VALLETTA, 29 SEPTEMBER 2016 (COMSEC) — Commonwealth members have welcomed the launch of a flagship centre dedicated to boosting support to small states.
The Commonwealth Small States Centre of Excellence will assist countries in critical areas such as disaster preparedness, debt management and women’s economic empowerment.
Francine Baron, Dominica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, praised the initiative, which will be jointly funded by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Government of Malta.
“Last month was the anniversary of one of the deadliest storms that Dominica has experienced in recent times. Despite the loss of US$483 million, equivalent to 90 percent of Dominica’s Gross Domestic Product, we had to find resources and the resilience to get up and start rebuilding. This will be a long process for us, but with the help of our international partners and friends, we will succeed.
“To have an initiative that supports us with disaster preparedness and management, a centre that is dedicated to the specific circumstances and challenges that small and vulnerable states like Dominica face, will be a lifeline and is the sort of partnership we all should encourage.”
Together, Malta and the Commonwealth Secretariat are expected to contribute over €400,000 in the first three years of the project. The Government of Malta will provide premises and staffing for the Centre. It will also give €100,000 in its first year of operation, while the Secretariat has committed to at least £100,000 a year for the first three years.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland has signed an agreement with the Government of Malta to host the centre in Malta.
“Thirty-one of our 53 members are small states, and many of them are constantly under threat from catastrophic natural events that are claiming lives and wiping out development progress. How do we help them prepare for and recover from disasters? We have countries who are in so much debt they are struggling to find the money to provide basic healthcare and education. How do we help create a long-term sustainable debt strategy that takes into account their vulnerability to climate change and global economic trends?”
The Secretary-General added: “The Small States Centre of Excellence will provide innovative solutions to these and other challenges facing developing Commonwealth countries. This is why we thought it was absolutely necessary to put up seed money to ensure it becomes a reality.”
Experts at the centre will oversee relevant research on small states and the sharing of best practice, including for the management of fishing and other ocean-related industries.
Prime Minister Muscat said Malta was fully committed to the establishment of the initiative. He stressed that, as a recently developed small island state, Malta can relate to the needs of other small states.
“Often the challenges facing small states in the Commonwealth do not receive enough recognition in international forums. This makes us even more proud to be able to support such an important initiative. This centre is going to provide the targeted assistance that Commonwealth small states require, when and where they need it.”
The prime minister added: “We believe the Small States Centre of Excellence has the potential to serve as a life-line for developing small states, which are constantly having to manoeuvre multiple challenges in their endeavours towards achieving economic growth, and it shall aide in overcoming some of the hurdles they face in attaining their objectives for sustainable economic growth and development.”….PACNEWS