As we enter 2012, and look forward expectantly to the year ahead, there are two experiences of the past year that should be our guide: to be ready for the unexpected, and to recognise that the wellbeing of all of us is bound together in a shared destiny.
As we prepare for a year that will bring new demands and challenges, we therefore have a greater awareness that aspects critical to the lives of our nations cannot be approached in isolation from others around us.
The compacting world of the twenty-first century means that our decisions about the environment, economics, health, employment, natural resources, the rights of the individual, and so many other priority concerns can only be advanced in a long-term and enduring way if we work together.
Young people now dominate the Commonwealth and the worldwide population, and they understandably have high expectations of a fulfilling future. Our efforts - individually, nationally and globally - must be directed towards providing the opportunities and resources that allow young people to pursue their ambitions. Young people are entrusted with the world of the future; we must trust and empower them now.
The Commonwealth paid special attention in 2011 to women as 'agents of change', and we will continue to give focused attention to that contribution. 2012 must show in word and deed our enduring Commonwealth concern and determination to provide opportunity and a future for all irrespective of gender.
This year we celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Commonwealth; sixty extraordinary years of dedicated service to the values and principles of the Commonwealth, which bring our diverse family of nations together in free and voluntary association as a great global good. The Queen has been the keystone of the Commonwealth arch that has steadily been built.
The Commonwealth is an association of governments and of peoples. It is a worldwide community that builds with shared vision and with practical action. It is also a tried and tested laboratory for finding innovative global approaches and solutions to some of the most pressing challenges of this century.
Building steadily, building on the foundation of shared values, building with collective vision and practical effort, building together and being stronger as one - these have been the leitmotivs of the Commonwealth in the past and will remain so for the future in responding to the challenges of our times.
We will consolidate and draw on these strengths in 2012 to make this a better year for all Commonwealth citizens.