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Commonwealth leaders seek reform of Brettonwoods Institutions

The Commonwealth Heads of State who met in London over the last two days to discuss the reform of international institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund issued a point statement outlining the essence of their deliberations and positions taken thereafter.

Commonwealth Heads of Government, representing one third of humanity and more than one quarter of the world's sovereign governments, collectively expressed the concern of our 53 member states at Kampala in November 2007 that the current architecture of international institutions no longer responds adequately to the challenges of the 21st Century Since then, the world has witnessed continued financial turbulence, and record levels of prices for food and fuel.

Excerpts from the statement: "These challenges have further illustrated the fundamental weaknesses of a number of today's international organizations that are charged with promoting economic stability and sustainable development.

Such institutions do not have adequate capacity, governance structures, or in-built responsiveness either to anticipate or to address global needs in a timely fashion. In some cases, such as energy and the environment, there is an absence of institutions with the mandate to deal globally with these issues of global public policy.

We have therefore met as a representative Group of Commonwealth leaders to identify underlying principles and the actions that should be taken, as a global priority, to achieve reform of international institutions and lead to new institutions where necessary.

We recognize that sovereign states must have the capacity and freedom to determine national goals and implement national policies and strategies. Equally, we recognize that many national goals cannot be achieved without international collaboration and support. Global crises require truly global and universal responses.

The inadequacy of the current responses calls into question whether incremental and ad hoc approaches to reform will create a new generation of international institutions fit for today's world.

Well designed international institutions have a fundamental role to support all countries to meet their economic, political, humanitarian and security challenges.

Through collective co-operation, embodied in international institutions, the global community will foster the conditions for a fully inclusive and equitable global society.

The commitment of the world's major powers to multilateralism and its underlying values remains central to any successful settlement on a new architecture of international institutions in this century.

As members of the Commonwealth, we recognise the strength of multilateral cooperation founded on consensus amongst countries with diverse backgrounds, interests and cultures. We believe that reform and construction of new international institutions should be built on the following guiding principles: * Institutions must enjoy the legitimacy not only of their member states but also of the wider international community in order to command confidence and commitment.

* It is essential that all countries have equal voice and fair representation.

* A voice for all countries is only valuable if it is listened to and is reflected in decision-making. It is essential that institutions are responsive, with the interests of all members, especially the smallest and poorest, being taken into account.

We are committed to reform that creates an effective multilateral system, and that supports a more democratic global society with greater equity and fairness. The new generation of international organizations should reflect a new cooperative spirit.

We welcome the reform processes and debates under way in many international institutions. The United Nations has a unique role and legitimacy, and we acknowledge the reforms that are occurring to strengthen the coherence of the United Nations system and the efficacy of its development and humanitarian activities in particular.

It is imperative that the UN's "Delivering as One" initiative is further implemented with urgency.

We also acknowledge the discussions and welcome actions taken to date to reform the International Monetary Fund. However, these and proposed reforms of other international financial institutions including the World Bank, must now be addressed further with greater ambition.

These institutions as well as their policies and instruments should be redefined so that they serve the needs of all members and the broader global community.

We intend to pursue the redefining of the purposes and governance of the Bretton Woods institutions, including working towards a Commonwealth consensus and wider international support for an international conference to achieve these goals.

We intend to pursue the possibility of an international conference to achieve improved global environmental governance, including the possibility of a new international organization or reform of existing arrangements, again working on the basis of a Commonwealth consensus and wider international support.

The Commonwealth is committed to advancing a programme of reform of international institutions. The existing crises in finance, food, and fuel demand no less.

We acknowledge that high quality reform will not be achieved unless all those with a stake in future global governance have their voices heard. We are conscious that the conferences that we propose to pursue will require careful preparation and wide consultation to achieve the essential universal acceptability.

The Commonwealth will work closely with the institutions concerned. To that end, we will work with the wider Commonwealth community, including at an extraordinary meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government on September 24, 2008.

We have given guidance to the Commonwealth Secretary-General to develop an Action Plan on Reform of International Institutions. We will use the full extent of Commonwealth networks, including our civil society and professional associations.

 

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