During the course of the Commonwealth Conversation over 80 events have taken place around the world, all discussing the future of the Commonwealth. To find out more about these events, have a read through the reports below, some of which also include video footage. You can also look at pictures from the events in the gallery below.
You can see a full list of all Conversation events on pages 18-27 of the final Commonwealth Conversation report.
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.
Title: Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Event
Description: Between 9-21 November 2009, 60 parliamentarians from across the Commonwealth visited London, Brussels, Glasgow and Edinburgh as part of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK Branch’s International Parliamentary Governance Seminar.
During their visit, parliamentarians visited the RCS to engage in a discussion about the future of the Commonwealth as part of the Commonwealth Conversation
As the end of the Seminar, delegates agreed a Communique to highlight the issues raised, which can be downloaded here.
Title: Conversation in Uganda
Speaking to students at various universities, the following observations and recommendations were made:
1) The Commonwealth has done little to raise awareness amongst the people of its work, mission and engagements
2) The Commonwealth should push more for the enforcement of democracy and good governance
3) Its role on the world stage is unclear
4) It has not benefitted the common man
5) The Commonwealth should intervene more to guarantee free and fair elections in all countries
Title: Conversation Event in Namibia
Twelve regional education officers took part in a Commonwealth Conversation event in Namibia.
After an hour of discussions they concluded that the Commonwealth is poorly marketed, and needed to do much more to get the public engaged.
They urged the Commonwealth to become more involved in education in a variety of ways. These suggestions included: investing in nomadic education; investing in institutional development in developing countries and making scholarship application forms more accessible to regional offices.
They thought that in the future, the Commonwealth must ensure a more collective involvement of all member states. Namibia, they felt, seems to have been left out of the scheme of things.
Title: Conversation Youth Discussion in Namibia
A Commonwealth Conversation took place between a group of young people in Namibia.
1 student had heard of the Commonwealth Games, but did not know who participated in these games and where the next games were to be hosted. When asked of evidence of the Commonwealth’s presence in their community, “there was no response”.
The students spoke passionately about the situation in Zimbabwe and want the Commonwealth to help resolve this. They also asked the Commonwealth to provide more grass roots information on its scholarships and to check how country governments are managing international aid and funding.
Title: Parliamentary Reception in Arusha
A Commonwealth Parliamentary Association event took place in Tanzania on 2nd October, as part of the Commonwealth Conversation. Delegates from the UK, Australia, Canada, Malta, St Lucia, Bermuda, South Africa, Uganda, Swaziland and Zambia met to discuss the future of the Commonwealth.
Title: CPA UK Event
Location: Westminster Hall
Description: UK Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, David Miliband, teamed up with the UK branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the RCS to host an event in the UK Parliament. Parliamentarians were invited to attend and discuss the future of the Commonwealth.
Title: Young Commonwealth Climate Change Summit
Young people from around the Commonwealth gathered in London to debate what the Commonwealth could do to combat climate change.
Title: Commonwealth Conversation Event in Malawi
In the Malawian leg of the Commonwealth Conversation, 75 students from Chancellor College met to discuss the future of the Commonwealth.
Officials attending, included Hon Professor Etta Banda, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Right Honourable Dr. Justin Maleweza, Former Vice-President.
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Malawi, Professor Zimani Kadzamira, himself a Commonwealth Scholar in 1969, made an introductory speech in which he suggested the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s decision to cut Commonwealth Scholarship funding was a mistake.
In the panel debates, participants asked whether the association really benefits the common man and suggested the Commonwealth should focus its work at the grass-roots level. The second debate centred on which global issues the Commonwealth should be focusing its attention on. Good governance and education were two of the main propositions. A brief open discussion brought the event to a successful conclusion.
Commonwealth Conversation event in Malawi Photographs
Title: Conversation Event in Cameroon
Description: On Saturday 26th September 2009, a Commonwealth Conversation was held at the Pan-African Institute for Development, Buea.
On Saturday 26th September 2009, a Commonwealth Conversation was held at the Pan-African Institute for Development, Buea. Organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society of Cameroon and the British High Commission in Yaoundé, the conference opened with an address by Professor Jean-Emmanuel Pondi of the University of Yaoundé. The British High Commissioner to Cameroon, Mr. Bharat Joshi, then led a spirited discussion on the Commonwealth.
