Our activities include:
Discussions on Commonwealth and international issues are a major aspect of our activities. We take part in debates, seminars and conferences (often organised in partnership with other organisations) and each year host an annual lecture, usually at Marlborough House.
Our guest lecturers are usually key Commonwealth personalities. Past speakers have included the former Cabinet Minister, Sir Vince Cable (2009); the former Royal African Society Director, Richard Dowden (2010); the former UK Minister for the Commonwealth, Lord Howell (2011); Professor Richard Drayton, the Rhodes Professor of Imperial History, Kings College, London (2015); Dr Sue Onslow, of the Commonwealth Oral History Project (2016); Matthew Neuhaus, former Head of the Political Division and now Australian Ambassador to the Netherlands (2017) and Dr Stephen Chan, Professor of World Politics at SOAS (2019).
Some of our members go into schools, colleges and universities to talk about the modern Commonwealth, its achievements and programmes.
From left to right: Professor Richard Drayton, Sir Vince Cable, Lord Howell.
During the course of the COVID 19 global pandemic, which began in 2020, physical activities have not been possible but our email system, operating as a Google Group, has enabled members to keep in touch wherever they are and has been particularly important in recent times. Around 150 topics were posted in the last year, and this has stimulated lively, and occasionally passionate, debate. Several online events have been organised during the pandemic, including the AGM and regular meetings of the Executive Committee.
Much of the Association’s ongoing activity involves working with other Commonwealth accredited organisations, particularly in influencing the Commonwealth policy-making process. The Chair, Dr Stuart Mole, represents the Association at periodic consultative meetings with the Commonwealth Secretary-General while the Vice-Chair, Dr Bishaka Mukherjee, serves on the Steering Group of the Independent Forum of Commonwealth Organisations, a key coordinating body. The Association is among Commonwealth organisations accredited to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), held every two years.
From time to time, the Association is involved in special campaigns. This has included highlighting the sufferings of Zimbabwe’s people in the final stages of Mugabe’s rule and calling for Commonwealth understanding and intervention; working for Commonwealth reform following the 2011 report of the Eminent Persons Group on the Future of the Commonwealth; and, in 2020, campaigning against the threat by the University of London to close the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.
While the Association can sometimes be a friendly critic of member governments and of the Secretariat, its members stand ready to offer voluntary support to Commonwealth institutions wherever it might be needed. This could be in operating a Commonwealth information centre; helping steward and support special events; or assisting in cataloguing and identifying historic documents and photographs.
Other special projects include fundraising for emergency humanitarian relief within the Commonwealth or interviewing members on their experiences for the Association’s oral history project.
Each year, The Association aims to hold an annual reception in Marlborough House, in conjunction with our AGM and Annual Lecture. Other social events are organised from time to time, sometimes together with the Commonwealth Social Club.
We also alert members to Commonwealth events and meetings taking place in London and elsewhere. These are valuable networking opportunities, making it a friendly and productive way to keep up with Commonwealth news and the latest developments and share experiences.
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