In Part I of ‘The Commonwealth’ we considered the history of this well-known association. In part II we will consider it’s social, cultural, and economic impact on the modern world.
The driving force behind the concept of the modern day Commonwealth is articulated as having multiple functions which are set to support the members of its association.
The Commonwealth Secretariat works as an ‘internal council’ to organise and coordinate the actions of the member states and the wider organisation. In contrast to the processes of the United Nations and The World Trade Association there are no bylaws or legal constitution of the member states to follow, however in 2012 a ‘charter’ was created enshrining core principals and expectations that member states will follow, such as upholding democracy, championing human rights, ensuring the freedom of expression for citizens, a critical focus on sustainable development, equitable access to health and education, and the promotion and focus on gender equality.
Interestingly, it had taken until the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia for gender inclusivity to reach a sense of equity. In this year an equal number of events and medals were seen for the first time and this year at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games there was an even bigger push to ensure that this level of equity is demonstrated across other intersectional groups where individuals are battling prejudice as a result of their physical challenges and ‘disabilities’. This years Games held the highest ever number of women’s and para-sport medals being awarded.
As previously mentioned all of the member states of the Commonwealth are voluntarily associated and there are no ‘binding’ legal ties which ensure their individual cohesion, so what is behind the longevity of the concept of the Commonwealth?
The answer to this is most likely to be found in the economic trade cohesion that such working relationships can create. It is a stated aim of the Commonwealth to ‘boost trade’ between member countries, and provide FinTech, environmental sustainability, and debt management advice, support, and assistance to and for the development of its smaller states. Alongside all this work a natural alignment of views can develop. Countries that develop strong historical and social ties, alongside political and social affiliations, will often find themselves aligned in creating positive and mutually beneficial economic circumstances.
In the ever-evolving world structure we currently live in, finding mutually beneficial, symbiotic, relationships which can support the economic and social growth of all nations is highly desirable. Structuring an association which offers all its members a way to work together towards aligned goals is an attractive proposition and indicates that as a discrete entity it will continue to grow and develop further alliances between countries which may have otherwise found it difficult to seek common ground, or political or economic accord.
Since the death of Queen Elizabeth II there have already been many hints at discussions regarding the future of the Commonwealth and the changes that a new head for the British Monarchy may bring. The solidity and continuity of Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 year reign has been broken, and nations and governments, Jamaica being one such case in point, are considering creating greater distance from their historical alliance with Britain.
As the world continues to develop at pace and the needs of the forthcoming generations – as well as that of the planet – take greater precedence it will be interesting to see how this organisation continues to finds a relevant voice, and keep the social and environmental agenda as firmly focused as the economic one.