The Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (19CCEM): Civil Society Forum (CSF), was held on 20-21 June 2017 in Nassau, Bahamas. It was the second largest gathering of Ministers in the Commonwealth calendar, affording a wide range of stakeholders the opportunity to input into ministerial processes related to education policy. The resulting Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was unprecedented in recognising the role and need for civic engagement through the Civil Society Forum.

Commonwealth Foundation Director, Vijay Krishnarayan stressed how the Commonwealth as an entity was signalling its emphasis on the involvement of civil society in Commonwealth political processes.

This CSF brought together 40 Civil Society representatives from Small States and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) under the theme, ‘Education and Sustainable Development in Small States: The Quality Imperative’. Three specific areas of focus were considered – (i) Consolidating Basic Education looking at Quality and Equity; (ii) Financing and partnerships and (iii) Further and higher education. The forum included a roundtable discussion for civil society and decision makers with a view to present and discuss key policy options. This was critical given that the 19CCEM took place only months before the September 2015 meeting of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), where Heads of State were scheduled to adopt the new global framework.

 “The 19CCEM provides us with an excellent opportunity to advance the Post 2015 Global Education Agenda on the heels of the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All (EFA) Goals.” Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, The Bahamas

This was validated by the Keynote from H.E. Marie-Pierre Lloyd, Seychelles High Commissioner, maintains that it is “crucial” for civil society to work together with governments to have a say in policy decisions.  H.C. Lloyd drew on her background in both government and civil society to highlight that both must work together if societies are to improve the livelihoods and quality of life of the people they represent.

With her experience in both sectors, the High Commissioner noted that by their nature government institutions tend to work in silos, with their own departments and budgets, which can lead to siloed thinking. If civil society can work together with governments in these frameworks, then better solutions can result.


Following two days of discussions, civil society delegates submitted a statement of 12 key requests to education ministers, while offering their own commitments in support.

The statement was submitted to the participants of the Small States Forum as a clear ‘Call to Action’ to take forward into the 19CCEM Small States Ministers Forum which took place on 22 June 2015, and other select sessions in the main Ministerial Programme as well as the Stakeholders Forum.

The communique from the Ministers Meeting – The Nassau Declaration – outlines the major topics and issues discussed at the 19CCEM, as well as the major remedial initiatives proposed.

Dame Pearlette Louisy, Governor General of St. Lucia, attended a ministerial roundtable session at the 19CCEM Civil Society Forum. In an interview with the Commonwealth Foundation, she insisted that, “sometimes civil society to do not realise the power they have to influence policy formulation, but also to influence the implementation of that policy”. She added, “So very often we have two monologues, two soliloquies – policy makers on one side and civil society on the other, but that dialogue is so important”.



The Nassau Declaration – 19CCEM.pdf

Opening address at the CSF 19CCEM by Commonwealth Foundation director, Vijay Krishnarayan

Other project updates

  • He Put me in a Bubble by Marwa Haitham Melham

    Posted on

    In a few moments, you will hear a loud noise like a shot from a high cavernous space. The echo will be massive. But you are probably used to loud noises and will not know what is happening. I used to be different from what I am now. My mother was very pleased the day […]

  • Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2018 shortlist announced

    Posted on

    The shortlist for the 2018 Commonwealth Short Story Prize has been announced. This year there were 5,100 entries from 48 Commonwealth countries. Now 24 outstanding stories have been selected by an international judging panel. The shortlist has writers from 14 countries including, for the first time, Ghana and Samoa. Access the shortlist here.

  • 10th Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministerial Meeting: Partners’ Forum

    Posted on

    15-17 June, 2013, Dhaka, Bangladesh Every three years, Commonwealth Ministers responsible for women’s affairs meet to discuss progress and challenges relating to gender equality in the Commonwealth. The 10th Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministerial Meeting (10WAMM) took place in June 2013, hosted by the Government of Bangladesh under the theme ‘Women’s Leadership for Enterprise’. Held in […]

  • Poem for the Commonwealth 2018 by Karlo Mila

    Posted on

    We gather here and feel the weight of the world on our shoulders. It does not feel like we’ve inherited commonwealth. But rather common problems. If we are to heed the words of poets Ben Okri said yesterday, “We have entered the garden of nightmares and wonders the giants have woken and they are stirring […]

  • 25 Notes on Becoming by Boluwatife Afolabi

    Posted on

    I I write to tell you that the walls of my bones are made of contention and I am always situated between desires that threaten to break or mould me.   II I write to tell you that I am not the cartographer of memory and that sometimes, I forget my way home and stumble […]