Speaking ahead of the Commonwealth Day multi-faith observance at Westminster Abbey, Minister for the Commonwealth Lord Howell said:
“This year’s Commonwealth Day, in the Diamond Jubilee year, gives us the opportunity to reflect on the remarkable service Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has given the Commonwealth throughout her sixty years as Head of the Commonwealth. Her extraordinary dedication is celebrated by every member state in the Commonwealth, and the 2.1 billion Commonwealth citizens whose lives are enriched by this unique and increasingly vibrant network.
“The UK has no doubt that the Commonwealth and its networks are a force for good, based on strong values, which can help deliver prosperity and enrich the livelihoods of all Commonwealth citizens and connect our cultures.
“As Her Majesty said in 2009, the Commonwealth is the face of the future. The work we began at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth last October will help revitalise the Commonwealth and ensure it gives its members, large and small, an ideal platform from which to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. I am pleased that the UK will be represented on the Ministerial Task Force charged with delivering the mandates we agreed in Australia.”
Speaking about the Department for International Development’s support for developing Commonwealth nations, Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, said:
“Britain is proud of the close bond we have with the Commonwealth. This Government is determined to strengthen and reinvigorate it to make it relevant for today.
“Commonwealth countries are home to many of the poorest people in the world and so it is right that we target development assistance in their direction. By 2009/10, aid to Commonwealth members had gone down to just a third of DFID’s bilateral spend. We have taken action so that, by 2014/15, over half the spend on our key bilateral programmes will be in the Commonwealth. This will provide medicine, education and emergency aid to help millions escape poverty and build a more prosperous and secure world for us all.
“We have to focus our efforts on those places where it can make the most difference and our historical ties to the Commonwealth will allow us to do just that. The Commonwealth has a proud history and I know it can have a proud future too.”
Spanning the world’s major faiths and a third of the world’s population, the 54 countries of the Commonwealth celebrate Commonwealth Day in March each year. The theme for this year’s Commonwealth Day is Connecting Cultures.