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Seasonal message from the Director-General

I write to you at the close of a challenging year for our Commonwealth and our broader family of nations. Conflict and division feel more proximate than they did just 12 months ago. And, at the end of 2023, we have cause to worry that our values—and the trusted institutions we have built to protect them—may not be sufficiently robust to manage new and emerging threats to human rights and human flourishing.

At such a time we need to reflect on the noble purpose of the Commonwealth: the idea that a group of very different countries can unite in support of each other with the specific goal of advancing the values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. The Commonwealth now numbers 56 countries across five regions, bringing together 2.5 billion citizens. It is a noble and worthy project that deserves our unequivocal support.

At the Foundation we take our mission—to advance the rights, needs and interests of the people of the Commonwealth—seriously. The Foundation embodies the Commonwealth identity as a union of people, not just of countries or governments. It is our task to bring that identity to life, in ways that make a real difference.

2023 has been an exciting and fulfilling year for the Foundation. Highlights include our Critical Conversations Roundtables which united many hundreds of Commonwealth citizens to craft policy recommendations directly conveyed to Ministers at meetings in Geneva, Nassau, and Marrakech. That kind of engagement helps to ensure that the voice of civil society is heard in forums where policy is crafted, and decisions taken. It embodies the idea of ‘participatory democracy’ that lies at the heart of what we are trying to do.

Just last month, we launched our Commonwealth-wide preparations for the 2024 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and Commonwealth People’s Forum (CPF), which will be held in Samoa next October. Our launch event was explicitly action-oriented: how can civil society work together to advance the commitments that were made by Member States at CHOGM 2022 in Rwanda? What issues and priorities should be pushed, and how? Four additional regional conversations are in the pipeline, poised to shape the agenda for the People’s Forum and identify opportunities for civil society collaboration in the domains of health justice, climate justice, and freedom of expression.

The Foundation ringfences around one-third of our total budget for grants to Commonwealth civil society organisations in support of strong projects within our areas of focus.  We now have more projects, in more countries, than ever before in our history. This year, we were delighted to be funding a wide range of innovative projects. In the area of climate change, for example, we are supporting the engagement of Mauritian fishers in climate policy decision-making and the creation of educational songs on climate change in Vanuatu.

Our grants programme is not just about providing funding. In many cases, we also support capacity strengthening aimed at building sustainable organisations that are often operating in fragile and uncertain environments. And the organisations we fund are our partners in the truest sense of the word. We strive to continuously listen and use insights from them to improve our advocacy and our ways of working.

Creativity continues to flourish within our Commonwealth, exemplified by the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Entries for the 2024 prize closed a few months ago and our team of readers is now well into the process of reviewing a record 7,359 stories. Entries from Pakistan, Rwanda, and the Solomon Islands also broke previous records and 2023 marked an exciting first: the inclusion of Maltese language entries, which led to a fourfold increase in submissions from Malta as a whole.

Finally, COP28 in Dubai presented a valuable opportunity to advance our strategic agenda on climate justice and the interests of the Commonwealth’s small and vulnerable states. At the Foundation we believe the role of civil society in shaping and framing the international conversation around climate change matters for people and our planet. That’s why we supported the participation of two journalists from Commonwealth small island states whose job it was to listen and report back to their countries and regions. We also supported the participation of two young climate negotiators who joined the summit as part of their national delegations.

My thanks to all who contributed to our work this year—most especially our governors and the Foundation’s ever-expanding network of partners. Please join us as we look towards 2024 in the hope that the principles and values of our Commonwealth triumph.

Dr Anne T. Gallagher AO is Director-General of the Commonwealth Foundation. 

Perfecting your story: tips for crafting your prize submission

On 1 September 2023, writers from across the Commonwealth will begin to submit their carefully crafted stories to the 2024 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

The prize attracts thousands of authors from the Commonwealth’s 56 Member States. Each year, experienced writers vie for the prize with some of the world’s best emerging literary talent. So how can you stand out from the crowd and succeed in the prize?

