A Guide to the Contemporary Commonwealth

By W. David McIntyre | Go to book overview

12
Below the Summit

As the Chogms became shorter, meetings below the summit – those of ministerial groups and senior officials – took on a greater significance. The three-and-a-half-day pattern established by the Heads of Government in the mid-1990s left no opportunity for the leisurely reviews of global trends that had prevailed in the past. On the positive side, this also eliminated the posturing that had once been endured from set-piece orations or the weeklong donnybrooks like that which occurred over Rhodesia.

The most significant Commonwealth statements and actions of the 1990s emerged from below-the-summit endeavours stretching over many months. The Harare Declaration came from the H-Lag. The criteria recommendations, including confirming the hereditary Headship, came from the Inter-governmental Group of High Commissioners. The recommendation for the extension of Nigeria’s suspension in 1997, and setting a deadline for the restoration of democracy, came from the C-Mag. This group also moved quickly in 1999 to recommend Pakistan’s suspension from the association’s councils and Fiji’s in the following year. 1 At the turn of the century, C-Mag had emerged as one of the most significant of the Commonwealth’s new organs.

The value of ministerial, official and expert groups has long been appreciated. They are utilised both for the light they can shed on particular issues and the sense of continuity they provide. The Colombo Plan, one of the pioneer programmes of technical assistance in Asia, is so-named after the unique Commonwealth Foreign Ministers’ Meetings held at Ceylon’s capital in 1950. Although foreign ministers, as a group, did not meet again, a variety of ministerial meetings began to occur in-the-wings of major international agencies. Commonwealth Finance Ministers meet before the annual councils of the International

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