From the Commonwealth Secretary-General

HE Kamalesh Sharma

The Commonwealth has a sense of fam­ily and belonging that is perhaps unique among communities of nations. This is undoubtedly due, in large part, to the exceptional record of service of HM Queen Elizabeth II, whose Diamond Ju­bilee has been so widely celebrated this year. Never before – and perhaps never again – has a voluntary grouping of sov­ereign nations come together under one Head for 60 years.

The personal commitment of the Queen to promot­ing respect for our shared Commonwealth values and strengthening the ties of friendship and affinity is un­matched. We owe Her Majes­ty a great debt of gratitude for the manner in which she has dedicated her life to serving the Commonwealth – as much by what she is, as by what she does.

There are times when the Common­wealth itself needs simply to ‘be’, rather than to ‘do’, in order to bring its benign influence to bear on international affairs – and for the well-being of its citizens and member states. The sense of trust and common purpose with which Com­monwealth Heads of Government and ministerial meetings are imbued may be intangible and not easy to define, but can nonetheless be potent in helping the Commonwealth to exert a positive influ­ence on world affairs.

Respect for diversity comes more eas­ily to states that belong to a family of nations that embraces as equal Nauru, with 10,000 citizens, and India, with a population of 1.25 billion. At Com­monwealth meetings, collective action is decided on a basis of consensus, with participation by each of our 54 member states dependent on adherence to Com­monwealth values and principles rather than population, location, development or economic endowment.

Many of our citizens derive their sense of Commonwealth identity from non-governmental elements of our glo­bal family. Civil society organisations, through which officials, professionals, young people and communities of prac­tice or special interest can unite in com­mon purpose, have long been accorded a special place of honour in the Com­monwealth.

When the Commonwealth Secretariat was established as the ‘civil service’ of the Commonwealth in 1965, the Com­monwealth Foundation was set up in parallel to work alongside the voluntary organisations of the Commonwealth and serve their needs. Both Secretariat and Foundation were accommodated at Marlborough House, gra­ciously lent for Common­wealth purposes by Her Maj­esty the Queen.

The depth of specialist knowledge and range of pro­fessional expertise available across the Commonwealth through the staff and mem­berships of these civil soci­ety organisations is excep­tional. The new strategic plan currently being developed for the Secretariat, as directed by Heads of Government in Perth last October, will see this reser­voir of Commonwealth talent and inno­vation utilised far more imaginatively in future.

Commonwealth cooperation and col­lective practical action to improve the lives and livelihoods of our citizens can be enhanced through an even more in­clusive and collaborative approach than has been adopted in the past. New hori­zons for mutual aid and connection are being opened up as a result of advances in communications technology and the rapid roll-out of access to the Internet through mobile devices.

It is to harness the benefits of such technological progress and economic development that we have devised Commonwealth Connects, offering se­cure cloud-based online workspaces through which both governmental and non-governmental aspects of Common­wealth communication and transaction can be propagated and proliferate.

Such common endeavour promises to bring a new sense of shared identity, es­pecially to our youth, helping us collec­tively to raise our profile and deepen the impact of our joint actions as the Com­monwealth family, in advancing democ­racy, economic and social development, and respect for diversity.

About the author:

HE Mr Kamalesh Sharma is the Commonwealth Secretary-General


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