The year’s first Roundtable Meeting for Commonwealth Accredited Organisations took place at Marlborough House on Thursday 11 May. Three CHEC members attended: board members Mark Robinson and Jane Samuels, as well as communications intern Rebecca Story. During the meeting, CHEC reported on their work with climate change, resilient urban landscapes and youth livelihoods as well as joining broader discussions on current issues within the Commonwealth. Read on for a report of what took place in the meeting and how CHEC contributed!
The meeting was chaired by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, who opened the session with a short address and some opening remarks on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), the restructuring of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the importance of building partnerships within the Commonwealth. In particular, the Secretary-General warmly welcomed the broad range of organisations present, commenting that it reflected the “complexity and richness of our associated organisations” and provided a “refreshing opportunity to remind ourselves of the impact the Commonwealth has had”. Organisations present included the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Rotary International and Transparency International UK: the minutes of the meeting provides a full list of those in attendance.
Following her opening address, the Secretary-General led a roundtable discussion on various issues relevant to the Commonwealth in the upcoming year: topics covered included the Secretariat’s anti-corruption platform, continuing engagement with sustainable development goals and the implementation of a framework for collaboration between stakeholders within the Commonwealth. Challenges posed by ongoing budget cuts to the Commonwealth were also discussed, with the Secretary-General commenting on the need for a “holistic approach to delivery” and the importance of working in a “smarter, more layered” way to meet strategic goals with limited resources.
CHEC’s Jane Samuels put forward several points during the roundtable, highlighting areas where CHEC’s work intersects with that of the other organisations present. In particular, CHEC’s work with climate change issues and in urban environments was discussed.
CHEC and Climate Change
Jane Samuels informed the room about CHEC’s extensive work on climate change resilience, citing as an example the Malta 2016 Commonwealth Conference: at the conference, CHEC explored issues impacted by climate change including food security and sustainable agriculture. Jane also reported on the youth-led programme that CHEC is currently involved in launching in Uganda; the programme will focus on biodiversity, youth livelihoods and gender mainstreaming as key issues in relation to climate change. In response to Jane’s comments, the Secretary-General praised CHEC’s work and noted that the Commonwealth Youth Minister’s Conference is to take place in Uganda in July, suggesting that this could represent a “real opportunity for [CHEC] to create a bit of synergy with what’s happening in that Youth Ministers’ Conference…a real synthesis could be possible”.
CHEC and Urban Resilience
CHEC also joined a discussion about urban resilience during the meeting, with Jane Samuels emphasising the importance that CHEC has always placed on urban issues and reporting on the ‘Network of Resilient Cities’ currently being launched in Lagos. CHEC board member Michael Mutter is involved with the project, which receives DFID funding: the first meeting has now been held, and the first advisor employed. Jane noted that “CHEC is particularly interested in how we can find alternatives to demolitions: there have been over 300 000 recently in Lagos and women and children are the ones that suffer the most”. The Secretary-General applauded the project, stating that it is “incredibly important that we work on the resilience of cities and that we create a fulcrum of best practice so that it can inform each of our member states as to what works and what doesn’t work”.
As well as reporting on their own work, CHEC commended the meeting as an opportunity to hear from, be inspired by and build partnerships with other Commonwealth organisations. In light of this, CHEC put forward a request to the Secretary-General that similar roundtables be held more frequently to give organisations increased opportunities to listen to and learn from each other. The Secretary-General noted the request, and commented that such discussions would likely be held twice a year going forwards, with other ‘thematic’ discussions being held in parallel to facilitate a greater breadth and depth of collaboration between members.
Find out more about CHEC’s work in climate change, urban landscapes and more on our projects page!