The British Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Lord Triesman, in a speech given to the Royal Commonwealth Society on the 26th of June, has stated that in facing up to the challenges posed by the 21st century, the Commonwealth must learn the lessons of the past, and he added: “In a globalised world the Commonwealth cannot go it alone.” The Minister also said that: “The people and governments of the Commonwealth must help address the big issues facing the world. The Commonwealth does have a comparative advantage in many niche areas, including Diversity, Identity, and Multiculturalism. It must exploit these at all levels.”
Lord Triesman spoke about the “unique blend” of nations that make up the Commonwealth, and he emphasised the strong links forged through business relationships, investment choices and increasing migration. In speaking about the strength of the Commonwealth, he added: “that it is not just an association of free and sovereign governments but is also an extensive network of professional and civil society organisations.”
The Minister praised the young people who had partaken in the Nkabom Project, and he also help up as an example the Commonwealth Youth Forum in Malta last year, in which delegates had discussed good governance, networking for development, and sustainable livelihoods.
In speaking about the collapse of regimes in Rhodesia, Namibia, and apartheid-driven South Africa, the Minister emphasised the importance of the 1991 Harare Principles, and the Millbrook process of 1995, which in focussing on the twin aims of “democracy and development”, sparked the creation of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group. He also spoke about the suspensions in recent years of countries who had failed to live up to core democratic ideals – Nigeria, Fiji, and Pakistan, and he welcomed the fact that these countries would be welcomed back into the Commonwealth, having convinced the Ministerial Action Group that they had cleaned up their act. He said that the Commonwealth was taking a “robust stance” against Zimbabwe.
The Minister does not see the Commonwealth replacing the importance of the UN or the WTO, and in looking forward to 2009, which will mark the 60th anniversary of the London Agreement and the foundation stone of the modern Commonwealth, he thinks this will be an ideal time to take stock and to look at what has been collectively achieved, and what remains to be done.