Commonwealth Day is marked on every second Monday in March every year.
Yesterday, the celebration was marked with this year’s theme ‘Forging a Sustainable and Peaceful Common Future’.
According to the Commonwealth Secretariat, Commonwealth Day aims “to unite 2.5 billion Commonwealth citizens in celebration of their shared values and principles, and in pursuit of a common future, centred on sustainability and peace”.
This year’s celebration also marks the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Commonwealth Charter, which is described as outlining the values and principles that unify the 56 Commonwealth member countries.
In her Commonwealth Day message, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said, “We gather as a ‘Family of Nations’ to celebrate Commonwealth Day for the first time since the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”
The secretary-general paid tribute to the late British Queen for her seven decades of service and welcomed King Charles III on his first Commonwealth Day as the new head.
“His Majesty has said many times that our Family of Nations has been a cornerstone of his life, and as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Commonwealth Charter, we share his conviction – and that of all Commonwealth leaders – that the values and aspirations it enshrines must not simply represent words on a page, but the lived experience of all,” said the secretary-general.
In her message, the secretary-general also noted that the Commonwealth stands as a voluntary association of 56 independent sovereign states, spread across five continents and six oceans.
“At 2.5 billion people, 60 per cent of whom are under the age of 30, we encompass around a third of the world’s population.” She highlighted that while each Commonwealth country is different, with different histories, different circumstances, and different experiences, each is united in active, engaged membership of the modern Commonwealth, bound by the blend of practical advantages, common interests and shared values, which she said makes the ‘Family of Nations’ so special.
“I believe profoundly that our unique qualities and advantages mean that the Commonwealth in 2023 is not simply a part of the international system, it is a beacon within it.
“These qualities shine in the fact that, with a multilateral system under strain, the Commonwealth is growing, precisely because of what we stand for and what we can deliver.”
“The values and aspirations of our Charter, and their application in the Commonwealth and the wider world, are enduring – but they are at their most important during difficult times,” said the secretary-general. She affirmed that, in a world experiencing serious economic, environmental and security challenges, and profound social and technological change, these values and aspirations offer a clear path forward for principled and purposeful collective action to break down the barriers and build a better future for everyone.
“Just as the Commonwealth stood together in the face of apartheid, and warned of the threats of environmental breakdown as long as 34 years ago, we stand together now to face the challenges of the moment, and seize the opportunities of tomorrow,” she said.
“Where there is violence and conflict, we work for peace. Where there is insecurity, we protect the culture, process and institutions of democracy.
“Where there is poverty, we tackle it. Where there is injustice, we challenge it. Where our brothers and sisters have their lives threatened and disrupted by the impacts of climate change, we stand with them, working tirelessly for climate action and a more sustainable world.”
“And at every turn, we work together to deliver a better future for the 1.5 billion young people of the Commonwealth,” continued the secretary-general, noting that the friendships and partnerships which have developed over decades mean that no Commonwealth country, or citizen, stands alone.
“As we have shown so many times, when we stand together there is no storm we cannot weather, no challenge we cannot overcome, and no opportunity we cannot seize.
“I believe profoundly that our family of 56 nations and 2.5 billion people is stronger, more vibrant, more connected and more purposeful than ever.”
“So on this 10th anniversary of our Charter, as we renew our commitment to its values and to each other, let us resolve together to ensure that in the years to come, we make the peaceful and sustainable common future we all strive for a reality for the whole Commonwealth,” she added.