In the middle of organizations such as the United Nations, and the European Union, and even international religious bodies such as the World Council of Churches, identity and questions about who we are as a people and how we are to be as citizens are critical for discernment, discretion and direction. And thus, citizenship, within the Commonwealth of Nations, could be a valuable a subject of debate and discussion. Continue reading…
Mobility and Exchange
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 published in The Round Table in September 2004, he states that recent years have seen a deepening relationship between the official Commonwealth- the Secretariat and member governments- and the world of non-governmental organisations and civil society. He does, however, highlight some key problems.
With the largest gathering of Commonwealth civil society, the Commonwealth Peoples Forum, about to kick off in Trinidad and Tobago, Mark Collins, Director of the Commonwealth Foundation, reflects on the value of Commonwealth civil society. A longer version of this Conversation starter appears in the 2009 Commonwealth Yearbook. Continue reading…
In an interview conducted by the RCS as part of the Commonwealth Conversation, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, Zimbabwean Minister for Regional Integration and International Cooperation, emphasised how important the Commonwealth is to Zimbabwe, but warned that it must do more to sell itself to the Zimbabwean people.
In an interview with Commonwealth Radio, the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Stephenson King, described how Commonwealth membership is important to small states.
“Here in St Lucia, we value our membership highly. Not just for prestige, but for the kind of cooperation that exists between member territories, such as the advice that we receive, technical assistance and an opportunity to participate in the design of the modern world. The Commonwealth plays a major role in this. It is not influential within itself, but influential at the international level. We have a great opportunity to influence the direction of the world. Whether it is at the G20 or at the United Nations, our membership of 53 certainly goes a long way.”
The post is written by Carl Wright, Secretary-General, Commonwealth Local Government Forum.
The Commonwealth should take a more active role in supporting and promoting local government. As an organisation it should return to what it does best: fostering partnerships and positive links. It is on a local level that the future success of the Commonwealth will be seen.
Local government is often viewed as the poor relation to its glamorous national associates, but it is through us that thriving, safer communities are developed, and the Millennium Development Goals will be delivered. It is best placed to provide basic services such as water, sanitation and primary health care for its people. It is closest to them and knows their needs and concerns. It is where involvement and consultation can be focused and effective channels for the engagement of local people and other stakeholders in the wider work the Commonwealth does can be built.
Why then is this crucial element of modern democracy all too often ignored by heads of Government in important international discussions?
It used to be that travelling through the Commonwealth was quick and easy.
In Canada in the 1960s the Commonwealth was shown on world maps and my passport was marked with ‘British Subject’ alongside ‘Canadian Citizen’.
When I visited the UK in 1971 there were three queues at the airport UK passports, Commonwealth passports and All Other passports.
That all came to an end in 1973 when the UK joined the then EEC, now EU.
Now when I travel to the UK, people from countries with no historical ties speed through quicker than Canadians and Australians who share the Queen as head of state! It’s an outrage.
Citizens of the EU can also stay and get jobs, while I cannot. I am luckier than some other Commonwealth visitors that I do not need a visa to visit the UK, while many others do. People today say ‘what is the point of even having a Commonwealth if it carries no privileges for ordinary people when travelling among its member countries?’ It is on this personal level that the Commonwealth is losing its relevance.
This article was written by James Alcock. Do you agree with his viewpoint? Should the Commonwealth ease mobility between its members?
Over 25,000 students have benefitted from Commonwealth Scholarships, and many more have gone to study in another Commonwealth country on their own. What are your experiences of studying around the Commonwealth? Continue reading…