Subscribe to our monthly email updates
Subscribe by sending an email to email@example.com .
Follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date with events news
If Facebook is more your thing, become a fan of the RCS!
Commonwealth Compared Launch Event
Thursday 23 May
The Royal Commonwealth Society proudly launched their new research, 'Commonwealth Compared 2013: Setting the Scene' at an event on the 23 May.
The event was held to present the initial findings of the research and speakers included Chairman and President of YouGov, Peter Kellner, Vice Chair of the British Council, Baroness Prashar, former Minister of State for the Commonwealth, The Rt Hon the Lord Howell of Guilford and the High Commissioner for Antigua and Barbuda, His Excellency Mr Carl Roberts CMG.
The research was conducted to ascertain whether membership of the association confers any measurable advantage upon its states compared with their non-Commonwealth counterparts across a range of indicators.
The first ever Commonwealth index of its kind, the report shines new light on the association's greatest strengths and weaknesses. The RCS will now use this research to launch further publications and constructive debates around the potential of the Commonwealth.
To download the report, click here .
Peace Talks- War, Peace and Faith: The ambiguous role of religion in 21st Century Conflict
Monday 22 April
© International Alert
The latest in our 'Peace Talks' series with International Alert explored the relationship between religion and conflict. The panel featured Rama Mani, Senior Research Associate at the University of Oxford's Centre for International Studies; Dr Fabio Petito, Senior Lecturer at the University of Sussex; Aaqil Ahmed, BBC's Head of Religion and Ethics; and Andrew Brown, Head of the Guardian's Comment is Free- Belief Section.
Click here to see photos from the event.
The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award and Life Skills Education
Monday 16 April
Following last month's launch of the 2013 Commonwealth Theme, Opportunity Through Enterprise, the Royal Commonwealth Society hosted an event in partnership with The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Foundation exploring the benefits that experiential learning and volunteering through youth development programmes, such as the Award, can provide for young people in the Commonwealth.
The panellists gave academic, youth and corporate perspective on the benefits of non-formal learning programmes, like the Award, volunteering and positive recreational activities for young people's skill development and employability.
Please click here to view the full event write-up.
Commonwealth Environmental Investment Platform Launch
Thursday 14 March
The Commonwealth Environmental Investment Platform (CEIP) was launched at a VIP reception at the Royal Commonwealth Society last week as part of Commonwealth Week. Guests included the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, High Commissioners, representatives of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and CEIP hub managers from Canada and West Africa.
CEIP is designed to assist environmental SMEs in Commonwealth nations share knowledge, increase international awareness and facilitate trade and investment in environmental and sustainable technologies. Regional CEIP hubs will provide a structured investment network to support Commonwealth businesses which are seeking either early stage venture capital investment or the support of business angels. CEIP will also allow companies to share needs and opportunities with partners, trade contacts and interested parties in other Commonwealth countries.
CEIP has been developed in alliance between the Royal Commonwealth Society and Forbury Investment Network, which is operated by Clarkslegal LLP. It has already established regional hubs in Canada, England, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa (Cape Town and Durban) and Wales. Further hubs are planned in the near future.
Our guest speakers at the launch were:
· Peter Kellner, The Royal Commonwealth Society
· Michael Sippitt, The Commonwealth Environmental Investment Platform
· His Excellency Gordon Campbell, Canadian High Commissioner
· Dr Chimereze Chima, Operator of the Ghana and Nigeria CEIP Hubs
Please click here to view videos of the speeches from the guest speakers and a link to the transcript of Michael Sippitt's speech: "Vision for the Commonwealth Environmental Investment Platform".
Commonwealth Games 2014 Reception
Wednesday 13 March
The RCS was proud to host a reception for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Guests joined Lord Smith, Chair of Glasgow 2014, David Grevemberg, CEO for Glasgow 2014, Vijay Rangarajan, Multilateral Policy Director at the FCO, and Shona Robison MSP, Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport.
