Monday, March 09, 2009

Commonwealth's 60th anniversary marked by HM the Queen... and in Gibraltar too

The Queen will mark the 60th anniversary of the creation of The Commonwealth when she attends a special service at Westminster Abbey today.

High Commissioners from the 53 Commonwealth nations are also expected to take part in the celebration.

But a poll of UK adults has found its importance to Britons is in decline.

While the YouGov survey suggests many feel warmly towards the Commonwealth, just 35% of 18 to 34-year-olds would be sorry if the UK withdrew.

The research, commissioned by the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS), questioned 2,119 UK adults about their attitudes towards the institution.

Dr Danny Sriskandarajah of the RCS said the 53-member grouping needed to keep "reaching out".

The Queen said the Commonwealth must keep its focus on the young.

In her Commonwealth Day message, she said that it had evolved out of all recognition, representing the rich diversity of humankind but representing shared values of democracy, freedom and human rights.

"Nearly one billion people of today's Commonwealth are under 25 years of age," she said.

"These are the people that this association must continue to serve in the future."

You can listen to HM the Queen's Commonwealth Day message here

Commonwealth Day

Commonwealth Day is the annual celebration of the Commonwealth of Nations held on the second Monday in March. The day is marked by a multi-faith service in Westminster Abbey, normally attended by Queen Elizabeth II who is the Head of the Commonwealth, with the Commonwealth Secretary-General and Commonwealth High Commissioners in London.

The Queen delivers an address to the Commonwealth, broadcast throughout the world. Also, in the year before the quadrennial Commonwealth Games, the Queen starts the Queen's Baton Relay on Commonwealth Day at Buckingham Palace, handing the baton to the first relay runner to start a journey that will end at the Opening Ceremony of the upcoming Games.

While it has a certain official status, Commonwealth Day is not a public holiday in most Commonwealth countries and there is little public awareness of it... at least in the UK... but there is in Gibraltar.

The Commonwealth Foundation was established by the Heads of Government in 1965. Membership of the Foundation is open to all members of the Commonwealth and (as of December 2008) stands at 46 governments out of the 53 member countries.

Associate Membership, which is open to associated states or overseas territories of member governments, has been granted to Gibraltar, where Commonwealth Day IS a public holiday and is normally also marked by a message from the Chief Minister (and often also by the Opposition parties).

Gibraltar Chief Minister's Commonwealth Day Message

Address by Gibraltar Chief Minister Peter Caruana on the occasion of the Commonwealth Day 2009.

Sunday 26th April 2009 will witness the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of London, which concluded a 6 day meeting between the Heads of State of the United Kingdom, Australia, Ceylon, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa together with the Canadian Secretary of state for foreign affairs, where it was agreed that King George VI would be recognised as the Head of the Commonwealth.

This continues to be the role today of the Queen, who succeeded her father, King George VI.

On that day, 60 years ago, the Commonwealth as we know it today, was created.

Today, the Commonwealth brings together 53 independent territories and the British Overseas Territories, such as Gibraltar.

The 60th anniversary is a diamond jubilee. The Commonwealth is indeed an association of great value, like a diamond, that seeks in the words of the Declaration of London the “pursuit of peace, liberty and progress”.

Today, there are nearly two billion people who live in the Commonwealth. Half of them are under 25 years of age. Perhaps it is for this reason that the theme chosen for this year’s Commonwealth Day is “serving a new generation”.

The Gibraltar Government attaches great importance to the interests of the youth of Gibraltar. Investment in our youth is investment in our future. Hence our investment in education and training and other character forming and life enriching activities such as Sports and Leisure. Few communities of our size enjoy the Sports and Leisure facilities, or the educational systems that Gibraltar enjoys. These equip our youth well for a happy, fulfilled and successful future.

The Government continues to dedicate resources to educating our youth, to funding the training at Colleges and Universities of our young men and woman, and to resourcing other forms of training for all ranges of ability and consistently excellent results obtained by our youth speak for themselves.

The Government had the vision to convert a car park and a disused Barrack Block at Casemates Square into a thriving commercial & entertainment hub, for young and old to enjoy, particularly with the Summer Nights programme.

The Government rescued the derelict King’s Bastion and restored this magnificent heritage site into a top¬class entertainment centre for our youth, and the not so young, with modern facilities that are second to none, and which are the envy of cities very much larger than Gibraltar. The new Bayside sports facilities also speak for themselves.

But serving a new generation goes much further than this. It encompasses the safeguarding of our environment, in the widest sense of the word, from the recovery of inner city areas to the enhancement of public parks and open spaces. It covers the building of the sort of Gibraltar that we want for our children and our children’s children with due emphasis on the family and on the moral and social values that matter, on worthwhile jobs both now and in the future, and on the enhancement of our surroundings so that they are pleasant to live in and in which to grow old.

It is not just the Government that must serve the new generation. This is also the role of each one of us, as citizens of Gibraltar, as a microcosm of the wider Commonwealth to which we belong.

As we enjoy our Commonwealth Day holiday with our families, let us reflect on what we can individually contribute to serve a new generation of Gibraltarians.

Have a pleasant holiday.

Antigua & Barbuda Jamaica Sierra Leone
Australia Kenya Singapore
The Bahamas Kiribati Solomons
Bangladesh Lesotho South Africa
Barbados Malawi Sri Lanka
Belize Malaysia St Kitts
Botswana Maldives St Lucia
Brunei Malta St Vincent
Cameroon Mauritius Swaziland
Canada Mozambique Tanzania
Cyprus Namibia Tonga
Dominica Nauru Trinidad
Fiji (suspended) New Zealand Tuvalu
The Gambia Nigeria Uganda
Ghana Pakistan United Kingdom
Grenada Papua NG Vanuatu
Guyana Seychelles Zambia
India Samoa Zimbabwe (out)