Our Commonwealth family of nations has a long and proud history – this year marks the 70th anniversary of its formation. Commonwealth Day each March marks an opportunity to look back at all that our alliance has accomplished and to look ahead at how the goodwill and friendship between all our great nations can continue to be used as a global force for good – tackling some of the greatest social, economic and political challenges of our time.
There are 2.4 billion people in the Commonwealth, nearly a third of the global population, and over 60% of them are under 30. The power of celebrating and empowering this generation of young people is unparalleled. We must do all we can to ensure they are equipped to harness the full power of our diverse family of nations. Our shared history and close partnership make the Commonwealth a powerful engine for progress and development.
On 11 March, people from across the world; in Commonwealth countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Americas, the Pacific and Europe gathered to celebrate Commonwealth Day. The theme for this year is ‘A Connected Commonwealth’ highlighting how the embracing of our shared values and principles can be harnessed to tackle some of the challenges we are currently facing – particularly in relation to protecting our natural resources and the environment.
Under both the Commonwealth Blue Charter and the Connectivity Agenda for Trade and Investment there is ever more collaboration and investment between all our Commonwealth nations not only on the environment but also on trade and investment. This investment is centred on our collective work towards inclusive economic empowerment so that all people – young people, women and those from marginalised communities – are able to access the benefits that secure employment can bring; not only to economic progress and prosperity but also to health, education and wellbeing.
In London, where the Commonwealth Secretariat headquarters are based, there was a multicultural, multi-faith service at Westminster Abbey attended by senior members of the Royal family on 11 March. It was a hugely powerful event – with over 2,000 people gathering to celebrate our deep-rooted global network.
At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London last year I was delighted that the Prime Minister, along with fellow leaders, was able to agreed steps to achieve a fairer, more secure and more sustainable future for the Commonwealth’s 2.4 billion people. The UK is currently Chair-in-Office of the group and we are determined as a Government to work tirelessly to deliver on those commitments. The bonds between all our nations are unique and are a valuable network for international and cross-government organisation.
In the last year, our leadership of the new Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance has encouraged 24-member countries to commit to actions to tackle marine plastic pollution. And over 2,300 women-owned businesses have signed up to the UK-funded Commonwealth ‘She Trades’ programme which aims to promote and support female entrepreneurship across the Commonwealth.
From my own increasingly varied work within Nigeria, the land of my father, I know at first-hand the value and importance Commonwealth countries place on this unique bond between nations. I truly believe that our global family is an enormous resource for good, and something we should embrace and celebrate. An enduring commitment to mutual success, prosperity and progress is a reason for continued optimism in these challenging times.