10 March 2000
Commonwealth Day will be celebrated throughout the association's member countries on Monday 13 March with speeches, receptions, prayers and colourful events, many of them based on this year's theme, 'the Communications Challenge'. Commonwealth Secretary-General Chief Emeka Anyaoku said in his Commonwealth Day Statement that the theme "has special significance because today, more than ever, the world has the capacity to communicate and share knowledge, ideas and goodwill."
A special message by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth, also based on the theme, will be read out at a Multi-Faith Observance at Westminster Abbey in London on the day. The Observance, which will be attended by the Queen, the Prince of Wales, the British Prime Minister, the United Nations Secretary-General and the Commonwealth Secretary-General, will be broadcast live on the BBC World Service (648 MW) on Monday 13 March from 15.15 to 16.00 GMT. After the Observance, the Queen, accompanied by Chief Anyaoku, will briefly meet crowds outside the Abbey.
The Queen, The Prince of Wales, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and other dignitaries will attend an evening reception hosted by Chief and Mrs Anyaoku at Marlborough House, the Commonwealth Secretariat's London headquarters. Earlier in the day, Chief Anyaoku will attend a cultural performance at the Commonwealth Institute, hosted by broadcaster Floella Benjamin for 300 schoolchildren and featuring performers from Commonwealth countries. The Institute is also hosting the 2000 Commonwealth Lecture, to be delivered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday 14 March, on the theme 'Africa: Maintaining the Momentum'.
In Scotland, the Royal Over-Seas League is organising a week-long festival starting on 13 March. Her Royal Highness Princess Anne will attend a multi-faith Commonwealth Day service at St Giles' Cathedral and Jim Wallace, Deputy First Minister in the Scottish Parliament, will speak at a Commonwealth Day lunch. Other events during the week include piano recitals and luncheon events.
"Commonwealth Day is a fitting occasion for young people to learn about the association and its value systems, which are based on democracy and good governance," South African President Thabo Mbeki said in a recent letter to Commonwealth leaders. "Commonwealth Day serves not only as an occasion to reflect on the many achievements of the association, it also provides an invaluable opportunity to increase public awareness of the modern Commonwealth." Mr Mbeki, as host of the most recent Commonwealth summit (held in Durban, South Africa in November 1999) is currently Chairperson of the Commonwealth.
Schools throughout the Commonwealth have received colourful posters on the theme, produced by the Secretariat. These are used as classroom tools and in celebrating the Commonwealth and its work. For example, the City Montessori School in Lucknow, India, which claims to be the world's largest school in a single city with more than 23,000 students, is hosting a Commonwealth youth conference and essay competition.
Among many other activities around the Commonwealth are the following:
an exhibition on the Commonwealth and a quiz on Commonwealth topics for secondary schools, organised by the British Council in Accra, Ghana;
a cultural exposé and mini-exhibition organised by the Regional Centre of the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) in Georgetown, Guyana, with the participation of representatives of the Government of Guyana, other Commonwealth countries and regional organisations;
a video link between the British Consulate General in Cape Town, South Africa and the British High Commission in Durban, including the participation of pupils from a school in an under-privileged area;
a ceremony organised by the CYP South Pacific Regional Centre in Honiara, Solomon Islands, focusing attention on the forthcoming Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting scheduled to take place in Honiara in May;
a competition for schoolchildren on the theme 'Swaziland in the Commonwealth' organised by the British High Commission in Swaziland; and
a live satellite link, organised by British Telecom, between London's Millennium Dome and a craft project in Tanzania run by BESO (British Executive Service Overseas).
Internet web sites with information on this and related topics include:
http://www.youngcommonwealth.org/, the Commonwealth Secretariat web site for young people containing quizzes, material aimed at young people and ideas on celebrating Commonwealth Day;
http://www.commonwealthday.com/, a special web site of the Royal Commonwealth Society; and
http://www.commonwealthvoices.org/, a British Council web site described as "an on-line forum connecting people to people across the world." Appropriate to this year's Commonwealth Day theme, the current debate is on "freedom of expression: the right to be heard".
00/14 10 March 2000