Global Britain can refresh the Commonwealth for people worldwide – Emma McClarkin MEP, Chair of the Commonwealth Forum in Brussels.

CHOGM Photo

As heads of government from 53 Commonwealth nations convene in London and Windsor for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, now is the opportunity to define ‘Global Britain’ in the eyes of 2.4billion Commonwealth Citizens – one third of the world’s population. It is crucial that the world understands what to expect from Global Britain partway through our negotiations to leave the European Union.

Over the last 40 years, the UK has significantly underleveraged its place as a leader in the Commonwealth and has not shown the leadership the organisation deserves. Indeed, in terms of financial investment in the organisation, the UK invests significantly less in the Commonwealth than the French spend on the Francophonie. Moreover, despite the Commonwealth Advantage, meaning that intra-Commonwealth trade is in fact 18-20% cheaper than trading outside, we have failed to implement the appropriate measures and initiatives to capitalise on the opportunities presented by shared legal systems, language and structures.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting this week must provide fresh impetus to revive our Commonwealth commitment under the banner of Global Britain. Global Britain must celebrate the valuable contributions that have shaped our country today, including those made by the Windrush generation and many other Commonwealth citizens. Global Britain must be a champion of free trade, taking the international lead and lifting barriers that too often hamper development. The sad fact is that millions of people worldwide, especially women and girls, find themselves held back by the society they live in. Global Britain must also champion equality and fairness, empowering the victims of discrimination as well as those forgotten by society.

On trade, the UK funded Commonwealth Standards Network and Commonwealth Trade Facilitation Programme will support developing countries across the Commonwealth in implementing internationally accepted standards and practises for doing business, thereby tearing down barriers to cost-effective trade. In particular, the UK will provide technical assistance to smaller, island states who often struggle to implement World Trade Organisation agreements. Doing so will reduce trading costs with developing Commonwealth countries by up to 16%, while also reducing the time taken to import and export by up to 47% and 92% respectively.

By pledging £212 million to primary education projects across the Commonwealth, the Government will ensure that 1 million girls will receive 12 years of quality education, offering a route out of poverty and the opportunity to better fulfil their potential. In this vein, the Government’s SheTrades Commonwealth initiative will provide £7 million in funding to increase gender-inclusivity, particularly aiming to promote women’s involvement in business. After all, it is estimated that greater gender equality in labour markets would increase global GDP by $28trillion by 2025. Going further still, the Government has announced a new project to work with small, Pacific Commonwealth states who too often fail to uphold human and minority rights. £2.9million will support member-states and regional organisations to focus on equality and their adherence to international human rights obligations. It is through initiatives, such as those proposed by the Government and in the Commonwealth Forums held this week, that we might all benefit as a Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth Summit should be the launch of Global Britain with a renewed commitment to leading in the Commonwealth. Through clear and tangible initiatives, the UK must drive change, champion equality and work with Commonwealth partners to ensure that no one is left behind. As the UK leaves the EU, I am certain Global Britain can refresh the Commonwealth’s significance, and its benefit, to people worldwide.

Link to the article on the Telegraph website: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/04/20/global-britain-can-refresh-commonwealth-people-worldwide/

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