News & Blog

Rwanda- Twenty years on

By Adam Jones, Ph.D. (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( Monday the world remembered one of the most terrible events of the late 20th Century. The date marked 20 years since the start of the Rwandan genocide when in just 100 days approximately 800,000 ethnic Tutsi and their Hutu and Twa sympathisers were massacred. It was a massacre where neighbour turned on neighbour and basic weapons including machetes and clubs were used with devastating effect. Although one might suggest that the acts of murder looked primordial the genocide had a variety of very modern and global aspects. Those who planned the genocide were about to lose out from a power-sharing peace treaty and democratic elections. Read more...

Global Coalition to End Child Marriage Launched

The UN Special Envoy on Global Education, Gordon Brown, yesterday launched the Worldwide Emergency Coalition for Education, calling for an end to child marriage, child labour, discrimination against girls and exclusion from education. The Commonwealth includes four of the top ten countries with the highest prevalence of early and forced marriage globally, despite statements from Heads of Government to combat this practice.

Baroness Warsi on Human Rights in the Commonwealth

Baroness Warsi Headshot Small

Baroness Warsi was scheduled to address guests at the Royal Commonwealth Society's event on 'The Commonwealth and Human Rights' on the 24th of March 2014. Unfortunately she was unable to attend owing to parliamentary business, but was kind enough to allow us to publish the speech that she was going to deliver at the event.


What are the Commonwealth's Human Rights Priorities?

Panellists Human Rights Event FCO

An event on human rights, held at the Foreign Office, and including eminent speakers from across the Commonwealth and with a range of policy backgrounds, is always going to be popular. It is also most certainly going to be controversial and ask some important questions. Last night’s occasion ticked these boxes, sporting a full house from academia, government and civil society who all came with serious questions about the role of the Commonwealth in pushing forward a human rights agenda, its successes, and its failures.

Around the World in Commonwealth Week

Auckland Observance

Commonwealth Week saw celebrations across the regions of the Commonwealth, with many RCS branches organising observance ceremonies, receptions and round-table discussions. The week provided the opportunity for all the branches to reflect on the theme for 2014, 'Team Commonwealth'.

Glasgow Games 2014: Investing, Empowering and Believing in People

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In Glasgow we realise that the Games gives us an opportunity to be ambitious. There are 2.3 billion people in the Commonwealth, and 1.2 billion of them are young people. We need to be investing, valuing and believing in them, empowering them.

Royal Visit to open Award House marks New Beginnings

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On Wednesday 12 March we received a special visit to our new offices from Her Majesty The Queen, and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. Her Majesty listened to a presentation on our education programmes, met a former Essay Competition winner, and took the time to talk to all of the staff.

Comments by Lord Howell, President of the Royal Commonwealth Society, at the High Commissioners’ Banquet

Lord Howell Speaking

"2014 is a year in which we re-establish our position as champion of the value of the Commonwealth to the individual, the communities and the wide variety of the nations and states that give this family its enduring strength and to the values, as enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter, that underpin the Association."

Malala Yousafzai gives an Impassioned Address at Commonwealth Day Observance

Malala meets Queen

Earlier today, Her Majesty The Queen and Their Royal Highnesses The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, The Earl and The Countess of Wessex marked Commonwealth Day in Westminster Abbey.

The Observance launched the 2014 Commonwealth theme ‘Team Commonwealth’.

Bath Literature Festival Hosts Vanessa Able

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A reception was hosted by the Bath and District Branch of the Royal Commonwealth Society at the Bath Literature Festival. Vanessa Able discussed her brilliant debut travelogue, based on her 10,000 kilometre drive across India in the world’s cheapest car.

Hugo Swire reflects on Team Commonwealth

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“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.

Malala Yousafzai to speak at Commonwealth Day Observance

10Malala Yousafzai

We are delighted to announce that the internationally celebrated campaigner Malala Yousafzai will be delivering the keynote address at Commonwealth Day Observance in Westminster Abbey this Monday.

Singer-songwriter Laura Mvula to perform at Commonwealth Day Observance 2014

Laura Mvula

We are excited to announce that Laura Mvula will perform at the Commonwealth Day Observance on Monday 10th March.

