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Philip Parham

UK Commonwealth Envoy, former British Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates

17th April 2019 London, UK

The Commonwealth: towards a common future

This time last year, 46 Heads of Government and 49 Foreign Ministers gathered in London for the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Formally opened on 19 April by HM The Queen, this was the largest summit of its kind our country has ever hosted.

Ahead of the formal conference, a whole series of discussion forums brought together businesses, parliamentarians, women and young people, to discuss the kinds of actions we would need to take collectively to build a fairer, more sustainable, more prosperous, more secure future for us all.

Leaders made commitments to tackle a range of issues, from preserving our oceans and enhancing our cyber security, to boosting trade and investment between Commonwealth countries.

As Commonwealth Chair-in-Office, the UK has committed £500m funding to projects and programmes which will help to fulfil these commitments. And as a mark of the UK’s ongoing commitment to the Commonwealth, we are opening nine new diplomatic missions in Commonwealth countries.

A year on from that conference, and 10 months into my role as the UK’s Commonwealth Envoy, I have been reflecting on what we have achieved together so far, across our ‘connected Commonwealth’.  Here are just some examples:

A fairer future

  • 12 leaders of the “Platform for Girls Education” are championing 12 years of quality education for all. Their first report has identified measures to tackle barriers to girls receiving the quality of education they deserve
  • More than 425 reports, case studies and toolkits are now available through the Equality and Justice Project, to create fairer and more inclusive societies for women, girls and LGBT individuals in Commonwealth countries.
  • To support women’s political leadership we brought together 100 participants across Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India to create a space to discuss women’s inclusion in politics.
  • 2000 student leaders have been trained in the essentials of the ethics and practices of parliamentary practices across Ghana.
  • The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has issued updated Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures.

A more sustainable future

  • Nine member state action groups, led by 12 countries, have been formed under the Commonwealth Blue Charter.
  • 25 countries have joined the action group led by Vanuatu and the UK to tackle marine plastic pollution – the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance.
  • 17 Small Island States are working as part of the Commonwealth Marine Economies Programme to map and use their marine economies sustainably.
  • Four new Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarships will boost the Commonwealth Climate Resistance Network.
  • UK funding is supporting the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub, and helping the Global Centre for Disaster Resilience provide specific assistance to Commonwealth members in the Caribbean.

A more prosperous future

  • Through the Commonwealth SheTrades programme, 842 women-owned businesses in Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria have received training and support that is increasing their capacity to trade internationally.
  • 39 countries have joined the Commonwealth Standards Network, to adopt and implement international standards, and increase collaboration between national regulatory bodies, which will facilitate intra-Commonwealth trade and investment.
  • Under the leadership of South Africa and the UK, 19 countries are collaborating in the digital strand of the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda, to help create a more enabling environment for digital trade across the Commonwealth.

A more secure future

  • As part of one of the commitments of the Commonwealth Cyber Declaration, UK-funded training and events will directly benefit the cyber security of 37 Commonwealth countries.
  • 37 Women Mediators have been recruited from across the Commonwealth (out of a target of 50 by 2020), to ensure women and girls are included in peace processes.
  • 40 parliamentarians from 10 Commonwealth countries have come together to consider how their national legislation to tackle modern slavery can be strengthened.

These programmes span the Commonwealth and connect our people in shared goals. We still have much to do, but we are making tangible progress.

Commonwealth 70th anniversary

In the last ten months, I have met so many inspirational people and groups, from all walks of life in the Commonwealth – Queen’s Young Leaders, Commonwealth Scholars, members of the Commonwealth Youth Council, the Equality & Justice Alliance, the wide-ranging Commonwealth professional associations, and many more.

As the modern Commonwealth marks its 70th anniversary this month, we should celebrate its unity of purpose and principle amidst broad and bountiful diversity – while remaining ambitious about what more it could achieve.

Meeting Queens’ Young Leaders in Seychelles

About Philip Parham

Philip Parham became the UK government’s Envoy to the Commonwealth on 18 June 2018. Previously Philip was Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 2014 until 2018.

Philip Parham became the UK government’s Envoy to the Commonwealth on 18 June 2018. Previously Philip was Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 2014 until 2018.