Today, Antigua and Barbuda joins with the rest of the Commonwealth to celebrate 70 years since the London Declaration was signed on 26thApril 1949. The eight (8) signatories, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, and Ceylon, at that historic moment, declared a partnership to the world founded on principles of unity, equality and co-operation in the pursuit of peace, liberty and progress – principles which contrasted so distinctly from the history of the inequitable relationship that pre-dated our Commonwealth. These principles remain the bedrock of the Commonwealth family which now embraces 53 member states or 33% of the world’s population, spread across five regions of the world.
These founding principles of unity, equality and co-operation have never been more important to our Commonwealth and our world. The Commonwealth family of nations includes some of the world’s largest and smallest countries as well as some of the world’s richest and poorest countries. Today, however, we are witnesses to the growing and disturbing global trends of nationalism, insularity and indifference not just to the rule of law but to the sanctity of life itself. The Commonwealth must always stand as a protector and promoter of these principles. These principles must never be diminished in the rhetoric of intolerance and bigotry which seeks relevance in today’s world.
Antigua and Barbuda
There is much to celebrate as we mark this milestone of 70 years, but there is also much for sober reflection. We pause to remember our extended family in Sri Lanka and New Zealand as they grapple with this global threat to unity, equality and progress caused by the rise of extremism. We also pause to remember our brothers and sisters in Mozambique and Malawi as they seek to rebuild after the devasting cyclone. Much closer home, we continue to rebuild after the hurricanes of 2017 as the victims of climate change; a phenomenon which poses an existential threat to small island states like ours and undermines progress.
I join with Prime Minister, the Honourable Gaston Browne, my fellow Ministers and the people of Antigua and Barbuda to wish the Commonwealth a happy 70thbirthday. We send our best wishes to the Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland QC and her staff at the Secretariat. Let us forever aspire to the mandate enshrined in our Charter to build a Commonwealth that is a strong and respected voice in the world and that is devoted to improving the lives of all peoples of the Commonwealth.
Long live our Commonwealth!