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The Commonwealth Factor
Introduction by Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Commonwealth Secretary-General  introducing some of the world leaders in Commonwealth and European History
CHOGM (1997)
The full text of the Edinburgh Communiqué
Member Countries
Commonwealth countries' demographic data
Commonwealth Network
Official organisations and NGOs listed by activity
What's New?
News and press releases from around the Commonwealth language course
The Commonwealth Business Forum
Sponsor's Pages
Index of international Sponsors
For marketing and promotional opportunities on this site, please e-mail David Jenkins.
To purchase copies of the Commonwealth Yearbook, please use the
Order Form (in PDF format) or
Susan Nicholas. For international builders London look for distribution information, check the Distributors page.
Standard contact details for Hanson Cooke listed below.

Hanson Cooke Ltd, Jordan House, 47 Brunswick Place, London N1 6EB, Britain
Tel:+44 (0)171 750 5000 Fax:+44 (0)171 750 5010

Hanson Cooke's publications cover geo-political, technical and related issues. An overview of their contents are available at these sites. The Commonwealth Yearbook
Global Communications

The Commonwealth Factor 2015
Introduction by Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Commonwealth Secretary-General
CHOGM (1997)
The full text of the Edinburgh Communiqué
Member Countries
Commonwealth countries' demographic data Commonwealth Network
Official organisations and NGOs listed by activity
What's New?
The Commonwealth Business Forum
Sponsor's Pages
Index of international Sponsors
For marketing and promotional opportunities on this site, please e-mail David Jenkins.
To purchase copies of the Commonwealth Yearbook, please use the Order Form (in PDF format) or
email Susan Nicholas. For international distribution information, check the Distributors page.
Standard contact details for Hanson Cooke listed below.
Hanson Cooke Ltd, Jordan House, 47 Brunswick Place, London N1 6EB, Britain
Tel:+44 (0)171 750 5000 Fax:+44 (0)171 750 5010


Commonwealth Yearbook 2015
The Commonwealth Factor
Introduction by Chief Emeka Anyaoku,
Commonwealth Secretary-General
As I write before 2015 has come to its end, I may be tempting fate to anticipate the remaining weeks, but of one thing there can be no doubt:1997 has been an eventful year for the Commonwealth.
For many Commonwealth countries, it was a year of strong growth; for some, it brought the first fruits of success after long struggle. But for others, 1997 brought new uncertainty, and for an unfortunate few, sorrow or even tragedy.

The adversities this extraordinary year has delivered were, in several instances, truly cruel. I think here particularly of the people of Montserrat who, assisted by Britain and their Caribbean neighbours, struggled to recreate their society after the devastating volcanic eruptions of 1996, only to be struck again in June 1997 by even greater eruptions which destroyed their capital and swallowed most of their productive agricultural land. Soufrière turned many of them into refugees, and left others with the daunting task of rebuilding out of ash and rubble. I am glad that the Commonwealth, both bilaterally and collectively, has quickly moved to provide practical assistance and resources for that important task.

Tragedy has been no less for Sierra Leone:after years of a horribly destructive civil war, hope was reborn in February 1996 with democratic elections, and a subsequent peace treaty which promised the end to civil war and international support for reconstruction. Within fifteen months of the democratic transition, this was snuffed out by a military coup. For the people of Sierra Leone, after a brief dawn of hope, society has been thrown back into war and chaos. The military regime has been roundly condemned by the Commonwealth and the wider international community. In October 1997, at their summit in Edinburgh, Commonwealth Heads of Government confirmed their suspension of that regime from the councils of the Commonwealth and made it clear that the Commonwealth will stand by Sierra Leone, firmly committed to democracy and human rights, and to the restoration of the legitimate government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah.

In Nigeria, suspended from the Commonwealth since November 1995, the programme for a return to democracy has been uncertain. The continued existence of a military government is, in the words of Commonwealth Heads of Government, a ‘prime source of Commonwealth concern’. So is the Nigerian Government’s failure to observe fundamental human rights, and the continued detention and imprisonment of many Nigerians, including Chief Moshood Abiola and General Olusegun Obasanjo. Consequently, Commonwealth Heads of Government decided at their meeting in October 1997 that Nigeria should remain suspended from the Commonwealth. They also empowered the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to invoke Commonwealth-wide implementation of a package of sanctions before 1 October 1998, if it believed that these would encourage greater integrity in the process of transition and respect for human rights in Nigeria. After this period, CMAG is to assess whether genuine democracy and civilian government have been restored. If not, further measures, which could include expulsion from the Commonwealth and (in consultation with other members of the international community) global sanctions, may follow.

Papua New Guinea also passed through some political turbulence in 1997, and I was glad to have been of assistance, through my good offices, in helping to restore stability and hold peaceful elections. The resumption of the Bougainville peace process offers promise that peace and reconciliation may be attainable after seven years of conflict. The Commonwealth, as before, stands ready to assist.

