From the Commonwealth Secretary-General

Kamalesh Sharma

To see the vivid and uplifting reality of today’s Commonwealth at its best, go online and search out the video accompanying the 2014 Commonwealth Day Message of The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth. The youthfulness and vitality expressed in the three-minute montage of images, captured during the baton relay as it passes from hand to hand and country to country en route to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, are utterly compelling. 

The video, and our new 2014 theme ‘Team Commonwealth’, convey with brevity yet immense power how the diverse strands of Commonwealth connection are woven together. Our aim is for this sense of what we can achieve together, and the reality of shared endeavour towards common goals in a positive spirit of mutual support, to become increasingly the daily experience of our citizens as members of the Commonwealth family. 

The Commonwealth Plan for Broadband Inclusion is one example of how we can advance this ambition. Welcoming this initiative in the communiqué from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting last November, our leaders said it would “help bridge the broadband divide and ensure accessible and affordable access to broadband, as the foundation for a contemporary digital economy, thereby enabling all Commonwealth citizens to benefit from the opportunities that broadband access affords for economic growth and human wellbeing in the interconnected global economy”. 

Through this Plan the Commonwealth Secretariat, Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, and International Telecommunication Union are working in partnership to ensure that our member states have viable national plans to bridge the digital divide and bring the benefits of the digital age to all communities. In March this year the first-ever Commonwealth ICT Ministers Forum also considered strategies for advancing access to fast, reliable and affordable broadband. Such connection is essential to economic and social inclusion in today’s world. 

The explosive growth of the internet has revolutionised global access to knowledge, networks, business opportunities and expanding markets, transcending national boundaries. Widespread access to social media brings new immediacy to politics and governance, with elevated expectations of transparency and accountability. By exchanging experiences and insights, and working together on ICT-related issues – whether opportunities or threats – we continue a rich Commonwealth tradition of pursuing a common cause to collective advantage. The Commonwealth Electoral Network is already a fine example of how, in the field of electoral management and democratic practice generally, the convening power of the Commonwealth – combined with use of innovative communications technology – binds all member states in a vibrant and mutually supportive community in a core area of Commonwealth values. 

Similar networks are being developed to carry forward Commonwealth collaboration in the fields of health, education, and the environment. Opportunities for convening communities of practice in these important spheres will be greatly enhanced through the new ‘hubs’ currently being planned on the Commonwealth web platform ‘Commonwealth Connects’. By providing professionally-managed and secure online environments for experts and practitioners, the hubs will serve as exchange for knowledge and experience. 

Increasingly, they will become convergence points for forging and nurturing new pan-Commonwealth strategic partnerships, and for governments, civil society and private stakeholders to access expertise and best practices, and to transact. Another new online facility, ComPartnership, is being developed as a contemporary exchange for unlocking and multiplying Commonwealth potential for bilateral country-to-country co-operation on governance, development, and technical areas.

These examples show Team Commonwealth’ working in new and practical ways globally so that the values and aspirations of the Commonwealth Charter change for the better the lives of citizens in all our member states. Community and continuity help us to work together and to build on our shared inheritances. Being connected will keep us together and enable us to work for futures that are stronger and brighter.

About the author:

Kamalesh Sharma is Secretary-General of the Commonwealth


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