What does the Commonwealth mean in 2024?

Today is Commonwealth Day, and this year we celebrate a milestone: the 75th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth. The modern Commonwealth is highly relevant to the challenges faced globally and by contemporary Bangladesh : from the profound economic challenges and COVID-19 pandemic recovery, to the impacts of the conflict in Ukraine and growing pressure on democratic processes, to the escalating impacts of climate change. These are all issues of great importance to His Majesty King Charles III, as the Head of the Commonwealth.

The theme for the Commonwealth this year is "One Resilient Common Future: Transforming our Common Wealth". This is about our people and environments, exchanging knowledge and partnerships, maximising opportunities and identifying practical solutions to our common challenges. More than 60% of the modern Commonwealth is aged 29 and younger. Young people present significant opportunities for future prosperity, with increased digital connectivity and trade across the Commonwealth. In this way, Bangladesh has much to offer and arguably much more to gain.

The world has changed profoundly in the last 75 years, so why does the Commonwealth remain important to Bangladesh?

Because Bangladesh is the fourth largest member of the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth spans the globe, covering six continents, and makes up a population of over 2.4 billion people. That means roughly one third of the world’s population live in a country that is a member of the Commonwealth. Bangladesh, which joined the Commonwealth in 1972, is a significant part of that. Out of the 56 member countries, Bangladesh is the fourth largest member by population.

Bangladesh ranks extremely high on global climate risk indices and is one of the countries most affected by extreme weather events globally. Bangladesh is a leading voice in the Commonwealth and globally on the impacts of climate change. Through the Commonwealth we will continue to work collectively to address the global challenge of climate change in Bangladesh and globally. For example, as home to the globally important Sundarbans reserve forest, Bangladesh participates in the Commonwealth’s Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods Action Group. This group of countries share technical knowledge on the conservation and sustainable use of mangrove ecosystems, through considering the economic contribution of mangroves to the coastal economy as well as enhancing legal protection of mangrove forests and strengthening community participation in the management and ownership of mangrove resources.

The High Commissions of the Commonwealth nations represented here in Bangladesh will continue to work together to build resilience, strengthen the business environment, share knowledge and support export driven growth and people-to-people ties.

Because the Commonwealth supports the development of free, open and democratic societies.

Our Commonwealth Charter commits us all to the development of free and democratic societies and the promotion of peace and prosperity to improve the lives of all the people of the Commonwealth. Our commitment to these values is unwavering.

Bangladesh is the next Commonwealth country scheduled to graduate from Least Developed Countries (LDCs) status, which is in 2026. Fourteen members of the Commonwealth currently hold LDC status. Out of these, Bangladesh’s graduation is expected to be followed by Solomon Islands’ graduation in 2027. The Commonwealth provides a unique forum for discussing LDC-related issues and offers important insights to guide future policies and strategies aimed at accelerating economic development, for example around export diversification and intellectual property rights.

Because Bangladesh benefits from smoother trade among Commonwealth countries.

The Commonwealth is committed to working together and supporting its members to reap gains from international trade. The Commonwealth Trading Advantage makes it easier and less costly to trade among the member states owing to the similarities in the legal and financial systems. This could also prove useful for Bangladesh in attracting Foreign Direct Investments to sustain the country's growth trajectory. Bangladesh could also share learning from the Commonwealth members to move towards a cleaner, greener and more resilient economy. 

Bangladesh is a young country with a young population and a mean age of 26. Nearly 20% of Bangladesh’s population is made up of young people aged between 15 to 24 years old. As the fourth largest Commonwealth member by population, Bangladesh’s youth have a huge contribution to make towards the aspirations and future of the modern Commonwealth. In addition, the Commonwealth provides opportunities for the next generation to make a positive impact on the global stage. One way is through the Commonwealth Scholarships, which offer 700 students from eligible low- and middle-income Commonwealth countries, including Bangladesh to undertake postgraduate degrees with UK universities.

Towards a common future for Bangladesh and the Commonwealth

Looking ahead to October, our leaders will gather in Samoa for the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to deliberate on global economic, environmental and security challenges. They will discuss how the contemporary Commonwealth can work together to build a more peaceful, sustainable and resilient future for generations to come.

The Commonwealth, and its values, are more relevant today than ever before; they speak to global solidarity, resilience, youth and the future. The High Commissions of the Commonwealth nations represented here in Bangladesh will continue to work together to build resilience, strengthen the business environment, share knowledge and support export driven growth and people-to-people ties.  By doing so we can ensure our Commonwealth family empowers the Commonwealth’s 1.5 billion young people to build a more peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future. 

This article has been signed by Nardia Simpson, Australian acting High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Sarah Cooke, British High Commissioner and Lilly Nicholls, Canadian high commissioner. The other signatories are Haznah Md Hashim, Malaysian high commissioner, Ahmed Maishaan, MChargé d'affairs, Maldives high commission, Syed Ahmed Maroof , Pakistan high commissioner, Sheela Pillai, Chargé d'affaires of Singapore high commission and Dharmapala Weerakkody , Sri Lankan high commissioner.

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