High Commissioners' Banquet
Sunday 10 March
The RCS in partnership with Jaguar Land Rover and Taj hosted the annual High Commissioners' Banquet at 51 Buckingham Gate Hotel. Guests were addressed by Peter Kellner, Chairman of the RCS, Phil Cannel, National Accounts Manager for Jaguar Land Rover, and Dr Rahul Mirchandani, Founder President of the Commonwealth-Asia Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs.
Launch of the State of the World Atlas
Thursday 10 January
The RCS in partnership with New Internationalist and International Alert hosted the launch of Dan Smith's State of the World Atlas. Described as 'the definitive reference book on the way we live now'. Dan Smith, Secretary General of International Alert, was joined by Rushanara Ali MP, Shadow Minister for International Development, and the evening was chaired by Chris Brazier, co-editor of New Internationalist Magazine. The discussion covered many of the topics in the book, ranging from the decrease in the occurrence and lethality of wars, to the size of global financial flows, and the scale of global inequalities. For more information, click here
Britain and the Commonwealth: Address by the Rt Hon Hugo Swire MP
Tuesday 18 December
The RCS hosted a keynote address by the Rt Hon Hugo Swire MP, FCO Minister of State for the Commonwealth. A transcript of the speech is available here.
See more photos of the event here.
Commonwealth Carol Service 2012
Wednesday 5 December
The RCS hosted the annual Commonwealth Carol Service at St Martin-in-the-Fields church. It featured readings from Jubilee Time Capsule entrants, Commonwealth Secretary-General HE Kamalesh Sharma, Actress Chipo Chung, RCS Chairman Peter Kellner, Jamaican High Commissioner HE Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, and former UK Prime Minister Sir John Major KG CH. It also featured fantastic performances from the Croydon Steel Orchestra, the Commonwealth Youth Choir, and Burntwood School Choir.
The service was held in aid of The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Trust.
20 years of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines: Debate
Monday 19 November
In conjunction with the CIPR, the RCS hosted a high level debate to mark the 20th anniversary of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. This event explored the future for the ICBL and the wider mine ban movement, how the movement can remain energised and motivated and how it can continue to attract donors in the years ahead.
The evening was in aid of Find a Better Way.
Jubilee Time Capsule Presentation to HM The Queen
Wednesday 14 November 2012
On Wednesday, the Jubilee Time Capsule was presented to Her Majesty The Queen at the RCS. More than 200 people were able to share the special day with us, and schools in Johannesburg, Islamabad and Perth were also patched into the ceremony on Skype.
John Samson, a 12-year-old boy from Malawi and Junior Prize winner of this year's RCS Essay Competition, had the honour of presenting The Queen with a tablet computer holding the top 60 JTC entries.After The Queen has had a chance to browse some of the best JTC entries, the device will move to the Royal Collection, where it will be the first artefact on a tablet computer to enter the Collection.
Leveson Inquiry: Debate
Tuesday 23 October 2012
The Royal Commonwealth Society with the Commonwealth Journalists Association hosted a panel discussion on the implications of the Leveson Inquiry. It featured Ian Beales,Lord Guy Black, Sunanda Datta-Ray, Martin Moore, Angela Phillips and William Horsley. The discussion centred around whether self-regulation, statutory regulation or a mixture of both would best protect freedom of speech.
- Video coming soon
The Aberdares and Beyond
Thursday 4 October
Colin Church, Chairman of the Rhino Ark Management Committee, spoke about the social, economic, agricultural and wildlife value of his projects. The talk was be chaired by Lord Aberdare, whose great, great grandfather was President of the Royal Geographical Society in the 1880s when the Aberdares were named after him.
Lunch with Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Thursday 4 October
RCS members and guests had the chance to have lunch with 'the world's greatest living explorer', Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
After giving some insight into his motivations to become an explorer (he named his lack of A-levels as a major motivation), he spoke about his newest challenge, crossing the Antarctic in winter. This perilous journey will test him and his technology to the limit.
Local Voices, Local Change
Wednesday 26 September
The Royal Commonwealth Society, with the support of the Baring Foundation, hosted a panel discussion, focusing on Africa, which looked at the role of civil society in economic and political development.
