24th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting Concludes in Malta

Alicia Nicholls

Heads of Government of the Commonwealth Caribbean joined other leaders of the 53-state Commonwealth Group of Nations for the 24th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta on November 27-29. The meeting was held under the theme “The Commonwealth: Adding Global Value” and comes in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris and immediately precedes the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21).

The agenda focused on the following themes: peace and security, human rights and good governance, migration, sustainable development, small states, climate change, trade, youth, gender quality and women’s empowerment, public health, current situations, movement of Commonwealth citizens, Commonwealth collaboration and the election of the new Secretary General.

Outcomes

Baroness Patricia Scotland was elected the 6th and first female Secretary General of the Commonwealth. It was agreed that Guyana would be one of the member governments to serve on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) for the next two years.

The final communiqué released by the leaders includes several noteworthy points of specific importance to the Commonwealth Caribbean, and other small island developing states. The leaders also released a separate statement on climate change.

Climate Change

  • Developed Commonwealth countries committed to assisting in mobilizing US$100 billion per year by 2020 to address the adaptation and mitigation needs of developing countries.
  • A Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub has been established to build the capacity of Commonwealth small and other climate vulnerable states to access climate finance with regional support.

Trade & Freedom of Movement

  • A voluntary Commonwealth Trade Finance Facility was launched to increase trade and investment finance, in particular for small and other developing economies with limited access to trade finance.
  • Leaders acknowledged a proposal for a “Commonwealth Advantage” under which Commonwealth governments will consider measures to enhance access to each others’ countries more easily and for longer in keeping with their national legislation and international obligations regulating visa policies. A working group has already been working on this.

Peace & Security

  • Commonwealth leaders recognized the growing trend of recruitment of youth persons by extremist groups as fighters, including from some Commonwealth countries.
  • Leaders renewed their commitment to implement and support national strategies to counter these threats, including the need to address recruitment and radicalization of youth via the internet and Commonwealth programmes to raise awareness and prevent young people from falling victim to radicalization and terrorism.
  • They called upon all member governments to implement their obligations under the UN Security Council Resolution 2178(2014) on foreign terrorist fighters in full and to join or fully implement the Arms Trade Treaty.

Border Disputes in Guyana and Belize

  • The leaders endorsed the outcome statement of the Commonwealth Ministerial Group on Guyana following its meeting in September 2015, and reaffirmed their “unequivocal support for the maintenance and safeguarding of Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
  • They also welcomed the signing of thirteen cooperation agreements between Belize and Guatemala and reiterated their full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Belize.

Small States

  • A Commonwealth and Maltese government-funded Small States Centre of Excellence will promote the interests of small states and provide targeted capacity building programmes and other support.

The full statements may be accessed here:

Commonwealth Leaders’ Statement on Climate Change 

Final Communique 

Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B. is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. Please note that the views expressed in this article are solely hers. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.

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