The Commonwealth Yearbook is an excellent illustration of the potential of our worldwide family, and the potency of collective action. The determination to work together for the common good in a spirit of respect and understanding, and to build towards a better future based on our shared goals of development and democracy, is what drives forward the unique global enterprise of the Commonwealth, opening up new opportunities ranging from the international to the personal, and at every level in between.
It is this dynamic that we seek to express in our 2013 Commonwealth theme: ‘Opportunity through Enterprise’. Innovative ideas, carried forward with boldness, energy and imagination open up new prospects for progress and prosperity, and wider possibilities for all through political, economic and social inclusion.
The adoption of the Charter of the Commonwealth brings fresh clarity and gives a higher profile to the values and principles to which all member states of the Commonwealth are committed on behalf of all Commonwealth citizens.
Co-operation and collaborative action between the member states of the Commonwealth enable us to multiply the global gain. By finding consensus and uniting in action towards shared values and goals, our diverse membership has on many occasions been able to offer a template for wider international action. Recognition of this is borne out by the way in which the wider global community is turning to the Commonwealth as a key partner in charting a way forward on development issues.
The year 2012 saw a number of particularly notable partnerships on this front. Early in the year, a meeting of the G20 Development Working Group was held at Marlborough House (London, UK), chaired by Mexico. The occasion illustrated the extent to which the Commonwealth and the G20 are now working together. We are increasingly able to bring to the G20 table the most pressing economic and social concerns of Commonwealth members, in particular those of the poorest,smallest and most vulnerable states.
Later in the year, the United Nations High-Level Panel on the Post 2015 Global Development Agenda gathered at Marlborough House. Under its co-chairs Prime Minister Cameron of the UK, President Sirleaf of Liberia and President Yudhoyono of Indonesia, the Panel held its first meetings towards agreeing a new plan of global action on fighting poverty. Discussions ranged over food security, energy, education, jobs, healthcare and how best to reach those excluded from traditional pathways out of poverty.
December saw the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee convene at Marlborough House. Among those present were the European Union Development Commissioner, and UN Assistant Secretary General and Special Adviser for Post-2015 Development Planning, as well as the chief executives of major Commonwealth member government development agencies. Topics addressed included unlocking funds for countries to mitigate the effects of climate change, green growth, development assistance and financial stability.
Collaboration with global partners offers the scope for weaving Commonwealth priorities into the fabric of global co-operation.
The vitality of these engagements builds on the direction given by Commonwealth leaders and the collective work of ministers and officials, the work of our committed and diligent staff at the Commonwealth Secretariat and the partnership of Commonwealth civil society and professional organisations in advancing our values.
Face-to-face meetings of ministers and officials lie at the heart of our Commonwealth approach, and continue to be accorded high priority in the way we conduct our dealings at intergovernmental level. I look forward to participating in a Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting in April 2013 in Papua New Guinea as we make plans for developing further Commonwealth collaboration on youth, an area of vital importance in the ever-younger Commonwealth.
In May, at the annual Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting in Geneva (Switzerland), the focus will be on mental health within the context of wider Commonwealth concern for the social and economic inclusion of all. In June, Bangladesh will host the Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting, another occasion when a central Commonwealth priority will be addressed, that of gender equality and ensuring that all are given the opportunity of fulfilling their potential. Reflecting the Commonwealth theme for 2013, special attention will be given to how methods that have already been successful in advancing innovation and enterprise among women can be adopted more widely throughout the Commonwealth. Particular emphasis will be laid on extending women’s leadership, together with inclusive policies and budgeting, in order for there to be full and equal economic participation by women and girls.
In November, the summit of Commonwealth co-operation, the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, takes place in Sri Lanka. The momentum gained in the course of these meetings continues to lift Commonwealth co-operation. The process is one of interaction and transaction, not only between Heads of Government themselves, but also between young people at the Youth Forum, entrepreneurs at the Business Forum, civil society at the People’s Forum, as well as ministers and officials.
Such meetings deliver outcomes that require long-term engagement and drive important programmes of work. Means are needed for carrying forward co-operation collectively between meetings, and for sustaining inclusive teamwork. The new Strategic Plan for the Commonwealth Secretariat, with its tightening of focus on those areas where Commonwealth collaboration can achieve the greatest impact, will also see us utilising innovative ways of working to deliver beneficial outcomes for member states in diverse areas.
Commonwealth Connects, our cloud-based digital platform, will enable networks of expertise and communities of practice across the Commonwealth to share knowledge and to collaborate, to manage projects and to connect via internet-enabled communication devices such as desktop and laptop computers or mobile smart phones. It will feature Commonwealth ‘hubs’ for health and education capitalising on the capabilities information and communication technology (ICT) advances offer for direct collaboration by multiple communities of practice.
