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Correspondence: 2011 so far – where does the Commonwealth fit?
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Correspondence: 2011 so far – where does the Commonwealth fit?

The Commonwealth must prove its purpose in an ever evolving international system, writes Joshua Hamlet, a 23-year-old from San Fernando, Trinidad & Tobago.

It is a major understatement to say that 2011 has been eventful, but in case you were either in a coma or under a rock here is a briefing so far:

Revolution in the Arab world, the secession of southern Sudan, natural disasters, presidential elections in Haiti, and, finally, continuing debate on global economic progress.

In just over two months, 2011 has blown analysts’ socks off. But amid the cacophony of world-changing events where does the Commonwealth fit into the puzzle? If we do at all.

Thus I present three indicators which can guide the young political enthusiast, especially with an interest in understanding the Commonwealth

1. The  status and foreign policy of the world powers – US, UK, Germany and BRIC countries

Major changes in the political and economic agenda of these nations inevitably affect the Commonwealth. Amongst the 54 member states in the Commonwealth, the true influence makers are the UK, Canada and India. Thus the association is not packed with influential states.

In the context of sweeping austerity measures in Europe, budget deficits in the US and the increasing power of China, it is wise for the Commonwealth to understand the tides of the international system. The Commonwealth must prove its purpose in an ever evolving international system where many multilateral organizations are fading into the background.

2. Did the Commonwealth achieve its goals for the first decade of the new millennium?

There is no definite answer as there were important strides in youth involvement and advocacy within the first decade. The continued spread of democratic freedom, economic and social development through combining global best practices with grassroots experience is vital to the Commonwealth.

Through reformation of its three inter-governmental organisations it has addressed development issues. On the flip side however, its diminishing importance as well as its lack of military power or ability to sanction makes the organisation almost defunct in major global events.

3. The Commonwealth and the civil uprising in the Arab World.

If the twentieth century focused on the Western world, it is clear that the lens is heading towards the East. The Commonwealth has an investment in Africa as 19 of its 54 member states are a part of the continent. Therefore with major uprisings in the Northern African belt and the secession of Sudan, the political stability of Africa is vital to the Commonwealth.

These civil revolutions are double edged swords – they open spaces for democracy and free populations from autocratic rule. But they leave the nation in economic and political unrest.

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