Namibia is one of the many states with small populations that the Commonwealth strives to pay close attention to in this period of global financial pressure and uncertainty. Mr Sharma told journalists before leaving Windhoek that the Commonwealth recognises the unique challenges faced by many smaller member states in pursuing their social and economic goals. He noted that women and the youth – in an increasingly younger Commonwealth – were a particular concern.
Mr Sharma met with President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Foreign Affairs Minister Utoni Nujoma, Chief Justice Peter Shivute and National Assembly Speaker Theo-Ben Gurirab. He also met Opposition Leader Hidipo Hamutenya, Electoral Commission Chair Notemba Tjipueja and resident Commonwealth high commissioners in Windhoek.
The Secretary-General apprised President Pohamba of the Commonwealth’s on-going reform programme, endorsed by Commonwealth leaders at their biennial summit in Australia last year, which President Pohamba attended.
These reforms are expected to sharpen impact, strengthen networks among the many organisations of the Commonwealth, and raise the association’s profile. As part of these efforts, the Commonwealth Secretariat has created a web-based platform – Commonwealth Connects – which allows Commonwealth networks to develop and work together interactively by sharing knowledge and best practices.
“Namibia is an active and valued member of the Commonwealth family and has made important contributions to the association since joining it in 1990,” Mr Sharma told the press. “The Commonwealth equally remains committed to Namibia on its paths of democracy, development and respect for diversity ‒ the main pillars of the Commonwealth,” he added.
Commonwealth technical assistance programmes support Namibia in public debt management, aquaculture for improved fresh water fishing, enterprise development, and customer service training in the tourism sector.
Other continuing areas of co-operation include support for the country’s Election Commission – Namibia is an active member of the Commonwealth Electoral Network – including the monitoring of media performance during elections; collaboration with the Office of the Ombudsman, which promotes the observation of human rights in Namibia; trade policy analysis to help the country develop sound trade policies; and support in strengthening areas of the Judiciary and local government.
Namibia also benefits from Commonwealth programmes delivered at regional and pan-Commonwealth levels. These include governance, development and youth networks offered through the Commonwealth Youth Programme in Lusaka, Zambia.
Mr Sharma revealed that new projects, alongside other development partners, would include helping Namibia strengthen the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Human Rights Commission. “We have also agreed to explore new work by the Commonwealth family of organisations to strengthen Parliament and the Judiciary, once requests are developed by the relevant Namibian authorities.”
The Commonwealth Secretary-General extended his best wishes to Namibia’s athletes at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.