(TWO MINUTE READ)
The commonwealth has all but being dead for the last ten years.
Now that England has vote to leave the European Union perhaps it might come to life or should the Commonwealth, a transnational institution, which pre-dates the United Nations, call it a day and withdraw from the international scene?
It is now the time and it is politically correct to debate Britain’s role in the Commonwealth.
No longer can the United Kingdom claim the sole paternity for success stories in the Commonwealth.
The European Union is on a much higher level of importance than the Commonwealth or even the United Nations.
Membership of the Commonwealth is a historic fact. Like your parents, you do not get to choose them. Most countries did not actively choose to become members of the Commonwealth. Instead, membership was seen as almost a diplomatic obligation.
On the other hand, joining the European Union equates to marriage. It is a choice about your future and not a statement about your past.
Central to the enhanced value of the European Union are its shared values, common rules and their direct economic benefits. Countries do not become Members because of their history, but because they show commitment and resilience in achieving the convergence which would see them qualify for the benefits of freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and people.
Adjustment and restructuring are painful and come at a cost which is not only economic but also social and political. It takes years and is not completed upon membership. Instead, the process is ongoing.
There are countries that are geographically and historically European, but until now do not qualify to become members because they do not have the democratic and political commitment to deliver the necessary reforms. Part of these reforms have to do with sharing or even ceding responsibilities to supra-national institutions. That takes a lot of courage, and sometimes something more than that.
This is supplemented by the fact that the various institutions have the power to decide. Decisions are not on statements of intent, but rather actions that affect the everyday life of people from Copenhagen to Valletta, from Lisbon to Warsaw.
Back to the Commonwealth.
Very few know much about it.
Most Jamaicans think that Barack Obama is the head of the Commonwealth rather than Queen Elizabeth.
Those it have any purpose other than a club as commonwealth values have never being precisely defined.
It was formed partly by India to stay friends with their British colonial rulers on Independence in 1949.
Every two-year the heads of Governments of the 53 countries that make up the Commonwealth meet for a pow-wow.
It now could be mortally wounded if India and some of its larger countries walk out because of the recent Brixit Vote.
It might be a network of disparate people, bound by an imperial history that seems, even among former subjects people’s, to inspire nostalgia as well as resentment.
The only thing holding it together is Queen Elizabeth, who is approaching her nineties.
It would not surprise me over the coming years to see Australia and Canada replace the Queen as their head of state.
I personally cannot contemplate the idea of being a colony or of having a foreigner as a Head of State.
If the Commonwealth is to survive it should be about commitment rather than history.
It should be about the future rather than the past.
Perhaps now is the time for England to commence disbanding the Commonwealth as it is today and regrouping, setting out updated guidelines and Charter of Values to which participants must strictly abide.
Whether or not one opts for such a model, the idea of further opening up Commonwealth membership to other countries near and far, and also allowing for consensual withdrawals from the organisation without acrimony, should be duly examined.
Staring at a decaying organisation and hoping that its fortunes might suddenly turn around is delusional.
It can opt to remain as it is and sink in total irrelevance within the next decade or so, or have the courage to make changes, by starting to tackle them at least in piecemeal fashion.
Having history as our sole bond is clearly not enough in today’s world.
In order to be relevant, the Commonwealth should be about people rather than diplomats. It should be about economic growth rather than bureaucracy. It should be about the future rather than the past.
All comments appreciated.