Lord Ahmad: The Commonwealth is a family of nations rich in its diversity, yet with so much in common
As Britain prepares to take on the role of Chair in Office, we will work to ensure the Commonwealth takes its rightful place as a global voice, writes Lord Ahmad
This week the world comes to London. Leaders and delegations from six continents, representing one-third of the world’s population, will be here for the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, hosted by Her Majesty The Queen in her 69th year as Head of this unique organisation. It will be the biggest turnout in recent memory - almost all of the 53 Commonwealth members will be represented at Head of Government level.
Preparing for this event, and promoting this amazing network, with its shared history, language and values, has been a key priority for me as the UK’s Minister for the Commonwealth. It is a hugely important and enjoyable role – and one in which I feel personally invested.
I am a child of the Commonwealth; my family reflects the UK’s rich diversity. I was brought up in Britain by parents born in India who moved here in the 1950s. My wife is of Pakistani heritage and was brought up in Australia. Yet my upbringing is not unique. This diversity is an abiding strength of the UK today and our Commonwealth diaspora communities are at the heart of it. When leaders come to London, they will find an open, diverse, confident country, one that is deepening its international partnerships all over the world: a truly ‘Global Britain’.
I have been privileged to meet other members of Britain’s Commonwealth diaspora in the run-up to the Summit, sharing family stories and business successes at ‘Commonwealth Big Lunches’, and many other events across the country. I have met excited young athletes preparing to compete at the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast. I have spoken to jubilant Gambians in Banjul, proud of their country and delighted to be re-joining the Commonwealth family, where they feel they belong.
This is the joy of the Commonwealth. It is a family of nations rich in its diversity, yet with so much in common. Our shared values, codified in the Commonwealth Charter, include commitments to democracy, good governance and the rule of law, as well as a recognition of the importance of young people.
Indeed, it is young people who will be at the heart of the Summit and rightly so, because two-thirds of the Commonwealth’s 2.4 billion people are under the age of 30. It is vital that the organisation demonstrates its relevance to them by representing their interests. That is why the theme of the summit is ‘Towards a Common Future’. It is also why every item on the leaders’ agenda will really matter to the next generation, whether it is eradicating malaria, making cyberspace more secure, reducing the plastic in our oceans, or enhancing trade to boost prosperity for all. Fairness is going to be a key theme of the summit and education is a key component of that: giving our children a brighter future by ensuring they have access to 12 years of quality education.
For the two years after the summit, the UK will be the Chair in Office. We will continue to support the Secretariat on reform and to collaborate closely with our Commonwealth partners. Above all, we will work tirelessly to ensure that the promises and mandates collectively agreed this week are delivered. We will work to enrich bilateral relations between member states and the dynamic nature of our Commonwealth people-to-people networks so that this great organisation is re-energised, relevant and takes its rightful place as a global voice on the world stage.
Tariq Ahmad is a Conservative peer and Minister of State for the Commonwealth and United Nations