Commonwealth - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:02 pm on 16th March 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Mobarik Baroness Mobarik Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 6:02 pm, 16th March 2017

I apologise to the noble Lord if I have confused the two issues. I will certainly look at what he said on that issue and get back to him in due course.

Another way in which we are strengthening our ties with the Commonwealth is through our support for reform. We want to see the organisation delivering effectively for its members as well as demonstrating its value and relevance on the world stage. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, was mandated by Heads of Government to reform the Commonwealth Secretariat. We support her plans to modernise and revitalise the secretariat and to focus the Commonwealth on where it adds distinctive value. That means strengthening its relevance to members across different regions and its contribution to tackling global challenges.

The Commonwealth’s potential contribution to tackling these challenges could be immense. This is what we mean when we talk about the Commonwealth as a force for good. The global reach and extraordinary diversity of the Commonwealth mean that it has first-hand experience of most of the world’s greatest challenges, from poverty and violent extremism to conflict, corruption and climate change. All these issues matter to Commonwealth members, and they matter to the world. We want the Commonwealth to do more to use its influence, building consensus on important issues as it did on climate change prior to COP21.

In upholding the values of the Commonwealth charter, the Commonwealth plays an important role in strengthening governance, supporting development and building small states’ resilience to economic and environmental shocks. It also promotes co-operation on issues such as human rights and combating extremism. These are all areas in which the Commonwealth has valuable experience and expertise to share with the wider world.

The noble Lord, Lord Scriven, spoke of the importance of the work of the Kaleidoscope Trust in developing proposals to promote and protect LGBT rights at the Commonwealth summit. The Government greatly value the work of LGBT civil society organisations and our partnership with them to tackle discrimination and violence against LGBT people. We are aware that members of the Commonwealth Equality Network have drawn up a strategy setting out recommended tools and methods to engage LGBT civil society organisations ahead of the summit. We will consider how we can best support these endeavours. A number of noble Lords raised this issue and requested that we show leadership in this area. I absolutely agree with all noble Lords on that.