“Many good friends”: The relaunch of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. Photos show Princess Anne and Kingsley Abbott[top] University of London Chancellor, HRH Princess Anne. [bottom] ICwS Director Kingsley Abbott

25 April 2024 saw the relaunch of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. A reception at the University of London’s Chancellors Hall was attended by University Chancellor HRH Princess Anne and representatives of the many Commonwealth organisations which had fought for the Institute’s survival.

In 2020, when the University had announced plans to close the Institute, a number of Commonwealth organisations, including the Commonwealth Round Table, had taken part in a campaign to persuade the University of London to reconsider its decision.

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The lobby against the proposed closure led to a 2021 review of the Institute under the chairmanship of former UK Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind. The reprieve saw the appointment of a new Institute Director Kingsley Abbott in April of this year. The 25 April reception was a launch to outline the new brief of the Institute.

“Many good friends”

Kingsley Abbott spoke of the Institute’s “ambitious agenda”, focusing on strengthening the rule of law, combating climate change and promoting freedom of expression & digital rights. He promised an “innovative and forward-looking” agenda. Describing his plans as “standing on the shoulders of giants”, the former Director of Global Accountability and International Justice at the International Commission of Jurists said that the Institute of Commonwealth Studies had “many good friends”.

He hailed a memorandum with the Association of Commonwealth Studies (ACU) as a “new chapter of the Institute”.  “We live in troubled times,” Mr Abbott said. “This is a time for all hands on deck … if we’re to address the trials of the modern Commonwealth.”

University of London Chancellor, HRH Princess Anne, spoke about the need for co-operation and how the Commonwealth brought people together. “It is that exchange of knowledge which is critical to the Commonwealth,” Princess Anne told the reception, commenting on the Commonwealth’s ability to encourage “partnership”, “different perspectives” and “different knowledge”.

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Debbie Ransome is the website editor for the Round Table website.

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