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Don McKinnon Address to CHOGM

Address by Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
Friday 25 November 2005, Malta

Your Majesty
Prime Minister Gonzi
Distinguished Heads of State and Government
Other distinguished guests
Representatives of Commonwealth organisations and civil society
Ladies and Gentlemen


It gives me great pleasure to join Prime Minister Gonzi in welcoming you all here, and to thank him for hosting our meeting in Malta - a vibrant small state which has always been an active and dedicated member of the Commonwealth.

It is also a pleasure for us, as visitors to your country Mr Prime Minister, to be here in Valletta . The siege of 1565 is a defining and proud part of this city's history, and I am pleased that the Commonwealth - with its own rich history - is meeting in a place which means so much to the people of Malta .

Thank you, Your Majesty, for gracing us once again with your presence. Your role as Head of the Commonwealth is a reminder of the freedom of association which binds and unifies us.

We live in a fast-moving world where the value of multilateralism itself continues to be questioned. In that world, the Commonwealth, its values, its stability and reliability are viewed very positively.

Democracy and development, as we know, are two sides of the same coin. One of the questions people are beginning to ask, though, is whether building a democracy is really the road to prosperity. Does democracy put food on our tables, clothe our children, put roofs over our heads and give us a future?

There is no single answer, no single roadmap, no single 'one size fits all'. What is important is that a democracy must meet the aspirations of all the people so that they can participate and exert an influence. It is on that foundation that one can best build a sustainable economic platform.

People want development but development itself is multifaceted. Trading opportunities are at the core. Our leaders two years ago reaffirmed that trade is not just an engine for economic growth but is the most potent weapon to combat poverty. They said that developing countries got little from the Uruguay Round; much was expected from the next Round; and the current Doha Round must therefore not fail in the same way. Frankly and regretfully, there is today a high level of despondency and a low level of ambition for the Doha Round.

I applaud the gestures we have seen this year from the developed world, in pledges to ease debt burdens and increase aid. But the applause will be muted until we see delivery, delivery, delivery. One cannot ask developing countries to give in the Doha Round when they cannot yet count what they have not received.

This is a test of Commonwealth leadership. The Commonwealth accounts for one fifth of global trade, and represents the full breadth of the world's interests. We don't just represent, in fact, we are the spectrum from the poorest and most vulnerable to the wealthiest and most secure. We have a right and a responsibility to show leadership. If we can give the WTO the shot in the arm it requires, then our organisation will have shown again its global worth.

Let's not forget that we joined together in the struggle against the scandal of apartheid at the end of the last century. Now it is the scandal of poverty that demands our attention.

For many Commonwealth countries, attaining the Millennium Development Goals remains a struggle. If we are to meet those goals, eradicate poverty, bridge the digital divide, bring equality of opportunity and economic freedom to our 1.8 billion citizens, there is no time to rest.

Our Commonwealth technical assistance programme - the CFTC - exemplifies how our members help one another. But the CFTC has halved in value in the last decade. So, at the very time when we are trying to tackle the MDGs, it is obvious that the CFTC needs a big injection of funding.

And let's not forget our 85-plus civil society organisations are also capable of mobilising resources and support. They are partners. They are part of the rich diversity which is our hallmark. The Commonwealth derives much additional strength from its ability to harness that diversity and use it actively and positively.

That is a message which is relevant today as we come to terms with the appalling acts and consequences of terrorism that have been felt in every Commonwealth community. 'Tolerance' is a word we hear a good deal. Tolerance must be an active, not a passive concept. There must be positive engagement among different groups, not simply indifference or grudging acceptance. What matters is practical action at the national and community levels. The Commonwealth can show the way.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are in good shape, we are courted by many, we are relevant today, and we are ready for tomorrow. May I therefore thank our Leaders for their commitment to see us move forward.

ENDS

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