For the small Caribbean countries dependent on agricultural exports, 1997 struck two cruel blows. Many small farmers were hit by plant disease; at the same time US and Latin American plantation banana producers successfully challenged the tariff regime which allows the Caribbean producers preferential terms under the Lomé Agreement. Banana exports to Europe from such Commonwealth countries as Dominica and St Lucia are a small proportion of the total trade, but for those countries, they are essential to their economic survival.National bereavement brought sorrow to Guyana, Jamaica, Britain and India in 1997. Guyanese President Cheddi Jagan, who died suddenly in March, achieved a great deal during his short period of leadership. The death of Michael Manley was more than the loss of a long-serving and distinguished democrat and leader of Jamaica; Manley’s call for international co-operation for global economic justice over a quarter of a century made him one of the great intellectual leaders of the developing world. Britain was consumed by an outpouring of public grief after the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales. As South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela put it, we shall remember her as the Princess who cared for sufferers – the victims of land-mines, AIDS, leprosy and poverty.

Only a week later India, and many across the world, were mourning the death of the much-loved Mother Teresa. The tiny nun who, through her lifetime of devotion to the poorest, the despairing and the dying, had so powerfully asserted that the value of every human soul is infinite, received a State Funeral – an unprecedented event for someone with no official position and no power except her appeal to conscience.The return of Hong Kong to China as a Special Administrative Region was the culmination of long preparation, and the Commonwealth wishes both partners well. Hong Kong was an active participant in many Commonwealth activities and supported a host of Commonwealth non-governmental organisations. I have encouraged all concerned to retain those linkages where possible, and am delighted by the reassurance I have now received from the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Mr Tung Chee Hwa, in that respect.

On the economic front, there were many positive developments. Foreign investors finally turned their attention to the long-neglected countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Uganda and Mozambique, the one still rebuilding after the destructiveness of Idi Amin’s rule and the other only recently liberated from devastating civil war, became magnets for private investment. The burgeoning of regional organisations devoted to increasing trade and economic co-operation outstripped expectation. The Southern African Development Community and Caribbean groupings have raised their sights, while newer bodies such as the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative and D8 grouping of Islamic developing countries have arisen to help their members benefit from the growth and increasing globalisation of trade.

On the political level, 1997 has, in the vast majority of Commonwealth countries, been a period of deepening and strengthening democracy. In late 1996 and through 1997, elections in almost a score of countries have shown the power and clarity of the people’s voice. In Malta, Pakistan, Britain and St Lucia, the electorate chose new leaders, and new policies. In New Zealand and India they brought in coalition governments. Some of these elections (in 1997 in Pakistan, Cameroon, Papua New Guinea and Guyana) were held with Commonwealth observers present. Democracy may have faltered in a very few Commonwealth countries; for the vast majority, it is growing in sophistication and vigour.

Democratic reform had a particularly joyful outcome for Fiji in 1997, which was readmitted to membership of the Commonwealth on 1 October, in time for Fiji’s Prime Minister to take his place at the Commonwealth summit in Edinburgh a few weeks later.

Perhaps the clearest sign of the value of Commonwealth membership is that so many new countries seek to join. Among these are Yemen and Rwanda, which have put in formal applications, and the Palestinian National Authority. Commonwealth Heads of Government clarified the criteria for membership at their Edinburgh summit:an applicant country should have had a constitutional association with an existing Commonwealth member, it should comply with Commonwealth values as set out in the Harare Declaration, and it should accept and abide by Commonwealth norms and conventions. The applications from Yemen and Rwanda are to be kept under review in the context of these criteria, and Palestine’s case for membership is to be determined when it attains sovereignty.

The spirit of Harare
The Commonwealth tends generally to get a positive press these days. The old contradictory image of the Commonwealth – as a colonial relic, or as an association which did not live up to its avowed principles – has faded with the newsprint in which it was enshrined. These days the Commonwealth is increasingly exciting global attention and interest as a relevant and dynamic association with a global reach. Much of this is due to the effect of the Harare Commonwealth Declaration, issued by Heads of Government at their meeting in Zimbabwe in 1991, which sought to apply the Commonwealth’s principles to the challenges of the modern world. It promised that Heads of Government would work ‘with renewed vigour’, concentrating particularly on ‘the protection and promotion of the fundamental political values of the Commonwealth’ – democracy, the rule of law, just and honest government, and fundamental human rights for all. The Millbrook Action Programme of 1995 set up mechanisms for the Commonwealth to enforce the Harare principles.
Since Harare, the Commonwealth has assisted several of its member countries to advance from one-party or military rule to multiparty democracy, reform their constitutions, or improve their electoral and wider democratic systems. In the six years between the Harare and Edinburgh summits, the number of one-party or military governments has shrunk from nine to two. Commonwealth observer groups have been present at 23 presidential or parliamentary elections or referenda since the beginning of the 1990s – one third of these in the past two years. The good offices role of the Secretary-General has involved discreet and sensitive discussions with disputing parties in some half-dozen countries; and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group has proved a mechanism for firm Commonwealth action where there are persistent or serious violations of the Harare Declaration.