Listen to event in full below:
To see more pictures from the event, click here.
Huddled Masses or Clever Adaptors? Assessing the security challenges of climate change and migration
Thursday 20 September
In conjunction with International Alert, the RCS welcomed a panel to discuss the implications of climate change for migration and security. Dan Smith, the International Alert Secretary General was joined by Professor Richard Black from the University of Sussex, Elizabeth Deheza from RUSI, and Malini Mehra, founder of the Centre for Social Markets. The evening debunked many of the myths surrounding the relationship between Climate Change and Migration. Not only is the relationship more complex than previously thought, but it may not be as negative as many perceive it to be.
An evening with Mohamed Nasheed
Wednesday 19 September
RCS members and guests welcomed the ex-president of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed on the 19th of September. Mr Nasheed was one of the founders of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), and served as the fourth, and first democratically elected, president of the country from 2008 until 2012, when he resigned under disputed circumstances. Referred to by some journalists as 'the Mandela of the Maldives', he was imprisoned early in his political career for a critical article written in a political magazine. After being released, he founded the MDP, which was recognised in 2005. Once elected, he dedicated his presidency to raising awareness of the threat caused by global warming, famously holding an underwater cabinet meeting in 2009. In 2011 a documentary film, The Island President was released chronicling his attempts to raise awareness of climate change.
He spoke on his departure from government, strongly stating that it was indeed a coup. When questioned by Julian Borger (the Guardian's diplomatic editor and chair) on what would happen if the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group removed the Maldives from it's agenda, he stated that the country would transform into a state similar to Burma. He believes it would give a green light for the government to suppress dissent and arrest the opposition. Mr Nasheed also spoke of the dangers of climate change for small island states and his belief that radical action is needed to deal with the situation.
'I wrote a book on coups in the Maldives. I know one when I see one' Mohamed Nasheed
Afternoon Tea at the House of Lords
Wednesday 18 July
120 members and guests of honour Baroness Young were hosted by Lord Popat at the House of Lords on the 18 July for afternoon tea.
Guests enjoyed tea, cakes, strawberries and cream, and were addressed by Baroness Young on the 2012 Commonwealth theme 'Connecting Cultures' which she described as 'an aspiration.'
With devastating forces at work in the world, Baroness Young argued that we need to find new ways of talking to each other, and then cultural dialogue might be one of those ways.
While admitting that the 'fantastically diverse Commonwealth' can be a challenge, she argued that it is important to understand different ways of talking about our histories and we are all impoverished if we don't know something of other people's cultures
'As long as we can continue to have an equitable and balanced cultural exchange, then I shall remain a very strong supporter for the Commonwealth.' Baroness Young
Marie Staunton Talks: Choices and Chances
Tuesday 19 June
On Tuesday 19th June, Marie Staunton, CEO of Plan and long-standing member of the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) spoke at the Commonwealth Club. She talked about her life and the choices she has made as well as discussing some of the issues that are relevant to the RCS and their members.
The event was one of a series of inspirational talks, led by some of the most influential women in the UK. called 'Plan Talks'. As part of Plan's 'Because I am a Girl' campaign Plan Talks aim to support girls in the world's poorest countries to help them overcome the barriers that prevent them from gaining access to a quality education. With greater choices in life, girls can move themselves and others from a life of poverty to a future with opportunity.
If you are interested in the work the RCS has done with Plan on the Beacuse I'm A Girl campaign click here.
The Commonwealth Jubilee Party
Friday 1 June
The RCS kicked off the Jubilee weekend with style on Friday 1st June with the Commonwealth Jubilee Party. Over 150 members, plus some special guests including the current Commonwealth Secretary General HE Kamalesh Sharma and two of his predecessors (Sir Sonny Ramphal and Chief Emeka Anyaoku), joined us to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen's sixty years as head of the Commonwealth. The BBC World Service joined us at the party for a special broadcast of World Have Your Say Presenter Ros Atkins talked to guests, asking them "Does the Commonwealth still have relevance in the modern world?" Listen to the first half of the radio broadcast here –" see if you can recognise any familiar voices!
