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From the President - May 2018

20 Apr 2018 4:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Dear Members, the Gold Coast XXI Commonwealth Games this April marked the fifth time that Australia has hosted the Games – it was previously held in Sydney (1938), Perth (1962), Brisbane (1982) and Melbourne (2006). In 2018, 6600 athletes and team officials from 71 nations participated. The country with the largest contingent of 473 athletes, not surprisingly as the host, was Australia. The opening ceremony with a kaleidoscope of brightly attired competitors carrying national flags set me thinking more broadly about the role of the Commonwealth in global affairs in 2018.

“The 54 Commonwealth countries cover 20% of the world's land area, spanning six continents and with an estimated population of 2.5 billion people, of which half is in India."
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After decolonisation of the British Empire, the London Declaration of 1949 changed the name from the British Commonwealth to the Commonwealth of Nations. Member states include republics and indigenous monarchies as "free and equal" nations, sharing English as a common official language and having democratic parliamentary systems. The Commonwealth recognises Queen Elizabeth II as its Head although not all countries were former British colonies. The newest members, Rwanda and Mozambique, have a very limited connection to British history but see trade advantages in joining the Commonwealth.

Debate persists as to the relevance of the Commonwealth today. Critics describe it as “neo-colonialist”, as being dominated by former colonial nations and for not taking action against member countries guilty of human rights abuses. Proponents argue the benefits of shared values, trade opportunities and cite the more human aspect, the “People's Commonwealth" comprising voluntary, professional, philanthropic and sporting organisations that work to improve the lives of people in member countries. The bi-annual Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) discusses issues affecting the organisation and each member country. Equal representation for all member states gives the 31 smaller nations an international platform they may not otherwise have.

The Commonwealth Games is the highest profile international event sponsored by the Commonwealth of Nations.

Australia’s winning bid for the 2018 Games was announced in 2011 in Basseterre, the capital city of Saint Kitts. I was not familiar with the Geography of this small country but here’s what I discovered ...

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The twin-island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis is located in the West Indies Leeward Islands chain of the Lesser Antilles, approximately 1,300 miles southeast of Miami, Florida. The two main volcanic islands, Saint Kitts and Nevis, have high central peaks covered in tropical rainforest. The numerous streams descending from the mountains provide fresh water for both islands. It is the smallest sovereign state in the Western Hemisphere, in both area and population. The name St. Kitts is a shortened form of its official name, St. Christopher, given to it by Christopher Columbus when he landed there in 1493. St. Kitts was Britain's first colony in the West Indies founded in 1623. In 1983, the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis gained independence. The inhabitants call themselves Kittitians. Nevis is named after the Spanish word for snow - not because there is any! But because of the white cloud usually around the island's peak. The inhabitants are known as Nevisians. In 2016 the population of St.Kitts and Nevis was 54,821, most of whom identified as Anglican Christians. English is the official language but Saint Kitts Creole is also widely spoken. The economic landscape is dominated by tourism, former sugar plantations and light manufacturing.

There is now a thriving offshore-banking sector, an international financial centre and the regional Eastern Caribbean Stock Exchange. There is no income tax, corporation tax or withholding tax on profits in the Federation.

St. Kitts and Nevis had a total of seven competitors in the 2018 Gold Coast Games in the beach volleyball, athletics and table-tennis events.

References:
https://www.sbs.com.au/news/is-the-commonwealth-of-nations-still-relevant March 12 2018
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Kitts_and_Nevis#
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commonwealth_of_Nations

Dr Iraphne Childs, President

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