On behalf of the Commonwealth Foundation, I offer my warmest wishes to the People of our Commonwealth and our valued Member States for a happy and safe holiday season.
Life continues to be challenging for so many of the Commonwealth’s 2.4 billion citizens. The Covid-19 pandemic is still with us and its effects—on our loved ones, our economies, our way of life—will continue to be felt for years. The climate crisis is deepening across the Commonwealth: presenting an existential threat to some of our smallest and most vulnerable Member States. And the perennial problems of inequality, poor governance and inadequate protection of rights and freedoms remain unresolved.
No single person, no single organisation or government, can turn the tide on this catalogue of troubles. But change is possible if we care enough to try. And change is inevitable if enough of us come together under a broad umbrella of shared understanding and shared values. The Commonwealth offers that umbrella. It is our collective task to nurture its potential and support its growth.
‘No single person, no single organisation or government, can turn the tide. But change is possible if we care enough to try.’
At the Commonwealth Foundation our focus is firmly on solidarity with the people of the Commonwealth. We are committed to using our resources, expertise, platforms and partnerships to amplify their voices and advance their interests. We do this in three ways. First, by supporting the active and constructive participation of Commonwealth citizens in all aspects of their governance. Second, by nurturing the growth of vibrant and free civil societies. And third, by advancing the principles and ideals of the Commonwealth.
Throughout 2021 we have strived to deliver on this mission: reaching an ever-wider audience with our programmes; and starting conversations that we hope will play a role in reinvigorating the Commonwealth, so it is fit to rise to the challenges of the day and spur collective action.
‘The Foundation belongs to the People of the Commonwealth. [Their] involvement in matters that affect their lives is sowing the seeds of change. We need committed citizens to speak their truth loudly and clearly.’
Much has happened this year, with records broken in relation to the number of grants applications received and entries submitted into our Commonwealth Short Story Competition. I am especially proud of our online events series –A Commonwealth of the People?– which so bravely and firmly grasped the nettle of Commonwealth reform. The unprecedented level of interest (to date well over 300,000 views) confirmed to us that vital questions about the Commonwealth’s future are of deep interest to many people. I encourage all those who have not yet watched the series to view it now via our website—and to think of ways we can continue these important conversations at next year’s Commonwealth People’s Forum in Kigali.
Perhaps most significant for me has been the expansion of our community. The Foundation belongs to the People of the Commonwealth, and it is heartening to watch the rapid rise in the level and depth of engagement with our work. The involvement of Commonwealth citizens in matters that affect their lives is sowing the seeds of change. We need committed citizens and civil society organisations to speak their truth loudly and clearly. We need them to work with and alongside government to help shape just and equal societies.
The Commonwealth is bound by a web of connections that cut across history, language and law. But it is the core values of this organisation –democracy, human rights, human dignity and equality– that deserve to be celebrated above all else.
Dr Anne T. Gallagher AO is Director-General of the Commonwealth Foundation.