Guests were treated to music from singer Binisa Bonner and Ayanna- Witter Johnson and we linked up on screen to locations across the Commonwealth to see how they were celebrating the Jubilee.
The Arms Trade Treaty and the Commonwealth
Monday 28 May
The Royal Commonwealth Society, in partnership with the Control Arms Coalition UK, held a Roundtable discussion in May on the topic 'The Arms Trade Treaty and the Commonwealth' before the Diplomatic Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) begins at the UN in July 2012.
At the 2011 CHOGM, Commonwealth Heads of Government committed to improve international security by "encouraging participation in the 2012 Diplomatic Conference to negotiate on the basis of consensus an effective Arms Trade Treaty which is of broad universal acceptance".
This Roundtable discussion was designed to explore the potential influence that Commonwealth member states could have at the July Conference, to ensure the adoption of a robust and comprehensive Treaty.
Professor Tim Flannery
Monday 16 April, 12.30pm
Professor Tim Flannery, one of Australia's leading thinkers and writers, spoke at the RCS about his work as a scientist, explorer and conservationist 'In Conversation' with Scott Donaldson from Creative Scotland.
Tim talked about his early work as a zoologist in Papua New Guinea, where he discovered over thirty mammal species, the importance of biodiversity and what its decline has meant for the environment and his recent work as Chief Climate Commissioner for Australia.
The event was part of the Oxygen event series –" aimed at connecting the creative industries with other sectors. During the event Tim talked about the importance of cultures and arts in our understanding of climate change - by helping us to imagine its impact on the world around us. . Urging aspiring popular sincerities to read the classics, he spoke of the importance of literature in helping scientists learn how to write, and communicate to a popular audience by telling them stories.
On The Up Book Launch
Monday 23 January, 5.30pm
On the Up was a journey from Cape Town to Cairo. No ordinary adventure, Rob and Nikki Wilson travelled through 11 countries with one key mission: to find exceptional social entrepreneurs who are transforming Africa.
Having written a popular blog throughout their trip, Nikki and Rob have now jointly authored a book called On the Up. On 2nd April 2012, the Royal Commonwealth Society hosted the launch. Joined by seven of the social entrepreneurs featured in On the Up, including South Sudanese musician Emmanuel Jal, Zimbabwean gender activist Betty Makoni and playboy millionaire turned environmental activist Peter Sinkamba, the evening included inspirational stories from extraordinary individuals running a diverse range of projects right across the continent of Africa.
On the Up is available to buy from on-line book seller Better World Books.
Visit www.ontheup.org.uk for more information about the project
UK CONSULTATION ON THE COMMONWEALTH CHARTER
Tuesday 28 February
To help launch the UK's public consultation on the draft Charter of the Commonwealth, the Royal Commonwealth Society hosted a vibrant discussion at its London headquarters on February 28.
Speakers included Director of Justice Roger Smith, CEO of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy Linda Duffield, Head of International Organisations at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Kirsty Hayes, the UK Minister of State for the Commonwealth Rt. Hon. Lord Howell and Danny Sriskandarajah, Director of the RCS, who all brought unique perspectives to the dialogue.
Participants did not hold back in posing serious questions of the Charter and its purpose. HE Dr Carl Roberts, High Commissioner for Antigua & Barbuda, asked:
'Who is the implementer of the Charter? That is easy: governments. Who is the owner of the Charter? If it is the people, and it should be, the Charter needs to be completely redrafted –" because this does not represent the voice of the people.'
Roger Smith welcomed the Charter as an 'emanation of the Commonwealth, as a charter of rights and as a commitment by the UK to human rights' but questioned why it contains no opening affirmation of the fundamental dignity of all human beings, born free and equal.
All were agreed with Kirsty Hayes' point that, 'civil society plays a very important role in pressuring governments to raise their standards on human rights. Every citizen benefits from the canopy of civil society.'
Linda Duffield then challenged the audience to think about the applicability of the Charter to civil society: 'How can we, as civil society, as members of the public, in whose name this has been written, use this document? What are we going to do with it? How can we turn good intentions into practice?'
