Delivered at Government House on Commonwealth Day.
We draw together, for this, the annual Commonwealth Day celebration, as a nation to the rest of the world connected, but never tethered.
We in Commonwealth Youth are preparing for a year where we can engage with youth and give them a voice, create pathways between them and our policy mechanisms, make connections with people making a difference, and promote Commonwealth values.
But while we maintain a Commonwealth focus, we do not ignore the peoples and nations outside of the fold. Right now, on the other side of the world, a sovereign state in the genesis of democratization, is under attack from a power that rejects democracy.
The world is struggling to understand the motives of Moscow, or the mindset of its infamous autarch, but what we do know by the dogma of Vladimir Putin is that they believe democracy is not suitable for Eastern Europe, that they gravitate towards centralized authority.
That attacks the very core of what it means to be free, and holds democracy and peace worldwide at gunpoint. The Commonwealth stands for freedom, democracy and peace.
Unity under a common set of values has never been more necessary. Climate change remains the pre-
eminent, paramount priority of the global community. Out of our members, we have a number of countries in Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean, such as Kiribati and Seychelles, which are quite literally sinking.
We are all human beings susceptible to sickness, but some of us have the infrastructure to vaccinate our populations and maintain public health, and others don’t. I want to give a moment to consider COVID and climate change in the continent of Africa. We have 18 member states there, and the next CHOGM is being held in Rwanda. The World Health Organization reported last year that COVID-19 vaccine shipments had ground to a "near halt" in Africa. Out of the 39 nations on the World Bank's list of fragile and conflict-affected states, 20 are in Africa. Climate change is having devastating effects there, due to weak adaptive capacity, high dependence on ecosystem goods for livelihoods, and less developed agricultural production.
This continent of 1.2 billion people is going nowhere until it can recover it’s institutions, and ensure their openness and transparency. The Commonwealth stands for institutions, openness and transparency.
It is at the times when they are faced with the most grueling challenges, that countries must reflect on their purpose. I would wager to say that the effectiveness of the Commonwealth, the reason why it remains a unifying force despite conflict, COVID and climate calamity, is that it gives the nations that fly their flags under it a common purpose. We share it, we nourish it, and we promote it.
We draw together for this celebration, as a nation to the rest of the world connected, but never tethered. My generation values this, cherishes this, that we hold forever to what makes us unique, but never waver our commitment to democracy and peace.
Executive Committee Chair