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Perth hosts Commonwealth heads of government meeting

October 28, 2011 - AUSTRALIA

The heads of government of the 54-member Commonwealth of Nations meet in the western city of Perth. Commonwealth heads of government meet every two years. The body's present concerns include climate change and the global recession, both of which affect Commonwealth members disproportionately. The relevance of the organization is also at issue. The description of the alliance as an irrelevant relic of Britain's imperial era surfaces periodically.The world's largest and smallest, richest and poorest countries make up the Commonwealth and are home to two billion citizens of all faiths and ethnicities. Many Commonwealth members are island states threatened by rising sea levels, yet the Commonwealth failed to prevail on their behalf at the global summit on climate change in Copenhagen on 7 Dec 2009.

The heads of government of the 54-member Commonwealth of Nations meet in the western city of Perth. Commonwealth heads of government meet every two years. The body's present concerns include climate change and the global recession, both of which affect Commonwealth members disproportionately. The relevance of the organization is also at issue. The description of the alliance as an irrelevant relic of Britain's imperial era surfaces periodically. The world's largest and smallest, richest and poorest countries make up the Commonwealth and are home to two billion citizens of all faiths and ethnicities. Many Commonwealth members are island states threatened by rising sea levels, yet the Commonwealth failed to prevail on their behalf at the global summit on climate change in Copenhagen on 7 Dec 2009. A damning report by the Royal Commonwealth Society in 2009 queried whether the alliance was still relevant and said it urgently needed to refocus its purpose. The empty stands at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi hinted that interest in the organization is lackluster. The Eminent Persons Group, set up to help reform and renew the Commonwealth in 2009, is calling on members of the public for their opinions on the association. The group's recent questionnaire asks how the profile, impact and networks of the 60-year-old Commonwealth can be strengthened. The severe global economic crisis -; which has resulted in the World Bank estimating a financing gap for developing countries of US$270-700 billion, and around half Commonwealth member countries facing negative GDP growth -; has made it all the more important that the Secretariat's interventions be significant, targeted and lead to concrete outcomes and results. The organization's potential assistance and advocacy is especially crucial for its smaller members, which make up 32 of the 54. At the last Commonwealth summit, in Trinidad in 2009, the alliance of former British colonies admitted French-speaking Rwanda, boosting its number to 54. It also slammed military-ruled Fiji's failure to restore democracy. In recent days, Sri Lanka has come under fire from within the Commonwealth. Formerly Ceylon, ithad offered to host the 2011 meeting back in 2007. A subsequent brutal civil war against the Tamil Tigers and international concern about human and civil rights infringements against the Tamil population, who were displaced by the fighting, are raising questions about Sri Lanka's Commonwealth membership. Australia previously hosted the Commonwealth leaders in 1981 and 2002, in Melbourne and the northeastern town of Coolum respectively. Because of the presence of several world leaders, notably the Indian and British prime ministers, security is likely to be similar to that for APEC meeting in Sydney in 2007. (WRITTEN Oct 2010)

Kamla under fire over Commonwealth report (Guardian 17 Oct 2011)

Australia to host next Commonwealth Summit (SMH 30 Nov 2009)

UK and France propose climate fund for poor (BBC 28 Nov 2009)

The Commonwealth: Whither to wither (20 Oct 2010)

Official logo and website for CHOGM 2011 unveiled (Commonwealth Secretariat)

Public invited to give their views on the future of the Commonwealth (Comm. Secretariat 17 Aug 2010)

Indian opposition wants Parliament to probe failures at Commonwealth Games (Canadian Press 17 Oct 2010)

Date written/update: 2011-10-28