This article contains some timeless guidance for writing and editing your work that will help you impress our expert judging panel.

We’re grateful to poet, short story writer and academic Funso Aiyejina for inspiring this article.

Start strong

Your opening is crucial. Experiment with different beginnings and find one that immediately engages the reader, leaving them eager to discover what lies ahead.

Find your voice

A compelling narrative voice is the heartbeat of any great story. Ensure your storytelling voice remains consistent throughout the piece, reflecting the mood, tone and style you intend to convey. This helps immerse readers in your world and make them feel connected to your characters.

Embrace your protagonist

Whose story are you telling? Identify your central character or protagonist, and keep the focus on their journey, desires and struggles. Avoid introducing too many characters too soon, as a crowded story can confuse your reader.

Find the right sequence

Maintain your reader’s interest by thoughtfully sequencing events in your short story. Connect the beginning, middle and end in a way that keeps the narrative flowing seamlessly. Remember: details in the middle should relate to the beginning and end, ensuring a cohesive and engaging storyline.

Consider conflict and obstacles

What is the central conflict in your story? Clearly define what your character wants or needs and the obstacles they must overcome to achieve their goals.

Use clues and mysteries

If your story involves an element of suspense or mystery, place clues appropriately throughout the narrative. Your aim is to pique the reader’s curiosity and keep them invested in the unfolding plot.

Show, don’t tell

One of the golden rules of writing is to ‘show, don’t tell.’ Rather than plainly stating what happens, use descriptive language and actions to allow readers to experience the story first-hand.

Find a satisfying resolution

As your story nears its end, ensure the resolution is organic and well-integrated within the context of the narrative. Avoid forced or unrealistic conclusions and beware of relying on narrative resolutions that defy the internal logic of the story.

Develop your characters

Consistency in character development is vital. Ensure your characters’ actions and changes align with their experiences in the story, maintaining emotional and intellectual coherence.

Experiment with literary devices

Experiment with literary devices such as similes, metaphors and powerful imagery. Identify which stylistic elements work well with your narrative and employ them carefully to enhance your story’s impact.

.. but use them sparingly

Avoid overusing literary devices. A fine balance ensures your writing remains evocative without becoming overwhelming.

Edit for clarity and brevity

Evaluate the relevance and appropriateness of every word, sentence, and paragraph. Avoid unnecessary words and background information, particularly at the beginning of your story.

We hope these writing tips inspire you to submit a winning story to the 2024 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Remember, submissions open on 1 September and close on 1 November. We can’t wait to read your story.

Introducing our five new Civil Society Advisory Governors

The Commonwealth Foundation works to advance the interests and needs of the people of the Commonwealth, through a rich combination of grants, platforms and partnerships.

The Foundation has always involved civil society closely in our work. We continue this fine tradition through our Civil Society Advisory Governors. This mechanism—known simply as CSAG—brings civil society representatives from each region of the Commonwealth into the heart of our work: standing shoulder to shoulder with our Member States in advancing the Foundation’s mission and shaping our future direction.

‘The diversity and richness that our Civil Society Advisory Governors bring to our organisation will ensure that we remain connected and relevant’

In 2022 the Foundation conducted a comprehensive review of the CSAG mechanism. Under the new terms of reference that emerged from the review, we sought governors whose background and experience ensure they will make a genuine contribution to the Foundation’s programming, and whose connections will enable them to become champions of the Foundation and of Commonwealth values within their regions and networks.

‘They are, after all, our bridge to the people of the Commonwealth’

We are delighted to announce that the Foundation’s Board of Governors has approved the appointment of the following persons as our Civil Society Advisory Governors for a two-year term.

Dr Helen Kezie-Nwoha (Africa)

Dr Helen Kezie-Nwoha, representing Africa, brings extensive experience with the Women’s International Peace Centre and the  Gender Is My Agenda Network. Her expertise will help us put gender—a major theme across all our work—at the centre of our activities.

