Message by President James Michel on the occasion of Commonwealth Day 2013 and the adoption of the Commonwealth Charter
Today, Seychelles and the Commonwealth Family, celebrate their unique bond of friendship and partnership.
It is a day for us to honour the critical role that the Commonwealth continues to play in the development of our country, and its continued importance as an organisation whose member nations share common values and principles.
Commonwealth Day is also a time for members of the Commonwealth family to reflect on how to better address the many global challenges which requires common solutions such as the world economic situation, climate change, piracy, terrorism, arms proliferation and better health for all.
The theme adopted for 2013 is “Opportunity through Enterprise” which has a particular resonance with the Seychelles as we have always prided ourselves for being a nation that seeks to find opportunity, even in adversity. The succes of our economic reforms bear testament to this.
We are also a nation that continues to take up the challenge to be a strong voice of advocacy for Small Island Developing States.
This year’s theme also reminds us, that at the global level, we must encourage new and innovative enterprises for sustainable development.
As the dynamics of the world we live in change and become more complex, the need for the Commonwealth to evolve was also becoming more and more apparent.
The first steps towards change were taken at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009. It was at that meeting that members agreed to set up an Eminent Persons Group (EPG), with the task of evaluating how the Commonwealth could better adapt to the realities of a continuously changing world.
Their findings and recommendations were presented to the CHOGM held in Perth in 2011, with a strong message that changes need to be made if the Commonwealth was to remain more accessible to the member states.
One key recommendation, which gained unanimous support of the member states, was the need to have a Charter, a document that embraces the fundamental values, principles and aspirations of the Commonwealth family. These are the values and principles that we, as a nation, hold in high esteem, including democracy, good governance, sustainable development, development of our youth, and gender equality.
Seychelles was one of 12 countries represented in a Ministerial Task Force established following the Perth CHOGM in 2012 with the mandate to review and renew the work of the Commonwealth to better meet the challenges of its member states.
We are pleased that this Charter has been endorsed and adopted on the 19th December 2012. The charter is the first of its kind for the Commonwealth, and has heralded a new chapter for the Commonwealth.
The most distinctive contribution to the Charter made by the Government of Seychelles was the inclusion for the first time in a global organisation of specific recognition of the particular needs and specificities of Small Island Developing States.
The Commonwealth is one of the few international organizations that continue to champion the cause of Small States, and in particular Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and I believe very strongly that the new Commonwealth Charter will play a key role in bringing a new focus on the need to tackle the particular vulnerabilities of SIDS and in building their resilience for the future especially when it concerns combating climate change and promoting the blue and green economy.
In all the Commonwealth forums that Seychelles participates, we have also always stressed Seychelles’ strong support for the Commonwealth’s primary focus of promoting peace, democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law. Our strong engagement in this process is further reflected in the efforts being invested nationally for the electoral reforms and in promoting human rights.
Our unwavering commitment to peace and security is further demonstrated by Seychelles bid to be a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council 2017-2018. We might be the smallest nation in Africa- but the impact of our efforts to combat piracy and promote peace in the region has been felt around the world.
A renewed and re-focused Commonwealth is in everybody’s advantage.
We have benefited, and continue to benefit from technical assistance and expertise in various fields, including health, debt management, trade, the judiciary and management of natural resources.
We recall the landmark achievement of the joint submission by Seychelles and Mauritius to the United Nations on our extended continental shelf, and subsequently, joint management of an extended area of continental shelf. This would not have been possible without the support of the Commonwealth.
Seychelles is proud to be a longstanding member of the Commonwealth. By joining other countries around the world in marking Commonwealth Day, we are paying tribute to the strong partnership among Commonwealth members that is vital to our future.