Does the Commonwealth have a future after Queen Elizabeth?
By Sarah Mills
LONDON (Reuters) – As Queen Elizabeth celebrates 70 years on the throne, people wonder if the Commonwealth of Nations, which she helped create and which remains one of her proudest achievements, has a future. when his reign is over.
The Commonwealth evolved from the British Empire and Elizabeth became its head in 1952 when she became Queen, three years after the London Declaration officially created the voluntary association in its present form.
Today it is one of the largest international organizations in the world, made up of 54 countries, almost all of which were former colonies of the United Kingdom, covering some 2.5 billion people, about a third of world population.
The 96-year-old queen has always been at heart, but there are suggestions she’s already gone stale and irrelevant.
“I think the Commonwealth may have run its course historically,” said Philip Murphy, professor of British and Commonwealth history at the University of London. “And what you’re really seeing now is the ghost of an organization.”
Members of the Commonwealth range from wealthy nations such as Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada – which still have the Queen as head of state – to populous India, as well as the tiny Pacific republics such as Nauru.
Proponents say it provides a network to foster international cooperation and business ties, with a focus on promoting democracy and development, and addressing issues such as climate change.
So when Barbados severed its ties with the British monarchy last year when the Caribbean nation became a republic, it wanted to remain in the Commonwealth.
“The Commonwealth benefits many Caribbean countries as well as many African countries and connects us to countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada,” said Barbados-based Secretary David Denny. General of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration, a non-governmental organization.
The organization was seen as playing an important role in helping to end apartheid in South Africa, and Murphy says it has uses for smaller, less powerful members. But he’s still unconvinced of its wider benefit.
“The Commonwealth talks about the importance of promoting democracy, tackling climate change, tackling gender inequality,” he told Reuters. “But the Commonwealth is not necessarily a consistent international framework in which to deal with any of these issues.”
Where the organization could have a role, Murphy says, is in addressing the legacy of the British Empire and colonialism, with a new focus on addressing issues such as redress and restitution.
“We were slaughtered and killed for the economic development of Britain,” Denny said.
“Commonwealth Nation States should demand reparation for this suffering from the Royal Family, the British Government, all British businesses who allegedly benefited from the slavery and exploitation of our African people in all States -nations of the Commonwealth.”
Another question the organization will have to answer is who will run it, with Denny saying it shouldn’t be the British royal family, although Commonwealth leaders agreed in 2018 that Elizabeth’s son and heir, the Prince Charles, is expected to be his successor although the role is not hereditary.
Charles’ eldest son Prince William, after a difficult tour of Caribbean countries earlier this year when he faced protests, calls for reparations and apologies for slavery, suggested that he might not get the job.
“Who the Commonwealth chooses to lead their family in the future is not what I think,” William said. “What matters to us is the potential of the Commonwealth family to create a better future for the people who make it up, and our commitment to serve and support as best we can.”
However, in the meantime, the importance of the organization to its current leader is beyond doubt.
“Today it is gratifying to witness a modern, vibrant and connected Commonwealth that combines a wealth of history and tradition with the great social, cultural and technological advances of our time,” Queen Elizabeth said in her message. annual at the Commonwealth in March.
“The fact that the Commonwealth is growing is an honor for all who have been involved.”
Murphy said he suspected he would survive, but with even less attention than he is attracting now.
“I think it’s going to spread out,” he said. “I don’t see the will to draw a line under it, and I don’t see who would really have the power to do that. I think the danger is that it will gradually become less influential, less important and less interesting for its citizens.
(Reporting by Sarah Mills; Writing by Michael Holden; Editing by Susan Fenton)