On Commonwealth Day, the Head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II, delivers her Commonwealth Day message and leads a multifaith observance at Westminster Abbey in London. This is attended by representatives of Commonwealth countries and children offer the flags of member nations for blessing. Flags also fly in Parliament Square and at Marlborough House in London, where the Commonwealth Secretariat is housed.
The Queen’s message is broadcast throughout the Commonwealth, and in many countries augmented by a message from the president or prime minister, or another senior minister. The Commonwealth Secretary-General also issues a statement, which is read on radio or published in many countries.
Young people are central to Commonwealth Day, and the second Monday in March was selected by Commonwealth leaders because it was a day when most schools would be in session. The many activities schools have initiated include mini-Commonwealth Games, simulated Heads of Government Meetings (where students play the roles of different leaders), project studies of the geography, ecology, products or societies of other Commonwealth countries, and celebrations of the cultural and artistic diversity of the Commonwealth through exhibitions, readings, dance and drama. Quizzes to test student knowledge of Commonwealth affairs are popular, as are collections of stamps and product labels.
The theme for 2013 was ‘Opportunity Through Enterprise’. Through a mixture of world music, dance and personal testimonies, Commonwealth Day celebrated economic innovation throughout the Commonwealth and a shared commitment towards youth, social and sustainable enterprise.
The theme for the 2014 Commonwealth Day celebrations was ‘Team Commonwealth’, expressing the spirit of friendship and motivation towards the shared goals and values that exist between Commonwealth members.
The website www.commonwealthday.org includes information on the 2013 & 2014 themes, including news, events, competitions and a resource area featuring posters and logos.
Commonwealth Day message
The Commonwealth Day message is addressed to the people of the Commonwealth, not to governments, and each year the Queen takes as her theme an issue of importance to the Commonwealth on which she thinks the people can have an impact.
Over the years, she has dealt with the sense of the Commonwealth as a family, human rights, the position of young people and of women, diversity, and working together for the eradication of poverty. The themes of the Queen’s message and the Commonwealth Day poster are usually related.
Messages have thus covered a very wide range of important subjects over the years and the themes of recent messages have been as follows:
- 1994 The Commonwealth Games
- 1995 Tolerance
- 1996 Working in Partnership
- 1997 Communications
- 1998 Sport
- 1999 Music
- 2000 The Communications Challenge
- 2001 A New Generation
- 2002 Celebrating Diversity
- 2003 Partners in Development
- 2004 Building a Commonwealth of Freedom
- 2005 Education – Creating Opportunity, Realising Potential
- 2006 Health and Vitality
- 2007 Respecting Difference, Promoting Understanding
- 2008 The Environment – Our Future
- 2009 thecommonwealth@60 – serving a new generation
- 2010 Science, Technology and Society
- 2011 Women as Agents of Change
- 2012 Connecting Cultures
- 2013 Opportunity through Enterprise
- 2014 Team Commonwealth