Laura Clarke, British High Commissioner to New Zealand, addresses the Royal Commonwealth Society and the British New Zealand Business Association
E ngā mana, e ngā iwi, e ngā reo. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.
It is a pleasure to be here tonight, addressing the Royal Commonwealth Society – so kia ora and thank you for the invitation. There is a strong and long-standing relationship between the British High Commission and the RCS, and I know that I follow in the footsteps of many of my predecessors in addressing you today.
The title of this lecture is ‘A Commonwealth of Common Values’. This has given me a fairly wide remit, which I aim to exploit to the full extent possible!
But before getting into specifics, I would like to set the scene a little.
Members of the Royal Commonwealth Society will be well versed in most of this but I think it well worth revisiting the fundamentals of the Commonwealth, and some key facts and statistics – because they really are quite remarkable.
From an original family of 8 states (including New Zealand) who signed the London Declaration in 1949, the Commonwealth has grown to 53 member states.
Mozambique and Rwanda were the first countries to be admitted to the Commonwealth that were not previously part of the British Empire (you’ll note by my use of the word first that we hope there will be more!). We also welcomed Gambia back into the family in February last year, and the Republic of Maldives has requested to re-join. The fact that a growing number of nations are keen to join or re-join the Commonwealth demonstrates the value that countries place on the benefits of being part of our diverse family.
These 53 member states are home to 2.4 billion people – a third of the world’s population, across a quarter of the UN member states. In terms of prosperity, the Commonwealth makes up one-fifth of global trade, with the combined GDP of Commonwealth nations set to reach US$13 trillion in 2020. Commonwealth States make up a quarter of the G20 group of countries.
The potential of the Commonwealth is therefore vast.