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Common­wealth leaders focused on challenges to counter extremism and terrorism

29 November, 2015

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VALLETTA: Leaders of the Common­wealth focused on Saturday on the current global security challenges and the domestic, regional and international policy responses required to counter extremism and terrorism.

The leaders — in Malta for the 24th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting — were attending a retreat session titled “Violent extremism and radicalisation”, to which only they were invited as their advisers and ministers were not allowed in.

During the session held at the Saint Angelo Fort in the historic city of Birgu, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif conveyed Pakistan’s condemnation of terrorist activities, whether committed by individuals, groups or states.

He apprised the other leaders of the ways in which Pakistan was cooperating with the international community in efforts to counter violent extremism. He reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to fully implementing the United Nations Security Council’s sanctions regimes on terrorism.

Mr Sharif also expressed support for international efforts aimed at countering the threat posed by the militant Islamic State group.

Prominent among those who attended the session were British Prime Minister David Cameron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Francois Hollande.

Mr Cameron had already announced funding for a Commonwealth counter-extremism unit. He said that sharing expertise would help defeat the “extremist scourge”.

Mr Hollande, who rushed here after a memorial ceremony in France for the victims of the recent Paris attacks, said the issue of extremism should be tackled by all Commonwealth countries — a sentiment echoed by Mr Cameron.

The leaders also deliberated on issues of climate change and corruption during the informal talks

Canada pledged nearly $2 billion over five years to help developing countries cope with the effects of climate change, doubling its previous commitment.

“Canada is back and ready to play its part in combating climate change, and this includes helping the poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world adapt,” said Mr Trudeau.

The Commonwealth was working on finalising a Climate Finance Access Hub, a network aimed at smaller island states that want to get access to funds to mitigate the effects of climate change, with Australia already announcing it would be putting money in.

The organisation has also come up with a debt swap for climate change action initiative, where developing countries could see their debt written down in return for undertaking projects on improving the environment.

“Thirty-one of our 53 members are small states and 25 are small island developing states, which are most vulnerable to climate change,” said Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma.

“Islands in the Pacific and the Caribbean are having to deal with rising sea levels that could drive them from their homelands,” he said.

Britain has committed $31.6 million for Pacific disaster management, with Prime Minister Cameron saying that it was “vital” that small island states “see the benefit of a global goal and that they sign up to it”.

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