In the countdown to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) taking place in Rwanda from 24-25 June, there have been a number of discussions – online and in-person – exploring the Commonwealth at what many see as its crossroads.

‘The continuing relevance of the Commonwealth in the post-colonial era’ was the topic of an online discussion held on 26 May. It was moderated by veteran Eastern Caribbean diplomat Edwin Laurent who is the founder of the Caribbean Think-tank, iDERA. He is formerly the St Lucian Ambassador to Taiwan, and has served as the Director of the Ramphal Institute and before then as Head of International Trade and Regional Co-operation at the Commonwealth Secretariat.

His panel brought together an array of diplomatic veterans and academics versed in the Commonwealth and some outsiders with a view on the organisation.

The discussion was organised by iDERA (the International Development Empowerment and Representation Agency), the African Leadership Centre in Nairobi and TCSS (the Taiwan Centre for Security Studies).

The aim of the webinar was to explore the relevance, role, and utility of the Commonwealth in the post-colonial era.

Speakers were:

  • Ginelle Greene-Dewasmes of iDERA
  • Supervisor of the host organisation, TCSS, Professor Fu-Kuo Liu
  • Former Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General and Jamaican diplomat, Ransford Smith
  • Professor of Diplomatic History and International Relations at the National University of Athens, Ilias Iliopoulos
  • Director of the African Leadership Centre, Shuvai Nyoni
  • Vice President (Global Engagement) and Professor of Security, Leadership and Development at King’s College London, Professor ‘Funmi Olonisakin
  • Former Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Dr Indrajit Coomaraswamy

The speakers discussed the direction of the modern Commonwealth and its relevance today. They also looked at the role of the British Empire, monarchy and how to shift the power dynamics of the modern Commonwealth.

Panellists pointed to the Commonwealth’s strengths in the past in capacity-building and representing its members on development issues, and its potential added value in providing a unique role in building up global consensus. They explored revisions to strengthen the Commonwealth’s role in the global multilateral system.

In addition to the experience of the Commonwealth “family” panellists, the USP of this webinar was the inclusion of non-Commonwealth perspectives to get a view from outside the organisation.

Speakers agreed on the Commonwealth’s potential to amplify a role it has already been playing on the blue economy, climate change and supporting small states, and as an inter-regional organisation which can bring regions together.

In a world of eroding multilateralism, this was a useful conference for those looking at ways to make the world better, through the ramping up of the role of the modern Commonwealth.

View the discussion:  

View other events coming up and transcripts and videos from Commonwealth-related events you might have missed