RCS Newsletter Summer 2015-16
Patron: HE General the Hon. Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd) Governor-General of Australia
COMMONWEALTH HEADS AGREE ON MAJOR GLOBAL ISSUES
Major and urgent problems facing many member nations such as refugees and migration, security, violent extremism, radicalisation and climate change were among agenda items on which consensus views were reached and action recommended at the 24th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta in November 2015.
|YOUNG ANU SCIENTIST WINS 2016 MONTGOMERIE AWARD
A PhD candidate in biomedical sciences at the Australian National University, Stephen Fairweather (right) has been chosen as recipient of the RCS 2016 Phyllis Montgomerie Commonwealth Award. Stephen’s work within a team at the ANU’s Broer Laboratory, involves studying apicomplexan parasites that cause some of the most devastating diseases affecting human populations and livestock industries. These include malaria, toxoplasmosis, cryptosporidiosis and tick fever. For their survival, apicomplexan parasites rely on taking amino acids from their hosts e.g. humans, cattle, poultry etc. to use themselves. To effect the transfer, they use their own ‘transporter’ proteins. Because these proteins are unique to the group—and not found in their hosts or any other parasites— they provide a target for drug design aimed treating the diseases they cause—the ultimate aim of Stephen’s research project.
Work on the project will begin when he completes his PhD in a few months time. He will receive his Award at the Annual RCS Commonwealth Dinner on 17 March. The Award—of up to $5000—has been make possible by a bequest to the RCS from the late Mrs Phyllis Montgomery, a Life Member and former President of the RCS ACT Branch who died in 2011.
An issue of a different order i.e. who would be the new Secretary-General of the Commonwealth for the next four years, was resolved early in the meeting with the appointment of Caribbean-born Baroness Barbara Scotland, the first woman to hold the position (see story page 2) .
The final communiqué issued at the meeting’s end amounted to a little over 6000 words in contrast to the previous CHOGM in Sri Lanka which ran to 98 topics and 10,000 words. Officials hope that this may be a sign that agendas will be reduced to a manageable size so items can receive the attention they warrant.
PEACE AND SECURITY
|From the President . . .
The year 2015 has come very rapidly to a close and I am thankful to RCS members and the Council in making it a fruitful and successful one. Your subscriptions and donations have helped us keep our organisation operative so please renew your membership, if you have not already done so. A reminder is enclosed with this newsletter as well as a notice of our Annual General Meeting on 10 February which I hope as many of you as possible will attend. I will be giving a full report on our 2015 activities at the meeting.
Highlights of each year include, naturally enough, functions organised to mark Commonwealth Day in March. We look forward to a busy program again in this year beginning with the Multi-faith Celebration on Monday 14 March which will be attended by our Patron, the Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Cosgrove. This is always a wonderful occasion, fashioned on the traditional Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey attended by the Queen. This year, as on previous occasions, there will be affirmations by faith leaders and performances of song and dance by members of various national and cultural groups. Everyone is welcome to attend. We will also be having our annual Commonwealth Dinner, a lunchtime seminar and special youth functions. Members will be informed of the full program in a special mailing.
We have been very pleased to have established a closer association with Commonwealth High Commissions during the past few years and I hope to see these relationships grow and flourish.
Our seasonal lunches will continue during the coming year, the first one planned to coincide with a national meeting of RCS Branches in Canberra in April. We also have high hopes of engaging more with our young members during 2016 with events and activities to reflect their interests. We have been most encouraged by their energy and enthusiasm.
One important date for your diaries is coming very soon. This is the annual cricket match at Reid Oval on 21 February between a team representing the Commonwealth drawn from High Commissions and one from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This match, once a fixture on the RCS calendar, was revived in 2014. This is always a most enjoyable family day.
Everyone is welcome.
I end this message on a sad note. Our RCS Branch lost three Life Members during the year. They were Bill Boynton, Anthony Low and Richard Hickman. All three had made a substantial contribution to our Society over many years.