Reception in Melbourne for 2013 Commonwealth Essay Competition award winners

Cocktail Reception Feb 2014

Left to right: Mr. Lloyd Byrne, President RCS Victoria; Catherine Hronakis (Sr Silver award); Mrs. Inga Peulich, MLA and Parliamentary Secretary for Education in the Coalition Victorian Government; Freya Boltman (Jr Bronze award); Monica Elliott (Sr Bronze award)

Courts, Criminals and Constitutional Rights

Manak Matiyani, a young activist and RCS Networker in India, gives his views on the recent recriminalisation of homosexuality.

Nova Scotia's Essay Award winner

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On Friday Feb 7th the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia received Miss Elizabeth Waye and her family for Morning High Tea at Government House to recognize Elizabeth's Bronze Award in the 2013 RCS Essay Contest. Attached please find a photo of Miss Waye and His Honour, Brigadier General J.J. Grant. 

Commonwealth Teacher Exchange Programme 2014–15 for Canada and Australia

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Australian and Canadian teachers and their families meeting up at the Commonwealth Day Observance at Westminster Abbey.

Opportunity for professional development internationally!

Are you a UK teacher looking for professional and personal development in an international setting? Is your school interested in receiving an exchange teacher from Canada or Australia on a reciprocal post-to-post basis? 

Applications for 2014-15 academic year are being accepted on a rolling basis until Friday 28th February 2014. Please submit your application as soon as possible.

The RCS in Hong Kong AGM

RCS Hong Kong AGM 2014

RCS in Hong Kong AGM, 23rd January 2014

On 23 January 2014, the Royal Commonwealth Society in Hong Kong held its 31st AGM. The Chairman, Mrs Joan Campbell, reported that 2012 had been a very fruitful year given regular lunch meetings with interesting guest speakers and other events.

Young New Zealanders meet with CPA Chair

CYNZ meeting with Sir Alan

Back row L to R Dean Jackson [2013 SCHOGM Secretary-General], Katherine McIndoe, Cassandra Shih [Policy Intern BHC], Yvonne Davidis [BHC], Darryl Stevens, Rt Hon Sir Alan Haselhurst MP, Aaron Hape, HE Vicki Treadell. Front row L to R, Chloe Oldfield, Sandra Ivanov, Christian Hermansen.

Commonwealth leaders united recently in Wellington, New Zealand, for the 22nd Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth (CSPOC). The host and Speaker of New Zealand’s Parliament, David Carter, opened the meeting under the theme of keeping Parliament and politics relevant in a digital age.

Seb Coe and Tanni Grey-Thompson to speak at Commonwealth Day Observance

Commonwealth Day Flags

We are delighted to announce that Lord Coe, one of Britain's most celebrated middle-distance runners, Executive Chairman of CSM Sport and Entertainment and Chairman of the British Olympic Association, and Baroness Grey-Thompson, one of Britain's greatest paralympic athletes and crossbench peer, will speak at the Commonwealth Day Observance on Monday 10th March.


Latest 33Fifty Baton Book message: QBR reaches Tanzania

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UNICEF child advocate Abu Bakar is the latest to write his message in the Baton Book.

Tanzanian Abu Bakar is the latest young person to sign the 33Fifty Baton Book. At a reception held by the British High Commissioner H.E. in Dar es Salaam on Saturday 18 January 2014, Abu spoke about the violence he has witnessed against children in his community. 

An evening of celebration in Seychelles

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Seychelles’ Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jean-Paul Adam with award winners of the 2013 Commonwealth Essay Competiton

Recipients of gold, silver and bronze awards for the 2013 Commonwealth Essay Competition were celebrated in Seychelles alongside the arrival of the Queen’s Baton Relay.

33Fifty Baton Book advances on its 190,000km journey

L-R: Mr Takow, Mrs Anne Hiom Takow, Adam Best QBR Team

L-R: Mr Takow, Mrs Anne Hiom Takow, Adam Best QBR Team in Cameroon

 The Baton Book, an initiative promoting the 33Fifty Commonwealth Youth Leadership Programme, is currently making its way across Africa as part of the Queen's Baton Relay; a tremendous 190,000km journey across the 70 countries and territories taking part in this year's Commonwealth Games.

