TOP COMMONWEALTH OFFICIAL TO ATTEND VILA FORUM

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Sharma touts dialogue, cooperation in Pacific

By Elenoa Baselala SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Aug. 1 , 2010) - The Commonwealth secretary-general, Kamalesh Sharma, will attend the 41st Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) meeting in Port Vila, Vanuatu next week.

A statement from his office said Mr Sharma would address delegates at the summit, which opens on August 4.

"It is an honour for the Commonwealth to be invited regularly to address leaders at their annual summit, and an important part of the strong and close relationship between the Commonwealth and the Pacific region," Mr Sharma said.

"The Commonwealth's relevance and practicality derive from regular contact, dialogue, and flexibility.

"The forum is also an opportunity to ensure that the Commonwealth continues to deliver the support required by our Pacific members for their continued development. I welcome the theme chosen by Vanuatu for this year's meeting - Navigating our challenges and opportunities together towards addressing the needs of the most vulnerable of our communities."

This resonates strongly with the Commonwealth's own focus on the needs and concerns of small states, which make up 32 of our 54 members."

Mr Sharma added his attendance would provide a valuable opportunity for a dialogue with Pacific leaders on their national and regional perspectives and priorities.

"We shall look at ways to enhance co-operation between our two organisations, in the range of areas where we can and do work together.

"These include democracy, governance, trade, economic development and the rule of law. "We will be discussing a number of initiatives, including new proposals for supporting small states in accessing funds for tackling climate change, and new projects to ensure that the voices of small states are better heard in global debates.

"We will also be talking about our raised levels of activity to strengthen governance in the Pacific, and the options to do more in this critical area," Mr Sharma added.

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