MR to attend vital C’wealth meeting

From Neville de Silva in London

President Mahinda Rajapaksa will attend a special meeting of Commonwealth leaders in New York which will contribute useful insights into the UN’s High Level Event the next day on how to speed up the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aimed at reducing global poverty.

The Commonwealth leaders meeting on September 24 is a follow-up to the Commonwealth mini-summit in London that President Rajapaksa attended in June.

It will also look at progress on decisions taken at the Kampala Summit last November. Commonwealth leaders will have before them an Action Plan prepared by the Commonwealth Secretariat following up on the discussions at the London meeting.

The particular issues that will concern the Sri Lankan President include the economic and social transformation of society to achieve equity and social justice and the impact of global food shortages and the prices of inputs necessary for agricultural and industrial growth. The Commonwealth leaders will meet on September 24, the day before the special UN meeting on the MDGs. Since Sri Lanka has been seriously affected by both the shortages and the rise in prices, the challenges facing other countries and their efforts to overcome them will serve as useful experiences to both Sri Lanka and to the Commonwealth which is trying to build support from a broader membership within and outside the Commonwealth.

The UN Event takes place half way through the target date set for achieving the MDGs. There is a feeling here that most of the eight MDGs could be achieved by 2015 but it would need a greater effort from both the developing countries and the donor nations.

Following up on last November’s Kampala Summit, the meeting of 11 Commonwealth leaders in London also looked at the issue of the reform of international institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF and how they could be reformed to meet today’s needs. This is expected to figure at the New York discussions.

The meeting of Commonwealth leaders will be preceded by a September 24 morning meeting of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers. The ministers are expected to discuss, among other issues, Sri Lanka’s proposal in Kampala to hold a Foreign Ministers’ meeting on the subject of terrorism.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama who made the proposal in Kampala is expected to raise the issue again and it will be for the foreign ministers to decide whether such a meeting should be held and if so where and when.

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