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Global celebrations mark Commonwealth Week

16 March 2012
Celebrations took place around the globe during Commonwealth Week, marking this year’s theme ‘Connecting Cultures’. Commonwealth Youth Programme Centres celebrate Commonwealth Day

In India, over 60 young people gathered at the Punjab Engineering College in Punjab to discuss the importance of connecting people of diverse cultures through shared visions and values on Commonwealth Day, 12 March 2012.

The Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) Asia Centre hosted the seminar, which included three eminent panellists: Indian Ambassador P S Sahai; Scot Slessor, Consul General of Canada; and Professor Akshaya Kumar from Panjab University, Chandigarh, India.

Following presentations by the panellists, participants from local colleges, universities and CYP’s Ambassadors for Peace and for Positive Living proposed effective ways and means of promoting cultural connectivity.

Professor Kumar addressed forces that disconnect rather than connect and noted that education is universally acknowledged as an antidote to all narrow and sectarian views. However he added that a disconnect between education and real life has allowed cultural biases to creep into the psyches of young men and women leading them to become increasingly intolerant and culturally insensitive.

Ambassador Sahai spoke about the links between multiculturalism and globalisation and emphasised the role of young people in promoting cultural connectivity through the three D’s - Democracy, Diversity and Dialogue.

Mr Slessor spoke on the value of diversity and the significance of cultural exchanges. He said young people today are in a unique position to bring about greater connectivity through social media.

Sonam Angchok, President of the Ladakh Students’ Association, said: “We have to look past the differences and rather look at the commonalities of our diverse cultures and embrace a sense of one humanity.”

Over in the Caribbean young people, including persons with disabilities, joined together in dance and song in celebration of the theme ‘Connecting Cultures – Moving Towards Greater Inclusion’.

Commonwealth Youth Programme Guyana

The CYP Caribbean Centre jointly hosted the Advocacy Programme with the Guyana Council of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities on Commonwealth Day at the National Cultural Centre in Georgetown, Guyana, on 12 March.

It was attended by students, teachers, diplomats, persons with disabilities and members of government and the private sector.

Acting Regional Director of the CYP Caribbean Centre, Glenyss James, called for greater inclusion of persons with disabilities.

Ms James pointed out that despite many initiatives, persons with disabilities still remain excluded from much of mainstream social life with limited access to training opportunities to develop their creative talents.

“We at CYP hope that by the end of this programme, stakeholders represented here will have a greater commitment to working together to facilitate persons with disabilities coming into the mainstream of development programmes,” she said.

Guyana Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr Frank Anthony, commended the CYP Caribbean Centre for taking the initiative to put the spotlight on persons with disabilities.

Youth engage in debate for Commonwealth Day in Antigua and Barbuda

Still in the Caribbean, college students in Antigua and Barbuda competed in a debate on ‘Connecting Cultures’ on 12 March, reported the Daily Observer.

The debate was held at the country's parliament building where 12 Antigua State College students took the seats normally reserved for members of parliament.

The proposing team argued that ‘connecting cultures is critical for the survival of the Commonwealth’ while the opposing team proposed that ‘preserving national culture is critical for the survival of national sovereignty’.

Speaker of the House, D Gisele Isaac Arrindell, who presided over the event, said she was impressed by the students.

“I was encouraged, I was heartened, I think the future of Antigua looks good,” she said.

“The work that they put in showed. I don’t mind growing old if we have that calibre of leader to take us into the future."

The debate was judged by Antigua and Barbuda Attorney-General Justin Simon and Minister of Finance Harold Lovell.

Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, Senate President Hazelyn Francis and Chairman of the opposition party Gaston Browne, were among those present.

Annie Lennox speaks at Scottish Parliament for Commonwealth Day

Renowned singer and philanthropist Annie Lennox addressed the Scottish Parliament on 14 March as part of events to mark Commonwealth Day.

Ms Lennox addressed an audience on the development of the UNAIDS targets, particularly in relation to preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick MSP said: “Commonwealth Day is an opportunity for the Scottish Parliament to focus beyond our borders and draw attention to the connections that we have made across the globe.

“In celebrating Commonwealth Day, the Scottish Parliament also celebrates the role of democracy, seeking to advance knowledge and understanding of democratic principles through its participation.”

Ms Lennox spoke in her capacity as Special Envoy of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), Scotland branch.

A Members’ Debate also took place under the theme for Commonwealth Day 2012 ‘Connecting Cultures’.

“Our Members’ Debate also allows us to recognise the links we have forged within the Commonwealth and our support for the work of the CPA,” said Mrs Marwick.

Students ‘thrill’ at Commonwealth Day reception in New Zealand

In New Zealand award-winning musical talent was on display for Commonwealth Day celebrations on 12 March.

Winners of the British High Commission Diamond Jubilee Music Award entertained at a reception hosted by British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell for the Lord Mayor of the City of London, David Wootten.

Students had less than four weeks to compose music and lyrics for this year’s award under the theme ‘Connecting Cultures’.

They were tasked to create a piece which showed cultural diversity from any one day in the last sixty years of HM Queen Elizabeth II’s reign as UK monarch and Head of the Commonwealth.

Royal Commonwealth Society President Leonie Lawson was one of the judges of the competition and said she was “absolutely thrilled” to be involved.

Cameroon students hold youth exchange

College students from throughout Yaoundé, Cameroon, celebrated Commonwealth Day and its theme through a youth exchange on 12 March, reported allafrica.com.

It was hosted at the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Civic Education and organised by the Youth Caucus.

Youth Caucus representative to the Commonwealth, Rose Mary Agbor, told young people present to embrace opportunities offered by the Commonwealth.

She said: "The youth have a principal and indispensable role in the development of not only the Commonwealth but Cameroon."

Multi-faith service marks Commonwealth Day in Barbados

In Barbados Commonwealth Day was commemorated with a multi-faith service at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Bridgetown, reported the Barbados Advocate.

In celebration of the theme ‘Connecting Cultures’ readings were presented by representatives of different faiths, including Jewish, Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Christian.

Queen Elizabeth II’s Commonwealth Day message was read by acting Governor-General of Barbados, Elliot Belgrave.

The service was attended by members of the Barbados Government, British High Commissioner Paul Brummell and other diplomats.

Special dinner marks Commonwealth Day in Brunei Darussalam

Heading back to Asia, a special dinner was held in Brunei Darussalam to celebrate Commonwealth Day and the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, reported the Brunei Times.

Brunei Darussalam Minister of Education Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia Doktor Haji Awang Abu Bakar, member of the UK House of Lords Baroness Hooper and British MP Tom Greatrex, were among those present at the dinner in Jerudong.

The event also featured a playing of ‘Stronger As One’, a song written to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, focusing on the Commonwealth.