Nkoana Mashabane arrives for Commonwealth meeting

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pretoria - International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane has arrived in Trinidad and Tobago for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

The 2009 CHOGM, to be held in the capital, Port of Spain, from Friday until Sunday, comes as the Commonwealth celebrates its 60th anniversary year.

Nkoana Mashabane this morning participated in pre-CHOGM foreign ministers meeting prior to the Heads of State and Government meeting which President Jacob Zuma will attend.

The foreign ministers meeting will among other issues consider the review of global developments, consideration of political issues and the global economic situation as well as climate change.

On the margins of the meetings, Nkoana Mashabane has met her Australian counterpart, Steven Smith where they had discussed both bilateral and multilateral issues.

According to her department, on multilateral issues, Australia indicated its interest in serving as a non permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the 2013 and 2014.

Meetings aimed at strengthening bilateral relations between South Africa and other CHOGM member countries are scheduled between Nkoana Mashabane and her counterparts from Canada, Bangladesh and Cyprus for later today.

South Africa will participate in the CHOGM within the context of North-South Cooperation as government seeks to exchange views on a range of challenges facing the world today such as climate change, sustaining biodiversity and conserving water resources.

The biennial summit themed, "Partnering for a more Equitable and Sustainable Future," will host a Special Session on Climate Change ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference next month in Copenhagen.

Commonwealth's secretary-general Kamalesh Sharma expects leaders to embrace the issue of climate change as the meeting offers the only opportunity for the leaders to meet before the Copenhagen Summit on climate change next month.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who are strong environmental advocates, will be special guests at the meeting. United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki Moon has also confirmed his attendance.

The secretary-general is expected to urge the leaders to attend next month's Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen and seal a deal, Farhan Haq, Ban's associate spokesman said.

He is also expected to urge the leaders to stay focused and committed to reach agreement in Copenhagen that is ambitious, equitable, and satisfies the demands of science.

"The world cannot afford to fail in Copenhagen because the costs are simply too great, the secretary-general will urge the leaders.

"Failure to seal a deal could result in increased human suffering, higher economic losses, opportunities squandered in terms of productivity, global competitiveness and political stability," Haq said.

The secretary-general will also engage in bilateral talks with a number of leaders on matters of mutual interest, he said, adding that Ban and his delegation are expected back in New York on Sunday.

Commonwealth officials have already acknowledged that no one country can tackle these issues alone. As such, emphasis will be on adopted an integrated approach to find joint solutions.

Leaders are also expected to review international and economic developments as well as examine avenues for Commonwealth cooperation for development.

With half of the Commonwealth population of two billion comprising those under 25 years of age, leaders will also be looking at ways to engage the youth.