There was a general consensus that the Charter represents a real difficulty in distilling why the Commonwealth matters and what it stands for into one clear and engaging document.
At a reception following the consultation, Lord Howell told the crowd that the Charter seeks to capture the spirit of the modern Commonwealth and will help encourage member states to uphold the association's common values, principles and standards. He said, 'You cannot just tick a box and join this club.'
A full audio recording of the consultation event can be found here.
Keynote Address from the Hon. John Baird, PC, MP
Monday 23 January, 5.30pm
On Monday 23rd January, Canadian Minister for Foreign Affairs John Baird, PC, MP addressed an audience at the Royal Commonwealth Society with a keynote speech on human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Baird did not mince words when he said Canada "will not sit idly by" as "Commonwealth cousins" undermine the fundamental values the voluntary association is built on.
He said all countries have "a solemn duty to defend the vulnerable, to give voice to the voiceless, to challenge the aggressor, and to promote and protect human rights and human dignity, at home and indeed abroad."
Baird said Canada firmly believes in the role of the state to protect minority groups, including women, the LGBT community and religious minorities.
He said the Commonwealth "must be propelled forward as an agent for democracy, as an agent for the rule of law, as an agent for human rights and development–¦ This institution and the countries that make up the Commonwealth must be accountable for their actions, and their inactions."
Baird answered questions from the audience, which included High
Commissioners from Singapore and Sri Lanka.
'Where is Pakistan Going?' with Tariq Ali
Thursday 11th January 2012
Tariq Ali, the vocal political commentator, novelist and film-maker gave his views on the current political situation in Pakistan. The event was held in patnership with the Pakistan Society.
The event was very well-attended with 130 guests from the Pakistan Society, various university societies and the Royal Commonwealth Society in the audience.
Tariq Ali discussed the result of military intervention and military rule in Pakistan, saying 'It has disrupted the organic political development of the country'.
Mr Ali also addressed the manner in which political dynasties are created in South Asia following the murder of a leader:
'It is how the people show their anger, it is their way to punish the killers'.
Commenting on the media in Pakistan and the journalists who report from the "bubble" of wealth in Karachi, Mr Ali said: kinship networks "are not a substitute" for adequate access to healthcare, education or affordable housing in Pakistan.
He concluded by saying that it is political activity and mobilisation from below that Pakistan most needs. 'No one is going to come in on a white horse and save you'.
2011 Events at The Royal Commonwealth Society
A Keynote Address by Theresa May MP on Women and Economy
Friday 4 November 2011
Theresa May MP, Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, made a speech at the Royal Commonwealth Society to highlight new plans to support women in business.
'Better use of women's skills could be worth billions of pounds to our economy each year so that is why this government is opening up more opportunities.'
The Home Secretary announced that the government will provide resources for 5,000 new mentors for new and existing female entrepreneurs, and will create a Women's Business Council to advise the government on how to maximise women's contribution to future economic growth.
You can read her speech in full on the Home Office website here.
Human Rights: Can the Commonwealth get its bite back?
Wednesday 12th October 2011
'I think the question is does it want its bite back? I think the question is what food it wants to eat. If the Commonwealth to eat porridge it doesn't need teeth.' Purna Sen
Lynne Featherstone MP: Parliamentary under secretary of state for equalities
Godwyns Onwuchekewa: Co-ordinator, Justice for Gay Africans
Simon Fanshawe: Broadcaster, writer and co-founder of Stonewall (Chair)
Dr Purna Sen: Director of LSE Programme for African Leadership and former Head of Human Rights at The Commonwealth Secretariat
Saul Lehrfreund MBE: Co-founder and joint Executive Directors of The Death Penalty Project.
The event took place just weeks before the Eminent Person's Group - tasked with exploring options for Commonwealth reform –" presented their recommendations to Commonwealth leaders meeting in Perth, Australia. Strengthening the role of the Commonwealth in protecting and promoting human rights is at the very heart of their recommendations. In recent years, whilst Commonwealth civil society has campaigned strongly on a number of human rights issues, the institutional Commonwealth has been reluctant to speak out. But members of the Eminent Persons Group have stated that the Commonwealth can not stay silent and called for it to exert moral authority. This debate explored what more the Commonwealth could do to act on key human rights issues affecting its people, including LGBT rights, the death penalty and forced marriage.
