Desk Report: Seeking inclusion of representatives from Asia in the High Level Group to review the Commonwealth Secretariat's Governance, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Friday suggested making the Group more representatives with inclusion of member states of different regions.
"We value the knowledge and expertise of the Secretariat for furthering work of the Commonwealth. However, we believe that views of the member states through appropriate representation, is equally important," she said.
With that in view, she said, the Group should be more representatives with inclusion of member states of different regions of Commonwealth.
Sheikh Hasina said this while sharing her thoughts on various mutual and global issues with Commonwealth leaders at CHOGM retreat at Windsor Castle in London.
Extension of High Level Group, Financing and Governance of the Commonwealth Secretariat and other important issues of global context were discussed during the day-long retreat, PM's press secretary Ihsanul Karim said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May chaired the retreat session while Commonwealth Heads of Government were present.
Sheikh Hasina said there should be a mechanism for wider consultation with member states through open ended discussions with the Board of Governors.
Group may focus particularly on different financing mechanisms and options including innovative financing, she said adding that "this is important at a time when CFTC fund is shrinking and other flows of funding are drying up."
Sheikh Hasina said International partnership arrangements may be explored for low-interest investment credit in financing development programmes from multilateral banks under sovereign guarantee. Private sector partnership and programme co-financing could be another option, she added.
She recalled the words of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman said in 1972, "Let us not fritter away our national resources but use them to lift the standard of living of our people."
Sheikh Hasina welcomed the draft Declaration on Connectivity saying we are happy to see the issue of connectivity finding its place in Commonwealth.
The Prime Minister said we want to cooperate with all concerned for creating an area of peace in South Asia where we could live side by side as good neighbours and pursue constructive policies for the benefit of our peoples. "We approach connectivity in a wider context. We believe in connecting ideas, knowledge, technology, culture, people, road-rail-air, movement of goods, services and investment," she said.
Trade, investment and connectivity are keys for a more prosperous future, she said adding that trade connectivity through a rules-based, transparent, inclusive and fair multilateral trade regime is crucial.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh, within its neighbourhood, has been working for the implementation of Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) sub regional connectivity project.
"We underline quicker action plan on the connectivity agenda and call for Commonwealth partnership for multi-sectorial infrastructure projects under the action plan," she said.
On the cyber issue, she said, we face both opportunities and challenges.
"On one hand, we need to promote 'openness' in the global data ecosystem for a free, dynamic, and secure Internet across nations," she said.
On the other, addressing the threats of cyber-attacks and spread of terrorism through internet is important for future generation, she said adding that Bangladesh government's policy of 'zero-tolerance' takes this into cognizance.
She also welcomed the Commonwealth Cyber Declaration and said the principles and guidelines for cooperation in cyber governance, as outlined in the Declaration are crucial.
"Technology, expertise sharing and capacity building must remain a priority for our peoples," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said development of the ICT sector is a national priority for Bangladesh. We believe access to information and communications technology and related capacity-building are fundamental to reducing digital divide, alleviating poverty, achieving sustainable development and inclusive growth, she said.
She urged the Commonwealth Secretariat to frame appropriate action plans and design programmes for early implementation of the Declaration in consultation with member states.
On the importance of Commonwealth reform the Prime Minister said the Commonwealth in its present form, structure and orientations, set long ago, is inadequate and can only partially meet our expectations.
Any review and reform of Commonwealth must bring strong development focus to the forefront, she said observing that Commonwealth must increasingly be connected within itself and must welcome and bring in greater role of the private sector and various professional groups in its programmes.
"Our organization (Commonwealth) needs transformation and perhaps a re-launch. In this regard," she said placing three recommendations for its revitalization.
Firstly, she proposed creation of a Commonwealth Development Fund and a Platform for experience sharing for attaining SDGs.
Secondly she suggested for enhancing Commonwealth Parliamentary Association's role in protecting and promoting political values of Commonwealth by taking Commonwealth values to the grassroots.
And, thirdly, she suggested formation of an eminent persons group, as done in the case of Commonwealth Charter, to propose necessary reforms.
risingbd/April 21, 2018/Mukul