54-member grouping: C’wealth summit ends with little progress on reform

Final communiqué agrees to a third of recommendations set on the agenda.

Agencies October 31, 2011

PERTH, AUSTRALIA: The tea flowed freely, and scones were aplenty, but the 54-member Commonwealth concluded its summit on Sunday with limited progress.

While leaders at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) congratulated themselves on taking steps towards reform, they failed to agree on two-thirds of the blueprint put forward as the agenda of the meeting.

The summit ended Sunday afternoon with leaders agreeing to a range of proposals on food security and climate change, natural resource management, eradication of polio, malaria and other diseases, but ruled out having a human rights commissioner.

The final 13-page communique also extended support to initiatives to eliminate gender-based violence, child marriages and all forms of discrimination.

The leaders agreed on the need to have a charter “to bring together the Commonwealth values, principles and aspirations in one clear and powerful statement,” Australian premier Julia Gillard said.

Limited progress

An eminent person’s group spent 16 months producing a landmark report on reform of the Commonwealth and made 106 recommendations on subjects from climate change to HIV/AIDS.

Gillard said CHOGM had agreed to a third of the recommendations, including a charter of values and greater powers for a group of foreign ministers to take early action where nations fail to uphold human rights and the rule of law.

Twelve recommendations are subject to consideration of financial implications, while another 43 would be reviewed at a foreign ministers’ meeting next September in New York.

Prime Minister Gilani spoke on female empowerment during a session and spelt out measures taken by Pakistan to empower women politically and economically.

The premier also held bilateral meetings with several of his counterparts on the sidelines of the three-day summit.

He also supported the Indian proposal of extension in the term of the organisation’s secretary general and an Indian diplomat, Kamalesh Sharma, for another four years.

Controversial clause dropped

Following a strong stance by Pakistan, the summit dropped a controversial paragraph from its final communique condemning Turkey over its stance on the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus.

The original paragraph condemned Turkey for allegedly violating the UN resolution on controlling the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus.

Prime Minister Gilani said it was against the spirit of the 54-member group to name any particular country.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st,  2011.


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