Commonwealth to deepen relationship with St. Kitts and Nevis

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, MAY 15TH 2013 (CUOPM) – Commonwealth Secretary General, His Excellency Kamalesh Sharma said Tuesday his meetings in St. Kitts and Nevis were purposeful and informative, and afforded him the opportunity to gain an up-to-date perspective of how the Commonwealth’s work is viewed and how the institution may be of greater assistance and relevance to the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas noted that this year 2013, marks the thirtieth anniversary of both independence and membership of the Commonwealth for St. Kitts and Nevis.

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“It was therefore particularly timely to visit in order to underline that the Commonwealth remains committed to being a practical, active and relevant partner of St. Kitts and Nevis in its national priorities and as this country progresses on its chosen path to economic resilience, sustainable development, and a strengthened and enduring culture of democracy,” the Secretary General said.

He pointed out that in keeping with its solidarity with small states, the Commonwealth will continue to speak out internationally and to advocate the interest of small island states on issues such as debt, access to climate change finance, and supporting human development.

St. Kitts and Nevis he said has been a longstanding contributor to the shared resources of the Commonwealth, which is reflected in particular in the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation (CFTC).

He said the nation’s partnership in the CFTC has generated significant returns in the form of technical assistance, which notably includes more recently for St. Kitts and Nevis.

The Secretary General pointed to the on-going international technical expertise to define and negotiate this country’s maritime boundaries with St. Barthelemy, Antigua and Montserrat.

He mentioned the development of a marketing plan including strategies to promote the services sector, a strength of its economy internationally and noted that since 2010, the Commonwealth has supported the Caribbean Telecommunications Union to help establish the Caribbean Centre of Excellence (CCoE) as a self-sustaining and revenue-generating institution, and to help St. Kitts and Nevis use ICT’s more effectively for development.

“The provision of technical experts in trade negotiations based at the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States in St. Lucia; in legislative drafting based at the CARICOM Secretariat in Guyana; and, in climate change based at the Caribbean Climate Change Centre in Guyana,” said Mr. Sharma.

St. Kitts and Nevis also gets support for the judiciary, including training in the investigation and prosecution of complex transnational crimes, and strengthening capacity in combatting money laundering.

“The Commonwealth has also given assistance in the area of Public Service training, such as leadership enhancement for ten senior civil servants including eight newly-appointed Permanent Secretaries and in debt assistance in the form of software and technical expertise to undertake financial and payment modelling in order to manage public debt as well as the development of a common tourism policy for the OECS, including deployment of an expert who has helped achieve the completion of a Partial Scope Trade Agreement for St. Kitts and Nevis with Brazil that is expected to help increase the value of exports to over US$30 million with the value-added effect of increasing employment,” the Commonwealth Secretary General said.

Mr. Sharma said as a result of his visit, agreement has been reached to deepen the Commonwealth’s partnership and collaboration with St. Kitts and Nevis in the years ahead.

“We will pursue possibilities for new assistance in the following areas: supporting the culture and institutions of democracy – assisting in the implementation of recommendations made in the past by Commonwealth election observers including the development of a media code of conduct that provides equitable access to the media for all political parties during elections where progress is also already being made to reflect better the population changes and movements that have occurred since the boundaries were last determined in 1984; support for the development of legislation governing finances during election campaigns; and, strengthening the transparency and inclusiveness of the appointment process for the Supervisor of Elections and Election Commissioners. We will also seek to strengthen the capacity of the Election Commission to achieve Commonwealth standards and norms through collaboration and participation in the Commonwealth Electoral Network – a global and on-line gathering of senior Commonwealth electoral officials,” he disclosed.

The Commonwealth will also work with the Government to establish a national youth policy as well as a national youth council, just as both of these are being established or advanced in other Commonwealth member states in recognition of the critical importance of ensuring the views and needs of young people are taken into account in all relevant aspects of public life and public policy.

“In the area of human rights, assistance will be given in following up on those recommendations from the last United Nations Universal Periodic Review in Geneva which have been accepted by St. Kitts and Nevis, particularly the establishment of a national human rights institution that has international ‘A’ status in accordance with the Paris Principles; and areas for continuing technical cooperation were also identified,” he said.

“Our shared Commonwealth values, principles and goals – for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis as for the citizens in all our 54 member states – are to be found in the Charter of the Commonwealth, which was adopted by Commonwealth leaders in December 2012 and signed by Her Majesty The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, in March 2013,” said Mr. Sharma, who pointed out that the Commonwealth Secretariat looks forward to advancing the Charter practically in St. Kitts and Nevis through the new initiatives for collaboration that have arisen during this visit.

“Our objective is to provide every Commonwealth citizen with dignity, access to their rights, and opportunity. I renew my deep appreciation for the courtesy and kindness extended to myself and my delegation, and I look forward to the opportunity of returning to St. Kitts and Nevis in future,” the Commonwealth Secretary General said.

While here Mr. Sharma with Prime Minister Douglas, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Works, Housing and Utilities, the Hon Asim Martin; the Minister of Justice, Homeland Security, Labour and Foreign Affairs, Hon Patrice Nisbett; the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports, Information Technology, Telecommunications and Posts, Hon. Glenn Fitzroy Phillip; the Minister of Health, Social and Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs, Hon Marcella Althea Liburd; Attorney General Hon. Jason Hamilton; Leader of the Opposition, Hon Mark Brantley and the Premier of Nevis, Hon Vance Amory.

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