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Commonwealth Leaders to Discuss Climate Change and Democracy

  • James Butty

Trinidad and Tobago Parliament

Trinidad and Tobago Parliament

Spokesman Eduardo del Buey says the Commonwealth has been promoting democracy since its founding 60 years ago

A new report says the Commonwealth should do more to promote democratic governance among its member countries.

The report by the Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit says a key obstacle to deepening democracy is the failure in many countries to encourage open political competition.

The report comes as the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting known as CHOGM opens Friday, November 27 in the Trinidad and Tobago capital of Port of Spain.

“The Commonwealth is very involved in promoting democracy, and it’s something we’ve been doing ever since we became an active organization 60 years ago or over 60 years ago,” said Eduardo del Buey, chief spokesman for the Commonwealth Secretariathe.

He said one of the issues the leaders will be considering in Trinidad and Tobago is a proposal by the Commonwealth Secretary-General to create an alliance of election commissioners.

De Buey said the alliance would provide the venue for election commissioners across the Commonwealth to share expertise, get peer review, and learn from each other on how to better manage elections.

He disagreed with one of the report’s claims that the Commonwealth was not doing enough to hold member countries accountable to democratic governance.

“There’s no such thing like perfect democracy in the world. We’re all at different stages of development, and the Commonwealth Secretariat realizes that and we work with member states in order to improve their abilities to improve democratically,” Del Buey said.

The UN Climate Conference begins December 6-18 in the Danish capital of Copenhagen.

African Union Chairman Jean Ping said last September that athough Africa is the least responsible for global warming, it suffers the most.

Del Buey said climate change is high on the agenda of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago.

He said the Commonwealth wants to make sure the voices of the small and vulnerable are heard in Copenhagen.

“The small and vulnerable states in Africa, the small and vulnerable states in the Pacific and the Caribbean do not create much of the carbon footprints. But they are leading in terms of suffering and the devastation caused by climate change,” he said.

Del Buey said the Commonwealth is seeking to create a system whereby smaller states will have the technology and finance to address the problems climate change is causing them.

The report “Democracy in the Commonwealth” was published by the Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit and Electoral Reform International Services.

The Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit is part of the School of Advance Study in the University of London.

Eighteen African countries are members of the Commonwealth, and conference organizers said most of their leaders are expected to attend.