As an enthusiastic supporter of the Commonwealth, and as the British Minister responsible for it, I have long been an admirer of the Royal Commonwealth Society and its varied work to promote the Commonwealth – whether with young people, through encouraging public debate or raising awareness of cultural diversity.
As in every year, Commonwealth Week is an opportunity for us all to celebrate being part of the Commonwealth family.
However, 2014 will be cause for remembrance as well as rejoicing, as we commemorate the centenary of the First World War. In 1914, people from every corner of the globe - Africa, Australia, India, the West Indies and beyond - united to defeat a common enemy and to defend the freedoms that we enjoy today.
This year, as the Commonwealth Games come to the UK for the sixth time, it’s the Games that inspire this year’s theme for Commonwealth Day: “Team Commonwealth”.
“Team Commonwealth” expresses perfectly the real spirit of friendship, unity and of working towards the shared goals and values that are at the heart of the Commonwealth. We are a unique, hugely diverse team - but therein lays our strength. From the plains of southern Africa to the island nations of the Pacific, the Commonwealth gives all of its members an equal seat at the international table. It can amplify the voices of even the smallest nations and make their views heard. By working together we help one another to maintain peaceful societies, advance democracy, improve development and build trade and prosperity.
Of course, like any family, we have our differences from time to time. However, it is important that the Commonwealth works together for the good of all its members. We recognise the Commonwealth is changing, and to retain its relevance the Commonwealth needs to respond to shifting global trends and rising expectations of its citizens – particularly its younger ones.
That is why the Glasgow Games are so important. Sport brings people together – young people in particular - with its values of teamwork, fair play and human endeavour. So it is reassuring to see ‘youth’ firmly at the heart of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s programme for sport, development and peace. It will help to ensure the Games have a lasting legacy, ensuring that their impact resonates across generations.
As competitors from around the globe gather in Glasgow for the Games, our proud team spirit will be on display not just within nations, but between them. I will be wishing athletes from across the Commonwealth all the best for what I am sure will be the best - and friendliest - “Friendly Games” ever.