The Commonwealth Foundation said civil society organizations should understand that the Commonweal Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is a meeting in Sri Lanka and not a meeting on Sri Lanka. Addressing the representatives of civil society organizations at Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo yesterday (October 22), Commonwealth Foundation (CF) Director Vijay Krishnarayan said the People’s Forum to be held from November 10 at Hikkaduwa would provide space for Sri Lankan and foreign civil society representatives to discuss ways and means of strengthening the ideals of the Commonwealth.
Krishnarayan heads the CF, which is one of the three partner organizations of CHOGM, ie Commonwealth Secretariat, Commonwealth of Learning and Commonwealth Foundation. He said that already 400 civil society representatives from more than 30 countries have registered for the People’s Forum. “This time more than half of them are foreigners while Sri Lankan participants are around 200 in number. This is a marked difference from previous CHOGM People’s Forums, where the ratio used to be 25 to 30 percent foreigners.”
Answering questions, the CF Director said, though the focus of discussions would be on policies of the Commonwealth in general, the Government of Sri Lanka has expressed interest in participating in a discussion forum. “Hence, the civil society representatives will be able to have a direct dialogue with Sri Lankan ministers including the Ministers of External Affairs and Economic Development,” he said.
Krishnarayan said the CF was established in 1965 and from the past experience the organization has realized that Civil Society bodies would be in a better position to play a meaningful role in the task to achieve the desired objective of improving the lives and environment of our populace if they adopt a multi-stakeholder approach, which engages not only the communities they work with, but also the authorities. Such an approach can greatly contribute to mutual engagement to find solutions to pressing problems and to ensure sustainability of the solutions found.
Referring to Millennium Development Goals, he said the People’s Forum deliberations on the post-2015 Development Agenda and its outcomes are of dire importance to people across the globe and Civil Society is in a position to make a positive contribution for realization of a viable post-2015 Development Agenda.
Chairing the discussion, Dr Mallika Joseph, Executive Director of Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS) said the Centre decided to invite the Director of Commonwealth Foundation to address the civil society leaders under the RCSS Lecture Series because of the immense importance of the CHOGM and its side events to the Commonwealth in general, and especially to our region, which comprises the majority of citizens of the member states.