I am honoured to be invited to make some brief remarks to you. I bring warm greetings from Mr Kamalesh Sharma, Commonwealth Secretary-General.
It is heartening to note that you have chosen the theme of “Turning Growth into Prosperity”, and that you have been able to assemble a most impressive set of Speakers who will ably address various aspects of how to promote trade and investment in Uganda and how growth can be turned into prosperity.
The Commonwealth has been a strong partner of Uganda for many years, and Ugandans have played prominent roles in the Secretariat and in its governance. President Yoweri Museveni served as Chairperson-in-Office from 2007 until 2009, and that Uganda hosted CHOGM in 2007. Mrs Florence Mugasha served as Deputy-Secretary-General (Political) from 2002-2008. The Late Professor Yusufu Lule, former President of Uganda, served as Assistant Secretary-General in the early 1970s.
There is a direct correlation between the growth and prosperity and the advancement of political values in any region and in the wider Commonwealth family of states and peoples. It has been said that democracy and development are two sides of the same coin. That is why Commonwealth has been active in supporting democratic processes and institutions. We support member states’ efforts to reform political processes and strengthen political institutions. The Commonwealth has also invited eminent Ugandan citizens to lead and support our work in democracy building and democratic processes.
We are preparing for CHOGM 2015, which will be held in Malta from 27-29 November 2015. The special theme of CHOGM 2015 focuses on the Commonwealth ‘Adding Global Value’.
The four broad areas of focus for this CHOGM are: COMMONWEALTH POLITICAL VALUES, COMMONWEALTH DEVELOPMENT VALUES, CLIMATE CHANGE and COMMONWEALTH RELEVANCE AND IMPACT.
It is hoped that Heads will use the opportunity of discussing the outcomes of the UN processes on the Post-2015 Global Development Agenda and the related Financing for Development process, and the actions Commonwealth members can take to accelerate implementation of outcomes.
More broadly, the following issues have emerged:
- Climate change in the context of the Paris meeting of the UNFCCC in December 2015 – with a focus on issues of particular relevance to Commonwealth states. (e.g. climate finance, support to states affected by climate-induced natural disasters; the challenges of climate and development; and the challenges for small and coastal states);
- Current global security challenges and the range of domestic, regional and global policy responses required to address e.g. violent extremism in diverse communities, and illegal migration and human trafficking;
- Sustainable and inclusive development focus on the outcomes of the UN process on the Post-2015 Global Development Agenda and the related Financing for Development process, and the actions Commonwealth members can take to accelerate implementation of outcomes;
- Providing impetus to the 10th WTO Ministerial Meeting in Nairobi in December, through a political statement on multilateral trade; and
- Perspectives on harnessing the opportunities of the blue economy.
In terms of practicalities, at this CHOGM we hope to, amongst other things,:
- (i) launch the Commonwealth Climate Finance Skills Hub that is being currently developed in partnership with the Government of Mauritius;
- (ii) launch formally the Small States Centre of Excellence that the Government of Malta has offered to host and for which we are currently working internally on a proof of concept;
- (iii) launch the Small States Trade Finance Facility, which again is envisaged to be based in Malta;
- (iv) underline our priority for young people through several targeted youth initiatives; and
- v) reaffirm political commitment through practical activities like enhanced and strengthened mandate of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.
- This year, for the first time, the Commonwealth will be hosting a Women’s Forum. This is in addition to the regular CHOGM parallel events of the Business Forum, People’s Forum and Youth Forum.
- While there is currently no country on CMAG’s formal agenda, the Group has held discussions under its informal agenda on a range of issues, in line with its 2011 mandate from Heads of Government to act as a custodian of Commonwealth fundamental political values.
- CMAG’s discussions have focused around the eight ‘circumstances’ identified in CMAG’s mandate for assessing serious or persistent violations of Commonwealth values. These include: the prevention of the lawful functioning of parliament; a seriously flawed national electoral process; the systematic denial of political space; the undermining of the independence of the judiciary; and significant restrictions on media and civil society; among others.
- The Group’s aim is to have a more constructive engagement with member countries who are experiencing serious challenges, rather than being perceived as a solely punitive body. CMAG views its role as also being one of offering guidance and support, to help countries avoid any escalation of problems.
- The next scheduled meeting of CMAG is due to take place on 25 September, in the margins of the UNGA.
Relevant Trade Initiatives – to reflect upon as necessary
Some areas of support provided by the Commonwealth Secretariat to Uganda include support to Ministry of Trade develop a Strategic Action Plan to Implement Electronic Single Window Intervention focused on addressing issues in support of establishing appropriate mechanisms to enable Uganda to participate effectively in the global trading system. Another area of support provided was on the development of Uganda’s National Export Strategy.
The Commonwealth Secretariat in collaboration with the International Institute for Sustainable Development organised a conference on “Mega-Trading Blocs and the Future of African Trade: Moving from Fragmentation to Inclusive Trade Multilateralism” on 26-27 May 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya.
Thirty five (35) participants attended the conference representing Ministries of Trade and Industry, standard-setting bodies, regional organisations, think-tanks and academia, and the private sector. The broad objectives of this conference were twofold:
- to assist Sub-Saharan African policymakers and standard-setting bodies assess the policy implications and impact of mega-regional trade arrangements; and
- to explore how African countries can adjust to this new reality and what support they may require. Uganda’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives and the National Bureau of Standards participated in this conference.
The Commonwealth Secretariat organised a workshop in Kigali, Rwanda on 18-19 May 2015 on Post-Bali WTO issues and to assist African countries prepare for the forthcoming 10th WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi, Kenya
The Commonwealth Secretariat also organised the first ever pan-Commonwealth Trade Symposium on 23 and 24 June in Johannesburg, South Africa. The theme for the inaugural Commonwealth symposium was: “Shaping a Global Trade Agenda for Development”. This symposium presented a platform for senior officials to discuss and debate topical trade and development issues of interest to our members, especially small states, LDCs and Sub-Saharan Africa.
I thank you for this opportunity to address you.
Remarks by Dr Josephine Ojiambo Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General