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Is the Commonwealth still relevant?

Posted on 15/08/2014
By Vijay Krishnarayan

Speaking recently to The Voice Newspaper, Foundation director, Vijay Krishnarayan has reiterated how the concept of the Commonwealth still has relevance on the international stage. 

The Commonwealth’s principles and values are timeless. They’re as relevant today as they were when it was established in 1949. The world is a different place now but the Commonwealth Charter, which summarises what we stand for places human dignity at the core of our work. Over the past 55 years the Commonwealth has consistently made the case for development, democracy and diversity. At different times this has seen the Commonwealth provide leadership on issues such as international debt, non-communicable diseases and young people’s participation. Our role in isolating the racist apartheid regime remains fresh in my memory. It would be wrong to caricature the Commonwealth as a relic, given that countries with no historic connection with the “British Empire” (Mozambique and Rwanda) have decided to join. They can see the value of a global voluntary association of equal member states cooperating with each other in pursuit of commonly held goals. 

The Commonwealth provides an international platform for small states in particular. Of our 53 member states, 31 are classified as small states (i.e. they have a population of less than 1.5 million or share the characteristics of those states) and 25 are small island developing states. In many other global arenas these voices are often not heard. I speak here as a Trinidadian who values the space that the Commonwealth affords. Not only does this enable us to participate fully in international affairs, but it also gives us access to the wealth of experience and expertise from across the globe.