Participants were keen to discuss Zimbabwe, and concluded that the Commonwealth should continue to engage with the government of Zimbabwe, since the citizens of Zimbabwe clearly still wish to be a part of the Commonwealth. Participants suggested another key issue for the Commonwealth should be Climate Change, with the creation of a comprehensive Commonwealth programme to educate citizens at a grass-roots level about the perils of Climate Change.
In terms of the way forward, those present agreed that the Commonwealth should move from being a reactionary association, which punishes violations with sanctions, to a pro-active association that provides incentives for countries to comply with its rules and takes pre-emptive action where possible. In his closing address, the British High Commissioner reminded participants that they must try and think what they can do for the Commonwealth, as well as what the Commonwealth can do for them.
Title: Conversation Event in South Africa
Location: University of Cape Town
On Monday 26th October, a Commonwealth Conversation Event was held at the University of Cape Town. In attendance was the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Mr. Kamalesh Sharma, who met with students from a variety of disciplines. The event began with an address from Mr. Sharma, who explained the Commonwealth’s desire to raise awareness of the association and the work that it does. The students present told Mr. Sharma that they and their contemporaries know little about the Commonwealth, and stressed to the Secretary-General that the Commonwealth must include young people in its work and become a resource that is relevant to the youth of the Commonwealth.
Title: Conversation Event in South Africa
On Monday 2nd November 2009, a Commonwealth Conversation was held at the Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria. An invited audience of journalists, academics and government officials were addressed by both the Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Dr. Danny Sriskandarajah, and the United Kingdom’s Minister of State for Africa and the Commonwealth, Baroness Glenys Kinnock. Danny opened the event by explaining the importance of the Commonwealth Conversation and sharing some preliminary findings of the RCS’s research in South Africa.
The Commonwealth has to work to realise its potential, for instance, on the commitment to democracy and political rights, and on leadership on trade on development and the environment.
As Sir Shridath Ramphal said when he was Secretary General of the Commonwealth, “the Commonwealth cannot negotiate for the world, but it can help the world to negotiate.”
The wider debate saw some participants questioning the utility of the association, while others said they were simply not aware of the Commonwealth beyond its Games.
Title: Conversation Events in India
On Tuesday 27th October 2009, a Commonwealth Conversation was held at the Indian International Centre, New Delhi. A distinguished panel of participants discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the Commonwealth; panellists included the Minister of State from the Prime Minister of India’s office Mr. Prithviraj Chauhan, the President of the Commonwealth Journalists Association Mr. Hassan Shahriyar, and the Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society Dr. Danny Sriskandarajah.
On the same day another event was held at the British High Commission, New Delhi. This event was organised by the Commonwealth Students’ Welfare Group of India, and was again attended by the Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Dr. Danny Sriskandarajah.
In the wake of his trip to India, the Director of the RCS, Dr. Danny Sriskandarajah, published an opinion piece in India’s Financial Express newspaper, explaining the important role India plays in the modern Commonwealth:
Just as India played a key role in 1949, so too it must act in 2009. As the association’s biggest member, with an Indian in post as Secretary-General, and as the current custodian of the most well-known Commonwealth brand (the Games), India’s role will be critical.
Title: Conversation Event in the Maldives
On Thursday 5th November 2009, a Commonwealth Conversation was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Male. Presentations were made by representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Youth, as well as by an official of the British High Commission. A more general debate then took place on the Commonwealth and its future, and the event was deemed a great success by all involved.
Title: High Commissioners Lunch
Location: The RCS
On Wednesday 4th November 2009, the Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Dr. Danny Sriskandarajah, hosted a ‘Diplomats’ Lunch’ as part of the Commonwealth Conversation. Thirty representatives of Commonwealth countries-ranging from the largest and most developed states to the smallest island territories- engaged in a frank and spirited debate on the association’s strengths and weaknesses. All agreed that the Commonwealth, and its constituent countries, must do more to reach out to the two billion citizens of the Commonwealth and involve them in their association.
Title: Caribbean Diaspora Event
Description: Representatives from the Caribbean community in the UK met with Baroness Kinnock, Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for the Caribbean and the Commonwealth to discuss the links between the Caribbean and the UK.
A range of views on the future of the Commonwealth were collected on film:
Title: Conversation Event in Bangladesh
A Conversation event arranged by the Media Initiative for Public Policy took place on October 29.
The Bangladeshi Foreign Minister attended and spoke of the need for more COMMON action to create more WEALTH. She echoed the British Foreign Secretary’s view that the Commonwealth and its shared values of pluralism, liberal democracy and legal process absolutely had a place in the modern world.
