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Global Issue 15

commonwealth network The initial findings of the Royal Commonwealth Ahead of the crowd? Research by the Royal Commonwealth Society explores whether there is a Commonwealth ‘X factor’, giving member countries advantages over their non-Commonwealth neighbours Verity Sharp Society’s research ‘Commonwealth Compared 2013: Setting the Scene’, were discussed at a lively launch event held at the Commonwealth Club on 23 May. The research was born out of a widely accepted assumption about the value of the Commonwealth, implicit not only in the addition of the association’s two newest members – Mozambique and Rwanda (which do not have the traditional connection to the British Empire that the other 52 member states do) – but in the association’s growing waiting list. The report seeks to ascertain whether membership of the Commonwealth confers any measurable advantage upon its member states. To do this, the report’s authors compared Commonwealth countries with their non- Commonwealth regional and economic counterparts across a range of indicators, including competitiveness, press freedom, inequality, gender, peace, democracy and environmental sustainability. These nine indices were specifically chosen to provide a broad view of countries’ economic, social and environmental performance, but also because they all relate to important aspects of the Commonwealth project, recently cemented in the Commonwealth Charter. This is the first time that data from across the Commonwealth has been compared in this way. As the first ever Commonwealth index of its kind, the report seeks to bring clarity to the debate about the association’s value and potential. The results, however, are not clear-cut. While the findings suggest that Commonwealth Commonwealth in Action countries outperform their non- Commonwealth counterparts in press freedom, democracy and peace, the results for competitiveness, inequality, gender gap, human development and environmental performance are more nuanced. For those looking for outright value, the report suggests that the Commonwealth performs very well on the Press Freedom indicator. The report uses the World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters without Borders, to compare Commonwealth countries with their non-Commonwealth counterparts and the results show that member states score considerably better. The most pronounced difference is among upper middle-income countries – Commonwealth members, including Jamaica and Namibia, stand out as having Guests gather to hear the results of the ‘Commonwealth Compared’ report at London’s Commonwealth Club in May global thi rd quar ter 2013 www.global -br ief ing.org l 85 


Global Issue 15
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