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YOCOMM EDITORIAL
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WHY PRINCE CHARLES DESERVES TO BE THE NEXT HEAD OF THE COMMONWEALTH
 

This year’s CHOGM 2018 in London is particularly significant as it has reignited the perennial debate as to whether Prince Charles will become the Head of the Commonwealth following Her Majesty the Queen. Unlike the throne, the title of Head of Commonwealth role is not automatically inherited. Succession as Head of Commonwealth is clearly a matter for the leaders of the 53 Commonwealth Nations to determine and arrive at consensus. There has been speculation that wider governance considerations have already been discussed by a committee, and is expected to be discussed when the Commonwealth leaders gather for the Windsor Castle retreat .

 

The unifying factor of the Commonwealth countries is their historical link with Britain, initially with Empire, subsequently transformed into the “British Commonwealth of Nations”, and thereafter into the ‘Modern Commonwealth”. Since the signing of the London Declaration in1949, the position has formed part of the monarch’s title. When the Queen inherited the throne from her father King George VI in 1952, she also became Head of the Commonwealth and queen regnant of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon. She is head of state and reigning constitutional monarch of over 15 Commonwealth countries including: Jamaica, New Zealand, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu.

 

The Queen has been personally very committed to the Commonwealth, and has dedicated her life loyally to the values it espouses. The Queen as Head of the Commonwealth - in an entirely distinct role to that of Constitutional monarch- essentially nurtured the contemporary Commonwealth . Her commitment and dedication to the service of the people of the Commonwealth, and to the values it espouses, is probably her greatest legacy. That the concept of Commonwealth survives, and thrives, is due, predominantly, to the Queen. She has travelled the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, and has done everything to ensure its survival, and its evolution. During her reign, and tenure of 66 years as the Head of the Commonwealth, she has seen it gradually transform from an anachronistic institution rooted in memories of a glorious past, to a vibrant and dynamic global network of multicultural diversity.

 

The Queen’s presence as Head has been the Commonwealth glue that binds a diverse group of people, and their cultures, varying enormously in scale of populations, GDP, Per capita income, literacy rates, health indices; educational and other socioeconomic indices.

 

As we look towards the future, it is salutary to note that at CHOGM 2015 in Malta, the Queen told Commonwealth leaders she could not “wish to have been better supported and represented in the Commonwealth than by the Prince of Wales, who continues to give so much to it with great distinction”. Prince Charles’ interests in his own philanthropic activities have resonance with many commonwealth imperatives, and his visits across 42 of the 53 Commonwealth Countries over the years, demonstrate the synergy of his own interests with those of the Commonwealth Nations, and is testimony to his personal commitment .

 

He has been someone who has been willing to stand up and be counted, and that has of course has earned him both respect and opprobrium, and some occasionally vituperative criticism. Yet he has been willing to accept it, and several of his ideas including his passion for the environment have subsequently been demonstrated to be a few years ahead of their time.

 

He has demonstrated his deep interest in sustainable development throughout his visits in the Commonwealth, including the Iwokrama rainforest reserve in Guyana in 2000; and Brunei in during his work with the Youth Business Trust ; St Lucia and Jamaica in 2008, promoting environmental protection, Youth opportunity and sustainable development; in Uganda in 2009, being involved with sustainable development ; projects in the Korup National Park of Cameroon in 1990. He has visited Commonwealth countries expressing his solidarity in the aftermath of natural disasters, including Sri Lanka in 2005 following the Tsunami; Antigua and Barbuda , and Dominica in 2017, following the Hurricane; and this year, Vanuatu, following the Cyclone.

 

He represented the Queen at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2013 in Sri Lanka; attended the CHOGM 2015 in Malta; and the CHOGM 2007 in Uganda. He represented the Queen at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, and the 2010 Commonwealth games in India. He had previously attended the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand in 1974, and in Jamaica in 1966.

