On Thursday 26th November, the Royal Commonwealth Society facilitated a BBC World Debate in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. On the theme, ‘The Commonwealth at 60 – Does it Have a Future?’, the World Debate focused on many of the issues highlighted by participants in the Commonwealth Conversation. Watch it by clicking on the picture or follow this link. Continue reading…
Title: Conversation Conversation Chat
Location: Westminster School, London
In the two weeks preceeding the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago a group of 30 pupils at Westminster School, London, UK took part in a series of interactive lessons about the Commonwealth.
Using the emerging findings of the Commonwealth Conversation as a guide, students learnt about the history of the Commonwealth and the geography of its member states, discussed the work of the Commonwealth Secretariat, watched videos of Conversation events around the world, and debated the results of Conversation polls.
All students also entered the My Commonwealth Competition.
Title: Round Table Centenary event with the Institute of International Relations
Location: University of the West Indies, Port of Spain
On the afternoon of the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Port of Spain, over fifty academics, civil society representatives and policy makers gathered at the University of the West Indies for a conference on the contemporary Commonwealth.
The event was organised by The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs to mark its centenary in 2009/10. During the conference, the Round Table also launched a new publication edited by Professor James Mayall, University of Cambridge, called ‘The Contemporary Commonwealth: an assessment, 1965-2009’. An extract from this can be found here:
Other speakers at the event and following dinner included Sir Ronald Sanders (former Caribbean diplomat) and Sir Sonny Ramphal (former Commonwealth Secretary-General).
During the conference Zoë Ware, Commonwealth Affairs Manager, spoke as a respondent to Sandra McIntyre-Trotman (Director of Policy and Planning at the Trinidad and Tobago Foreign Ministry).
A lively discussion followed about feelings towards the Commonwealth in the Caribbean, and particularly about how poorly the Commonwealth is taught in schools. Participants found this video captured during the Conversation, to be a particularly good starting point for discussion.
Title: The Commonwealth and LGBTI advocacy
Location: University of the West Indies, Trinidad
The conference, organised by the human rights advocacy group Global Rights, was designed to share experiences and discuss strategies for LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) advocacy in the Commonwealth.
Zoë presented the emerging findings of the Commonwealth Conversation – Common What? – to over 30 participants from a wide range of Commonwealth countries, who were delighted by the high profile that LGBTI issues had played in the Conversation so far (see for example here and here).
Participants were excited that the Conversation provides minority groups with the opportunity for their voices to be heard by Commonwealth leaders. Global Rights and partners were also enthusiastic about developing a Commonwealth wide advocacy programme on LGBTI rights in the future. For more information click here:
Title: Commonwealth Business Forum
Location: Serenade of the Seas, Port of Spain
On Thursday 26th November Peter Kellner, Chairman of the RCS, spoke at a breakfast event for delegates at the Commonwealth Business Forum on the Serenade of the Seas Cruise Ship in Port of Spain harbour. On the final day of their deliberations he made a presentation to over two hundred delegates from around the world on the emerging findings of the Commonwealth Conversation – Common What?
During the course of the three day Business Forum, the report was also distributed to all the 500+ delegates who found it to be a useful starting point for their wider discussions.
The Commonwealth Business Forum is held each year immediately prior to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, and organised by the Commonwealth Business Council in conjunction with the host government. It brings together hundreds of business leaders and senior executives from across the Commonwealth, and in Trinidad and Tobago focused on the theme – “Partnering for a more Equitable and Sustainable Future – The Commonwealth and the Americas”. More information about the Forum, including the closing communiqué and all presentations, can be found here:
Title: Commonwealth Youth Forum
Location: Caribbean Princess Cruise Ship, Port of Spain
On Thursday 26th November, the day that the emerging findings of the Commonwealth Conversation, Common What?, were published, representatives from the RCS presented the report to delegates at the Commonwealth Youth Forum.
Title: Launch of ‘Common What?’ at the Commonwealth People’s Forum
Location: Cascadia Hotel, Port of Spain
The first public launch of the emerging findings of the Commonwealth Conversation – Common What? – took place during the Commonwealth People’s Forum (CPF) in Port of Spain in the week before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Addressing a gathering of over 100 civil society representatives from across the Commonwealth and from Trinidad and Tobago, RCS Director Danny Sriskandarajah spoke about the process of the Commonwealth Conversation and the emerging findings printed in the report. He encouraged all participants to continue contributing to the Commonwealth Conversation online and to spread the word about it through their own civil society networks.
One of the major outcomes of the CPF was the Port of Spain Civil Society Statement which was drafted by the meeting and presented to Commonwealth Foreign Ministers on Saturday 28th November. The RCS was pleased that Commonwealth civil society acknowledged the Commonwealth Conversation in the final section of this statement about ‘revitalising the Commonwealth’ on page 31. The full civil society statement can be found here:
The CPF is organised in the lead up to each Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting by the Commonwealth Foundation. More information can be found here:
On Saturday 21st November the RCS Commonwealth Conversation team took part in a pre-CHOGM discussion about the Commonwealth at the University of the West Indies. Organised by the Director of the Institute of International Relations, Professor Tim Shaw, the event looked at a wide range of issues to be dealt with by the Commonwealth.
During the event, Danny Sriskandarajah and Zoë Ware talked about the emerging findings of the Commonwealth Conversation – Common What? – and took part in a discussion. The assembled group of academics, civil society representatives and policy makers were supportive of the report and encouraged by its calls for a shake up of the Commonwealth to make it more relevant, particularly in the Caribbean.
Title: Conversation Event at the RUSI
Location: Royal United Services Institute of Regina, Canada
On Wednesday, November 18th, at the Royal United Services Institute of Regina, the Royal Commonwealth Society and the Canadian International Council hosted a Commonwealth Conversation event.
The speakers were the Honourable Don Toth, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, and Greg Putz, Clerk of the Assembly.
They discussed the topic: “Does the Commonwealth Have a Future? The Commonwealth as seen through the 2009 conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in September 2009 in Tanzania.”
A video of a speech by the President of Tanzania was shown – calling for more support for the Commonwealth, and speakers emphasized the importance of the Commonwealth for parliamentarians and for promoting good governance.
Consensus at the meeting was that we have a lot to learn from African members of the organisation.