[NEWS AND VIEWS]
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December 07, 2003Understanding CHOGM is not easy. According to one Commonwealth insider "it is increasingly difficult to explain to the outside world precisely what the Commonwealth is, does and can do."
In its final communique, the People's Forum stated that "the Commonwealth could play a powerful leadership role on issues such as development, security, and globalization, but only if its principles were to be most closely matched by practice".
But can it? One Australian delegate suggested, "there is more than a hint of truth in Mugabe's jibe that the Commonwealth is little more than 'a mere club'. The trouble is that now they have to prove to the rest of the world that it is serious".
The communique also hints at the frustration felt by some delegates, "the principles of transparency, participation and accountability must also apply to CHOGM itself. Civil society representatives have less access to these meetings than they have to meetings of the World".
However, the same Australian source suggested that this was a misreading of the nature of the beast, "If members of civil society want to make impacts on the leaders at CHOGM, the lobbying has to be done well in advance in order to get their concerns and agendas onto the programme".
But getting an agenda addressed here is not easy, even for the Heads of Government inside the retreat. The Australian delegation is one of the largest attending the Meeting, and was prepared to push for some breakthrough on trade, particularly in light of the breakdown of the WTO talks in Cancun.
But so far, according to Prime Minster John Howard, trade has not yet been discussed.