Several key themes emerged:
- The simplicity and informality of many of the Commonwealth’s structures means it could be an effective mechanism for a third of the world’s population to make big decisions
- The Commonwealth could focus more on climate change, given the threat this poses to Commonwealth members such as Bangladesh and the Maldives
- The Commonwealth should do more to assist fragile democracies
- There is not enough awareness of the work of the Commonwealth
Title: Conversation Event in Malaysia
Location: Kuala Lumpur
As part of the Royal Commonwealth Society’s (RCS) global Commonwealth Conversation, the Malaysian branch of the RCS and the British High Commission organised a major event in Kuala Lumpur on Monday 26 October. Students from universities across Malaysia, diplomats, academics, think tanks and members of civil society came together to discuss the role of the Commonwealth and make a number of recommendations for its future.
The event was attended by the RCS London Director Dr Danny Sriskandarajah who gave the key note speech, outlining the objectives of the Conversation as means of helping guide the future of the Commonwealth.
He said how vital it was that the Commonwealth demonstrated its relevance to the youth of today who would be the world leaders of tomorrow, particularly as they had less experience of the Commonwealth’s emotional and historical legacy. “We want to find issues where the Commonwealth can help in a unique way. The first thing is to find the key priority that the Commonwealth is going to work on, for example the issues of democracy, climate change, youth or education,” said Sriskandarajah.
A panel of respondants included Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim, former director of Commonwealth Secretariat, London, Datuk Feisol Hassan, President of the Malaysian Branch of the RCS and His Excellency David B. Collins, Canadian High Commissioner to Malaysia.
Speaking about the Commonwealth, Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim said its member countries need to re-look at the purpose of its existence and that the 60-year-old Commonwealth grouping should not be expected to speak in one voice on all issues. “It has to look at its goals, its achievements, and it has to be self-critical. We must not forget to question ourselves: are we on the right track, have we achieved our previous objectives?” He added that the Commonwealth needed to define one issue on which it could speak with one voice.
The aim of the event was to provide an informal forum where the role, future and aims of the Commonwealth could be discussed. Separate sessions on Education, Sports, Democracy, Climate Change and Trade and the Economy allowed participants to discuss topics in more depth. These groups were facilitated by experts Guy Perring, Regional Project Manager at the British Council; Feilina Feisol, international synchronised swimming judge at the Commonwealth Games; Azmi Sharom, Associate Professor in Law at the University of Malaya;Nithi Nesadurai, Head of the Malaysia Chevening Alumni Association and climate change expert; and Steven Wong, Assistant Director General at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies.
Reporting back from these sessions included ideas for future programmes for the Commonwealth such as summer sports camps lead by countries which have certain sports facilities for countries who do not, more student and homestay exchanges, the sharing of technical expertise at a professional level and promoting the continued learning of a good English in a fun and accessible way.
In his remarks, H.E British High Commissioner to Malaysia Boyd McCleary said, ” The Commonwealth of the future should focus on its unique selling points and on where it can really add value. Education is one of these. A lot is happening already, such as the Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers, the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the Commonwealth of Learning. But there is plenty more that can be done. And countries like Malaysia have a great deal to offer. It is important for the Commonwealth to become a more effective network. For this to happen, different countries need to take ownership of key issues that will take the organisation forward and keep it relevant for the next 60 years.”
Dr Sriskandarajah agreed, saying that the future of the Commonwealth lay with countries such as Malaysia leading it from within.
The event concluded with lunch and more lively discussion. The Commonwealth Conversation is the largest public consultation ever undertaken about the future of the Commonwealth. Initial findings of the Commonwealth Conversation will be presented at this year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Trinidad and Tobago on 27-29 November.
Title: Conversation Event in Cambridge
Location: Wolfson College, University of Cambridge
A ‘Commonwealth Chat’ has been held at the University of Cambridge, in the United Kingdom. Sixteen participants from a wide variety of Commonwealth nations discussed subjects ranging from the perception of the association as a relic of Empire to the potential for the association to develop into an alternative form of governance where diverse nations work together to accomplish common aims. Overall, there was a sense that the Commonwealth must make itself known, and engage with citizens, at a grass-roots level. The key message participants sought to transmit to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Trinidad is the need to develop a strong and united Commonwealth voice on the environment and make this voice heard at the vital climate change discussions in Copenhagen this December.
