Speaking in a debate on soft power, our Chairman Lord Howell has been promoting the importance of the Commonwealth network. The full speech is available here and the key passage is reproduced below.
Lord Howell: It will probably not surprise your Lordships that I mention the place of the Commonwealth in this story, and in the United Kingdom’s role and ability to prevent conflict and to carry forward the case for this country’s position in the new world in which we have to compete avidly and vigorously in entirely new markets and new conditions.
Why do I bring the Commonwealth into it? Some people would say that it is not really the best example. We read in the media of endless quarrels between different Commonwealth countries and of doubts about whether all Commonwealth countries are keeping up to the standards they are signed up to and so on. We saw an example of that with the Heads of Government meeting in Colombo last year. That is just the visible tip of things that the media can see. The genius of the real Commonwealth network is that it is people-driven, civic society-driven, community-driven, common interest-driven, certainly education-driven and increasingly market and business-driven. Increasingly it weaves together non-governmental forces, including in the central role the message of the church, of course, in an age of weakened Governments and empowered groups, tribes, interests and, indeed, the street.
That is why the age of hyperconnectivity has acted like a blood transfusion to a network covering almost a third of humankind, half of them under 25, half of them women struggling to have their full and rightful place, millions of them young entrepreneurs aspiring to break out of development dead ends, many of them from smaller states and small islands—there are 32 of them in the Commonwealth network, to which globalisation has given not much chance at all, and 16 of them are realms of the Queen’s subjects under Her Majesty the Queen.