Safaath Ahmed Zahir (Asia)

Representing Asia, Safaath Ahmed Zahir has a passion for women’s rights and an impressive track record of civil society engagement. As a recipient of the Queen’s Young Leader Award, Safaath embodies the essence of the constructive engagement between civil society and government that we strive for.

Darrion Narine (Caribbean)

From the Caribbean, Darrion Narine joins us with a wealth of knowledge and connections within youth-focused organisations. His previous roles, including Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Forum Task Force, have demonstrated his tireless commitment to youth inclusion and his understanding that young people are central to a flourishing and sustainable Commonwealth.

Mario Gerada (Europe)

For Europe, Mario Gerada brings extensive experience of front-line human rights work with a special focus on migration. His understanding of the importance of constructive engagement between government and civil society, gained through his leadership within a national civil society organisation, will be invaluable.

Dr Justin Koonin (Pacific)

Finally, Dr Justin Koonin, representing the Pacific, is a renowned health policy expert and President of Australia’s largest civil society organisation dedicated to HIV/AIDS and the advancement of health rights for gender minorities. Dr Koonin’s expertise will be crucial in helping us advance our agenda around health justice —one of three key themes in our strategic plan.

Our new Civil Society Advisory Governors will play a critical role in the years ahead: not only advising on the Foundation’s continuous improvement, but also by contributing to the development of the programme for the next Commonwealth People’s Forum that will be held in Samoa in 2024.

The diversity and richness that our Civil Society Advisory Governors bring to our organisation will ensure that we remain connected and relevant; they are, after all, our bridge to the people of the Commonwealth—and we are committed to learning from them so they can guide and inspire our work.

Statement from the Chair of the Board on the occasion of the coronation of His Majesty King Charles III, Head of the Commonwealth

On behalf of the Commonwealth Foundation, I extend our sincerest congratulations and warmest wishes to His Majesty King Charles III on the occasion of his coronation.

Through a life of service, His Majesty King Charles has consistently demonstrated his steadfast commitment to the core values enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter. Under his leadership as Head of the Commonwealth, we are confident that the Organisation will continue to flourish, championing democracy, human rights, and the rule of law for the benefit of our 56 Member States and their 2.6 billion citizens.

‘In His Majesty King Charles, we have a leader who understands the importance of unity in diversity, a leader who appreciates the rich tapestry of cultures, traditions, and histories that form the backbone of our precious Organisation’

This is a historic moment for our beloved Commonwealth. The challenges we face as a global community are numerous and complex. At the Commonwealth Foundation, we are committed to harnessing the collective wisdom, experience, and resilience of the People of the Commonwealth to address these challenges head-on. In His Majesty King Charles, we have a leader who understands the importance of unity in diversity, a leader who appreciates the rich tapestry of cultures, traditions, and histories that form the backbone of our precious Organisation.

We move forward in the assurance that His Majesty King Charles will not flinch from acknowledging the past, and in doing so, will help us forge a brighter and more inclusive future. It is our hope that, under his guidance, the Commonwealth will continue to evolve, coming together to embrace our shared history while striving towards full realisation of the ideals we cherish.

In this time of change, we must also take a moment to express our profound gratitude to Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for the steadfast leadership she provided the Commonwealth during her remarkable reign. Her Majesty’s deep sense of duty and enduring commitment to the Commonwealth have left an indelible mark, and her legacy shall continue to inspire and guide us in the years to come.

‘Together, we shall strive to create a more just, equitable and sustainable future’

As we embark on this new chapter in our rich history, the Commonwealth Foundation remains committed to working in close partnership with our Member States and Commonwealth civil society to advance the goals and aspirations we all share.

We are confident that, under the guidance of His Majesty King Charles, the Commonwealth will continue to be a beacon of hope and a powerful force for good in the world. Together, we shall strive to create a more just, equitable and sustainable future. The people of the Commonwealth deserve nothing less.

Dato’ Sudha Devi K.R. Vasudevan is Chair of the Board of the Commonwealth Foundation.

