Leaders and Ministers of Commonwealth Countries have met at the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali for high-level discussions on how to strengthen support for the 32 small Member States.
The Ministers stressed the need to forge partnerships to mobilise global efforts on the issues affecting small states, such as the persistent environmental, health and economic shocks heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic ramifications of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The containment measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and the halting of all non-essential travel, contributed to the average Commonwealth Small States Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracting by 7.2 per cent.
This is higher than the 3.3 per cent contraction of global GDP, due to the steep contraction in tourism and trade, on which Small States heavily rely.
The economic recovery of Small States now hinges on vaccination rates and distribution, alongside fiscal support and the recovery of international travel and tourism.
UN-Commonwealth Advocacy Strategy
In an effort to collectively help build the resilience of Small States, the Commonwealth Secretariat together with the United Nations has developed the UN-Commonwealth Advocacy Strategy on Small States which was officially launched at the meeting.
In her opening address, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC said it was a duty and task for Commonwealth to work together to find real solutions to this challenge, because according to her every day which passes without urgent action intensifies the challenge.
“I champion Small States everywhere I go because I have the duty and mandate to do so, but I fiercely believe that centralising the needs of Small States makes practical sense. It helps everybody. It is the right thing to do, our Small and Developing States are where the need is greatest.
“It is also rational self-interest because addressing our greatest vulnerabilities strengthens the whole. Strengthening the whole enables every nation, every community, in every part of our world, to be more peaceful, more secure, happier, healthier and more prosperous,” she said.
This year’s meeting was Co-chaired by the Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Vincent Biruta, and the Minister of Education and National Reconciliation, Honourable Curtis King, and the Grenadines.
Hoourable Curtis King noted that it was critical for Small States within the Commonwealth to have access to finance to enable them to confront and mitigate the challenges they face.
“A difficulty is posed when access to concessional financing for development is dependent upon income classification by international financial institutions such as the World Bank. For example, Small States not classified as low-income countries are still vulnerable to exogenous shocks and may need assistance to confront and mitigate these shocks. However, based on the income classification approach, these states would be excluded from concessional financing for development.”
The Commonwealth Secretariat is proposing a new dimension to include a range of vulnerabilities and resilience of countries within the GDP per capita framework for financing for development.
Meanwhile, as part of his contribution to deliberations at the summit, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria is scheduled to deliver a speech at a High-Level Session of Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases Summit and participate in an Intergenerational Dialogue for Youth.
President Buhari will attend the official opening ceremony on Friday and high-level meetings of heads of state and government on the same day.
CHOGM brings together leaders and representatives of the 54 member countries of the Commonwealth.
The leaders are expected to consider a range of topical issues including post COVID-19 economic recovery, debt sustainability, climate change, poverty reduction, youth entrepreneurship and employment, trade and food security.
The theme for CHOGM 2022 is ‘Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming’.