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CHOGM 2011: Interview with Commonwealth Spokesperson Manoah Esipisu


Manoah Esipisu

Manoah Esipisu

World leaders are in Perth on the west coast of Australia this week to take part in the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

While awaiting the final press conference of the weekend, Steph Carter, 20, a Commonwealth Correspondent and aspiring journalist from Queensland, took Manoah Esipisu aside to learn more about the Commonwealth Spokesperson’s role in the Commonwealth Secretariat and his thoughts on CHOGM 2011.

Steph: Prior to joining the Commonwealth Secretariat, what were you doing?

Manoah: Well I’m a journalist by profession so I was working for Reuters, an international news group, based out of Johannesburg. I also taught part time in financial journalism at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Steph: What are your general thoughts on the CHOGM weekend?

Manoah: I think it’s been a great CHOGM. It’s my first time as spokesperson and I think we have had a lot of good outcomes throughout the week.

We’ve had the decision to improve how the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group works on Friday and we had the food security declaration out of the state reception centre in Kings Park yesterday. We had a charter for the Commonwealth come out yesterday; one of the key recommendations out of the EPG.

We had in total 1,300 journalists and top facilities. We have had challenges that we have been up to and we have prepared for this summit very well. It’s been a ball.

Steph: With Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s announcement that the 30 recommendations for CMAG will be adopted, how soon after this weekend will they be implemented?

Manoah: The first meeting of CMAG will probably be early in the New Year because they do need time to distil. They need time to do an assessment and see where they are with things in general in the Commonwealth, but I can’t see that it will go beyond early next year.

Steph: Last week the Secretary General said that the Commonwealth Secretariat developed a vulnerability and resilience profiling framework to support the development of small states. Can you tell us more about this?

Manoah: This is just something that tells you in times of vulnerability where a country is at any given time. You are looking at your poverty index, your ability to deal with natural disasters, you are looking at how you are positioned in terms of global negotiations and also your capacity – does a country have adequate negotiating capacities? Does a country have adequate mechanisms to deal with disaster? Does a country have capacity to absorb donor aid and use it and optimise it well? Does a country maximise its export potential? This is what the framework focusses on.

Steph: In the lead up to next CHOGM in 2013, is the Commonwealth committed to tackling climate change, particularly as it affects small island nations?

Manoah: It’s not just leading up to 2013, as the Commonwealth has always been committed to tackling climate change.  You will recall in Port of Spain at the last CHOGM in 2009, the leaders agreed that there needed to be a start up fund to help especially small countries that are not responsible for any carbon footprint but which of course suffer from pollution- to help them along. The start up fund was estimated at $30 billion, that’s what the Commonwealth leaders asked for, and that was one of the very few significant outcomes out of the Copenhagen meeting [which followed it].

Since then of course the Commonwealth has been focussed on this matter and it continues to focus on this matter. There will be a strong statement out of here [CHOGM 2011] about climate change going into the next conference – the big forum on climate change in Durban later this year.

The Commonwealth is committed to showing in practical terms that it does care for small states. For small states it’s not just a question of climate change as a theory, it’s an existential thing. They are countries that fear the risk of being submerged. This is a problem, as we have islands where citizens can no longer live and they have to look for other countries to live. So it’s a big deal! We consider it as a big deal and we will take it as a big deal.

With the final CHOGM 2011 press conference scheduled for this afternoon, many await the final communiqué that will be delivered by Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma and Prime Minister Julia Gillard.


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