Photo: Commonwealth Secretariat

Wild Speculations on the Nature of Festivity and the Practice of Friendship

The morning I left home for an island off the west coast of the Malaysian Peninsula, the sky was crystal clear. I remember the light of the rising sun shining off the bitumen of the empty airport parking lot. Shortly after that, I watched as the red and green tapestry of rural Eswatini sank below clouds.

About two dozen hours later, I arrived in Penang—sweaty, tired and profoundly excited. The door of Arrivals slid open, and I got to say hello to a whole new place. The first thing the island said to me was, “HUMID!” From above came the clarion chorus of thousands of birds nestled in the giant, four-lanes-wide awning over the pick-up zone. After a shuttle ride up the island’s flank, we entered the UNESCO World Heritage area and the stage was set for the George Town Literary Festival (GTLF).

The next morning was the first of four days that felt like four hours filled with four weeks of living. Imagine transplanting hundreds of conversations from dozens of dinner parties—the kind attended by the most fascinating, illustrious and passionate of people. What ideas would be shared? That, essentially, is the objective of a festival like the GTLF: conversations. Illuminating, difficult, important, funny conversations.

‘[It was] four days that felt like four hours filled with four weeks of living.’

Conversations; about the original, indigenous name for orangutans (maias). The nature of mythology—part of an entire society’s sense of self. The single right way to navigate the publishing industry as a young writer (doesn’t exist). One way to process your feelings about a great injustice (write a funny, gory, beautiful story about it). How to decide, when translating, whether to focus on the author’s intention or on exactitude of meaning (do neither and both. Transcribe the feel of the text).

Discussions; concerning the role, beyond entertainment, of written fiction—as activism. On the nature of dreams and nightmares—sources of inspiration or idle curiosity? The state of publishing in Southeast Asia (diverse—the generic ‘Southeast Asian reader’ does not exist—and disperse—the experience of diasporans is not inferior or inauthentic, just different). About how faith, ethnicity and politics shape modern Malaysia.

Dialogues; exploring the oft lonely path that writers walk in the months and years spent breathing life into text (perhaps unpublished, or, being published, unread, or, being published and read, unacclaimed). Describing an oppressive society in which a woman with a pen—a poet—is, merely by expressing herself, in rebellion. Unpacking more subtle forms of resistance, like surrealism—confrontation veiled in metaphor.

‘The objective of a festival like the George Town Literary Festival is connecting diverse people from all over the globe.’

The other objective of a festival like the GTLF is connecting diverse people from all over the globe. Allowing those transplanted conversations to multiply and evolve in trendy restaurants and on shaded benches. That’s when the real joy of a festival like that is realised.

When I left home that sunny morning, I expected to be challenged, I expected to be surprised and to learn brilliant new things. What I didn’t expect was to meet a group of brilliant new people and connect with them so profoundly. Brief though our time was, that brevity does not, in my opinion, detract even slightly from the immense value of that connection.

So, if you ever get the chance to attend a literary festival on an island off the west coast of the Malaysian peninsula, you should take it. Also, if anyone asks whether you’d like to join them for some herbal tea, perhaps a couple of Tigers? Say yes. It could well be the highlight of your year—even if that year was already the most extraordinary of your life.

Nstika Kota won the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize with ‘and the earth drank deep‘. He was attending the George Town Literary Festival with support from the Commonwealth Foundation.

Recovering and rebuilding after Covid-19

The world is emerging—slowly but surely—from the Covid-19 pandemic.

In November 2020, the Commonwealth Foundation launched a Special Grants Call to support those worst affected by Covid-19. The programme, which received extra funding from the Government of Canada, provided financial assistance to civil society organisations in Commonwealth countries. The grants targeted organisations that sought to work constructively and closely with governments in recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Partners were tasked with delivering projects in a unique and challenging context. As governments adopted large-scale – and sometimes draconian – emergency pandemic measures, the space for civil society to operate shrank. For example, restrictions on movement often limited access to those most in need of help. The situation also took its toll on the physical and mental well-being of the dedicated staff and volunteers running the projects and organisations.

