Commonwealth Conversation: Final ReportPosted by ZoeWare - 08/03/10 at 12:03 am
The largest-ever public consultation on the future of the Commonwealth concludes with a call for bold reform and greater investment if the 54-member association is to avoid being marginalised in an increasingly crowded marketplace. ‘An Uncommon Association, A Wealth of Potential’, the final report of the Commonwealth Conversation, is published today to coincide with annual Commonwealth Day celebrations around the world. Click here to download a summary of the final recommendations or the full report.
Once a major player on the world stage, the report argues that the association has neither the clout nor the resources to fulfil its potential. Its official institutions, charged with promoting development and democracy across its member states, have a workforce half a percent of the United Nations and an annual budget one percent of that of the UK Department for International Development. The Secretariat’s budget has dropped by 21 percent in real terms within the last twenty years, despite the number of Commonwealth members rising from 48 to 54.
The report also argues that additional funding will be no panacea. The association is perceived as failing to live out its values and principles. Bolder leadership, more ambition and innovation, and a better use of its unique strengths will be crucial to long-term survival.
Run by The Royal Commonwealth Society between July 2009 and March 2010, the Commonwealth Conversation gathered the opinions of tens of thousands of people through a range of methods including a website, opinion polling, surveys, events and online focus groups. Its final report contains ten recommendations for the whole Commonwealth “family”:
- The Commonwealth must “walk the talk” on the values and principles it claims to stand for.
- The Commonwealth needs stronger leadership if it is to have a meaningful voice on world affairs.
- The Commonwealth is often seen as anachronistic and fusty. It needs to become bolder and much more innovative in the ways that it works.
- To attract more investment and correct misperceptions of being largely ceremonial, the Commonwealth needs to prove its worth by measuring and demonstrating its impact.
- The Commonwealth must stop spreading its limited resources too thinly and instead identify and exploit its unique strengths.
- Greater investment is needed if the Commonwealth is to fulfil its potential.
- The Commonwealth is a complex association. It must clearly communicate its identity, purpose and achievements in an accessible way.
- Lengthy Commonwealth communiqués and statements appear unfocused and unattainable. They must be used to set priorities.
- The Commonwealth is as much an association of peoples as it is of governments. The interaction between the two requires significant improvement.
- The Commonwealth is often seen as elitist. It must reach wider, become less insular and engage beyond narrow Commonwealth circles.
Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Dr Danny Sriskandarajah said:
“The Commonwealth needs a bold 21st century makeover. At its founding, Nehru had ambitious hopes that the Commonwealth could bring a “touch of healing” to the world. But, today, the Secretariat’s annual budget is less than what British people spend daily on health and beauty products.
More money will help, but to fulfil its potential, the Commonwealth must make more innovative use of its resources and networks. I hope the results of this consultation will act as the catalyst for change.”