Challenges for a resilient Commonwealth

Challenges for a resilient Commonwealth

The Commonwealth of Nations is one of the oldest political organizations in the world. Founded in 1926 as part of the Balfour Declaration, it predates the United Nations and North Atlantic Treaty Organizati0n.

About 2.5 billion individuals, constituting nearly one-third of the global population, reside within the 56 member countries of the Commonwealth. A significant portion, accounting for one-third, of young people aged 15 to 29 find their home in Commonwealth nations.

As the most populous member, India contributes ahout half of the Commonwealth population. Following closely in terms of population size are Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh, with the United Kingdom ranking fifth.

In an era marked by unprecedented global challenges marked by natural disasters, and geopolitical conflicts, the imperative for nations to cultivate socioeconomic resilience has become paramount.

Throughout the Commonwealth, unstable employment and living conditions result from extreme poverty and widespread unemployment. Additionally, risks from climate change and international and intra-national migration create situations of increasing complexity and vulnerability.

Thirty-two member states fall under the definition of a “small state”; these states are on the front lines of the effects of climate change, and they have insufficient human and financial resources to adapt.

Uneven development

Countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia show significant progress in overall socioeconomic development. However, within the Commonwealth, one-third of its population, around 2 billion people, live on less than US$1 per day, and 64% live on less than $2 per day. This number was worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Additionally, the Commonwealth accounts for more than 60% of global HIV infections, and four of the 10 most affected countries are Commonwealth members.

On the public health and sanitation front, about 60% of the Commonwealth needs access to essential medications or appropriate sanitation. Social inequality is dismally prevalent, where women account for more than 70% of people living in poverty in the Commonwealth and face discrimination in many parts of the organization, ranging from unequal pay to abusive treatment.

The Commonwealth has a dedicated agenda that considers poverty alleviation and improving health-care outcomes as part of its development agendas. Despite these developmental caveats, the organization has shown significant progress in pulling 19% of all people out of extreme poverty in the previous two decades.

However, several countries only reduced relative poverty, indicating that population growth exceeds the rise of those living in extreme poverty.

The Covid pandemic, the turbulent geopolitical scenario, and domestic disputes in the Northeast African countries have decelerated societal and economic progress in the Commonwealth. These states are also more likely to suffer the brunt of social injustices, including discrimination and poverty among marginalized communities and violence against women and girls, all of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

According to the latest GDP numbers from the International Monetary Fund, the UK is no longer the biggest economy in the Commonwealth, with India overtaking it for the first time in 2022.

Among the 54 member countries, divergences in GDP, as well as population vulnerabilities, are noticed. For instance, according to figures, 42 autonomous developing countries have less than 1.5 million population. Twenty-nine of these nations are members of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Similarly, GDP growth rates range slightly across large and small nations. However, several features make small nations’ growth rates more variable: more reliance on a single industry, lower trade diversification, heavy dependence on foreign aid, and a high level of import dependency.

The GDP variability of small states is substantially higher than large nations. This higher variability often implies more severe macroeconomic crises in the face of exogenous shocks such as the pandemic or volatility in the energy markets.

In conclusion, the Commonwealth faces numerous challenges in its quest to build resilient societies. Extreme poverty, inequality, climate change, and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic are formidable obstacles.

However, member states can work together to overcome these challenges through collaboration among governments, civil societies, and communities, which is essential for mobilizing resources, knowledge and technologies toward achieving universal health care, economic prosperity, environmental sustainability, and social resilience.

The Commonwealth has the potential to leverage the strengths of its diverse member states and become a powerful force for positive change in the world. By prioritizing the needs of small nations and promoting inclusive and sustainable development, the Commonwealth can lead the way toward a more equitable and advanced global order.