, PORT OF SPAIN, Nov 24 – Commonwealth leaders meeting in Trindad this week face a "crisis summit" as they battle the global recession and face calls to action on climate change, the body\’s chief has said.
Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma said the 53-member body composed mainly of former British colonies was holding its biennial summit, known as the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), at a key moment.
"This CHOGM will be a meeting of its time, to consider the issues of its time," Sharma said as he addressed hundreds of Commonwealth civic leaders, gathered in Trinidad ahead of the summit talks.
Since the last such forum in Kampala, Uganda in 2007, "the global situation has drastically changed," said Sharma, an Indian career diplomat.
"We have all had a bad few years of crisis upon crisis. The fuel and food crises of last year have been compounded by a financial crisis in 2009, in which no less than half of our members are suffering negative growth."
Since its founding 60 years ago, the Commonwealth has stretched around the globe, and now represents two billion people and accounts for a fifth of world trade.
"Everyone is hurting – there is a strong case for saying that CHOGM 2009 constitutes a crisis summit," Sharma told the opening of the Commonwealth People\’s Forum.
He also said he believed summit leaders would put forward a strong political statement ahead of the UN climate change conference to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark from December 7.
In a rare move, UN chief Ban Ki-moon as well as Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen will travel to Trinidad for talks with Commonwealth leaders on Friday, also set to be attended by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Rasmussen will visit Trinidad to encourage Commonwealth heads of state and government to attend the December 7-18 climate talks in Copenhagen, a Danish spokesman told AFP.
The summit talks will be officially opened by Britain\’s Queen Elizabeth II on Friday and end on Sunday.