India recriminalises homosexuality

Earlier this week, India's Supreme Court chose to reinstate a colonial-era law making homosexuality illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

RCS Hong Kong Christmas Drinks


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RCS Hong Kong Christmas Drinks 2013

 The Royal Commonwealth Society in Hong Kong had its Christmas drinks party on Tuesday 10th December at the Helena May. 

My "Letter to the Lost Girls"

L R David Thomas Tabitha Carr Katherine McIndoe

L-R Commonwealth Essay Competition Judge, David Thomas, Junior Winner, Tabitha Carr, Senior Winner, Katherine McIndoe

It was such a huge honour to be named the Senior Winner for 2013: the competition is so large and diverse that it was truly overwhelming to be singled out in this way. Since the announcement was made, I have had so many fantastic experiences and opportunities. Travelling to the other side of the world to receive my award at the New Zealand High Commission in London was very special, and while in the UK, Tabitha and I had the opportunity to visit iconic London landmarks, and meet some fantastic people working both in writing (such as journalists at the London Evening Standard) and in development (at the offices of Plan UK).

My Commonwealth Essay Competition Experience

Tabitha being interviwed by the BBC

Tabitha being interviewed by the BBC during winners' week

I have had a wonderful awards week in London from going to Buckingham Palace, seeing the Queen in her car and Darleks in the state rooms to being interviewed at the BBC about Selfies!

Nelson Mandela and the Commonwealth

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Nelson Mandela at the Royal Commonwealth Society

It is with sadness that the Royal Commonwealth Society joins South Africa and the international community in mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela. The Commonwealth has lost an extraordinary and inspirational champion of the values that are its strength . He will be remembered for his innate dignity, his compassion and his unbounded capacity to draw a quality of forgiveness out of hatred 

Commonwealth Carol Service 2013

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The RCS held its annual Commonwealth Carol Service at a packed St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in Trafalgar Square. The service has become well-established as a colourful and vibrant celebration of Christmas in a uniquely Commonwealth setting. 

Towards a Corruption-Free Caribbean: Ethics, Values, and Morality

The University College of the Cayman Islands (UCCI) is currently inviting submissions and registration for their 2014 Caribbean Conference 'Towards a Corruption-Free Caribbean: Ethics,Values, and Morality' which will be held from 19th - 21st March 2014.

Katherine McIndoe writes her message in the 33Fifty Baton Book

Right on the heels of a week spent in London to celebrate her winning the top prize in this year’s Commonwealth Essay Competition, 19-year-old Katherine McIndoe attended a reception on Friday morning in the Grand Hall at Parliament House in Wellington, New Zealand.

The reception was held to welcome the Queen’s Baton Relay (QBR) team, who recently arrived on New Zealand shores. Along with the Queen’s Baton, the QBR team has also been carrying a Baton Book through every country and territory they pass through. This Baton Book, which is a beautifully illustrated symbol of Commonwealth citizenship, will be delivered to the 100 participants of the 33Fifty programme, which was just launched yesterday at the University of Edinburgh.

 baton book

Post-CHOGM Briefing 2013

Post CHOGM breakfast briefing

Guest speaker Richard Uku, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, Commonwealth Secretariat, led a conversation on the policy outcomes of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that took place from 15-17th November in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Commonwealth Essay Competition Awards Evening 2013

Awards Evening Katherine McIndoe Tabitha Carr Rt Hon Sir Lockwood Smith KMZM PhD

Awards Evening, Katherine McIndoe, Tabitha Carr, Rt Hon Sir Lockwood Smith KMZM PhD

Last night in the penthouse of New Zealand House, Katherine McIndoe and Tabitha Carr mingled with writers, judges, government officials, educationalists, students, and representatives from across the Commonwealth who all came out to celebrate their achievements. Katherine and Tabitha stood out among the 11,000 plus other young writers for their poignant and imaginative essays, and earlier this year, were announced as the senior and junior winners of the 2013 Commonwealth Essay Competition.

CHOGM 2013 Communique


The biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 15 - 17th November 2013.

Coleg Gwent students attend Buckingham Palace reception

On Friday 18th October, two students from Coleg Gwent's Crosskeys campus attended a reception at Buckingham Palace on youth, education and the Commonwealth.