Listen to the event in full:
An Address by Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP
Tuesday 11 October 2011
The Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell MP, spoke last night at the Royal Commonwealth Society on the prominence of the Commonwealth in the UK government's priorities for development.
Mr. Mitchell told the audience that the UK government is 'significantly increasing the amount of money spent in Commonwealth countries.' In the 2009/10 spending year 35% of DfID's bilateral aid spending was targeted at Commonwealth countries, and this will grow to 56% for 2013-14. Fourteen out of twenty-seven countries identified as a priority for future help and development are Commonwealth countries, with Pakistan and Bangladesh set to become the biggest recipients of UK aid.
Mr Mitchell explained this is partly because so many Commonwealth countries remain very poor. Just as important is the Commonwealth's priorities and proven record on promoting democracy and strengthening economic growth resonate so strongly with the values of DfID and of the UK government.
The Royal Commonwealth Society invited students from Mulberry School for Girls in East London to attend. Andrew Mitchell met each student, and answered their questions during the event on whether or not aid should be withdrawn from countries that still use the death penalty.
Our Lady of Alice Bhatti
Monday 10 October 2011
On Monday 10th October the Royal Commonwealth Society hosted the South Asian Literature Festival for a special event to launch Commonwealth Prize-winning author Mohammed Hanif's book, Our Lady of Alice Bhatti.
Mohammed Hanif discussed his latest work and read from the book, in conversation with journalist, author and broadcaster Sarfraz Manzoor.
Will the Arab Spring be followed by an African Winter?
Monday 3 October 2011
Held jointly with St. Andrews Alumni Club this event looked at whether recent uprisings south of the Sahara have the potential to ignite in the same way that they have in the Arab world. A largely optimistic panel felt that whilst there were certain areas where protest may escalate, economic growth, progress on Millennium Development Goals and successful peaceful transfer of power in countries like Zambia and Ghana are indications that an African Winter is unlikely.
The panellists were:
Professor Myles Wickstead CBE: Open University, former Head of the Secretariat for the Commission for Africa, former British Ambassador to Ethiopia and St Andrews graduate
Mr Thom Chiumia: Editor of the Nyasa Times, Coordinator of the Malawi Diaspora Forum
Mr Iain Ferguson CBE: Chairman of the Wilton Park Board and Advisory Council, former Chief Executive of Tate and Lyle plc and St Andrews graduate
H.E. Ernest Rwamucyo: High Commissioner of Rwanda to the United Kingdom
UK Objectives for CHOGM: civil society matters
Thursday 29th September 2011
On Thursday 29th September, Lord Howell, Commonwealth Minister at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office set out the UK government's agenda for the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in front of an audience of UK civil society representatives at The Royal Commonwealth Society.
Lord Howell emphasised the importance the UK government places on the Commonwealth and how they are 'seeking to maximise it's potential and invigorate the Commonwealth network.'
He went on to state that the UK strongly believed that the recommendations of the Eminent Peron's Group (EPG) and Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) must be accepted. He placed particular emphasis on the EPG's proposals and said the government thinks it 'absolutely essential' that their recommendation for a new Commonwealth Charter, and appointment of a Commissioner for Democracy, the Rule of Law, and Human Rights are implemented.
Lord Howell took questions from the audience, addressing a number of topics relating to the UK government's agenda at the Heads of Government meeting. When asked about South Sudan, he was very clear that the UK supported their bid to join the Commonwealth. On the question over the future for Zimbabwe and the Commonwealth, he answered that he was living for the day that Zimbabwe is welcomed back, though believing that the lead for this will come from SADC. He commented on the issue of human rights in Commonwealth, particularly around forced marriage and LGBT rights, and the audience was told that the UK 'will actively support human rights defenders when fighting for their rights in Commonwealth countries' with the caveat that 'members don't want to be lectured or imposed on–¦there is a balance between making a case and imposing.'
