Our enterprising Commonwealth
The Commonwealth Yearbook is an excellent illustration of the potential of our worldwide family, and the potency of collective action. The determination to work together for the common good in a spirit of respect and understanding, and to build towards a better future based on our shared goals of development and democracy, is what drives forward the unique global enterprise of the Commonwealth, opening up new opportunities ranging from the international to the personal, and at every level in between.
It is this dynamic that we seek to express in our 2013 Commonwealth theme: ‘Opportunity through Enterprise’. Innovative ideas, carried forward with boldness, energy and imagination open up new prospects for progress and prosperity, and wider possibilities for all through political, economic and social inclusion.
The adoption of the Charter of the Commonwealth brings fresh clarity and gives a higher profile to the values and principles to which all member states of the Commonwealth are committed on behalf of all Commonwealth citizens.
Co-operation and collaborative action between the member states of the Commonwealth enable us to multiply the global gain. By finding consensus and uniting in action towards shared values and goals, our diverse membership has on many occasions been able to offer a template for wider international action. Recognition of this is borne out by the way in which the wider global community is turning to the Commonwealth as a key partner in charting a way forward on development issues.
The year 2012 saw a number of particularly notable partnerships on this front. Early in the year, a meeting of the G20 Development Working Group was held at Marlborough House (London, UK), chaired by Mexico. The occasion illustrated the extent to which the Commonwealth and the G20 are now working together. We are increasingly able to bring to the G20 table the most pressing economic and social concerns of Commonwealth members, in particular those of the poorest,smallest and most vulnerable states.
Later in the year, the United Nations High-Level Panel on the Post 2015 Global Development Agenda gathered at Marlborough House. Under its co-chairs Prime Minister Cameron of the UK, President Sirleaf of Liberia and President Yudhoyono of Indonesia, the Panel held its first meetings towards agreeing a new plan of global action on fighting poverty. Discussions ranged over food security, energy, education, jobs, healthcare and how best to reach those excluded from traditional pathways out of poverty.
December saw the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee convene at Marlborough House. Among those present were the European Union Development Commissioner, and UN Assistant Secretary General and Special Adviser for Post-2015 Development Planning, as well as the chief executives of major Commonwealth member government development agencies. Topics addressed included unlocking funds for countries to mitigate the effects of climate change, green growth, development assistance and financial stability.
Collaboration with global partners offers the scope for weaving Commonwealth priorities into the fabric of global co-operation.
The vitality of these engagements builds on the direction given by Commonwealth leaders and the collective work of ministers and officials, the work of our committed and diligent staff at the Commonwealth Secretariat and the partnership of Commonwealth civil society and professional organisations in advancing our values.
Face-to-face meetings of ministers and officials lie at the heart of our Commonwealth approach, and continue to be accorded high priority in the way we conduct our dealings at intergovernmental level. I look forward to participating in a Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting in April 2013 in Papua New Guinea as we make plans for developing further Commonwealth collaboration on youth, an area of vital importance in the ever-younger Commonwealth.
In May, at the annual Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting in Geneva (Switzerland), the focus will be on mental health within the context of wider Commonwealth concern for the social and economic inclusion of all. In June, Bangladesh will host the Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting, another occasion when a central Commonwealth priority will be addressed, that of gender equality and ensuring that all are given the opportunity of fulfilling their potential. Reflecting the Commonwealth theme for 2013, special attention will be given to how methods that have already been successful in advancing innovation and enterprise among women can be adopted more widely throughout the Commonwealth. Particular emphasis will be laid on extending women’s leadership, together with inclusive policies and budgeting, in order for there to be full and equal economic participation by women and girls.
In November, the summit of Commonwealth co-operation, the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, takes place in Sri Lanka. The momentum gained in the course of these meetings continues to lift Commonwealth co-operation. The process is one of interaction and transaction, not only between Heads of Government themselves, but also between young people at the Youth Forum, entrepreneurs at the Business Forum, civil society at the People’s Forum, as well as ministers and officials.
Such meetings deliver outcomes that require long-term engagement and drive important programmes of work. Means are needed for carrying forward co-operation collectively between meetings, and for sustaining inclusive teamwork. The new Strategic Plan for the Commonwealth Secretariat, with its tightening of focus on those areas where Commonwealth collaboration can achieve the greatest impact, will also see us utilising innovative ways of working to deliver beneficial outcomesfor member states in diverse areas.
Commonwealth Connects, our cloud-based digital platform, will enable networks of expertise and communities of practice across the Commonwealth to share knowledge and to collaborate, to manage projects and to connect via internet-enabled communication devices such as desktop and laptop computers or mobile smart phones. It will feature Commonwealth ‘hubs’ for health and education capitalising on the capabilities information and communication technology (ICT) advances offer for direct collaboration by multiple communities of practice.
Process must never detract from purpose or divert from progress. In all we do, oursights and efforts must be set steadfastly on moving towards our shared goals, the values and principles now enshrined in the Charter of the Commonwealth, and on delivering tangible benefits for the welfare and progress of our citizens. Such clarity will give us the motivation and imagination to explore beyond the horizon, and to press on into new terrain as we travel forward together, seeking especially to unlock ‘Opportunity through Enterprise’.