Samuel Preece and Danielle Oak, both 18 years old, were nominated to attend after their Commonwealth Essay Competition entry earned them a special mention from this year's judges. To read their entry, click here.

Communique from 2013 New Zealand Youth CHOGM

Commonwealth Youth New Zealand, in partnership with the Royal Commonwealth Society Wellington, held a New Zealand student CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) at the New Zealand Parliament from 5th-6th August.

Speaking about the model CHOGM, Chloe Oldfield, Commonwealth Youth NZ Deputy Director, said: "This year's conference was one of the best I've had the pleasure of being involved with. Congratulations to all the delegates who spoke so well on the issues with which they were faced."

To view the New Zealand Youth CHOGM communique, click here.

Empowering Girls: What the Commonwealth can do to end early and forced marriage

Mr Mike Lake Ms Nazma Kabir Ms Naana Otoo Oyortey Ms Alanna Armitage Baroness Prashar 26th June 2013

Commonwealth High Level Meeting on Child Marriage 26th June 2013, L-R, Mr Mike Lake, Ms Nazma Kabir, Ms Naana Otoo Oyortey, Ms Alanna Armitage, Baroness Prashar

On the 14th and 15th of October, the Royal Commonwealth Society, Plan UK, and the Commonwealth Secretariat co-hosted a Commonwealth Roundtable on Early and Forced Marriage. The two-day roundtable, held at Marlborough House, brought together senior officials from across the Commonwealth to explore the legal and cultural barriers inhibiting progress and to exchange best practice.

Junior Essay winner recognised for her outstanding achievement

Tabitha Carr Blanchelande

12 year old Tabitha Carr, the Junior Winner of this year's Commonwealth Essay Competition, has been recognised by her school, Blanchelande College, Guernsey, for her outstanding achievement. Tabitha's name has been added to the school's board of honour and Tabitha has now given several performances of her winning entry.

RCS Hong Kong explores the dangers for journalism in the region

RCS Hong Kong

On Wednesday 9th October, the Royal Commonwealth Society in Hong Kong welcomed 30 members to the Hong Kong Club for a talk on 'The dangers for journalism in Hong Kong'. The talk was given by Steve Vines, a founding editor of the Eastern Express, and a regular contributor to the South China Morning Post and Radio Television Hong Kong. In the past, he has also worked in Asia for The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Independent.

RCS Youth Leader to represent New Zealand in India

Commonwealth Youth New Zealand Deputy Director, Aaron Hape, has been chosen to represent New Zealand at the 6th Commonwealth Youth Parliament in India. The annual conference will be held on 20 - 26 October in the Andhra Pradesh Legislature, Hyderabad.

Senior winner of Commonwealth Essay Competition meets British High Commissioner to New Zealand

Katherine with the British HC to New Zealand

Katherine McIndoe, the Senior Prize Winner of the 2013 Commonwealth Essay Competition, recently met with HE Vicki Treadell, the British High Commissioner to New Zealand.

Having read Katherine's prize-winning entry, the High Commissioner wished to extend her congratulations and to discuss the inspiration for the entry, which focuses on the 100 million+ lost girls across the globe. To read Katherine's entry, click here.

The meeting follows widespread media coverage of Katherine's achievement. Click here to see Katherine interviewed on 3News and click here to read an article covering her win in the Dominion Post.

Results of 2013 Commonwealth Essay Competition Announced

This year has been a record-breaking year for the Commonwealth Essay Competition. Not only has the competition received in excess of 11,000 entries, but over 70 judges have been involved in the judging process and the standard of entries has been excellent.

Scottish Government investment announced for Commonwealth youth leadership programme

Today, the Scottish Government announced £60,000 of investment for "33Fifty: The Commonwealth Youth Leadership Programme", delivered by the Royal Commonwealth Society and Common Purpose.

The four day programme will see 100 18-25 year olds – from Scotland and the Commonwealth – develop their leadership skills, networks and Cultural Intelligence to help them in their studies, careers and civic life. Senior leaders from across the Commonwealth will act as mentors, growing the participants' confidence to lead change and make a difference in their countries.

Click here to see the full announcement.

Click here to see articles in the Evening Times and The Herald

Europe and the Commonwealth: How can Britain make the most of both worlds?

