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Hague on the Commonwealth

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19 January 2011 19:56

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has just finished his Lowy Institute speech on 'The Commonwealth in a networked world'. Here's the full transcript.

Hague clearly sees potential in the Commonwealth, but he was in a 'tough love' kind of mood. This sounded almost like an ultimatum:

But therein lies a real choice for the Commonwealth. Will it make the leap necessary to live up to its ideals fully, make a greater contribution to its citizens and have a bigger impact on world affairs, or will it continue to tread softly' To what extent will it be prepared to speak out as an organisation against those who violate the principles of democracy and human rights' And can the Commonwealth expect to live up to the hopes and expectations of its young people and remain relevant as an organisation unless it does so, without sliding into irrelevance in their eyes' Will its governments seize the opportunities of the networked world to increase the prosperity of all its citizens, expanding trade and cooperation in new and innovative ways and playing a greater role in world economic affairs'

But the effect was somewhat diluted by the very next sentence:

These profound questions about the future need to be answered consensually since the Commonwealth belongs to all its members, but in Britain we hope that the Commonwealth will make this leap and adopt the reforms necessary to make these hopes a reality.

Britain 'hopes' the Commonwealth will reform. Not exactly a sword of Damocles hanging over the organisation, then. Use of the word 'consensus' is another clue that we shouldn't expect too much change. It's a theme Graeme Dobell took up last year:

...in a world crying out for a credible moral authority, the Commonwealth has become shy and retiring. The obsession with consensus (the good chap rule) shackles the Commonwealth to the views of its most conservative members. Consensus compels the Commonwealth convoy to sail at the speed of some very slow ships.

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