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Seasonal message from the Director-General

Posted on 24/12/2019
By Anne Therese Gallagher

As the festive season is upon us—and as the year draws to a close—I extend my best wishes to the many friends and supporters of the Foundation: the Commonwealth’s agency for civil society.

This year has been an exciting and fulfilling one, and, with your support, we have achieved a great deal. Here are just a few of the highlights from 2019:

  • The addition of eight new grant initiatives to an active portfolio now totalling 40 projects. These new initiatives address a range of issues from community engagement in fisheries policy to greater female participation in politics
  • Over 5000 entries to the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize
  • Over 10,000 new subscribers and followers across our online channels
  • The inclusion of civil society, for the first time, in the Senior Officials segment of the Women’s Affairs Ministerial Meeting.

Looking ahead, I am sure all will agree that the Foundation’s core mission—to support inclusive, transparent and accountable governance throughout the Commonwealth—has never been more important. We understand, all too well, the urgent need for collective action across a range of fronts: from climate change to migration; from gender equality to poverty alleviation. Without the active and sustained involvement of civil society, true progress on these and other critical issues facing our world will be impossible.

‘The People’s Forum—along with its sister gatherings focussing on youth and women—promises to breathe energy, hope, and new ideas into CHOGM 2020’

In 2020, the Foundation will continue to pursue its own path of change and renewal: ensuring that we are as well-equipped as possible to deliver on our ambitious mandate. Having only been in the position of Director-General for six months I take great pleasure in welcoming Shem Ochola as our new Deputy Director-General. Shem’s experience, gained over more than two decades in programme management and governance, will be vital in helping to steer our core work towards even greater relevance and impact.

In 2020, alongside our Rwandan Government partners, we will also convene the Commonwealth People’s Forum: the biennial gathering that brings the citizens of the Commonwealth directly into the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting. The People’s Forum—along with its sister gatherings focussing on youth and women—promises to breathe energy, hope, and new ideas into CHOGM 2020. The themes it will tackle over three days (21-23 June) are the big ones: the questions that really matter as we try to navigate our way through an increasingly fractured and uncertain world: how do we challenge the exclusion that eats away at the legitimacy of our political, economic, and social systems? How can civil society expertise and momentum be harnessed to address ‘wicked problems’ that our governments appear almost powerless to address, such as climate change, economic injustice, and exploitative migration? And perhaps most importantly, how do we build and sustain the structures and processes that will secure the kind of governance capable of delivering for all of us: not just for those who, through the fortune of birth, geography, gender, good health, or any other blessing, are already abounding in wealth and power?

Once again, my thanks to all who have been associated with the Foundation’s work in 2019. Please join us as we look towards another year of progress and hope.

Anne T. Gallagher AO is Director-General of the Commonwealth Foundation. Note that information on the 2020 Commonwealth Peoples Forum will be available on the Foundation’s website in the coming months.