‘Partners were tasked with delivering projects in a unique and challenging context… as governments adopted large-scale emergency pandemic measures.’

All 10 projects funded by the extra contribution from the Government of Canada overcame these and many other obstacles to be able to document real impact. Partners reported increased awareness of key issues relating to Covid-19 within their beneficiary communities. The projects also helped marginalised communities to better advocate for their rights surrounding Covid-19. Most notably, some projects actually contributed to a significant change in government Covid-19 policy and pandemic response.

Below is a snapshot of just a few of the funded projects. The three featured organisations successfully engaged with governments to assist marginalised communities and influence pandemic response.

Some of our Covid-19 grantees reflect on their achievements.

In Bangladesh, Turning Point Foundation’s project worked to change national Covid-19 policies to better account for people with disabilities. Their collaborative efforts—which brought disabled peoples’ organisations together with the Ministry of Health—helped Government reach out to people with disabilities and factor their needs into Bangladesh’s Covid-19 Preparedness and Response Plan. This led to 2,000 people with disabilities, their parents and caregivers being registered for the Covid-19 vaccine and accessing the government support they were entitled to in the form of cash, food parcels, soaps, masks and jabs.

‘All 10 projects overcame many other obstacles to document real impact.’

The South African Government’s Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant was a lifeline for thousands of South African citizens deprived of work during the pandemic—yet the initial income threshold meant as many as 10.5 million poorer citizens couldn’t access the funds they needed. The Black Sash Trust spearheaded a campaign to persuade the government to change course: using a combination of advocacy and strategic litigation. On 16 August 2022, the Department of Social Development announced amendments to the SRD grant regulation that addressed two of the key issues raised in Black Sash’s campaign, dramatically widening access to the government’s life-saving programme. The R350 monthly income threshold was raised and the reliance on bank account verification checks, which had prevented many families with shared bank accounts from accessing the SRD, was overturned. 

In Ghana, electricity shortages prevented rural communities from receiving television and radio updates on Covid-19 relief programmes. Women Integrated Development Organisation gathered feedback from 20 rural communities in the Upper West and Bono East regions of Ghana on Covid-19 relief programmes, which was shared with regional authorities. The Ghana Enterprise Agency organised community awareness sessions to learn about accessing government support. This allowed over 564 women and 213 persons with disabilities in rural communities to submit applications for government support. 

Constructive engagement—where civil society and government work hand in hand towards a common end —lies at the heart of what the Commonwealth Foundation believes in and helps to support. Three years after it all began, we are still to fully understand the social and economic costs of the pandemic. However, some things are already abundantly clear. We understand very well that the pandemic – and responses to the pandemic – affected people and countries very differently. Across the Commonwealth, it was the poor and the marginalised who were most at risk. These projects made a difference. But perhaps their most valuable contribution was the clear confirmation that cooperation and collaboration between civil society and government can work to transform lives.  

These are just a few notable achievements of our Covid-19 grants partners. Information on all 10 projects supported under this call can be found here. 

For updates on our grants programme pleasesign up here.

Introducing Commonwealth Foundation Creatives

Commonwealth Writers was founded more than a decade ago with the explicit goal of inspiring, connecting, and helping to develop writers. Since then, our community has grown to include creatives working in many other areas: from filmmaking and performance poetry; from painting to photography.

This global and close-knit network of creative practitioners from all disciplines and backgrounds is now being recognised through a new name: Commonwealth Writers has become Commonwealth Foundation Creatives.

Commonwealth Foundation Creatives will continue to be a platform where artists can support each other and develop their craft, no matter where in the Commonwealth they hail from.

Our distinguished Commonwealth Short Story Prize, our online literary magazine adda, and our creative opportunities are all still available.