When asked on the debate surrounding Sri Lanka hosting the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, Lord Howell answered that whilst Sri Lanka 'certainly hasn't got it's house in order' with continued pressure on them to conform to the principles and values of the Commonwealth, he didn't see why it shouldn't yield results and lead to a successful Heads of Government Meeting in two years time.
Climate Change and the Commonwealth: building global resilience
Thursday 15 September 2011
On Thursday 15th September, Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham MP addressed an audience at the Royal Commonwealth Society with a speech on climate change and the Commonwealth ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October 2011.
Mr Bellingham spoke to attendees on the importance of the challenges posed by climate change to the UK and the Commonwealth and emphasised the importance of trade, entrepreneurship political will and global cooperation as crucial to the success of the climate change project.
"For many islands in the Commonwealth, climate change presents an existential threat, one that cannot be undone–¦ Climate change will –" and is –" already hitting the poorest hardest. We have an emerging understanding of the problem we face, but not yet a consensus on how best to tackle it."
"CHOGM is the place where we must continue the Commonwealth conversation on climate change–¦The Commonwealth network carries weight when it speaks together."
Mr. Bellingham was joined by Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, UK Climate and Energy Security Envoy, Amanda Alsop, Acting Head of International Climate Change Negotiations at DECC, and Vivien Life, Head of the Climate Change and Energy Group to answer questions from the audience.
Heritage of The Commonwealth
Monday 12 September 2011
On Monday 13th September the Royal Commonwealth Society hosted an event with the Commonwealth Countries League to support their Education Fund (sponsoring girls of ability through secondary school.)
The event included an address by Stuart Mole (Chair of The Roundtable journal and former director of the Royal Commonwealth Society), available to download here; a Commonwealth Pageant and an auction of cricket bats signed by World Cup teams.
RCS Members' Afternoon Tea at The House of Lords
Monday 18th July 2011
More than one hundred RCS Members and their guests came together for the annual afternoon tea and strawberries on the terrace of the House of Lords.
In his opening address, Lord Popat of Harrow, hosting the afternoon tea in place of Baroness Prashar of Runnymede (RCS President), touched upon his Commonwealth heritage having been brought up in Uganda before moving to the United Kingdom at a young age.
Once the tea was served, guest of honour and speaker, Ms Diane Abbott MP, spoke passionately and candidly on the Commonwealth theme for the year, 'Women as Agents of Change', as well as reflecting on her own family's heritage in Smithville, Jamaica, before answering questions. Diane Abbott stated, 'the Commonwealth has a potential and a role that people in British politics have to rediscover, reinforce and reinvigorate.'
South Sudan: The Birth Pains of a New Nation
Friday 8 July 2011
On the eve of South Sudanese independence, the RCS held an event on the uncertain future that faces this emerging democracy and how the Commonwealth can assist in alleviating its struggle to establish itself as an independent state. As stated by RCS Associate Director, Patrick Wintour, the event was intended as a positive response to South Sudanese Vice President, Riek Machar's speech to the RCS International Branch Meeting in May 2011 where he stated:
"Membership of the Commonwealth would assist us greatly in meeting all our goals and I hope that one day soon we will be welcomed into this family of nations."
The event was held in partnership with Skills for Southern Sudan, a charity working to build the capacity of government and civil society organisations within South Sudan.
The panel, chaired by Patrick Wintour, Associate Director of the RCS, incldued:
Chuks Ihekaibeya: Independent consultant on South Sudan Development Plan. Formerly a member of the Commonwealth Secretariat, first as an aide in the Private Office of the Commonwealth Secretary General and later in the Political Affairs Division.
"For the Commonwealth, opening their doors to South Sudan provides an opportunity to renew itself. It is an opportunity for it to be visible, but more than that the opportunity of reminding itself what it stands for. The Commonwealth is known for being a transformative agent. Here the Commonwealth will join in the process of shifting South Sudan from the manacles of the past to a greater future."