Title: Commonwealth Conversation Fiji Event
Location: Wellington, NZ
The event addressed the issue of Fijian membership of the Commonwealth, and asked the question “Fiji and the Commonwealth: where do we go from here?”
Title: Conversation Event in New Zealand
On Wednesday 21st October 2009, a Commonwealth Conversation was held at Parliaments Beehive Theaterette, Wellington. Co-hosted by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade, the New Zealand Institute of International Studies and the Royal Commonwealth Society Trust in Wellington, this major seminar was chaired by the former Prime Minister of New Zealand Rt Hon Dame Jenny Shipley DNZM. Students who took part in the a Commonwealth Conversationevent in Auckland also introduced a video they had produced about the future of the Commonwealth to participants. After presentations on the Commonwealth by three distinguished media and academic commentators, participants broke into smaller discussion groups to discuss topics including the role of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group and what issues should be a priority for the Commonwealth.
After reconvening, several themes emerged in the discussion. Participants stated that while the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) provides a platform for collaboration and networking between heads of governments, it is perceived as a ‘secret society ‘with decisions being made behind closed doors. The CHOGM communiqué, meanwhile, is too complicated and lacks substance. To address these issues, participants suggested that the Commonwealth should make more use of the Peoples’ Forum (PF) and run it 12 months before CHOGM to allow real input from the PF to be incorporated into the CHOGM agenda.
Those present called for a change in the secretariat role to that akin to a Chief Executive Officer that plays a problem solving role rather than a policing role. Participants further suggested that the Commonwealth should concentrate on its core skills, do what it does best and stay away from areas dealt with by the UN and other organisations.
This is a Highlight package of the Commonwealth Conversation. In order the participants are the three students from the Auckland Secondary schools, John Allen, Professor James Belich and Dame Jenny Shipley.
Title: Conversation Event in Toronto
Description: A panel discussing the theme ‘Harnessing Diversity: shaping the future of the Commonwealth’ was held on October 20th from 4-6 pm in the Upper Library at Massey College, University of Toronto.
The RCS Toronto branch submitted a report raising several points regarding the role of the Commonwealth in the 21st Century. The following are some of those issues raised:
On which key global issues should the Commonwealth focus its efforts?
It was felt by some that the Commonwealth must stand for something – and the world must know what it stands for!
Nations that violate the human rights of its citizens should not be allowed to continue its membership in the Commonwealth. Developed countries can set the example for how rights can be protected in civil society.
What role should the Commonwealth play in the new century?
The G-20 has become the main body for dealing with the global economy. Does the G-20 limit its scope to the 20 member nations? No, the Commonwealth must shift its focus from its own 53 members onto issues in the world that deal with the core principles previously outlined: democracy, rule of law, free enterprise and human rights.
Title: Conversation Event in Nigeria
Description: The Nigerian leg of the Commonwealth Conversation met in Abuja on Monday 12th October 2009, to discuss the challenges facing the Commowealth and the future direction of the Association.
The event kicked off with an interactive session on the Commonwealth and its activities and was officially declared open by the Honourable Minister for Foreign Affairs, Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Chief Ojo Maduekwe. The event was also chaired by His Excellency Ambassardor Daniel Hart.
Participants were drawn from Labour Union, Civil Servants, Law makers, Women societies, Diplomatic Corps, Youth Organisations, Civil Society Organisations, the Media, Government officials, business executives, professional bodies and Faith based organisations.
The Conversation agreed on some of the following recomendations:
STRUCTURE OF THE COMMONWEALTH
The Conversation agreed that Commonwealth Regional offices should be established in all the regions of the Commonwealth within the next two (2) years and Country offices in the next five (5) years so as to create a platform for working closer with the people of the Commonwealth.
DEMOCRACY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE
The Commonwealth Election Observer Group should be more objective in the analysis of elections among members states. In addition to this, fraudulently elected leaders should not be recognised by the Association.
COOPERATION AMONG MEMBER STATES
Also, immigration and mobility among member states should be eased such that citizens of member states can move freely within the Commonwealth States without visa for a visit of less than thirty (30) days.
Title: Conversation Event in Kenya
On Tuesday 27th October 2009, a Commonwealth Conversation was held at the British Council in Nairobi. Thirty-four participants drawn from academia, civil society, youth groups and the media took part in a lively discussion on the Commonwealth.
