My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Commonwealth Heads of Government will hold their biannual meeting in Kampala from 23 to 25 November 2007. The purpose of this Statement is to inform the House about the Government’s objectives for the meeting.
The Commonwealth today is as important to the UK as ever. That is why the Prime Minister and four other members of the Government—the Secretary of State for International Development, Baroness Vadera, Lord Malloch-Brown and I—will attend the Heads of Government Meeting. The Commonwealth is a group of countries that cuts across traditional regional, economic groupings and, with a fundamental set of principles in common, is well placed to take action and move the debate forward on issues of critical, global importance. Its strengths are the democratic values that it shares and its willingness to scrutinise its members and hold them to account; the size of its constituency, with over a quarter of the world’s population living in Commonwealth nations; and its diversity.
The Government are optimistic about what can be achieved at CHOGM. They will be seeking outcomes that will, in particular, give positive impetus to the climate change debate, refocus attention on the millennium development goals, promote education for all and recognise the vital importance of trade to all Commonwealth members.
Uganda’s chosen theme for CHOGM, “Transforming Commonwealth societies to achieve political, economic and human development”, fits well with UK priorities. Climate change, the millennium development goals, trade and education issues must be urgently addressed if the poorest Commonwealth countries are to fulfil their potential.
CHOGM will also provide the platform for valuable discussion on other issues of common concern, including extending Commonwealth membership and working to fight radicalism and intolerance.
Specific outcomes that the Government hope to achieve from CHOGM include the following.
CHOGM, coming just a week before the UN meeting in Bali, provides an excellent opportunity to underline the scale and urgency of the climate threat. We hope that Commonwealth heads will send an unequivocal message that to achieve climate security we need a high-ambition, UN-based global framework with developed countries taking on binding emission reduction commitments. We also hope that heads will agree to ensure that all Commonwealth countries, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable, can assess the implications of climate change for their economies.
Millennium development goals
Four Commonwealth countries—India, Ghana, Canada and the UK—have already signed the 31 July call to action declaration. We hope that Commonwealth countries will agree that a wide group of international stakeholders must take urgent action to get the Commonwealth and the world back on track to meet these goals. We also hope that they will urge the UN Secretary-General to convene a UN meeting in 2008 that brings together heads of government with leaders from the private sector, civil society and faiths to recommit to and accelerate the action that is needed.
Within the Commonwealth there are about 30 million children of primary school age who are not enrolled in education. We want the Commonwealth to accelerate and sustain access to primary education for all, including working to eliminate gender disparities in education. We will be urging heads of government to endorse the agreements made at the Commonwealth Education Ministers’ meeting in Cape Town in December 2006. Our objective is that Commonwealth countries will place a renewed emphasis on education quality at all levels and on the measurement and improvement of learning. Together we will examine how we can make demonstrable progress on vital literacy, counting and writing outcomes for primary-aged children.
We will urge our Commonwealth counterparts to join us in calling for the early, pro-development conclusion of the Doha round, which will benefit the poorest of the Commonwealth countries. We will also be calling on all CHOGM countries in a position to do so to extend aid for trade to Commonwealth developing countries. Aid-for-trade projects are often best done at a regional level between trading neighbours and the Commonwealth is well placed to support such regional co-operation.
The Commonwealth is rightly proud of the values that define it. Its preparedness to scrutinise members in serious or persistent violation of the Harare principles is a useful tool in bringing Governments to account. CHOGM will focus international attention on Uganda. During CHOGM, UK Ministers will raise progress in the northern Uganda peace process with the Ugandan Government, as well as internal governance and human rights.
The Government are also deeply concerned by situation in Pakistan. CMAG has sent a clear message. The Government hope that Pakistan will send the right response before CHOGM.