08 February 2013 #Environment
Optimism in our world seems in short supply. The persistent economic challenges of many developed countries have not surprisingly dominated their domestic or regional politics. Daunting social and economic problems of many developing countries seem to have no end in sight. Hostilities in troubled countries create great sadness and damage prospects for future prosperity. There are many examples of weak governance damaging economic growth and investment.
Added to all these issues, as if they were not already enough to deal with, climate change and its effects are becoming a major threat to many countries. The continent of Africa in particular faces massive risk. All Africa is expected to warm this century, probably at a rate larger than the global pattern. It is not in the hands of any one country to address such issues, they are truly for the planet.
Across many developing countries the good news for them is that there is economic growth at rates much faster than anything predictable for many years in developed countries, yet this is often still from a very challenging start point of serious poverty, rural isolation, volatile weather, risks to biodiversity, resource scarcity, water shortages, lack of affordable energy, and sadly on occasion weak governance and threats to the rule of law.
The Commonwealth is seen by some as a quaint relic of empire, not really relevant to the modern age. Called "a Commonwealth of Nations" by Lord Rosebery in 1884. The British Commonwealth of Nations was established by the Statute of Westminster in 1931. From 1946 the word "British" was dropped. Today it is often obscure even to the peoples of Commonwealth countries what the Commonwealth does.
What is the point of it? Is it more of a family than an international alliance? That is certainly how its leaders have at times described it. A family of 2 billion people around the world. It evolved rather than being invented, referred to as "a happy accident", and its role has steadily developed over recent decades with the establishment of its institutions, and the pragmatic part it has played at times in contributing to major international issues of democracy and development, of which there are many very positive examples.
The value of the modern Commonwealth rather depends on your standpoint. The concept of a combination of 54 nations, mostly with historic ties and shared core values, has the appeal of a truly interesting cultural community, linking countries and institutions to meet, talk, educate one another, and on suitable occasions combining, for example, to speak for the needs of smaller nations and developing countries.
The truth of the Commonwealth is that whatever its historic origins, and largely thanks to them, it is an extraordinary network of different peoples across the planet who share a common language and compatible legal frameworks based on shared values, whose citizens have travelled and often settled in each other`s lands, and who mostly see doing business with one another as easier by some degree for those reasons.
As throughout human history genuine progress has depended upon the sharing of opportunities for enterprise and the exchange of ideas and goods, there is very strong attraction in the concept of a network that has already existed decades, has meaningful links between people of all strata in society, has worked hard at building civil society and education, and has strong foundations of long mutual dealings.
The world in which we now live has a great need of such a network, enabling enterprise that serves the interests of both new and old worlds, combining to support enterprise and innovation in ways that will serve people of all lands without exploitation, sharing the immense challenge of adapting to climate change and perhaps even helping to contain it, and achieving the worthy goal of enabling everyone to be beneficiaries of the best that developed world technology has produced while hopefully learning lessons of what technology is actually sustainable in the world our children will inherit.
The philosophy that the Commonwealth is virtually designed to serve is that the young person, and the Commonwealth is indeed young in terms of its demography, will through it access more opportunities for a future which sees technology working for good, and reasons for optimism that will lift spirits and vision to find solutions more than problems.
So, in short, within the Commonwealth of the 21st Century, we are privileged to be part of a global network that is going to be potentially the greatest force for good on the planet this century. If we want it to.
The Commonwealth Environmental Investment Platform is a contribution to connecting the entrepreneurs, investors and innovative technology businesses of the Commonwealth for mutual benefit and overall exchange of ideas, practical experience and opportunities for enterprise in the fast growing environmental goods and services sector so vital to the low carbon economic growth and prosperity of member nations. So many good technologies never reach the countries that most need them, indeed are never commercialised at all, and the Platform is designed to progressively encourage the greater collaboration of the investors and businesses whose enterprise is the best hope for our shared future.
Chairman, Forbury Investment Network and Commonwealth Environmental Investment Platform