The Commonwealth has come a long way since 1931, the modern Commonwealth is an umbrella voluntary union of diverse sovereign countries that recognise the benefits of association, in the C21st context of health, wealth and security. From the world’s most populous country India to the tiny country of Nauru, member nations span all four continents plus several Pacific Islands and all stages of development and prosperity from India and Singapore to Tuvalu and Guam.
Commonwealth Heads of Government 2022 summit, Kigali, Rwanda
All 54 nations uphold political democracy, good governance, the rule of law and human rights; most have adopted a Westminster-style form of parliamentary government, with elected legislatures, often with an upper and lower chamber, multi-party democratic elections and responsible government by ministries drawn from the majority party, and accountable to the elected legislature and its opposition parties. All recognise the advantages of the English language, the language of knowledge, law, science, business, the language used worldwide for good communication. All these advantages are useful to improve education, technological advancement, health practices, job prospects and the all-important trade. The Commonwealth exists to foster international co-operation and trade links between people all over the world, bilateral costs for trading partners within the Commonwealth are on average 21 per cent less than between those in non-member countries.
The 54 nations are politically, ethnically, culturally and spiritually diverse yet they recognise and respect each other as equals, at CHOGM22 they committed to working together for peaceful solutions to territorial disputes, sustainable food systems, resilient supply chains and fair agricultural markets. The Commonwealth Heads of Government (The Heads) affirmed that integration of pharmaceuticals and diagnostics into international systems are essential for recovery from the pandemic.
Last week in Rwanda Commonwealth Heads of Government noted the many instances where inequality can occur and the variety of challenges their nations face, climate change, migration, extremism, media misinformation, paucity of resources to tackle mental health issues, gender inequality, corruption, modern slavery and human trafficking. Many strategies and actions to improve biodiversity, plastic pollution, ocean-based climate action, marine environmental protection, ecosystem restoration, and sustainable use of the ocean and strategies for blue economy were congratulated.
In Kigali innovation and transformation topped the agenda, The Heads recognised the crucial role of investment in transforming economies and creating inclusive economic growth and long-term prosperity. Half of the top 20 global emerging cities are in the Commonwealth: New Delhi, Mumbai, Nairobi, Kuala Lumpur, Bangalore, Johannesburg, Kolkata, Cape Town, Chennai and Dhaka. Six of these are in India and India whose GDP is now ranked 5th in the world by the World Bank. The Heads acknowledged that high quality investment and infrastructure, both digital and physical, and notably clean, green infrastructure investment, is a cornerstone of sustainable economic growth. Heads noted the opportunities arising from investment partnerships across the Commonwealth membership to bring mutual benefits to all.
The Heads also noted the importance of supporting opportunities for women and young people in trade, and called for solid, innovative partnerships and solutions to increase the participation of women in the digital economy; and provide everyone with a free, open, inclusive and secure cyberspace.
The Commonwealth has a combined population of 2.5billlion, of which 60% are aged 29 or under, The Heads are conscious these young people across the Commonwealth are mobilising to gain a greater voice in all public affairs, to call for systemic change and increased accountability from governments.
Three out of every five citizens of the Commonwealth are under age 30, The Heads committed to increasing meaningful representation of youth in decision-making processes and mechanisms, including in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. They also recognised sport as an avenue for advocacy for peaceful co-existence and social development, they called for the adoption of a common approach to measure the contribution of sport to the 2030 Agenda in Commonwealth countries.
Incidentally many of the commercial and environmental aims of the Commonwealth are in parallel with the goals of the G7 and AUKUS. In regards to freedom of navigation and UNCLOS, a global network of shipping ports in strategic locations that many Commonwealth countries occupy along global shipping routes are essential for maritime trade and the reconfiguration of supply chains; the provision of renewable energy; the resolution of territorial disputes; support to member countries to counter the current trans-national issue of violent extremism in specific contexts; and averting climate related disasters, between 2010 to 2020 there were 815 climate-related disasters in Commonwealth countries killing 47,000 people, affecting 671 million and causing US$189 billion in damages.
Commonwealth countries are stakeholders in the resources the rest of the world needs, rare earth elements, fish stocks, intellectual capital, people; and the Indo-Pacific is the future resource for solar, wind and sea renewable energy and unquantified reserves of oil and gas, plus the network of global shipping ports in strategic locations.
Alan Mendoza of Henry Jackson Society suggests that UK and the more prosperous countries of the Commonwealth can guide and provide investment towards the less developed and developing members, thus avoiding the debt trap that has befallen those who have accepted investment with CCP strings attached.
China had invested £685billion in Commonwealth countries; however it is reassuring that so many countries want to remain independent and not under the influence or under threat from China, as seen at CHOGM2022.
It is a remarkable achievement that the Commonwealth union is not shrinking but expanding with Gabon and Togo joining this year, such is the visionary leadership of Queen Elizabeth II whose efforts have made the Commonwealth a force for good and a force for change in the world today.