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Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

Volume 715: debated on Monday 30 November 2009

Statement

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made the following Statement.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government met in their 60th anniversary year in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, from 27 to 29 November.

Her Majesty the Queen attended the biennial meeting for the 19th time in her role as Head of the Commonwealth. Leaders paid tribute to her dedication and commitment to the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth continues to show, through its diversity and by its actions, its continued importance as we work together to address the great global challenges.

Many Commonwealth countries, such as Bangladesh, the Maldives and the Caribbean and Pacific Islands, are among those most vulnerable to climate change. So this was a unique opportunity for leaders of one third of the world's population to address the key issues which must be resolved in the Copenhagen agreement. The special session was addressed by Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen, who is organising next month's conference in Copenhagen, by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and by President Sarkozy.

The Commonwealth agreed to the British proposal for a Copenhagen Launch Fund to provide immediate assistance to developing countries to tackle climate change. We agreed that this fund should start next year and rise to $10 billion annually in 2012, with a further scaling up of financial assistance to 2020.

With 89 leaders now committed to attending Copenhagen, the Commonwealth backed the Danish Prime Minister's plan for a “comprehensive, substantial and operationally binding agreement in Copenhagen leading towards a full legally binding outcome no later than 2010” and so, while no one should be in any doubt how much there is still to do to secure an agreement that will limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees, the Commonwealth has helped to lay the foundations for this: an agreement on which our future prosperity and security depend.

And it is fitting also, in its 60th year, for the Commonwealth to have made the biggest advance in its history towards free healthcare for its citizens. The agreement—the Commonwealth Health Compact—to remove user fees and provide healthcare free at the point of use could change the lives of millions and mean that mothers are no longer forced to choose between sending their children to the doctor or sending them to school. This is the first time in history that over 50 countries have collectively committed to free healthcare, an announcement with the potential to reach nearly one third of the world's population.

I met the Secretary-General of the United Nations principally to discuss Afghanistan. We then held a joint press conference to announce the London conference on Afghanistan on 28 January 2010. I shall be making a Statement to Parliament about our policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan today.

The Commonwealth echoed UK calls for a new social contract between the financial sector and the public to rebalance risk and reward and called on the IMF to look at all options in its forthcoming review.

The Commonwealth also sent a strong message to the Government of Zimbabwe faithfully and effectively to implement the global political agreement. On this basis it looked forward to conditions being right for Zimbabwe to rejoin the Commonwealth in the future.

Leaders agreed that Australia would host the 2011 summit.

It was agreed to include a commitment to looking at strengthening the organisation and ensuring all of its democratic values and principles are upheld. With half of the Commonwealth's two billion citizens under the age of 25, we have a duty to be a forward-looking group of nations. The Commonwealth continues to provide a unique forum in which to bring together developed and developing countries, large and small economies, to unite in recognition of their shared history and to determine their shared future.

Copies of the concluding communiqué have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.