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Small States Biennial Conference, Marlborough House, Commonwealth Secretariat, 28 to 29 July 2010, London

Photo by Michael Guy

The Minister of State for Finance the Hon. Zhivargo Laing attended the Commonwealth Secretariat's First Global Small States Conference in London and chaired the closing session on the afternoon of Thursday 29 July. The biennial conference was held in response to mandates emanating out of the 2009 Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting and the 2009 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which called for the promotion of sustainable development and the encouragement of new public-private sector partnerships.

The Commonwealth Secretariat defines small states as countries with a population of 1.5 million or less. These countries posses unique special development challenges - limited diversification, limited capacity, poverty, susceptibility to natural disasters and environmental change, remoteness and isolation, openness, and income volatility. The Secretariat's grouping of small states also includes the larger member countries of Jamaica, Lesotho, Namibia and Papua New Guinea because they share many of the same characteristics.

The aim of the two day Conference was to identify policy approaches that can assist small states cope with inherent vulnerabilities and develop small state positions on global issues.  Discussions included the emerging debt crisis of small states, sustainable development, private sector development, international trade and regional cooperation.

Representatives from Commonwealth small states ranging from the Ministerial level, to senior officials from Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Finance, Trade and the Environment were present, in addition to development partners such as CARICOM, the UK Department for International Development (DfID), the World Bank, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

The Conference was funded by the Australian Government's overseas aid programme (AUSAID) and replaces the Commonwealth Ministerial Group on Small States that previously met in the margins of CHOGM.

Pictured from left are Ranford Smith, Deputy Secretary General, Commonwealth Secretariat, the Hon. Zhivargo Laing, Minister of State for Finance, and H.E. Paul Farquharson, High Commissioner.