[WATCH] Commonwealth secretary general urges countries to end discrimination

Resilience is often mistaken for keeping the status quo and resisting all changes, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says

Secretary General of the Commonwealth Foundation Kamalesh Sharma (Photo: Ray Attard)
Secretary General of the Commonwealth Foundation Kamalesh Sharma (Photo: Ray Attard)
PM Joseph Muscat (Photo: Ray Attard)
PM Joseph Muscat (Photo: Ray Attard)
Chair of the Commonwealth Foundation Sir Anand Satyanand (Photo: Ray Attard)
Chair of the Commonwealth Foundation Sir Anand Satyanand (Photo: Ray Attard)

Video is unavailable at this time.

Diversity and multiple identities are an integral part of the Commonwealth and these and other human rights issues should remain central to discussion, said Commonwealth secretary general Kamalesh Sharma.

Sharma was speaking at the official opening of the CHOGM People's Forum 2015 earlier today.

“Diversity and the richness of multiple identities are fundamental to the humanism of the Commonwealth Forum,” he said, adding that discrimination based on sexual orientation went against the very principles of the Commonwealth.

A 2013 report revealed that homosexuality was illegal in 41 out of the 53 Commonwealth countries.

Sharma further explained that this focus on human rights made the discussion of issues such as migration and reducing sexual violence in war central to discussions in the Commonwealth context.

“There are major global issues to be debated and seen through a Commonwealth lens that require a specific response, including climate change, radicalisation, migration, the needs of small groups and of youth,” he said.

Sharma saod the forum would delve into subjects like alternatives to GDP, climate change, blue and green economies, among others, and that there would be sessions to look into best practices and identify key issues in these sectors.

“The Commonwealth is an enormous family that continues to grow,” he said, adding that the ability of the Commonwealth to connect over so many levels shows the richness of the growth of the union.

“The idea of governments and people working together has become central to the way the Commonwealth is run,” he said, adding that meeting was held biannually in order to gain fresh ideas.

Taking the floor, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said resilience was often mistaken for keeping the status quo and resisting all changes.

Speaking about the theme of the forum – “What makes resilient societies?” - Muscat said that society is always changing and that being resilient means responding to these changes accordingly.  

He said that each platform of the forum was important in its presentation of equally important issues.

“Political leaders would be foolish to close their ears to the voices and views from different countries and civil society,” Muscat said.

Speaking about the strength of the Maltese economy and the success of sectors such as tourism, manufacturing and the developing blue economy, Muscat added that the country was also progressing on a social front including in its introduction of free childcare for families as well as civil unions for same-sex couples.

In his own intervention, Muscat said that he looked forward to discussions with various heads of state including French president Francois Hollande and UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon at the upcoming Paris climate change conference and that the forum would also be analysing the subject ahead of the meetings.

He also added that he looked forward to discussions on happiness and how to measure it that would be held at the forum.

“The People's Forum is the opportunity to discuss this issue which is so central to the current climate in international relations,” he added.

Chair of the forum Jacqueline Micallef Grimaud said that the forum is the largest gathering of civil society and representatives of the commonwealth and that it gives civil society the opportunity to interact with the various heads of state.

She said that the forum sought to be one of the strongest ever and that the programme sought to present Malta as a catalyst for change.

She added that the theme had been chosen because resilience was the other side of the coin constituting social cohesion.

“Resilience has become a buzzword related to environment and economy, but we haven’t heard it used for cultural, civic and educational dimensions in a while,” she said, adding that the forum sought to break this silence.

She questioned what the role of civil society was in government leadership, and added that the forum would be a platform for discussion and for bringing issues to the fore.

She added that access to resources, different economies and conflict resolution will be at the centre of these discussions.

Micallef Grimaud said that for the first time in its history, the forum would launch policy dialogues, including one about LGBTI issues and another about educational issues.

Micallef Grimaud also looked forward to continuity beyond the forum in the transition to the next CHOGM meetings and added that an impressive 1,000 people had registered their interest in the forum.

Chair of the Commonwealth foundation Sir Anand Satyanand said the importance of the forum lay in the fact that it enables dialogue with heads of state and that it encouraged creative thinking.

He further challenged the public to listen, engage and enjoy the discussions.