Heads affirmed the seriousness of radicalisation, violent extremism and terrorism and their serious threats to the whole world and agreed to support each other in sharing best practice in prevention and criminal justice. They also agreed to encourage adoption of recommendations in Amatya Sen’s 2007 report Civil Paths to Peace which include addressing conditions conducive to grievance and alienation with a particular focus on young people. Sen also argues that society needs to recognise and celebrate the multiple identities which many individuals possess and to build solutions accordingly. They undertook to encourage partnership activities with Commonwealth youth networks to help counter the appeal of violent extremism. (cont. p.3) BARONESS BARBARA SCOTLAND
IS NEW SECRETARY-GENERAL
Baroness Barbara Scotland of Asthar is the new Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, replacing Kamalesh Sharma, a former Indian High Commissioner to
London, who had served two four-year terms in the position. Writing* about the Commonwealth Heads meeting and the appointment of the Secretary-General, Commonwealth
Round Table Chairman, Stuart Mole, observed that the Commonwealth ‘likes to sustain the myth that its principal servant is selected by consensus, rather than by voting behind closed doors’. The Malta meeting, he said,
had three ballots before Baroness Scotland emerged as winner. Fellow Caribbean-born Sir Ronald Saunders, currently Ambassador to Washington for Antigua and Barbuda, was eliminated in the first round, and a former Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General, Masire-Mwamba from Botswana in the second. Born in Dominica and educated in the UK, Baroness Barbara Scotland was made a QC the age 35 and served as Attorney-General in the Blair Government. In an interview with Commonwealth Voices, published by RCS London, she called for the eradication of domestic violence for which she is ‘ready to fight’ and which she described as ‘the greatest cause of morbidity among women and girls worldwide’ affecting one in three. Its eradication would be a ‘critical component’ of her term as Secretary-General, she said. ‘When I look at things I have done in the past, it has always been in collaboration with others and an important partner is civil society.
‘I am really excited by the way that civil society is totally engaged with the Commonwealth.’ Baroness Scotland also referred to corruption, of its ‘evil impact’ on development and society, and climate change, citing the vulnerability of small island nations like her birthplace, Dominica, which suffered severe economic loss during storm ‘Erica’ in August 2015, wiping out 90 per cent of it s GDP.
*www.commonwealthroundtable.co.uk/commonwealth/notesfrom-malta-ii-from the Round Table Chairman To read the interview with Baroness Scotland, go to www.thercs.org ‘Commonwealth Voices’ December issue. Thank you to Commonwealth Secretariat Communications Branch for providing the photo of Baroness Scotland. Ed.
COMMONWEALTH HEADS AGREE ON MAJOR GLOBAL ISSUES (cont. from p.1)
Heads observed that managed migration can bring economic and social benefits, agreed to enhance national and international efforts to address the causes of irregular migration and underlined the importance of ensuring full respect for human rights and the humane treatment of refugees and displaced persons. They agreed to support efforts to achieve a World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016.
Further strengthening of the mandate given to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) at the Perth CHOGM in 2011 would be encouraged by Heads of Government. They agreed that Cyprus would lead CMAG for the next two years with other members Guyana, India, Kenya, Namibia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Solomon Islands. Malta, as chair-in-office, is an ex officio member.
Other agenda items dealt with at CHOGM included sustainable development and the need to provide continued assistance to member states to attain long-term
debt sustainability. They also agreed on the importance of conservation and the sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources.
The situation of small states, which comprise a large proportion of Commonwealth member nations, was noted for the suffering they are exposed to, because of their size, through economic recessions, natural disasters and environmental change. Heads encouraged these small nations make use of resources at the Small States Centre of Excellence being established in Malta. The Centre will help small states recover from natural disasters, manage debt, get more women into enterprise, provide diplomatic training and improve broadband connectivity. It is being funded with 400,000 euros in its first three years by the Government of Malta and the Commonwealth Secretariat.
The Malta CHOGM coincided with a number of other major international meetings. A European Summit on Migration was held earlier in November, followed by
DIRECTOR OF COMMONWEALTH FOUNDATION VISITS CANBERRA
The Chairman of the Commonwealth Foundation, Sir Anand Satyanand, gave a seminar at the Australian Institute of International Relations on ‘The Commonwealth at a Crossroads’ during his visit to Canberra in November. Seen above with Dr Natalie Mobini and the Fiji High Commissioner, Mr Yogesh Punja, Sir Anand, a former criminal court judge and ombudsman, was Governor-General of New Zealand before his current appointment. The Commonwealth Foundation, known as ‘the People’s Foundation’, is a civil society organisation established CHOGM in 1966. The seminar was sponsored by the Commonwealth Round Table and the RCS. the G20 meeting in Turkey.
