At primary school, I remember we used to have a large poster of the flags of the Commonwealth on the wall of the classroom. I used to daydream about what kids my age would be doing in those countries – what was their school day like?
Were their teachers nice? Did they also hate sitting down all day and long to get out into the playground and run around (in my case, usually in the rain....). I think this daydreaming is what started me out on my travelling life and, eventually, many years later brought me to Botswana.
March 13 is Commonwealth Day, a day to celebrate the diverse partnership of nations that makes up the modern Commonwealth. From the world’s largest democracy to tiny island nations, we are part of an organisation that spans six continents and 2.4 billion people – one third of the world’s largest population.
It is a unique organisation, and together, if we want to, we can deliver on global issues like no other.
The theme of Commonwealth Day this year is “A Peace-Building Commonwealth”. And this is a role that the Commonwealth is uniquely positioned to play. The spirit of the Commonwealth is in coming together for respectful discussions and debates – even when we disagree.
It allows member States to bring our diverse views and cultures to discuss issues, allowing us all to see things from a much broader point of view. And it doesn’t just discuss global international issues. It also tackles some of the most pressing problems in society. Only last week on International Women’s Day, the Commonwealth launched a new initiative to tackle domestic violence.
The strength of the Commonwealth is also in our similarities. And this brings tangible benefits.
That’s why it’s natural for Botswana to distribute its beef to EU markets via the UK, or to seek the help of British legal and financial professionals on big projects.
Our economies are closely entwined as a result. Strong economies and strong democratic institutions play a crucial role in a peace-building Commonwealth, and is something the UK is keen to see develop further. Over the past weekend, Trade Ministers from Commonwealth countries, including Botswana, met in the UK to create a new vision on trade negotiation, facilitation and finance to increase trade and economic development opportunities between Commonwealth countries.
Greater trade means more prosperity and more jobs for all of us.
As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, a truly Global Britain intends to revisit and reinvigorate old friendships. The UK will be hosting the next Commonwealth Summit in 2018.
The UK is committed to a Commonwealth with a strong and vibrant future, a future created by and for all of the members of this unique family.
A Commonwealth that tackles the issues that matter, from domestic violence through to job creation. Working with Commonwealth partners, we will together create a new vision of a strong and effective Commonwealth and that is truly relevant for the 21st Century.
British High Commissioner to Botswana