Process must never detract from purpose or divert from progress. In all we do, our sights and efforts must be set steadfastly on moving towards our shared goals, the values and principles now enshrined in the Charter of the Commonwealth, and on delivering tangible benefits for the welfare and progress of our citizens. Such clarity will give us the motivation and imagination to explore beyond the horizon, and to press on into new terrain as we travel forward together, seeking especially to unlock ‘Opportunity through Enterprise’.
12 September 2013
In 2013, we pass two particularly important milestones for education in the Commonwealth: the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) celebrates its Centenary, and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) its Silver Jubilee.
These anniversaries remind us that education has long been an area in which the Commonwealth has made a distinctive contribution, and that the work of both the ACU and COL continues to be of outstanding value. The practical impact of their respective endeavours in the field of education advances our shared values of democracy, development and respect for diversity, and reinforces the sense of the distinct Commonwealth identity and the spirit and benefit of mutual support.
Meeting in Mauritius last year, Commonwealth Education Ministers acknowledged that, ‘despite the significant increase of access to education, quality and equity represented common challenges across all Commonwealth countries’. Addressing the meeting, the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Dr Kenny Anthony, quoted the observation of his fellow St Lucian, the Nobel Laureate economist Sir Arthur Lewis, that ‘the fundamental cure of poverty is not money, but education’.
In their communiqué, ministers went on to note that, ‘unless robust advocacy for the pivotal role of education post-2015 – in the economy, for society, for democracy and for development – is made, there is a risk that it might lose its place in the global priorities’.
It was therefore with a great sense of urgency and collective responsibility that a Ministerial Working Group was established, with representation from all regions of the Commonwealth, to define Commonwealth priorities for education within the global development framework that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Education For All (EFA) targets post-2015.
Following a process of consultation, and a meeting at Marlborough House in December 2012, the Group’s recommendations concerning education on behalf of the Commonwealth were advanced through UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Co-Chair of the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel advising on the global development framework beyond 2015. We received clear confirmation that this Commonwealth contribution helped practically to shape the global discourse on the post-2015 world we want.
The essential link between education and development is especially apparent in the sphere of youth livelihoods, employment and school-to-work transitions, which are discussed in this publication.
It also finds reflection in our Commonwealth theme for this year, ‘Opportunity through Enterprise’: both are advanced through early and sustained access to education and through lifelong opportunities for employment, economic inclusion and personal fulfilment.
Greater participation by young people in the social and economic life of communities and the nurturing of civic leadership through respect and understanding are goals of the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP). It too reaches a landmark in 2013, the 40th Anniversary of its establishment in accordance with a mandate of Commonwealth Youth Ministers, endorsed in 1973 by the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Ottawa. In remaining relevant, the CYP is now being reformed so that it continues to serve contemporary youth development needs in the years aheadThese deep roots and continuing initiatives to advance education and entrepreneurship among Commonwealth citizens, particularly the young, show the benefits that accrue as a result of collective practical action and co-operation among our member states and within the Commonwealth family.
Notable among recent developments was the founding in 2012 of a Commonwealth Students’ Association (CSA), followed by the launch in 2013 of its new website and a membership recruitment drive. The CSA will represent and build the capacity of student associations and their leaders, undertake research, and provide a conduit for consultation and advocacy on matters of particular concern to students.
The title of this publication, Commonwealth Education Partnerships 2013/14, underscores that realising the potential of collaboration remains central to the way we work in the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Secretariat is partnering in a project linked to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow: ‘Commonwealth Class’ will use the interest raised by preparations for the Games as a focus for creating pan-Commonwealth links between children, teachers and schools throughout the Commonwealth. Our aim for this global online initiative is to invigorate learning and to bring into the classroom the values of the new Charter of the Commonwealth and the aspirations we have for the increasingly youthful Commonwealth. By providing material for school assemblies and printed classroom resource packs for those working with the 7-14 age group, our intent is that within the context of sport these values will be given added vitality in schools, taken home and communicated to friends and family. This project can become a striking resource, helping motivate our youth to high achievement, and deepening their sense of belonging to the Commonwealth family.
We at the Commonwealth Secretariat value the fruitful relationship we enjoy with Nexus Strategic Partnerships, who work closely with us and the wider Commonwealth family to produce this and other publications. By bringing together a broad cross-section of education activities in one publication, Commonwealth Education Partnerships 2013/14 gives a sense of the immense range and the vitality of co-operation made possible through the links and resources of our contemporary global Commonwealth networks.
We are confident that even more can be achieved through these connections, and that Commonwealth collaboration in pursuit of our collective goals can be enhanced by means of the additional resources and capabilities for advanced interaction now available through ‘Commonwealth Connects’, our ambitious web platform.
By working together inclusively, we are able to achieve more and to build innovatively on each other’s participation and strengths.