16 March 2006
|Head of the Commonwealth HM The Queen at Commonwealth Day in Sydney Australia|
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth, and Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon attended a Commonwealth Day Observance at St Andrews Cathedral, Sydney, Australia. This was followed by a reception at the Governor-General's Residence, Admiralty House, Sydney. The Secretary-General then went to Melbourne for opening of the 18th Commonwealth Games on 15 March. "In a year in which our finest athletes, at the peak of their physical abilities, will be competing at the 18th Commonwealth Games, it is appropriate that we should devote attention to good health for all," said the Secretary-General in his Commonwealth Day Statement.
A special message by the Queen, also based on the theme, was read out at a Multi-Faith Observance at Westminster Abbey in London, UK, on Commonwealth Day: "Some 40 million people today are living with HIV/AIDS, well over half of whom are Commonwealth citizens. Half a million women die each year in pregnancy and childbirth -- and the death of any mother has huge consequences for the rest of the family. Yet very many of these deaths are preventable with adequate health care. Ignorance and lack of understanding about these issues sometimes breed uncertainty, even fear and the inclination to turn from those who are unwell. But we know, for example, that someone who is HIV positive can, with proper support, lead a full and rewarding life.
"I am pleased that Commonwealth governments are playing their part in tackling disease and improving health for all. Polio, for example, used to cast its shadow across many countries. Today, thanks to concerted international action, just a handful still need to eliminate polio. The same approach and commitment to other global scourges, such as malaria and tuberculosis, can achieve equally impressive results."
The Observance was attended by HRH the Prince of Wales and HRH the Duchess of Cornwall; the Prime Minister of Malta, Dr Lawrence Gonzi, who is currently Chairperson of the Commonwealth; Baroness Amos, Leader of the House of Lords in the UK; and Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Winston Cox.
The Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Dr Gonzi and other dignitaries also attended an evening reception hosted by Mr Cox at Marlborough House, the Commonwealth Secretariat's London headquarters. Commonwealth Service Abroad volunteers, Dr Shabnam Afridi and Dr Joseph Job, who provided medical assistance to Maldives following the Indian Ocean tsunami, as well as representatives of the Commonwealth's Young Ambassadors for Positive Living (YAPL) programme, also attended the reception. The YAPL enables young men and women living with HIV and AIDS to exchange personal experiences with their peers to raise public awareness of the pandemic.
|Young musicians performing at Commonwealth Day celebrations in the Caribbean|
In Fiji Islands, there was a formal Afternoon Tea Party at Government House in Suva, with HM The Queen's Speech being read by the President of Fiji.
In Singapore, the Asia Centre of the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP), based in Chandigarh, India, initiated a three-day series of events for young people in the Asia region. Organised in collaboration with the National Youth Council of Singapore, the programme included study visits on the themes of health and sports, culminating in a cultural performance and exhibition on 15 March.
In Scotland, UK, the Royal Over-Seas League is organising a week-long series of festivities starting on 13 March with a Commonwealth Day Lunch attended by David Cairns MP, Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. On 16 March, a Commonwealth Debate in the Scottish Parliament will be held, while a Commonwealth Parliamentary Evening is scheduled on 20 March at the Scottish Parliament.
In Zambia, the Deputy Minister for Sport, Youth and Child Development, Emmanuel Sandi, marked the commemorations at a Commonwealth Youth Forum on Youth Parliaments. The Forum, organised by the CYP Africa Centre, based in the capital, Lusaka, and the National Youth Constitutional Assembly, a local civil society organisation, included participants from Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zambia. The CYP Africa Centre also hosted a Health and Vitality Symposium that was attended by Commonwealth Heads of Missions based in Zambia, United Nations agencies, development partners and participants in the Forum.
Elsewhere in Africa, the CYP's Regional Youth Caucus (RYC) representatives took a lead role in organising celebrations in their respective countries. Activities included sensitisation on CYP initiatives in Cameroon and Ghana; a debate in partnership with the Youth Employment Network in Malawi; the launching of Commonwealth Youth Clubs in The Gambia; and addressing the HIV and AIDS pandemic among young people in Mauritius and Seychelles, with emphasis on changing behaviour.
CNIS - Commonwealth News and Information Service Issue 276, 15 March 2006