On March 14th 2016 several events and activities took place across the globe to celebrate Commonwealth Day and its values: Peace, Democracy and Equality. This year’s theme, ‘An Inclusive Commonwealth,’ celebrates its diversity with more than 2 billion people being a part of it. It is a global recognition of individuality, asserting equality irrespective of race, gender, age or belief.
Thousands congregated at Westminster Abbey in London for a celebratory service. The Queen, who is head of the Commonwealth, wrote in the programme about the importance to help “those who feel excluded in all walks of life […] and to share, to exchange and to act for the common good.”
The Prime Minister David Cameron spoke of the importance of inclusiveness in today’s world pointing to several challenges that we face, and should face together. He said:
“At a time of unprecedented global challenges, the Commonwealth is more important than ever – bringing together a unique family of 53 nations, spanning every continent, to promote respect and understanding and to uphold our shared democratic values. In the coming year, we should seize on the progress made at the Malta Summit and work together to strengthen the Commonwealth’s contribution to global efforts to tackle challenges including extremism, corruption, and climate change.”
“It is by being a member of strong networks and international organisations such as the Commonwealth, the UN Security Council, the EU, NATO and G8 that we amplify Britain’s influence in the world. As the only country to belong to all of these organisations, we have a unique opportunity to make our voice heard and our partners value the role we can play in bringing together these different networks, so we all work together to deliver greater security and prosperity for our citizens.”
Africa as a continent is a vital region for the Commonwealth, with 18 countries holding membership – one third of its total members. A recent article published by The International Centre for Trade and Development, states that: “Although [the] global trade landscape is continuously changing, a connection between Commonwealth countries makes a difference from a trade perspective.”
Author Salamit Ali argues that the “growing prominence of developing countries is another salient feature of the shifting global landscape. Over the past two decades, the share of these countries in global merchandise exports has increased from around 30 percent to 50 percent. Although this shift is mainly driven by Asian economies, the contribution of African countries has increased from six percent in 2000 to nine percent in 2013. This implies that, while traditional developed countries remain important markets, developing countries also provide enhanced trading opportunities.”
A significant challenge to South-South trade, Ali argues, lies in diversification. A number of countries in Africa rely on the exportation of primary commodities, which in turn holds strong economic implications for those countries. As this is drawn to attention, Ali makes the point that, “for commodity-dependent exporters, one further concern relates to how the growth slowdown in China is going to unfold.”
The Commonwealth day is annually celebrated on the second Monday of March.