A first visit to a country is always as stimulating prospect. There is much to take in, to learn and appreciate. My visit gives the opportunity of meeting a cross-section of leaders in Malawi to discuss ways we can offer the helping hand and continue to strengthen the partnership of the Commonwealth and to advance the fundamental values and principles which lie at the heart of our global family.
The values and principles around which member countries of the Commonwealth unite in voluntary association include: rule of law, respect for human rights, non-discrimination, respect and understanding, a culture of democracy, good governance, promotion of sustainable and equitable development and equitable global outcomes. These are principles to which our leaders have repeatedly committed themselves. They are what define what we are.
The meeting of Commonwealth leaders in Perth, Australia in October last year was a defining moment in renewing our common commitment to these values and in raising the level of our adherence to them.
The decision by leaders, including President Bingu Wa Mutharika, to renew and strengthen the remit of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group – a body of foreign ministers, created to deal with persistent or serious violation of our political values – was a particularly notable development.
Leaders also received a report of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG), a group of distinguished Commonwealth citizens who were tasked with suggesting ways of renewing and reforming our goals, institutions and mechanisms for the benefit of all our citizens. The coming period will see us taking the necessary steps to implement the recommendations adopted in Perth.
Much of the focus of the EPG report was on ensuring that the Commonwealth delivers value for its two billion citizens by creating an environment conducive to growth and for them to harness their potential, improve livelihoods, and promote prosperity and respect for diversity.
We look forward to exploring partnership with Malawi towards these goals. Malawi is a valued member of the Commonwealth. It participates effectively in our programmes and its contribution is very much appreciated. We have been closely engaged with Malawi for many years and have worked with the authorities on training members of the judiciary, sharing experiences for development of the SME sectors, holding courses with police in human rights, helping manage debt, voter registration and observing elections, strengthening the election management body, training nurses, advancing women’s economic empowerment, and helping strengthen Malawians’ capacity to trade.
We are committed to a continual deepening and strengthening of our work in Malawi to advance the three ‘Ds’ that guide the Commonwealth: embed democracy, development and diversity. As always, we support dialogue as a way of resolving national issues.
In two years the people of Malawi will be going to the polls to elect new leaders. The Commonwealth way is to work alongside member countries to strengthen a democratic culture through observing elections and assisting election management bodies.
In 2010, as a means of promoting best practice in election management, the Commonwealth established a network of election management bodies- to provide a platform for sharing experiences, distilling good practice and providing peer support and collaboration. Malawi benefits from participating in meetings of the network. The Commonwealth stands ready to walk the democratic journey with the people of Malawi and offer our support, as and when requested.
We believe that elections are not one-off events-but processes. The earlier we deal with issues of concern to participants, the better are the chances for the polls to gain the trust of all the stakeholders. The people of Malawi can count on the Commonwealth as a trusted partner.
About the Secretary-General:
Mr. Kamalesh Sharma, an Indian diplomat, became Commonwealth Secretary-General on 1 April 2008. He will be visiting Malawi from 21 to 24 January 2012.