A majority of participants felt that the association is still associated in the public mind with Britain and British colonialism. There was strong awareness of a number of Commonwealth activities such as the Commonwealth games and Commonwealth scholarship programmes. It was agreed, however, that more general awareness of the association and its activities should be raised among Commonwealth citizens. Participants questioned the Commonwealth’s track record on democratisation and rule of law issues, suggesting the association did not make its presence felt during Kenya’s recent post-election crisis, despite Commonwealth observers being stationed in the country.
Participants suggested the Commonwealth’s profile could be raised in Kenya by the opening of a Commonwealth office in Nairobi and the appointing of a global Commonwealth Goodwill Ambassador.
Last week we held the local edition of the global conversation on the Commonwealth that I mentioned in my last blog. Here are some notes that I took of the event;
Many people still associate the Commonwealth with Britain and believe that membership should allow free visa travel to the UK and other Commonwealth countries. There was quite a lot of awareness on specific areas of Commonwealth activity such as Commonwealth games, Scholarship programmes, media training and coordination on legal systems.
There was a feeling that the Commonwealth could do more in exerting pressure on rights issues and constitution building in Kenya. One of the audience commented that the Secretariat should be given more power to address issues to do with Member states.
An overwhelming conclusion was that more needed to be done to promote Commonwealth and raise awareness on the activities been carried out.
I urge you to look at the website of this global conversation which has thrown up some lively debate
Title: Conversation Event in Zimbabwe
Location: Harare, University of Zimbabwe
Description: A “Commonwealth Conversation” took place in Harare, at the University of Zimbabwe. A distinguished panel faced an audience of some 250. Debate was free and flowing.
Cameras at the event captured some of the thoughts of the attendees:
Title: Live Online Discussions
Location: The RCS
Title: Commonwealth Conversation Event in Canada
Description: High Commissioner Cary, Nick Hopton, and other members of the High Commission met with a group of parliamentarians from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to discuss the future of the Commonwealth.
The British High Commission hosted Nicholas Hopton from the International Organizations Directorate who was in Ottawa to further the Commonwealth Conversation and to discuss international institutional reform (IIR) with his Canadian counterparts. Thinking about ways to improve various international organizations, from the UN to NATO and the Commonwealth, is a priority for the UK government.
Part of his program included talks with the Royal Commonwealth Society of Ottawa and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association on the future of the Commonwealth, as part of the Commonwealth Conversation. He noted the following after his discussions:
“Visiting Canada to discuss the Conversation with Canadian parliamentarians, the Ottawa and Vancouver RCS and officials. We share a responsibility — along with the other members and the Commonwealth Secretariat — to strengthen this unique and diverse international organization. The Commonwealth has the potential to be more effective in delivering on its common values –democracy, rule of law, human rights, good governance. We must get young Canadians to engage more on what they want from their Commonwealth. The Conversation is the way to do that.
His visit produced a frank and thoughtful exchange of ideas on how we can move forward in making our international institutions as effective as possible.
Title: Commonwealth Conversation Event in New Zealand
On Friday October 16, the Commonwealth Conversation visited One Tree Hill College, Auckland, where 40 students produced a video to be presented to Prime Minister John Key on the future of the Commonwealth.
This event was facilitated by the Auckland branch of the Royal Commonwealth Society.
On 21st October, a group of students presented their video and a report of their discussions at the New Zealand Parliament, Wellington at another Commonwealth Conversation Event.
Title: Expert Panel Discussion: Climate Change
Danny Sriskandarajah, Director of the RCS, blogged on this meeting:
I’ve just come out of a fascinating Commonwealth Conversation on climate change. We had some of the world’s leading experts on climate change around the table to discuss how the Commonwealth could add value in the global efforts to promote sustainability. The discussion was held under the Chatham House Rule so I cannot say who said what but I did want to flag up a few key things that emerged.
Title: Commonwealth Conversation Event in Nigeria
Mr Blackson Olaseni Bayewumi, National Coordinator of the Commonwealth Youth Organisation of Nigeria, introduced this event alongside Commonwealth High Commissioners and former Commonwealth Secretary General Cheif Anyaoku:
As this year marks 60th Year Anniversary of the Commonwealth and our Political Leaders across the Commonwealth will be meeting during the 2009 Commonwealth Heads of government meeting taking place in Trinidad and Tobago, there is no better time to engage in this global discussion than now. The RCS will present a set of recommendations to the CHOGM for consideration based on people?s contributions to the conversation from all over the world.
It is on this note, that our Organisation, an affiliate of the Royal Commonwealth Society, presents the Nigerian edition of the Conversation.