Click here to read Chuk's full speech to The Royal Commonwealth Society.
Wol Ariec: UK ChargÃ© d'Affaires for South Sudan.
"We want to come to word with open arms and open hands. We want to be inhabitants of the world."
Sekina Dario: Trustee of Skills for Southern Sudan. Sekina worked as a radio producer and presenter with the Sudan Council of Churches Radio Studio, and was an active member of Women Law and Development in Sudan.
"At Skills we will help people to train, acquire knowledge, and develop their capacity. We need all your help. Be there for us."
Zimbabwe: Prospects for Commonwealth Engagement
Thursday 30 June 2011
A panel discussion on what is arguably the Commonwealth's most emotive issue, Zimbabwe. The panellists, listed below, discussed the prospects for Commonwealth engagement with Zimbabwe. The discussion revolved around when, and how, the Commonwealth could re-engage with the country that severed ties with it in 2003, what benefits would there be for Zimbabwe from such engagement, and to what extent the country would welcome such efforts.
The panel included:
His Excellency Matthew Neuhaus: Australia's Ambassador to Zimbabwe and a former Director of the Political Affairs Division, Commonwealth Secretariat.
"I've arrived as an ambassador there, but I would be delighted to leave as a High Commissioner."
"The time has come in my view for Prime Minister Tsvangirai to be received on his next visit to London in Marlborough House as the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, a country very interested in the Commonwealth."
"There needs to be concerted Commonwealth effort of engagement with a spectrum of leadership in Zimbabwe, in particular the young new emerging leadership."
Chipo Chung: a theatre and television actress, best known for her role in the BBC's Dr Who. She is also the UK Coordinator of Envision Zimbabwe.
"The Commonwealth has been really important in making us, as Diasporans, that we are part of a global community and a global family. I'm not sure if the same can be said for the people on the ground, whether they feel that same solidarity and connection with a wider international community."
"There's so much learning that we could have on how parliament works, how local government works, how civil society has been developing in other Commonwealth countries–¦"
Stephen Chan OBE: Professor of International Relations at SOAS in London and author of Robert Mugabe: A Life of Power and Violence and Citizen of Africa: Conversations with Morgan Tsvangirai.
"Official Commonwealth could speak with a stronger voice–¦ it may be too late at this stage to interject. What is going to make a key difference–¦ is not the Commonwealth as an official organisation, but individual commonwealth members, particularly the SADC members, particularly other African Union members?"
"Why not in the modus operandi of UN Secretary-General appoint a special representative of the Commonwealth Secretary-General, why not send in someone like Emeka Anyaoku to see what the land might lie like?"
Building an Alliance of the Middle Way in Pakistan: Toward a Secure and Stable FutureTuesday 21st June 2011
Held jointly with The Radical Middle Way, this high level seminar focused on the future of the Pakistan nation and efforts to promote stability.
The panel included:
Abdul-Rehman Malik: a former contributing editor of Q-news, Abdul-Rehman has been Radical Middle Way's Programme's Manager since 2005. Abdul-Rehman will present the headline findings from Radical Middle Way's two-year counter-extremism project in Pakistan.
'We have to reach out to people... ordinary people will condemn murder, see violence as the antithesis to Islam...'
Anatol Lieven: a long-term policy analyst and critically acclaimed author of the 2011 book 'Pakistan: A Hard Country'
'American policy has been the greatest asset of extremists.'
Baroness Kishwer Falkner: a Liberal Democrat peer and Co-Chair of the Party's Parliamentary Policy Committee on International Affairs.
'Single key factor... democratization of the Arab world and the loosening of the Saudi Wahabist grip.'
Richard Fyjis-Walker CMG, CVO: a former diplomat and UK Ambassador to Pakistan. He also served as British Ambassador to Sudan and worked for the FCO in Ankara, Washington and New York. On his retirement he chaired the Commonwealth Institute and is now Hon. Vice President of the UK's Pakistan Society.
'First challenge is... persuading hard men, through dialogue, that open society and fair economy is in their interest.'
You can watch a video of the event below.