Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma
31 December 2009
'A belief in our shared destiny has animated the modern Commonwealth and is its principal strength' - Kamalesh Sharma
It does not seem so long ago that we were ringing in the new millennium, and yet its first decade is already over. This perhaps is a clue to the acceleration and compression of our times.
The 21st Century will surely be the most fateful in human history. The dilemmas and challenges before the human community – many of them existential – must be resolved before the century is too old. We have to be unerring in securing the collective global good.
A belief in our shared destiny has animated the modern Commonwealth and is its principal strength. It has never been more relevant now. The phenomenon of ‘globalisation’, which is an objective fact, has to be matched by enlightened ‘globalism’, which is a collective subjective commitment.
In the coming decade, the contribution of the Commonwealth will no doubt be equal to the call and need of our times, gripped by headlong transformation. In the choice between peril and promise, we have to shape a world which belongs to all and secure the promise.
Our Commonwealth contribution is healing. Our solutions are many and varied, moving with the times and the needs of our citizens. Every decade has presented its own political, economic and social challenges. And each decade has seen the Commonwealth respond flexibly, practically, innovatively. We have a heritage of making full use of the many networks open to us, rooted in our timeless values: of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, sustainable development and fundamental human rights. Ours has also always been a commitment to our most vulnerable – from the smallest and weakest states, to the ‘smallest and weakest’ people: women, young people,
and those on the margins of societies. It is, above all, a commitment to practical applications of our values and to a spirit of inclusiveness which the Commonwealth shares with the world.
The Commonwealth agenda for 2010 and for the new decade was in part set by Commonwealth Heads of Government who met in Trinidad and Tobago last month. There, Heads reaffirmed those fundamental values, and committed to taking them further, and deeper. The Commonwealth is anything but perfect: each and every one of its member states is challenged on the path of actualising these values. But we are all united in cherishing the Commonwealth as a values-based, aspirational, equal and special organisation. We will continue to safeguard those values and to defend them; but, just as much, we will continue to act as partner in a shared enterprise, not a referee. We journey together, and our journey – in the Commonwealth fashion – will involve people as well as governments.
2010 and the decade to come will see the Commonwealth turning fresh pages in supporting the whole membership in its goals and particularly in supporting developing countries and their communities. There will be many paths to travel: being responsive to particular capacity needs; building and nurturing institutions; strengthening our environmental good offices; launching a new web-based paradigm of partnership; realising the potential inherent in e-government, e-health, e-business; e-education; deepened engagement with the causes of youth and women; greater utilisation of Commonwealth ministerial meetings; advocacy of our collective agenda through the G-20; forging strategic partnerships that advance our goals; and more, and much more.
There is a deep coherence in what we do. We serve our member states so that our communities and citizens are safe from impunity and are supported in achieving their political, economic and social aspirations. Our biggest resource is the trust we enjoy and our biggest asset is our sincerity and dependability as a partner. In the coming decade and beyond we will be true to these.
The Commonwealth is a great global good that needs to be better known and understood. We should make a greater effort to lift its deserved profile and knowledge of its contribution to global welfare.
Our gift to the world is not just the diversity of a third of the world’s population – but a diversity that we embrace, that we celebrate, and that we turn into action. On five continents, and across members large and small and rich and poor, we share not just ideas but ways of turning them into reality. All this, founded on the values which are the core of our interconnectedness.
May 2010 mark a better year and the start of a better decade for all, with the Commonwealth contributing in many and diverse ways to that positive difference.