|Commonwealth Day was celebrated around the world with exhibitions, receptions, prayers, speeches and other events..|
Commonwealth Day was celebrated around the world on Monday, 14 March 2005, with exhibitions, receptions, prayers, speeches and other events. In the United Kingdom, the Head of the Commonwealth, HM Queen Elizabeth II attended a multi-faith, multicultural Observance in London's Westminster Abbey. The Queen also issued a Commonwealth Day message which was presented at the Observance, and attended an evening reception hosted by Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon at Marlborough House. President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, the current Chairperson-in-Office of the Commonwealth, was present at both events.
The theme for this year was 'Education -- Creating Opportunity, Realising Potential'. In her message, the Queen said: "Education is sometimes described as the golden thread that binds the Commonwealth. Our shared use of a common, world language, English, has underpinned a long and rich tradition of educational co-operation. With our shared practices and similar systems, an extensive network of scholarships, and many examples of excellence, much has been achieved. That work continues as the Commonwealth responds to today's new challenges."
Heads of Government from across the Commonwealth also issued Commonwealth Day messages. Among these were the following:
Australian Prime Minister John Howard underscored in his Commonwealth Day message that education enhances the potential for all people to contribute to the sustainable development of society and economy. He also noted the importance of the Commonwealth Games in bringing member countries together every four years. "I am pleased today to welcome the commencement of the Queen's Baton Relay at Buckingham Palace ... (The Baton Relay) will pass across 71 Commonwealth destinations before arriving at the opening ceremony of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in March next year."
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Begum Khaleda Zia, said in her message that Bangladesh has benefited from its links with the Commonwealth over the years. She said various programmes have been implemented to enhance educational activities: "Bangladesh has made significant progress in adult literacy and education of the girl-child and the primary enrolment in Bangladesh is about 78.4 per cent."
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said that Canada sees the Commonwealth as "an important tribune that allows us to raise issues of concern to us with like-minded partners, adding to our impact internationally."
The President of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos, emphasised the importance of education in "the promotion of development and social progress and its role in building strong communities, generating growth and creating opportunities for the peoples of all Commonwealth member countries ... Through knowledge and expertise, all members can contribute to a global dialogue of mutual interest and ensure a more meaningful and creative future, based on the values of democracy, human rights, justice, religious tolerance, solidarity and respect of the sovereignty of all member states."
Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase of Fiji Islands noted the Commonwealth's commitment to peace, democracy and human rights. "I ask the people of Fiji to rededicate ourselves to the Commonwealth and the values and goals it represents," he said.
Jamaican Prime Minister P J Patterson highlighted the need for educational opportunities to be provided to Commonwealth citizens to enable them to have an early start to realise their potential. He said: "The challenge for us is to employ education in a manner that will allow us to leverage our human resources to achieve economic competitiveness and growth, while achieving social development and cohesiveness. Equally important is the need to develop our competitive advantage in the knowledge economy, given the continuing advancements in information and communication technologies."
The President of Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, said in his message: "As a small island state, we in the Maldives benefit from the Commonwealth's commitment to give small states a voice on the international stage and to help us strengthen our resilience in a fast-moving global environment."
Dr Lawrence Gonzi, Prime Minister of Malta, said: "This year Malta has the honour to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in November. I look forward to welcoming my fellow Heads of Government to the meeting and to our country."
New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark said that New Zealand's Commonwealth connections remain strong because "the Commonwealth proves its vitality and effectiveness every day by its efforts to promote democracy and good governance, to build consensus on difficult issues, and to help member states achieve their economic and social development goals."
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo's goodwill message emphasised the Commonwealth family's spirit of solidarity and common humanity, and wished a happy Commonwealth Day to all. He recognised, in particular, the crucial role played by education in preparing individuals to build strong communities, generating growth and creating opportunities for all Commonwealth people.
The Prime Minister of St Lucia, Dr Kenny Anthony, said the Commonwealth continues to "play an active role in creating a common space for collective action against many of the global transnational challenges. One of the enduring strengths of the Commonwealth of Nations is the spirit of co-operation and solidarity that exist among its member states." He expressed hope that the same spirit of co-operation and solidarity will be applied in the search for common approaches to global challenges such as HIV/AIDS, global terrorism, economic and political strife and environmental degradation.
In his Commonwealth Day message, Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom said the Commonwealth provides a unique platform for global diplomacy, one where consensus prevails in decision-making. He said: "The Commonwealth is uniquely placed, given the diversity of its membership, to engage constructively with the outcome of the Commission for Africa, which includes commissioners from five Commonwealth African countries, and to send a strong message of support for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals."
Commenting on this year's Commonwealth Day theme, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa emphasised that "the wealth of any nation lies in its people's capabilities and its assets. Of these, education is the catalyst to development."
Many other leaders also issued messages on the occasion of Commonwealth Day. Secretary-General Don McKinnon issued a statement in which he described education as "the master key that unlocks human potential in every sphere of life."
The Secretary-General said: "It is a force for good in the world, and a powerful tool for economic growth and social progress. It is a human right; not a privilege. That is why we, in the Commonwealth, are committed to broadening educational opportunities for all Commonwealth citizens."
CNIS - the Commonwealth News and Information Service Issue 226 16 March 2005