Emergence of the organic community of states
The Commonwealth has its democratic and developmental priorities defined in the Harare Declaration, but the association is, of course, not alone in its pursuit of these ends. There are growing trends of globalisation in trade, finance, communications and services. The combination of these forces, and growing pressure for sound management to achieve competitiveness, is changing the character of government. The monolithic state is evolving into a more decentralised structure, marked by the separation of powers and functions, and the development of regulatory systems which both link and police these functions, allowing them to collaborate and to a certain extent compete, but keep the whole in balance.
Thus, in both industrialised and developing member countries, the focus has been on multiparty democratic systems, the independence of the judiciary, independent human rights institutions, and the liberalising of economies in an integrated and mutually reinforcing manner. Economic liberalisation now goes beyond the stages of floating currencies, lowering protectionist barriers, privatising state enterprises, setting up stock exchanges and inviting private and foreign investment. Increasingly, we see such developments as independence for central banks, the creation of regulatory bodies to monitor the performance of social institutions, and government-business partnership in developing infrastructure or welfare systems.

There are reasons why the Commonwealth is particularly suited to the role of helping its members adjust to the changing international environment. The association has long prided itself on its flexibility, informality and the depth of its involvement in the life of Commonwealth societies. Its leaders meet regularly at the two-yearly Commonwealth summit; there are also regular meetings of ministers of law, health, education, and ministers responsible for science, youth and women’s affairs. Cabinet secretaries and other senior officials meet biennially. Finance ministers meet each year on the eve of the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and their meetings have provided a launching pad for important Commonwealth initiatives on debt, investment funds and government-business links.

There is, in addition, the web of connections through the meetings of parliamentarians, magistrates and judges, and the host of professional associations. In 1997, for the first time, leaders of Commonwealth commerce and industry met with governments at the Commonwealth Business Forum. At their Edinburgh summit in October, Commonwealth Heads of Government welcomed the recommendations of the Forum, and urged it to continue to meet. They also arranged to set up a Commonwealth Business Council, made up of private sector leaders from different Commonwealth regions. Increasingly, the Commonwealth connection is becoming a multi-directional network.

Furthermore, the association has a traditional involvement in the developmental priorities of its members. Through governments’ voluntary contributions to the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation (CFTC), the Commonwealth has given a quarter-century of practical support for economic and social development, providing expert technical help in virtually every sector. At the international level, the strength of the connection has helped such groups as small Commonwealth states to achieve global recognition of their special needs. In this way, the Commonwealth has been able to contribute significantly to such matters as debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries, reform of the trading system and the quest for equitable Lomé agreements.

This role has been extended in new ventures to help countries attract private investment. The success of the Commonwealth Equity Fund launched in 1990 has paved the way for the Commonwealth Private Investment Initiative (CPII), an innovative vehicle designed to mobilise long-term capital for commercial investment in private business in Commonwealth developing countries. Under the CPII, the Commonwealth Africa Investment Fund and the Kula Fund for the Pacific island countries have been set up. A third for the South Asian region was launched in October 1997, and a fourth for the Caribbean is in an advanced state of preparation.

Yet, after stating all these arguments, there is still something missing:the Commonwealth is more than a mechanism for collaboration, and it consists of more than a Secretariat, meetings and programmes, or investment funds. An ongoing study, part of the initiative which includes the Commonwealth Business Forum, is examining patterns of world trade. Its early results reveal that Commonwealth countries trade with and invest in each other substantially more than they do with comparable non-Commonwealth countries. This is in part historical – Britain has, for example, been the leading investor in Commonwealth Africa since colonial times. But Malaysia’s involvement in South Africa’s telecoms network, and Australia’s in Ghana’s gold mines, are new Commonwealth business links.

These growing and mutually beneficial commercial relations have been made possible by ‘the Commonwealth factor’. The Commonwealth consists of peoples whose connection has deep historical roots, and a long tradition of sharing. The Commonwealth is, as described by the Head of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty The Queen, a family. It is also, to change the metaphor but not the essential concept, a vast and complex network of connections. Ever-greater global interconnectedness is a defining characteristic of our advance into the next millennium and the Commonwealth network – informal, flexible, cost-effective and wide-ranging – is well-placed to play an important role. Although 1997 brought the Commonwealth both good and bad, the trend is most certainly progressive. In the words of a popular 1997 advertisement, we cannot see the future, but we can prepare for it. That 1997 surely did.

© Commonwealth Secretariat

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[ Secretary-General's 1997 Introduction ]
[ Secretary-General's 1998 Introduction ]

Last updated:20 February 1998
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