Last week the United Kingdom hosted delegates from the 53 Commonwealth countries in London for the biennial meeting of the Heads of Government.
Culminating in the coming together of countries with Her Majesty the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth, this five day event discussed shared global challenges and gave a leading agenda to future Commonwealth co-operation.
But beyond the ceremony and celebration of our shared values, including at the recent games in Australia, why should we care for the work of the Commonwealth?
Representing 2.4 billion people – one third of the world’s population – the Commonwealth has had a lasting role in the promotion of peace, democracy and human rights around the world.
This year’s theme, ‘Towards a Common Future’ sought to strengthen the Commonwealth ties to ensure the organisation is responsive to global challenges and driving a future that is more prosperous, secure and sustainable.
With, for instance, 60% of the Commonwealth population under the age of 30, this forward looking agenda has rightly focused on the interests of younger generations.
Bringing together business leaders, representatives from civil society and delegates representing specialist groups, three key commitments emerged from the Forum. Firstly, a firm commitment was made to invest over £200 million to ensure girls around the world receive twelve years of quality education; a certain investment in the future.
Secondly, the UK rallied the Commonwealth to join the crackdown on single use plastics, including plastic straws, bags and cotton buds. Countries will work together to develop new, safer alternatives whilst we work together to combat microbeads and eliminate avoidable plastic waste.
This commitment is significant, for the Commonwealth is a hugely diverse organisation of wildlife, environments and coastlines. By introducing these changes, we can make a difference to the habitats and global environment. Moreover, we can give worldwide recognition to the campaign to cut down our reliance on plastics; a campaign we all can undertake in our homes, schools and communities.
Another commitment spurred on from the Forum was to accelerate progress to tackle malaria. Currently, 90% of Commonwealth citizens live in malaria-affected countries. With countries like Sri Lanka being declared malaria-free last year, this is an encouraging point from which to galvanise commitment and accelerate the process to eradicate malaria.
These examples and more tell us what Commonwealth stands for; the diversity of nations coming together through our shared values of peace, security and democracy, are the foundations of the Commonwealth.
Yet this year’s campaigns show just how effective and reflective the Commonwealth of 2018 is to the challenges around us and the sort of world we want to live in. We should rightly acknowledge the work of the Commonwealth, for it is now more relevant than ever.
Published in the Bury Free Press