Minister of External Affairs Professor G.L Peiris, representing President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth, at the Commonwealth Day celebrations in London, including the Multi-Faith Observance at Westminster Abbey, held discussions with Mr. Kamalesh Sharma, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, at Marlborough House in London on 11th March 2014.
Minister Peiris discussed with Secretary-General Sharma some broad ideas about how the organisation could develop a road map to meet the expectations of the large swath of humanity comprising the population of the Commonwealth. He said that he had consulted informally with several colleagues representing Commonwealth countries regarding priorities as to projects and activities contemplated during the next two years. He referred to the many initiatives endorsed by Commonwealth Heads of Government at their Summit held in Sri Lanka in November last year.
The Minister laid stress on the overarching theme of the Sri Lanka Summit, “Economic Growth with Social Equity” and discussed practical strategies for ensuring that the benefits of economic development are available to be shared by all sections of society, particularly among youth and in the rural sector. He made reference in this regard to the Colombo Declaration on Sustainable, Inclusive and Equitable Development.
Among the other Outcome Documents at CHOGM 2013, Prof. Peiris emphasized the Kotte Statement on International Trade and Investment. He noted that the participation by Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce, at the 9th World Trade Organisation Ministerial Meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in December last year enabled the members to take note of the initiative by Commonwealth leaders to draw global attention to the challenges confronting the most vulnerable countries.
On the Magampura Declaration of Commitment to Young People, there was discussion about the grassroots project in Sri Lanka to harness the potential of youth in terms of employment opportunity and financial inclusion. This is a project being developed by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Skills Development with the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka. Preparations are well underway for the World Youth Conference which will be held in Sri Lanka in May this year.
Minister Peiris referred to the initiative by Sri Lanka to host the Commonwealth Ministerial Meeting on Small States at CHOGM 2013 as a measure of assistance to this category of countries which comprise 31 out of the 53 countries of the Commonwealth.
The meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group takes place in London later this week. Sri Lanka, as Chair-in-Office, is a member of this Group. The other members are Tanzania, New Zealand, Sierra Leone, India, Pakistan, Guyana, Cyprus and Solomon Islands.