the success of CHOGM 2011.
Some of the EPG recommendations have been accepted, others have been kept aside for further discussions, with officials indicating that the opposition to them was so widespread that they were unlikely to be adopted.
In fact, dispelling the perception that only some countries - including India, Sri Lanka and South Africa – were against the creation of the Commissioner’s office, an Indian official said that more than 30 of the 54 Commonwealth nations were opposed to the move.
Kamalesh Sharma Reappointed Chief
Seventy-year-old seasoned Indian diplomat Kamalesh Sharma was reappointed secretary general of the 54-nation Commonwealth grouping for a four-year term beginning April 2012.
India proposed Sharma’s name for a second term to the coveted post at the concluding session of the 21st Commonwealth heads of government meeting here. Pakistan seconded it. The proposal was accepted unanimously by everybody.
Sri Lanka would host its next Commonwealth Summit in 2013.

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