As I write, an important gathering is taking place in London. Heads of government and other leaders from the Commonwealth’s 53 member states are meeting here, all week. “Big deal,” many Londoners might say. And I, too, might have said it, in my ignorance of what the Commonwealth does. Like a lot of people, I thought the organisation was mainly about The Games, and leaders from the old British Empire countries – the colonies – getting together to have tea with The Queen. But then, last November, I was tasked with researching and writing the organisation’s biennial progress report. At the time, this didn’t sound very exciting, but it was different from my usual work, so I thought I’d give it a go. The project turned out to be one of the most interesting I’ve worked on.
Here, briefly is what I learned.
What used to be the British Commonwealth is now simply the Commonwealth, “53 independent and equal sovereign states, working to help each other and make the world a better place”. Most of its members are former British colonies, but some – Mozambique for example – have no colonial links with Britain at all.
So, what does the modern Commonwealth actually do? Through a network of human networks – masses of them – it works to promote democracy, and social and economic development, around the Commonwealth. It helps women’s progress, working to abolish child marriage, prevent violence against women and support them in leadership. It helps improves health and education. With a common shared history (British Empire) and common language, its members have a 19% advantage trading with each other versus trading with outside countries. A United Nations director even credited it for helping to make the Paris Agreement on Climate Change happen. So the Commonwealth is a formidable organisation, or “family of countries” as it prefers to be known.
My job was to write about the people and projects that helped its members progress over the past two years. With my main audience being government leaders, my client, the Commonwealth Secretariat, required me to use a formal style. So I had to leave out contractions (though a few still managed to slip past the proofreaders) and colloquial phrases I would normally use when writing copy.
View the Commonwealth Biennial Report 2018