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Global Issue 15

network Commonwealth in Action commonwealth particularly high standards. Conversely, can develop a stronger role for itself the worst Commonwealth performer in this in the 21st century. income group is Malaysia, although it still Building on the train of thought that the far outperforms its non-Commonwealth results of ‘Commonwealth Compared’ inspire, counterparts, such as Belarus, Iran and the report can be used to indicate the Turkmenistan. association’s continued relevance. It could Considering the interplay between press be suggested that in a time of global recession freedom and democracy, it is not, therefore, surprising that another of the Commonwealth’s strengths is demonstrated by the Democracy indicator. Principles of democratic governance have been at the very heart of the Commonwealth since its transformation from British Empire into a voluntary association, now numbering 54 independent nations, and the report shows that member states consistently outperform their non-Commonwealth counterparts on this indicator. While it is accepted that not all Commonwealth countries are paragons of democracy (only one election was ever held in Brunei – 50 years ago), there are the Competitiveness indicator is an only 25 ‘full democracies’ in the world and, obvious place to start. This indicator does of these, six are Commonwealth countries. not, however, provide immediately impressive Sadly, not all the results are so positive. Commonwealth-wide results, although An example of this is the Gender Gap indicator, it does provide some interesting regional which highlights an area that definitely comparisons. has room for improvement. This For example, the indicator shows that indicator examines the gap between men low-income Commonwealth countries are and women in four fundamental categories: generally more competitive than their non- economic participation and opportunity; Commonwealth counterparts and so too are educational attainment; health and African Commonwealth countries. Indeed, survival; and political empowerment. The five of the seven most competitive African results demonstrate that here, the Commonwealth’s countries are Commonwealth members – ‘added value’ is fairly negligible. South Africa, Mauritius, Rwanda, Botswana This is a disappointing result, but it does and Namibia. Similarly, Commonwealth give an indication of where the Commonwealth small island developing states (SIDS) also 86 l www.global -br ief ing.org thi rd quar ter 2013 global significantly outperform their non-Commonwealth counterparts. The results of the Competitiveness indicator perhaps hint at the trading potential of the Commonwealth and certainly add depth to the RCS’s 2010 paper, ‘Trading Places: the “Commonwealth effect” revisited’, which found that in 2008, the total value of imports into Commonwealth countries was around US$2.3 trillion and the total value of exports from Commonwealth countries was around $2.1 trillion. The results also fit with the 2010 finding that for some small states, the Commonwealth share of total trade value reaches as high as three-quarters. These regional variations, combined with the top-line results that indicate where Commonwealth member states are outperforming, or lagging behind their non- Commonwealth counterparts, demonstrate a need for further research into causality. The May launch of the report was attended by a broad spectrum of Commonwealth civil society and a panel of Commonwealth experts, including Chairman and President of YouGov, Peter Kellner; former Royal Commonwealth Society President, Baroness Prashar; former Minister of State for the Commonwealth, the Rt Hon Lord Howell of Guildford; and the High Commissioner for Antigua and Barbuda, His Excellency Carl Roberts CMG. The event was an excellent forum for a passionate debate about the association’s greatest strengths and weaknesses. As a working paper, ‘Commonwealth Compared’ does not investigate cause and effect, but it does conclude that the shared history of the Commonwealth – the familiarity forged between its leaders and its common language – have created a Commonwealth ‘X-factor’. This X-factor, or special ingredient, seems to suggest that Commonwealth countries are better organised, have enjoyed more democratic conditions and are safer, more reliable countries in which to do business. That said, there is no denying that much more still needs to be done to maximise the effectiveness of the association. The report, therefore, should not be viewed as a conclusion, but as a starting point for further debate and investigation into the Commonwealth’s potential. To download a copy of the report, please visit www.thercs.org/society/CommonwealthCompared Rwanda, one of the most recent countries to join the Commonwealth, ranks high on the competitiveness scale Verity Sharp is programmes officer at the Royal Commonwealth Society Five of the seven most competitive African countries are Commonwealth members – South Africa, Mauritius, Rwanda, Botswana and Namibia 


Global Issue 15
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