Commonwealth Secretariat partners with UK and Australia to support Commonwealth small states

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The Commonwealth Secretariat, a long-standing advocate for Commonwealth Small States, today announced the extension of two projects aimed at bolstering their capacity and engagement in the critical areas of trade and human rights. The projects, co-funded by the governments of the United Kingdom and Australia, are a concerted effort to support inclusive and sustainable economic growth and the promotion of human rights in these countries.

This announcement comes as world leaders attend the 50th anniversary of CARICOM (the Caribbean Community) and participate in the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting this week, which the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC is attending.

Secretary-General Scotland will be using the opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of these new projects for Commonwealth Small States, including in the Caribbean, and to discuss how the Secretariat can continue to support their efforts to achieve economic resilience and sustainable development.

Empowering Small States to Capitalise on Global Trade Opportunities
The first project co-funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) supports two trade advisers in the Commonwealth Small States Office (CSSO) in Geneva, offering technical support and advisory services to Small States missions in Geneva and their capital-based officials.

This will help these Small States to participate more effectively in negotiations on existing and emerging trade issues at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The project supports Small States on areas such as agriculture and food security, fisheries subsidies, digital trade, investment, WTO reform, trade and environment and trade and gender.

Speaking about the importance of these projects, Jo Lomas, UK Envoy to the Commonwealth said:

“I am delighted that the UK will continue to support trade and, with Australia, human rights advisers to work with the Commonwealth small states. These advisers play an important role in assisting small states in navigating the multilateral system and delivering real benefits for their citizens.”

The continuation of this project, which will be supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat’s International Trade Policy team, will support Small States in navigating these complex trade negotiations, especially ahead of the WTO’s upcoming 13th Ministerial Conference in February 2024. By empowering Commonwealth Small States to capitalise on global trade opportunities, the project seeks to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, reduce poverty and inequality, and contribute to the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the SAMOA Pathway for sustainable development in small island developing states.

Promoting Human Rights
The second project co-funded by the UK’s FCDO and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) helps Commonwealth Small States and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to effectively engage with UN mechanisms and implement their international human rights obligations. By offering targeted technical assistance and capacity development, the project aims to increase the voice and visibility of beneficiary member states in the work of the Human Rights Council, Universal Periodic Review mechanism, and Treaty Bodies.

Ambassador Amanda Gorely, Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Geneva) and Australian Ambassador for Disarmament said:

“Commonwealth Small States bring vital perspectives to international human rights mechanisms, and their engagement with the UN Human Rights Council and Treaty bodies is a cornerstone of this engagement. The Commonwealth Small States’ Office (CSSO) provides a critical link between governments and the multilateral human rights architecture in Geneva. Australia, together with the UK, is proud to support the CSSO Human Rights Adviser positions, enabling the sharing of information, the provision of expertise and the delivery of technical assistance.”

Challenges such as limited resources and expertise have hindered Commonwealth Small States and LDCs’ engagement with human rights mechanisms, resulting in reporting backlogs and reduced influence in decision-making processes. This project, which will be supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Human Rights Unit, will work towards reducing these obstacles and empowering these small states and LDCs to promote and protect human rights at the international and national levels effectively.

Dr Arjoon Suddhoo as Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General said:

“We take great pride in our partnership with the UK, extending the Trade project at the CSSO, and jointly with Australia and the UK, continuing the Human Rights project. Our Advisers are well respected in Geneva and play an indispensable role, empowering and supporting Commonwealth Small States to amplify their voice, influence and participation within these critical multilateral regimes.”

Both projects will be based at the CSSO in Geneva and will work closely with member states, relevant stakeholders and other international organisations. The CSSO in Geneva accommodates the permanent delegations of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the Pacific Islands Forum, as well as the permanent missions of Guyana, Malawi, Samoa, Seychelles and Vanuatu. The Commonwealth Secretariat extends its gratitude to the governments of the UK and Australia for their unwavering support and funding to make these projects a reality. Their commitment demonstrates a shared vision to empower Commonwealth Small States, ensuring a more prosperous and just future for these nations.

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