 

From a trade facilitation perspective, he has represented the Commonwealth Development Cooperation visiting several Commonwealth countries including Malawi and Kenya in 1987, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana in 1984 as a Director of CDC . His pan-Commonwealth visits have included Australia, Canada, Malta, India , regional visits to Singapore , Malaysia, Brunei and India, in 2017; joint visits to Swaziland ,South Africa and Lesotho in 1997;Cyprus in 1986; St Kitts and Nevis 1973;Ghana 2108; Nigeria 2006;Pakistan 2006 ; Trinidad and Tobago in 2000 and 2008;; Zambia 1984; Zimbabwe 1980; Bangladesh in 1997. He has also represented the Queen at several Independence Day celebrations of Commonwealth countries including Fiji in 1970; The Bahamas 1973; Papua New Guinea in 1975; Brunei in 1984; Sri Lanka in 1998; and Tanzania 2011.

 

He himself states that “It is the fascinating diversity which exists across and within the 53 member countries—from which I have learnt so much on the many visits I have made throughout the Commonwealth during the last 64 years—which is what makes this family of nations quite unlike any other and which, I happen to think, is its greatest strength.”

 

He has had a deep and personal involvement with over 20 Charities, constituting the Prince’s Trust, many of which espouse similar values and resonate with contemporary commonwealth imperatives. He has been a passionate advocate for those who are often marginalized, and his Charities have supported institutions which are underfunded, and provide sustainable impact for the future . These include “Youth Business International “, a global network , helping young people to start their own business; the “Prince’s Initiative for Mature enterprise”, assisting those over 50 through sustainable self-employment; initiatives on the built environment; the “Programme for Sustainable Leadership” , an international, cross-industry forum for sustainable business; “In kind Direct” to redistribute surplus goods to people in need; the “Prince’s foundation for Building Community”, placing community engagement at the heart of its work. The focus is often with the aim of “a hand up rather than a handout”. For example his “British Asian Trust” has concentrated its funding on the differently-abled, mental health, women’s empowerment, education, and enterprise, and supports several initiatives to assist and achieve impact. It aims to bridge the gap between South Asian Commonwealth countries, and the diaspora in the UK, providing that quintessential link between Commonwealth and Britain.

 

Looking to the future, the value of the concept of Commonwealth and the model of CHOGM is that it provides an opportunity for each Country, irrespective of scale or power, to come together as equals. A political leader, however would find it a challenge as Head of the Commonwealth to remain independent whilst concomitantly commanding the unanimous support of all Commonwealth countries, for the simple reason that they are political, and their remit therefore is necessarily and primarily driven by their constituents, and their Nation.

 

The value therefore of a member of the Royal family as Head of the Commonwealth, is that they are apolitical and not involved in the diverse and sometimes divisive politics around Commonwealth Heads of Government deliberations; Commonwealth Foreign MinIsters Meetings; or around the Marlborough House Boardroom of 53 Governors, or the Commonwealth desks of their respective Countries with differing priorities; or indeed the CMAG Meetings when serious issues arise in member states.

 

The imperative is that the Head of the Commonwealth should espouse the same values, have a respect for the diversity of all the peoples of the Commonwealth, have a commitment for the Commonwealth and its network, and a demonstrable track record and interest in the rich tapestry of Commonwealth Culture, Heritage, Values. For, as Amartya Sen alluded to, in the “Munyonyo Statement on respect and understanding”, it is only “when we respect each other’s diversity, that we give each other dignity, and it is only when we give each other dignity that we ensure a truly longlasting and sustainable peace within our Countries.”

 

The compelling imperative is that the Head should be deeply and passionately committed to making an impact in the lives of the ordinary citizens of the Commonwealth. They should be prepared to be a voice for the voiceless, to support the marginalized, the underprivileged, to create impact, to achieve socioeconomic equality, and to assist in bringing the smaller and weaker nations, its children, an equal place in this Commonwealth family. This will ensure the Commonwealth is both relevant and contemporary, and ensure its continuing transition from rhetoric to reality, and a sustainable future. In that context, Prince Charles has a proven track record, and deserves the opportunity to be that voice.

 

Dr.Chris Nonis 

February 2018

   
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