Commonwealth countries agree on way forward

Monday, March 31, 2014

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CASTRIES, St Lucia (CMC) — Commonwealth countries have ended a two-day meeting here, identifying key "vulnerable" priority areas geared at building resilience and sustainability in small developing states.

Delegates attending the third Biennial Conference on Small States agreed to maintain their approach to get the international community to pay more attention to the challenges faced by their nations.

With the Commonwealth's five key pillars of resilience — building of macro-economic stability; micro-economic market efficiency; good governance; social development and cohesion; and sound environmental management as the backbone of their strategy -- the meeting has adopted a blueprint for finalising a framework towards building resilience.

The meeting "emphasised the conceptual underpinnings of vulnerability and resilience in each of the five pillars and the use of resilience profiling to drive progress forward".

The Commonwealth said a critical component of the framework is the forging of strong partnerships in order to acquire much needed global financing and a better trade environment.

"The issues that were discussed over that last two days will be used to feed into the G20 development forum which the Commonwealth plays an important technical role," said Commonwealth Deputy Secretary General, Deodat Maharaj.

"What is valuable of that forum is that we also have other important partners -- not only the G20 countries but also institutions such as the World Bank. As a matter of fact on the issues that we discussed here one key issue was how do you deal with shocks associated with natural disasters," he said.

The Commonwealth says it plans to lobby other small states ahead of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) conference to be held in Samoa later this year in order to get support for the use of a "vulnerability index".

"One of the key deliverables therefore that we are seeking following the conference and for the Small Island Developing States conference taking place in Samoa will be the finalisation of the resilience index which can better help small island developing states to access concessional and development financing," said Seychelles Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Paul Adam.

"One of the key concerns that have been raised for example is debt and the debt overhang that many island countries have and it's a question of finding innovative ways to address these issues," Adam.

Other deliverables included the "innovative and non-traditional measures to address high debt burdens; the inclusion of vulnerability as a criteria for access to concessional resources; the development and application of counter-cyclical loans for mitigation of growth and debt challenges as well as a debt for climate change adaptation and mitigation swaps".

Adam and his St Lucia counterpart, Alva Baptiste said that the 53-member grouping now has a
six-month timeline to get the "vulnerability index", which is a concept already in progress by the Commonwealth ready for the September SIDS meeting.

"So when we have developed that vulnerability index it gives us a better chance of now attracting concessionary financing so that we can reduce our debt, get the opportunity to have more room to manoeuvre and fiscal flexibility that we can now stimulate more employment for the people of the country, deal with poverty in a more decisive way," Baptiste said.

He told reporters, "As you reduce poverty and unemployment, a greater number of your citizens will now have access to finance, so that they can make an effective demand for goods and services in the economy. And so it will contribute to growth and the well-being
of the people of the perspective jurisdictions."

The link between governance and resilience was also discussed with delegates exploring options for policymakers to strengthen their governance framework, given their limited human and financial resources.

On the issue of climate change, delegates highlighted the need for ocean forecasting to predict impacts from climate change. They also called for action on land-based sources of pollution as well as concrete efforts to strengthen oceans and seas issues.


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