Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group

We appreciate the work the Eminent Persons Group has done on looking at the future of the Commonwealth, particularly there recognition of the need to Commonwealth Trade Ministers meeting. However, I have concerns that some of the key issues are not being addressed, particularly the role of the Commonwealth in advancing economic and social development.

Commonwealth Heads of Government specifically targeted these goals as new priorities in their 1997 Edinburgh Commonwealth Economic Declaration "Promoting Shared Prosperity", and set up the Commonwealth Business Council and biannual Commonwealth Business Forum to advance this. As they concluded in their 1997 Declaration, the growth and investment agenda requires "vigorous" collective efforts if it is to be advanced.

I would encourage the EPG to include a focus on 3 specific areas, in their final draft.

There should be specific mention in the proposed Commonwealth Charter of – promoting economic prosperity and growth through joint business and government partnerships. This would result in the creation of millions of new jobs, SMEs and cross Commonwealth investment which would be of benefit to all commonwealth citizens.

A clear formal cooperation mechanism between on the one hand the Secretariat, and on the other the CBC and other similar, large Commonwealth organisations should be included in the final draft. In order to deliver improved technical assistance and development programmes to support the economic development focus.

And that the achievements of CBC and CBF be formally recognised by EPG, CBF has become a uniquely valued and important part of the Heads' programme and is now seen as an integral part of CHOGM. CBC itself has become the second largest Commonwealth organisation, without any core government funding, and has raised some £30m for its own work since inception. In the last two years, 25 member state governments have worked directly with the CBC on a range of investment promotion and policy exercises linked to SME development, infrastructure, energy, and health and job creation.

I strongly support the EPG’s focus on political good governance. However, the EPG report is currently incomplete and unbalanced as it lacks a serious treatment of economic development issues.

I hope the EPG will take these points to heart, making the Commonwealth Relevant for today means making it focus on issues that are on the minds of Heads of Government, day to day. Namely, job creation, investment, business development and economic growth as well as the Good Governance and Human Rights. The Commonwealth should give equal focus to both governance and economic as they are 2 sides of the same coin.

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