Visit the short story prize pageVisit Adda storiesVisit the creative opportunities page

Thank you for your interest in our creative programming and for continuing to share your stories, creative aspirations, and the secrets of your craft with our wider community.

Commonwealth Foundation

Seasonal message from the Director-General

Excellencies, colleagues, partners, and friends of the Commonwealth Foundation,

The festive season is a time to pause and reflect on our changing world. One event that loomed large for the Foundation in 2022 was the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who, as head of the Commonwealth, dedicated her life to serving its people. We pay tribute to her steadfast and devoted service.

‘COP27 in Egypt presented a valuable opportunity to advance our strategic agenda on climate change and the interests of the Commonwealth’s small and vulnerable states.’

In terms of our own work, the past year has been an exciting one, with a major highlight being our hosting of the Commonwealth People’s Forum in partnership with the Government of Rwanda. We were thrilled with the level and quality of engagement: over 250 delegates from across the Commonwealth were involved, including civil society leaders, government officials, lawyers, journalists, academics, and activists. The Foundation team developed a short outcome video that was shown to Foreign Ministers in Kigali. You can watch it here. We are already planning for the next People’s Forum that will be held in Samoa in 2024: looking at ways that the Foundation can bring the people of the Commonwealth together (in person and online) to discuss and debate the issues that matter most to them.

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize has continued to grow this year, attracting new writers from more Commonwealth Member States. The 2022 prize was won by Ntsika Kota for his story ‘and the earth drank deep’. Ntsika is the first writer from Eswatini to be shortlisted for the prize, and the second overall winner from Africa. In a record year for entries, he saw off competition from 6,729 entrants worldwide to take the £5,000 prize. A hitherto unpublished author with extraordinary talent, Ntsika’s success reminds us of the power of the prize to unearth world-beating literary talent in all corners of our Commonwealth.

Finally, COP27 in Egypt presented a valuable opportunity to advance our strategic agenda on climate change and the interests of the Commonwealth’s small and vulnerable states. The Foundation hosted three online events as part of our Critical Conversations series in the lead-up to—and immediately after—COP27. These events—which brought together a wide range of activists and decision-makers—considered how to advance the needs and interests of those most affected by climate change. We were delighted that over 7000 people registered to attend online.

‘The issues that are at the heart of our work: climate, health and freedom of expression, continue to require urgent attention.’

The Foundation also hosted two in-person events at COP27: bringing together the President of Vanuatu, the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, and leading figures in international law and climate advocacy to consider how the tools of international law can be used to secure climate justice for some of the Commonwealth’s smallest and most climate-vulnerable countries. Attendance at both events was at full capacity and drew widespread media attention ahead of the historic agreement to establish a funding mechanism for loss and damage.

The issues that are at the heart of our work: climate, health and freedom of expression, continue to require urgent attention and the Foundation has begun planning in earnest for the year ahead. We were delighted to receive a record number of applications to our open grants call. Much work has gone into simplifying our grant-making to improve access and we are confident that these changes will help ensure that smaller civil society organisations in smaller Commonwealth countries benefit from this funding stream. We are also in no doubt that, among the thousands of submissions made to the 2023 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, a new cohort of world-beating writers will emerge to claim the regional and overall prizes that will be announced mid-year.

‘Member-State commitment to the Charter is critical if the Commonwealth is to survive and thrive.’

The Foundation is also gearing up to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Commonwealth Charter: a bold and forward-looking statement of Commonwealth values and principles. Member-State commitment to the Charter is critical if the Commonwealth is to survive and thrive. The Foundation will be doing its bit to bring the voice of Commonwealth civil society into anniversary celebrations for the Charter. Please sign up to our mailing list to receive updates on these plans.

Once again, thank you to all those who have contributed to our work, most especially our governors and the Foundation’s expanding network of partners. I look forward to working with you in the coming year as we join forces to advance the principles and values of our Commonwealth.

Dr Anne T. Gallagher AO is Director-General of the Commonwealth Foundation. 

Climate Reparations: What Must COP27 Deliver?

