I think of the modern Commonwealth as a happy accident. If it did not exist it would neither be necessary nor perhaps possible to invent it. Not all member-states value Commonwealth membership for the same reasons or to the same extent. But neither of these truisms are a problem.
Martin Mulloy is the English-Speaking Union’s Director of Education. The English-Speaking Union is an international charity founded in 1918 to promote international understanding and friendship through the use of the English language.
In an article for The Round Table published in October 2001, Gott thinks the Commonwealth should encourage us to see imperial history through the eyes of its former subjects. He claims the current British government comments rashly on developments in other Commonwealth countries because it retains an air of empire.
He thinks the British education system should emphasise multiple imperial narratives, ranging from the dominant British narrative of imperial triumphalism to the narratives of aboriginal rebels.
Established by Royal Charter in 1917, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission pays tribute to the 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars. In an interview for the Commonwealth Conversation, Sir Ian Garnet, the Vice-Chairman of the CWGC talks about the links between the commission’s work and the people of the Commonwealth today.
This post was written by Hugh Craft, a senior Australian diplomat and former Director of Political Affairs Division, Commonwealth Secretariat (1979-88)
An international intergovernmental organisation, like the Commonwealth, can be assessed as performing well (or badly) on the basis of two factors: functionality, howit performs in fulfilling its prescribed mandate(s); and outcomes, its results, actions, consequences and the value of its products.
Just as the Crown was essential to the evolution of the world’s most successful system of governance, the Westminster model, so it has been at the very centre of the long evolution of the Commonwealth.
No one has put The Queen’s personal contribution as Head of the Commonwealth more clearly than did the thirteen year old Australian youth ambassador, Harry White at the opening of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games:
‘Your Majesty, during the past 54 years of your reign you have been the glue that has held us all together in the great Commonwealth of Nations in good times and bad times. The love and great affection that we all hold for you is spread across one third of the world’s population in our Commonwealth.’
When I was asked to write this article, I rang up friends and family and did a quick vox pop: “What did it mean to you to grow up in the Commonwealth?” There were lots of silences. Then: “The Commonwealth? You mean Jamaica/Australia/Barbados/Kenya/India/Canada?” The question seemed bizarre to all of us. I dug further: “No, the Commonwealth. What does that mean to you?” The words flooded back: archaic, meaningless, colonialism, imperialism. And repeatedly: “What does it mean to me? Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.” I suspect it means very little to a lot of English people as well. . .
Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, former President of Zambia and Rt. Hon. Malcolm Fraser, former Prime Minster of Australia, said it was time that the Commonwealth engaged proactively with the new Zimbabwean government and welcomed her back into the Commonwealth family.
Fraser said that ‘if Zimbabwe was one of the Commonwealth’s greatest successes, it is also one of its greatest failures’. Kaunda said that the ‘road to recovery that we are now witnessing in Zimbabwe shows that she belongs to the Commonwealth’. Neither predicted that the country to which the Commonwealth gave birth in 1979 would end up leaving in 2003.
In interviews conducted by the Royal Commonwealth Society, Fraser and Kaunda said that the Commonwealth can achieve great things if only leaders would make better use of it and take it seriously as a forum to enact change.
Thirty years after the Lusaka conference which pushed the British Government and Zimbabwean nationalists towards a settlement that led to independence, Trevor Grundy has written that the Commonwealth Conversation is trying to revitalise an organisation which saw its heyday in the seventies and eighties.
The Conversation comes almost exactly 30 years after the famous August 1979 CHOGM in Lusaka, Zambia, a gathering of Club leaders who used their influence to persuade the British Government to arrange a constitutional conference in London (Lancaster House) which effectively ended the seven-year Rhodesian War that claimed at least 30, 000 deaths.