Message by Senator the Honourable Dennis Moses, Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on the occasion of Commonwealth Day 2017.

13 March 2017

Today, Trinidad and Tobago is pleased to join with other Member States of the Commonwealth in commemorating Commonwealth Day 2017. As the Commonwealth family of nations unites under the theme “A Peace-building Commonwealth”, the global landscape reflects a sobering outlook. Myriad internal and trans-national conflicts, which engender humanitarian crises of notable proportions, serve as stark reminders that the pursuit of sustainable peace and security must remain at the forefront of global efforts.

Indeed, recent surges in violent extremism and terrorism, coupled with ongoing crises in many countries, have demonstrated even more the interdependence of the global community and the corresponding need for each country to play its part in directly addressing challenges that threaten the peace and development of all peoples.

It is fitting, therefore, that this year’s theme draws attention to the role of the Commonwealth, as a recognised actor in the international community, in supporting and advancing global peace-building efforts. In reflecting on the main thrust of peace-building, which is to promote sustainable peace by building capacity to prevent violence from recurring, it is recognised that much of the work of the Commonwealth, advanced through its key inter-governmental agencies, member Governments, civil society networks and commonwealth associations, relate directly to the elements of peace-building undertaken in many countries.

The core values and principles of the Commonwealth, which are espoused in the Singapore Declaration of Commonwealth Principles (1971), amplified in the Trinidad and Tobago Affirmation of Commonwealth Values and Principles (2009) and reaffirmed in the Commonwealth Charter (2013), demonstrate the belief that democracy, good governance, adherence to the rule of law and human rights are all central tenets in the conduct of the business of peaceful societies.

In this regard, the work of the Commonwealth in, inter alia, supporting free and fair electoral processes; building capacity in public institutions; and promoting participatory governance by including all actors, in particular civil society, women and young people, can be seen as a direct contribution to peacebuilding. Furthermore, the Commonwealth has demonstrable experience in capacity building and technical cooperation, with a particular focus on Small States, which make up almost two thirds of its membership.

Trinidad and Tobago applauds the efforts of the Commonwealth in adapting its strategic focus over the past decade to confront the increasing and complex challenge of violent extremism, terrorism and radicalisation. Accordingly, the 2008 Report of the Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding entitled Civil Paths to Peace remains an important point of reference for the Commonwealth in determining the solutions it employs to tackle this scourge.

It is important to recognise the efforts of the Commonwealth in involving young people in peacebuilding processes through mechanisms such as:

  • The Commonwealth Youth programme; 
  • The Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassadors Network; and
  • The Commonwealth Youth Sport for Development and Peace Working Group
  • (CYSDP).

The CYSDP was established in 2013 and comprises a small group of young practitioners in the field of Sport for Development and Peace (SDP). In 2016, a national of Trinidad and Tobago was elected to chair the Group.

Given that persons under 30 years old represent 60% of the population of the Commonwealth, this grouping is undoubtedly central to the success of Commonwealth peace-building initiatives.

As a robust supporter of the values and principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter and more recently the Commonwealth Charter, the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago has supported, in various capacities, global peacebuilding efforts undertaken within different international bodies. Trinidad and Tobago therefore remains committed to supporting efforts to foster sustainable peace and security as a basic human right. Indeed, while peace-building is usually considered from a conflict/post-conflict perspective, Trinidad and Tobago recognises the value of mechanisms that ensure the sustainability of peace in any society such as participatory governance, building stable communities, and enabling and empowering our youth. The Government is therefore continuing to work assiduously with local stakeholders, and in collaboration with international partners, to tackle frontally the pockets of violence that threaten to diminish progress made in our country.

At the regional level, Trinidad and Tobago also recognises the role played by countries in Latin America and the Caribbean with regard to the maintenance of regional peace and security. The establishment of a nuclear-free zone in Latin America and the Caribbean, through the adoption of the landmark Treaty of Tlatelolco in 1947, serves as one such example. 

As the Commonwealth reflects on the theme today and in the coming months, particularly in the lead up to the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2018, it is hoped that this singular focus on peace-building will galvanise the Commonwealth and its partners into heightened action. The Commonwealth is undoubtedly a valuable actor in the global pursuit of peace and security and must therefore continue to leverage its demonstrated ability to contribute meaningfully to the realization of sustainable peace. As a member of the Commonwealth, Trinidad and Tobago is committed to fulfilling its role to ensure that the Commonwealth remains a force in global efforts to achieve international peace and security.

 

Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs

March 10th, 2017