Happy Commonwealth Day

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Gillian Harvey takes a look at the meaning behind Commonwealth Day…

Chances are, like many, you have a sense of what the Commonwealth is. Some might think of it as an updated version of the British Empire.

However, the Commonwealth of Nations – a group of 53 member countries – is about much more than sport and ceremony. And Commonwealth Day, celebrated on the second Monday in March, is a time to reflect on the benefits the Commonwealth brings to all.

Whilst the majority of Commonwealth countries were formerly part of the British Empire, their new relationship is about collaboration. Also, other countries are welcome to join, provided they commit to the values of the organisation.

A Voluntary Club

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Photo by Steve Parsons/AP/Shutterstock.

Many of the countries have kept the Queen as their Head of State, but this is entirely voluntary.

“The Commonwealth is not a political bloc, but a voluntary club,” Greg Munro, CEO of the Royal Commonwealth Society, explains. “The difference is that all countries sign up to a set of sixteen values. And if all countries adhere to these values, you will create a better society and a better world.”

The 16 values of the Commonwealth are central to the organisation. They include democracy, human rights, international peace and security, tolerance, respect and understanding. The values also highlight the importance of young people and recognise the needs of small or vulnerable states.

How It’s Marked

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Photo by Anthony Harvey/Shutterstock.

When recognising the importance of the Commonwealth in today’s divided society, some might wonder why the day is not better known or marked. Whilst celebrations do take place throughout the member states, including a service at Westminster Abbey attended by the Royal Family and other dignitaries, introducing too much pomp and ceremony into marking Commonwealth Day may not be entirely fitting for an organisation with collaboration and partnership at its heart.

Commemorations ranging from flag-flying, services and special assemblies in schools take place on various levels throughout the other nations. Few have marked today as a national holiday, but some countries, including Australia and Canada, have a holiday in some regions.

Of course, the day is more than flag-flying in a celebration of shared values. Each year a theme is set, marking a focus for the association for the year ahead. The theme for 2022 is 
“Delivering A Common Future”, and at such a troubled time, this concept could be more important than ever.

Find out more about the Commonwealth, its member countries and its aims.

Don’t miss our fab new “Reading Between The Lines” podcast story.

Alex Corlett

Alex is the "Friend's" Features Editor, working with the talented Features Team to bring you everything from cryptic crosswords to financial advice, knitting patterns to international travel and inspirational real life stories. Always on the hunt for a new feature idea, Alex also enjoys cycling and loves a good tea room.