Commonwealth likely to increase to 54 by 2018- Jon Benjamin

The Commonwealth is looking to increase its membership to 54 with the possible return of Gambia and the inclusion of Togo in 2018.

British High Commissioner to Ghana Jon Benjamin, made this known, Monday at the Commonwealth reception to mark the Commonwealth Day, 2017.

“We hope by next year that the membership will expand again to 54 members with Gambia rejoining and our neighbours here, Togo, perhaps becoming the newest member,” he said.

Addressing members of government and other diplomats,  including Justice Minister Gloria Akuffo and Australia High Commissioner Andrew Barnes, at his residence in Accra, Jon Benjamin said the “Commonwealth is a great global family with immense potential, deep networks and many friendships spanning the globe.”

“In the UK, we are proud of our global relationships which have prospered within it. We believe the Commonwealth can be a force for good around the world by promoting freedom, democracy, human rights, development and prosperity. Its strength lies in the shared history, deep and diverse links between our peoples and – at our best – strong common instincts about the importance of open societies and open economies,” he said.

The Diplomat who is no stranger to controversy and quite popular on twitter said the Commonwealth is aiming for an ambitious and dynamic next Commonwealth Summit in 2018 which will adopt an innovative approach to make the Commonwealth truly relevant in the 21st Century. 

The head of the Africa Office of the Royal Commonwealth Society on his part, called for a redefinition of peace among the Commonwealth as the nations strive for development.

John Apea said the absence of coup d’états, especially on the African continent and the reduction in other forms of conflict across the Commonwealth nations do not in any way translate to peace.

He said peace is also an expression for good governance, good health, good education and the general socio-economic wellbeing of Commonwealth citizens.

In the absence of these, the Commonwealth Africa Office head said the world, and more importantly, the Commonwealth nations would have failed its citizens.

He said the theme for this year’s Commonwealth Day event- “Peace-keeping Commonwealth-” could not have come at an opportune time.

“We are living in peaceful times. However, let me be clear that peace means more than the absence of coup d’états. Peace means democracy. It means good governance. It means human rights, freedom of expression and the rule of law. It means good education. It means good health. Peace means environmental, social and economic development. It means recognising the fact that irrespective of our ethnic backgrounds and races, to paraphrase Mother Theresa, we belong to each other, are responsible for one another.

“It means the absence of domestic violence and respect for one another. Peace is about shared values, shared history, diverse cultures and strong people to people links. These aspects of peace are all enshrined within the ethos of the Commonwealth. It is the skeleton on which the Commonwealth body rests,” he said.

With this kind of peace John Apea said the Commonwealth stands a better chance of delivering to its citizens.

Already he said the Commonwealth has overtaken the Eurozone in terms of trade and GDP growth.

“The Commonwealth has 2.5 billion+ citizens, representing approximately a third of the global population. Trade over $3 trillion USD happens every year within the Commonwealth. The GDP of the Commonwealth has grown by approximately 7.3% for the past five years. That is three times faster than within the Euro zone. The Commonwealth economy actually overtook the Euro zone’s economy four years ago, that is in 2013. By 2019, it is expected to overtake the EU economy as a whole, by contributing 17.7 per cent in terms of global trade compared to the EU’s 15.3 per cent,” he said.

Sam Okudzeto, a legal luminary with the International Advisory Commission of the Commonwealth Human Right Association who was also present said any human right abuse on any citizen of the commonwealth is an affront to the values of peace, justice and rule of law which the Commonwealth stands for.

He called for the respect of human rights of citizens among member states.