Monday 9 April 2018
The Commonwealth Parliamentarians Forum was a platform for me to meet key decision-makers and influencers concerning the things that matter in the world we live in. Although each representative faced different challenges and obstacles, it was powerful to see that everyone was aligned with a common objective of making the world a better place through progressive change for the present and future.
These productive and inspirational four days resulted in us devising concrete, specific visions in addressing these complex challenges leading up to CHOGM. The aim is to establish some priority areas and measurable actions for the future of the Commonwealth and beyond. Through listening to the seminars, debates, and various perspectives, I came to realise that the Commonwealth as a whole is necessary in order to make significant progress within the realms of prosperity, security, sustainability, and fairness. However, progress and development have been uneven, with improvements often concentrated in some areas more than others, causing frustrations and conflicting opinions on ways to find solutions.
As a youth delegate, sustainability is the theme that resonates the most with me. It focuses on living in harmony with the world around us, driving innovation without compromising our way of life. Given that more than 60% of the 2 billion plus Commonwealth population are under 30 years of age, we need to ensure we are living in an environment that the next generation can cultivate through social and economic development coupled with environmental protection. If done right, security, prosperity, and fairness will follow as by-products.
One key action that needs to be done following the Forum is establishing a concrete system which encourages and measures the implementation of the plans discussed and agreed upon, with regular check-ins. The general consensus seemed to be that the voluntary framework of the Commonwealth means member countries and MPs are not held accountable for poor execution, and therefore the time it takes to progress and achieve the outlined objectives is delayed. This system can be carried out by an impartial organisation, which will work with the governments of each member country to ensure they are on track.
I seek to use this experience and newfound knowledge to build awareness amongst my peers about the Commonwealth and its key themes, working alongside the other youth delegates to ensure that youth are at the forefront of discussions and policies made by influential parliamentarians. I have already connected with the youth Commonwealth alumni and will continuously work with them towards creating a sustainable, secure, prosperous, and fair future for all.
-Sinead Rose, UK
In an age of complexity, the Commonwealth is an enigma. As a relatively large organisation with 53 member states, it possesses immense ability to exert power and dominance. Thus far, it has only exercised soft power, leading to the misperception that it is a ‘sleeping giant’. Nevertheless, in order to fully utilise the strength of the Commonwealth, we must not be cynical.
We have to remember that our world is fast-paced and constantly changing, and likewise, the Commonwealth’s values and commitments promoted in the Charter of the Commonwealth need to be constantly re-evaluated, altered, and enhanced. To quote a delegate, “Our Charter is like a living document. Like trees, sometimes the leaves need to be trimmed, and sometimes the branches have to be allowed to grow.”
At the same time, the Charter is only words on paper. It can only espouse broad values, whereas its relevance and execution relies on people. The Forum provides a great platform to share and exchange ideas between member states, and the opportunity to hold ourselves accountable to what we want to achieve. It is essential we grasp such advantages and increase participation and representation of various stakeholders in such crucial conversations.
Forum speaker Tong Yee reminded us of an African Proverb in his session, ‘The Commonwealth Body – Re-imagining the sum of all our parts’: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I think this is highly symbolic of the relationship between Commonwealth countries today. As the scale of challenges the world faces grows larger and more people are implicated in the process, we need to grow tighter as an organisation. We need to remember that our strongest commonality lies in our core—being human.
In an uncertain future, it is more important to be sincere than to be right. It is impossible to ever be right, for there is no right. To respond to both current and future threats, the Commonwealth must become more credible, capable, and relevant, by taking concrete steps to achieve its objectives.
We have to start learning to put people and the planet first. I hope we start today.
-Lorraine Ge, Singapore