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EDITORIAL

Celebrating The Commonwealth At 70

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This year marks the 70th anniversary of the birth of the Commonwealth of Nations, an organisation which Nigeria is a member. The Commonwealth deserves to be celebrated at 70 judging from its contributions to its member nations’ wellbeing and the world as a whole since inception.

People in Africa, Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, the Americas and the Pacific observe the Commonwealth Day every March11. This year’s theme, ‘A Connected Commonwealth,’ is apt as it encapsulates the underlying principle of the organisation.

It is targeted at encouraging collaboration among member nations to protect natural resources and the environment.

Another aspect of the theme, Connectivity Agenda for Trade and Investment proposes an increased cooperation on trade and investment towards inclusive economic empowerment all persons, giving advantage to women, youths and marginalised communities, to enable them share progress and prosperity. It also provides opportunities for the people, governments and institutions of member states to connect and work together at numerous levels.

The Commonwealth is a political association of 53 member states most of which are former territories of the British Empire. They  include Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize , Botswana, Brunei , Cameroon, Canada, Dominica, Fiji, The Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Grenadines, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Cyprus, Rwanda, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, St Christopher and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the, Swaziland, The Bahamas, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Vanuatu, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The values and principles through which these 53 countries and its population of 2.4 billion connect are brought together in the Commonwealth Charter.

The current secretary-general is Patricia Scotland. Nigeria’s Emeka Anyaoku held the post from1989-1997.

Traditionally, the English monarch, this time Queen Elizabeth II, is the head of the Commonwealth but at a meeting in April 2018, Commonwealth leaders agreed that the Queen’s successor as head of the Commonwealth should be her son, Prince Charles.

The Commonwealth began at the first half of the 20th Century with the decolonisation of the British Empire. It was initially established as the British Commonwealth through the Balfour Declaration at the 1926 Imperial Conference and then formalised by the United Kingdom through the Statute of Westminster in 1931.

However, the present Commonwealth of Nations was formally constituted by the London Declaration in 1949 and holds member states as ‘free and equal’.

At the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), the principal decision making meeting of the organisation, heads of government, including prime ministers and presidents, meet for many days to discuss matters of mutual interest.

Some of the achievements of Commonwealth to date include supporting the educational development of member states through the giving  scholarships each year to students from member countries to go and study in renowned universities in some developed member nations like the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

The Commonwealth has also promoted cooperation among the different professionals within the Commonwealth. For example, lawyers have cooperated at the level of the Commonwealth Bar Association and the academia have cooperated at the level of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, among others.

Democracy is vital to the Commonwealth and it has promoted this through sending observers to member states conducting elections. The Commonwealth also promotes sports through the Commonwealth Games which is a huge championship only inferior to the Olympics.

The Commonwealth also supports small states through various programmes, including helping them  in accessing funds for development purposes.

It has also been beneficial in areas of security, by assisting to train the military of member states. As a newspaper, we recognise and applaud the Commonwealth for its role in unifying former British colonies, making it one of the largest  international blocs and giving members some political and economic advantages.

And as it marks its 70th anniversary, it is our hope that the Commonwealth state continue to grow from strength to strength, and forge a binding force that will continue to drive and support development and people-to-people exchange in its member countries. This will impact the world positively.

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