Monday, March 09, 2009

Commonwealth Day 2009

Today is Commonwealth Day. In fact this year the Commonwealth celebrates its Diamond Jubilee.

The Commonwealth was established in April in 1949 under the Declaration of London when the heads of state of the UK, Australia, Ceylon, (Sri Lanka) India, New Zealand, Pakistan, and South Africa, and the Canadian secretary of state for foreign affairs reached agreement on the new constitution.

Although the history of the Commonwealth goes back much further, this date marked the beginnings of the modern commonwealth as we know it today, rather than the previous colonial relationship which had emerged from the British Empire.

The meeting in London was triggered by India's desire to adopt a republican form of constitution while still retaining Commonwealth links. The countries concerned agreed that the monarch (King George VI) would be recognised as head of the Commonwealth, and that it was 'a free association .... of independent nations.'

At the same time India removed King George VI as head of state in keeping with its republican aspirations.

After the agreement, the Commonwealth expanded rapidly. Many new nations dropped their colonial status and gained independence, but chose to retain their historic links by joining the Commonwealth. Today the Commonwealth comprises 53 independent states, plus the British Overseas Territories such as Gibraltar.

The head of the Commonwealth is Queen Elizabeth II, who became head when her father died, and she will be attending a special service at Westminster Abbey today.

With nearly two billion people living in the Commonwealth and half of them aged under 25, the theme for this year's message is 'serving a new generation.'

Here in Gibraltar we celebrate with a Bank Holiday, and Chief Minister Peter Caruana has issued his traditional message in keeping with that theme, emphasising the importance of investing in young people for the future of Gibraltar.

Sources: Gibfocus, BBC News, and the Commonwealth web site - which is an excellent source of information here.

No comments: