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Despite its very clear identification of Commonwealth challenges, and its theme Partnering for a More Equitable and Sustainable Future, the CHOGM concept paper gives unequal focus to its three key words, ‘partnering, equitable, and sustainable.’ The paper is heavily slanted to climate change, almost to the oblivion of all else, and even that is skewed to the perspective that all the world’s ensuing problems will arise from the climate change phenomenon. This constitutes a business-as-usual, plaster-on-the-sore approach that holds the symptoms for the cause.
It ignores the reality that anticipated challenges from changing climate patterns are really manifestations of the continued imposition of culturally alien financial and other systems on many of the world’s communities, unbalanced economic development, neglect of the contributions of women and girls, and inequitable investments in the largely rural-based agricultural sectors in favour of close-to-the-nose urban sectors.
The paper’s approach is analogous to the get-rich-quick models that spiraled the financial crisis in the first instance; the failures that have arisen from focus on economic security at the expense of food security; and the disrespect for home-grown, culturally evolved modes of coping with life’s challenge that have excluded large segments of the world’s peoples from an equal share of development — spring-factors that will exacerbate the impacts of climate change, not the other way around!
The concept can certainly benefit from strengthened emphasis on the need for integrated and multi/cross sectoral approaches that promote balance and equity and that recognise different notions and cultures of development that can add enormously to solutions for the current crises of finance, food security, water and land management, soil conservation, rising temperatures and ocean levels.
As it treats with climate change, there is need in the concept for dedicated attention through paragraphs that:
1. recognise that peoples’ cultures are central and pivotal to development around which all else orbits if there is to be widespread buy-in-to the Millennium Development Goals;
2. account for the conditions of and contributions of two-thirds of the Commonwealth—who are women and children—as key starting points (not endpoints) to reversing the horrifying imbalances of poverty, malnourishment, child and maternal mortality that will be aided and alleviated through – not token – but revisionist priority positioning of agriculture, food security and rural in the Commonwealth and others’ development agendas.
This would go a long way to help right the lopsided vision in the concept, clouded as it is by climate change as the looming tsunami bearing down on the world, by sharpening its focus on the real subjects of the MDGs: the neglected communities that huddle on tsunami-endangered coastlines, farmers who are squeezed onto precarious hillside to produce the world’s food as concrete encroach on prime agriculture lands and the plight of the disadvantaged, including women and children.