?Commonwealth leaders are preparing for their meeting in Port-of-Spain tomorrow amidst a wake-up call from a Commonwealth think-tank that the 60-year-old grouping risks fading into irrelevance unless leaders take "bold action."
The warning is contained in a report on a global public consultation on the Commonwealth which was conducted by the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS).
It suggests that rebuilding the Commonwealth's profile was a critical and urgent challenge. The report, "Common What – Emerging Findings of the Commonwealth Conversation", was released at Tuesday's launch of the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) by RCS members. The report was done to mark the Commonwealth's diamond jubilee anniversary which will be celebrated at Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in T&T from tomorrow until Sunday. Titular head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II, arrives for a two-day state visit to T&T today, ahead of CHOGM. The Queen is the patron of the RCS. The RCS, founded in 1868 and based in London, launched the consultation in July as the largest ever public consultation on the future of the Commonwealth. The consultation engaged tens of thousands of people across the Commonwealth's 53 member states, via on and offline activities.
The report presents evidence that the Commonwealth has a "worryingly low profile" among the public and many policy-makers, according to the RCS. Less than one third of people in the Commonwealth can name anything the association does and the majority of those can only cite the Commonwealth Games," the RCS report noted. The report noted that many policy-makers "struggled" to identify any area in which the Commonwealth clearly and distinctively added value. It also stated that those working within Commonwealth organisations seemed "frustrated" the association was being neglected by member governments and "lacks an ambitious vision for its future." RCS research also revealed the Commonwealth was more often valued by anglophiles and "those nostalgic for an imperial past" than those committed to the internationalist values of the body. Among luminaries in the study who were critical of the Commonwealth's current status were former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser; Pakistani cricketer and politician Imran Khan; Kenyan vice President Kalonzo Musyoka; and Dame Kelly Holme, president of the Commonwealth Games in England.
Director of the RCS Danny Sriskandarajah said: "This is a wake-up call for the Commonwealth. After 60 years of fantastic work the Commonwealth has to choose between quietly retiring or bolding revitalising itself for the 21st century. "Leaders meeting in T&T this week need to do more than issue long communiqu�s. "They need to convince a new generation unfamiliar with the Commonwealth that this association can tackle global challenges in a meaningful way."
The report recommended a renewed focus on the following:
�2 PRINCIPLES– to dispell widespread confusion about what the Commonwealth stands for today; n PRIORITIES–to heed calls for it to focus on where it can add value; and,
�2 PEOPLE–to heed the need for engagement of a younger generation or risk dying out and for more innovation, co-ordination and better resources.