Mar 15, Colombo: British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka James Dauris hosted a reception on Tuesday in celebration of Commonwealth Day (13th March).
The event has brought together senior representatives of the Sri Lankan government and of the diplomatic missions of Commonwealth member states in Sri Lanka. The President of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association of Sri Lanka, the Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, attended the reception.
Speaking to guests at the event High Commissioner Dauris affirmed the UK's longstanding and firm commitment to the Commonwealth and to the values it upholds, of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Following is the text of his speech:
We are here because the Commonwealth matters to all of us, and because we all want it to continue to matter in the future. It is a remarkable association of states that brings together a group of almost 2.4 billion people in fifty two countries across six continents. Its strength lies in the combination of its members' diversity; their shared inheritance in language, culture, history and tradition; their shared respect for the rule of law; and their common values and principles. Importantly, almost half of all these people are under the age of 25 - the Commonwealth needs to matter to them in years to come.
Its principles and values have helped its members prosper. Trade between Commonwealth countries is projected to be worth US$1 trillion by 2020. Trade ministers meeting in London last week, including Minister Malik Samarawickrama, reaffirmed their commitment to a transparent, free and fair multilateral trading system and agreed to define a Commonwealth led Agenda for Growth to promote trade, investment and job creation amongst member countries.
The core values of human rights and good governance, and respect for rule of law and democratic principles, shine through in the communiqués agreed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held here in Colombo in 2013, and at the meeting held in held in Malta in 2015.
At the Colombo meeting it was agreed that eradicating poverty and climate change are major challenges for all countries. Core Commonwealth values, including democracy, the rule of law, human rights, freedom of expression and religion, women's rights, the fight against corruption, and the need for transparency in government were also covered.
The 2015 Malta summit gave special attention to climate change and global sustainability in order to build support around these issues prior to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21 that was held in Paris late that year. Many members of the Commonwealth are small island nations and this is an issue that is especially relevant to some of them.
We are delighted that in April 2018 the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting will be held in London. The UK's ambition is to see the meeting used by the 52 state members of the Commonwealth to agree on a strategy for the future of the organisation, a strategy that will energise this important international grouping, ensure its continuing relevance in tomorrow's world, and contribute to our own and others' shared prosperity and security.