Europe and the Commonwealth

The Royal Commonwealth Society, in association with the European Commission, brought together policymakers, civil society, diplomats, and businesspeople on the 17th of July for a conference on the EU and the Commonwealth.

Chaired by Peter Kellner, President of YouGov, discussion ranged from the massive potential for increased trade between the EU and Commonwealth countries to the sources of Euroscepticism in the UK. Panellists looked at the differences between Commonwealth and European identity and examined what each organisation could learn from its counterpart.


The future of the Royal Commonwealth Society and the Club

As announced on 28 February 2013, the Council of the Royal Commonwealth Society has exchanged contracts to dispose of leases on Northumberland Avenue. On Friday 28 June the Commonwealth Club will close to members at 25 Northumberland Avenue. The Society has had its home in Northumberland Avenue since 1922 and naturally there is a great affection for the premises. The Council has not taken these steps lightly, however, the first duty of the Trustees is to secure the viability of the Society.

The Club has hosted many important events and people over the years, from Nelson Mandela addressing his first UK press conference, post release, to Her Majesty The Queen being presented with the Jubilee Time Capsule. It is in this vein that the Society will continue with a full programme of educational and advocacy projects on the horizon for 2014. For example, the Commonwealth Essay Competition has had its busiest year ever in 2013 and we will look forward to continuing this work with our teachers around the Commonwealth in 2014. Our new piece of research, "Commonwealth Compared" has been well received and we are planning our next release for the autumn 2013, along with a new international membership for the Society which is currently undergoing consultation. Our full events programme will continue in London and in cities around the Commonwealth, so too will our advocacy work, including the current campaign to end early and forced marriage in the Commonwealth.

As we look forward, it is with excitement and a strong belief in the values of the Commonwealth that we hope members, Commonwealth colleagues and partners will embark on this journey with us.

For any enquiries, please contact Michael Lake, Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society on 0207 766 9200.

United call to end child marriage

Child Marriage Canada House

Global figures united on 26th June in a call to help end child marriage across the Commonwealth.

They were speaking at a central London event co-hosted by the Royal Commonwealth Society and global children's charity Plan UK.


Commonwealth Compared 2013: Setting the scene

Commonwealth Compared New

On Thursday 23 May 2013, the Royal Commonwealth Society launched their new research, 'Commonwealth Compared 2013: Setting the Scene'.

Vancouver Island branch represents the RCS at 150th Highland Games

Vancouver branch at the Highland Games

The Royal Commonwealth Society was recently represented at the 150th Highland Games by the Vancouver Island branch.

Rt Hon. Hugo Swire MP speaks at Commonwealth Youth Ministers' Meeting

Foreign Office Minister, the RT Hon Hugo Swire MP, has attened the Commonwealth Youth Ministers' Meeting to discuss the involvement of young people in current affairs.

The Minister joined Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, and Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, for the opening of the meeting in Port Moresby.

For more information, click here.

Commonwealth Poem Commissioned

A poem was specially commissioned for Commonwealth Day 2013 by Afro-Guyanese poet John Agard. 'From Over The Mountain Came News' is based around the 2013 Commonwealth Theme of 'Opportunity through Enterprise'.

Read the poem here.

Sir Richard Branson interviewed by essay school

Branson School Report

Students from Lincoln Castle Academy recently interviewed Sir Richard Branson, asking him questions about education, enterprise and his 16 year old self.

Commonwealth School Enterprise Challenge is launched!

Indeco School Commonwealth School Enterprise Challenge 2012

The Royal Commonwealth Society was proud to support the launch of the Commonwealth School Enterprise Challenge on Monday 11 March, timed to coincide with the Commonwealth Day celebrations and the launch of the 'Opportunity through Enterprise' theme.

The Commonwealth School Enterprise Challenge is a business competition for young people who want to make a difference in the world. The competition asks school students to start an environmentally friendly enterprise that will solve a problem in their local community.

Commonwealth Day Observance 2013

The Duke of Edinburgh meets the Commonwealth Day Flagbearers and Choir

On Monday 11 March, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma, The Rt Hon The Lord Howell of Guilford and Commonwealth High Commissioners joined 2,000 guests at the Commonwealth Day Observance at Westminster Abbey.

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