The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 56 independent and equal countries. It is home to 2.5 billion people and includes both advanced economies and developing countries. 32 of our members are small states, including many island nations.
All member governments have agreed to shared goals like development, democracy, and peace. Our values and principles are expressed in the Commonwealth Charter.
The Commonwealth’s roots go back to the British Empire. But today any country can join the modern Commonwealth. The last two countries to join the Commonwealth were Gabon and Togo in 2022.
This week, 56 nations spanning five geographical regions, including some of the largest economies on earth as well as the smallest of islands, celebrated their unity of vision and common commitment to peace and justice in an increasingly polarized world.
In London, Commonwealth Day was marked on 13 March with a series of events, including a wreath-laying ceremony in memory of fallen Commonwealth servicemen and women, followed by a special service at Westminster Abbey and a reception for visiting dignitaries hosted at Buckingham Palace.
During the Commonwealth Day Service, His Majesty King Charles III addressed the gathering as Head of the Commonwealth for the first time. Delivering his Commonwealth Day Message from the Great Pulpit, he hailed the “extraordinary potential” of the Commonwealth, stating:
“The Commonwealth has an incredible opportunity, and responsibility, to create a genuinely durable future – one that offers the kind of prosperity that is in harmony with Nature and that will also secure our unique and only planet for generations to come. “The myriad connections between our nations have sustained and enriched us for more than seven decades. Our commitment to peace, progress and opportunity will sustain us for many more.”
Pakistan is among the 56 independent countries that make up the Commonwealth in Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe, and the Pacific. It joined the Commonwealth in 1947 and re-entered it again in 1989 after leaving the fold in 1972. Pakistan is an active member and has been contributing a lot.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar led the Pakistan delegation to the 22nd Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Minister Meeting (CFAMM) held on 15 March 2023 in London. She also represented Pakistan at the Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey and the reception hosted by Secretary General Commonwealth at Buckingham Palace.
The agenda focused on enhancing the resilience of Commonwealth countries, recognizing the concurrent crises and challenges faced by many members such as climate change, the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, and spiraling food and energy costs, which pose risks to peace and stability.
Addressing the gathered Ministers, the Commonwealth Secretary-General Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC said:
“We have shown again this week that our Commonwealth Family is unique in the world: bound by our special blend of shared interests, practical advantages, and shared values. We are strengthened by our diversity, and united in our commitment to our Commonwealth Charter.
“As we celebrate the Charter’s tenth anniversary, we can renew our commitment to the vision it expresses: for a fairer, more equitable, more peaceful, and sustainable world rooted in democracy, justice, and human rights.
“And we can take confidence in the firm foundation it provides us: to face the challenges of today and seize the opportunities of the future.”
At the CFAMM, the Minister of State presented Pakistan’s perspective on global and regional developments and their implications for developing countries including Pakistan. She called on the Commonwealth to take the lead in developing a new fiscally responsible model for sustainable development that addresses the issues of existing debt burden.
The Minister of State outlined the importance of international collaboration on climate change and the availability of significant, additional, and predictable financial resources for climate adaptation and mitigation. She also called for early operationalization of the ‘Loss and Damage Fund’ and associated arrangements.
The CFAMM endorsed, inter alia, the initiative by the Board of Governors to modernize the Commonwealth, with the establishment of three working groups on reforms; administration and program; and finance. Pakistan in its capacity as Vice Chair of the Board of Governors would be leading the working group on administration and program.
On the sidelines of Commonwealth events, the Minister of State met with UK Minister of State for Development Andrew Mitchell, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of Ghana Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka M.U.M. Ali Sabry, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign and Diaspora Affairs of Kenya Dr. Alfred Mutua, Canadian Parliamentary Secretary to the Foreign Minister MP Robert Oliphant, and Secretary General Commonwealth Patricia Scotland.
Pakistan has been playing a pivotal role in international affairs and participates in all international forums.