Small States urged to make their voices heard and be active participants in the Commonwealth
Nassau, Bahamas — History was made at the 19th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers as the conference hosted a Small States Forum for the first time in the CCEM’s history. Small States make up 31 of the 53 Commonwealth member countries. On Monday, 22nd June, 2015, Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Senior Officials, High Commissioners and other Small States Delegates convened to discuss issues unique to Small States and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
The Small States Forum was Chaired by the Hon. Ronald D. Jones, Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation for Barbados. Host Minister, the Hon. Jerome K. Fitzgerald delivered the opening remarks and spoke of the need for Small States to be forward thinking as they address the issues confronting them. “I urge you to not only think about the challenges that we face today, but the challenges that may arise during the next 15 years and beyond.” He also spoke of the need for partnership which has been referred to as the silent ‘P’ in the 19CCEM’s theme ‘Quality Education for Equitable Development: Performance, Paths and Productivity.’ “It is imperative that you share the successes that you have experienced within your respective countries, and share what you have learnt with fellow Small States.”
Following Minister Fitzgerald was Commonwealth Secretary-General, Mr. Deodat Maharaj. who emphasized the importance of human development in Small States. “Human development cannot take place if we are not on the right path for education.”
An expert in Small States and Small Island Development, Her Excellency, Dame Pearlette Louisy, Governor General of St. Lucia, spoke of the challenges and opportunities in education in Small States. She ended her overview by saying, “Being small is no excuse for being silent.”
Also speaking at the Small States Forum was Mrs. Rosa Greenaway, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Antigua and Brabuda, who addressed ‘Specific challenges for the Caribbean region’. Professor Subhas Chandra, The University of the South Pacific, Fiji, focused on ‘Specific challenges for the Pacific region’ and the Hon. Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun, Minister of Education and Human Resources, Mauritius, spoke on the topic ‘From Strategy to Action: The Mauritian model’.
According to the Commonwealth, “Small states are sovereign countries with a population of 1.5million people or fewer and are affected by unique challenges and issues related to size, dispersed populations, volatility – of economics and weather, and single source economy; incurring challenges, that hinder the social and economic well-being and security. As members of the Commonwealth, Small States have an equal voice. It enables them to take part in international decision-making issues that affect them.