London: Commonwealth secretary-general Don McKinnon has said the organisation had become stronger than it was ever before and new members were keen to join it.
Delivering a lecture Tuesday at Oxford titled ‘Paths to Peace and Prosperity in the Modern Commonwealth’, McKinnon focussed on areas where he said the organisation had become stronger.
McKinnon will shortly hand over office of the Commonwealth secretary-general to Kamalesh Sharma, the outgoing Indian High Commissioner to the UK.
The Commonwealth was in a stronger position to defend its values since it had given itself the facility to suspend members in 1995, McKinnon said.
“Fiji and Pakistan are currently suspended from the Commonwealth, both - I am sorry to say - for the second time. Suspension hurts, but it reflects the collective view and will of all those countries’ peers across the membership. It doesn’t signal the end of the relationship,” he said.
The organisation was now in a stronger position to respond to challenges. McKinnon said the Commonwealth could take credit for identifying the unique problems and challenges of small states.
He pointed out that “nearly half of our Commonwealth is under 25, and nearly a quarter is under five. Yet 70 million of our Commonwealth children have never seen the inside of a school, and 150 million are out of work”.
To address such issues, he said the Commonwealth had a long-standing Youth Programme. The Commonwealth had given the world the UN’s Youth Development Indicators.
Stating that the Commonwealth was an outward-looking organisation, he said: “As of last November, we have new procedures in place for dealing with applications to join the Commonwealth, and we already have interest being expressed.”