The Commonwealth’s small and climate vulnerable states are being lost to the world’s oceans at alarming speed. Extreme weather events are destroying small island infrastructure, upending local livelihoods, and overwhelming public finances.

Despite the urgency of the situation, commitments to help small island and vulnerable states stand largely unfulfilled. The next major global climate conference in Egypt (COP27) presents an important opportunity to refocus the global conversation on the needs of small island states, and our three part-series: The Case for Climate Justice: Commonwealth Small Island States is doing just that.

The loss and damage negotiations under the UNFCCC have so far failed to deliver the climate finance that small and climate-vulnerable states so desperately need. Combating climate change on the ‘front lines’ requires vast sums of money and advanced technology—something that the wider international community has promised yet hasn’t delivered.

The Loss and Damage Collaboration (LDC) highlights key issues that need to be addressed at COP27 based on previous discussions at UN climate conferences.

One such issue is the failure of ‘The Santiago Network’ to get off the ground. The network is intended to help small and vulnerable states ‘avert, minimise, and address loss and damage’ through the provision of technical assistance yet, to this day, no decision has been taken on which international body should oversee its operations, and thus no secretariat has been established to carry out this vital work. The LDC emphasises that COP27 must advance discussions on the structure of the Santiago Network so it can start to act. The LDC also asks that Loss and Damage Finance Facility is operationalised so it can finally dispense funds to countries contending with the worst effects of climate change.

If the central UN processes at COP27 fail to deliver the necessary support for small and vulnerable states, there are alternatives paths to change that speakers at our next Critical Conversation will consider. In October last year, the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law (COSIS) was established by the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, and Tuvalu and with the determined support of a group of leading international lawyers.

COSIS’s main task is to seek Advisory Opinions from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), which could in turn support their legal claims to climate compensation. Such a task won’t be easy: the ITLOS has only ever produced two advisory opinions in its history. But if greater numbers of small island states join COSIS, their combined resources will make a favourable outcome more likely.

There is another important pathway to change being discussed in our Critical Conversation. Within the next month, the UN General Assembly will vote on whether the International Court of Justice can consider a landmark climate change case. This vote, which is being brought to the General Assembly by Vanuatu, marks a new frontier in the struggle to protect the planet and its people. Whatever way it goes, the vote will have far-reaching implications for climate change litigation and international disputes on climate harm.

These developments could shape the terms of the climate debate at COP27 and beyond. No path forward will be viable without the multitude of civil society actors—whether Lawyers, negotiators or policy experts—coming together in dialogue to chart a path forward. And that’s exactly what next Tuesday’s Critical Conversation is all about.

Message on the passing of former Commonwealth Foundation Director, Dr Humayun Khan

The Commonwealth Foundation was saddened to learn of the death of Dr Humayun Khan on 22 September 2022. Dr Khan—who was a former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan and Pakistani High Commissioner to India and the United Kingdom—served the Commonwealth Foundation as its Director from 1993 to 2000.

During his seven years as Director, Dr Khan was known for the strong and enduring relationships he maintained with organisations and colleagues right across the Commonwealth system. In many ways, Dr Khan laid the foundations for the organisation we are today: not least by pioneering the Foundation’s use of grant-making to help non-governmental organisations advance the global development agenda. In 1999, Dr Khan oversaw the delivery of a major piece of research on the relationship between participatory governance and good development outcomes. This study, which was presented to Commonwealth Heads of Government in Durban, heralded a new era of facilitating dialogue between civil society and governments through Commonwealth processes, work that we continue to advance to this day by ensuring the people of the Commonwealth are heard loudly and clearly at Heads of Government and Ministerial meetings.

Dr Khan had an illustrious career in international diplomacy and was held in the highest esteem by many across the world. We offer our heartfelt condolences to his family, as well as the people of Pakistan and the people of the Commonwealth whom he served so well.

Dr Anne T. Gallagher AO is Director-General of the Commonwealth Foundation.