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and French President Francois Hollande joined Commonwealth leaders in a climate dialogue during CHOGM when leaders issued their own statement on Climate Action, one they hoped would influence the International Climate Change Conference in Paris that followed almost immediately after their own meeting. In the statement, they acknowledge that they had all been contributing to climate change, the resulting burden falling disproportionately on the least developed countries including small island states. Commonwealth countries would be ‘mobilising global and national efforts’ to hold the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees, or 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The next CHOGM will be held in the United Kingdom in 2018 in the first half of the year in order to avoid the busy conference season.
OTHER MEETINGS IN MALTA
As usual, a number of related meetings were held in the days leading up to CHOGM. The Commonwealth Business Forum brought together 1300 business leaders from around 80 countries as well as 21 Commonwealth Heads. The Youth Forum was held over five days before the leaders met. Youth leaders later had a meeting over breakfast with a number of government heads and the UN Secretary-General on issues around employment, climate change and violent extremism.
TRADE, EDUCATION, MIGRATION BOND INDIA WITH AUSTRALIA
The ties that began to form when Australia ‘rediscovered’ India about 20 years ago, will only become stronger as relationships across many fields continue to grow and flourish, according to India’s High Commissioner in Australia, HE Mr Navdeep Suri.
In a briefing on Indian/Australian relations for RCS members at the High Commissioner’s residence in November 2015, Mr Suri said that he saw India replacing China as a ‘natural partner’ to Australia.
“We are privileged to be in Canberra at a time of optimism and sharpened interest in India,’ he said. ‘The agenda is entirely full.’
India’s economic growth—in 2015 this was 4.7 per cent—has made it ‘the most preferred destination for investment in the world’.
With 65 per cent of India’s population below the age of 35, education and skills are needed for 800 million people, he said.
‘The fact that there are already 50,000 Indian students in Australia is a reflection on this country having one of the best vocational and education systems in the world, not only because of its high quality, but also its low volume. In 2014, of the 350 scholarships earmarked by Australia for South Asia in its new Colombo Plan, 300 of them went to India.’
As well, there are 450,000 Indians who have made Australia their home. They are now the largest contingent of skilled migrants from any nation and are building a major bridge between our two countries.
In the field of trade and investment, in the recently concluded Free Trade Agreement between India and Australia, 1290 item categories had been agreed on. In 2015, India had imported more than $100 million dollars’ worth of lentils and chick peas alone.
It is in energy resources, however, that India hopes for improving trade relations with Australia.
‘India sees Australia as crucial for its energy supplies,’ he said, ‘but the gas fields of NSW are closed to India.’ Then there is controversy in Australia over coal, which for India, where 200 million people are without electricity, ‘is a lifeline, not a lifestyle’.
Despite its efforts to boost alternative sources of energy, coal will remain critical to India and Australia will remain a key market for it, especially Queensland coal, which he described as ‘the cleanest in the world’.
The RCS Newsletter Commonwealth News is published four times a year. Letters and contributions are welcome. Contact:
Maureen Hickman, Editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Indian High Commissioner, HE Mr Navdeep Suri, addressing RCS members. In the foreground is Mrs Sasrika Bajaj. Afterwards, Mr and Mrs Suri entertained members for lunch.
DATES FOR YOUR DIARY
- Wednesday 10 February at 6.00pm
RCS ACT Branch Annual General Meeting at 6.00pm in the foyer of the Wesley Centre, National Circuit, Barton ACT.
- Sunday 21 February 2016 at 12 noon
Cricket Match at Reid Oval commencing at 12 noon between a team from Common wealth countries and a team from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Refreshments after the match. All welcome.
- Commonwealth Day Celebrations in March Monday 14 March at 11.00am
Multi-Faith Celebration at the Centre for Christianity and Culture, 15 Blackhall Street, Barton. All Welcome.
Wednesday 16 March:
Lunchtime Seminar at the Australian Institute of International Relations, Deakin.
Thursday 17 March:
Commonwealth Dinner at The Common wealth Club, Yarralumla.
Members will be advised of details of RCS events marking Commonwealth Day in a separate mailing.
NEW RCS MEMBERS
The RCS Council warmly welcomes new members
Mr Alan de Zilva, Ms Grace Shaw, Mr Peter Shaw, Mrs Virginia Shaw and Youth Member, Daniel McKay.