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Commonwealth Foreign Ministers address Guyana-Venezuela border controversy

A group of Foreign Ministers of the 53-nation Commonwealth are expected to issue a statement in support of the peaceful resolution of the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy that has seen that Spanish-speaking neighbour move troops, missiles and gunboats near the border.

“The group is preparing a statement that will call for respect for Guyana’s boundaries, a peaceful resolution to the border controversy, and support for the UN Secretary-General’s efforts to reach an agreement.

That group of Commonwealth foreign ministers met on September 24 to discuss the border dispute between Guyana and Venezuela. 

Guyana’s President, David Granger and the President of Venezuela , Nicolas Maduro are expected to meet under the auspices of the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon to discuss the situation. Guyana is expected to further push its desire for the border controversy to be taken to the International Court of Justice rather than continue with what Guyana  sees as the failed UN Good Officer mediation process.

The 14th annual meeting of Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers (CFAMM) took place in New York on 24 September alongside the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly. The meeting was chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, Hon Mangala Samaraweera.

Foreign Ministers took stock of progress made in a number of mandates from the 2013 leaders’ summit including initiatives to support free media, expand trade opportunities for small states, and help climate vulnerable states access financing mechanisms.

At the meeting, Hon Luciano Busattil MP, Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee of the House of Representatives of Malta provided a briefing on preparations for the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which takes place in Malta in November. Ministers discussed the proposed agenda for this summit.

Ministers also reviewed the Commonwealth Secretariat’s work to advance democracy and fundamental political values in member states, as well as the activities in economic and social development.

The CFAMM took place on the eve of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit at which a new set of international development goals will be agreed by world leaders.

A meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) is also scheduled for this week in New York.  The Group – comprised of nine Foreign Ministers – is tasked with assessing serious or persistent violations of the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values including democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. The Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, will brief the Group on issues of concern in member countries.

CMAG members will also consider eight circumstances that would trigger the group’ interest and potential engagement with member countries. They include:

unilateral abrogation of a democratic constitution or serious threats to constitutional rule;

suspension or prevention of the lawful functioning of parliament or other key democratic institutions;

  • postponement of national elections without constitutional or other reasonable justification;
  • systematic denial of political space, such as through detention of political leaders or restriction of freedom of association, assembly or expression;
  • a national electoral process that is seriously flawed;
  • abrogation of the rule of law or undermining of the independence of the judiciary;
  • systematic violation of human rights of the population, or of any communities or groups, by the member government concerned; and
  • significant restrictions on the media or civil society.

Use of these circumstances to trigger interest from CMAG will help the group deliver the deeper mandate it has been given by Commonwealth Heads of Government – to become more proactive and positive in its work with member states in order to protect and promote the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values.