Op-Ed: Gabon and Togo join the Commonwealth family
The Commonwealth has admitted Gabon and Togo as its 55th and 56th members respectively. Our continued growth reflects the advantages of Commonwealth membership and strength of our association.
By The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth family is growing. At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, on 25 June 2022, Gabon and Togo became the 55th and 56th members of the Commonwealth. And very soon, their flags will be flying proudly alongside those of other members at Marlborough House, the Commonwealth Headquarters in London.
Neither Gabon nor Togo has historic associations with the Commonwealth, with both countries gaining independence from France in the 1960s.
We live in troubling times: the climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, the debt and economic trauma which has followed, together with the food and fuel insecurity which has been exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, all mean we’ve never needed our friends more. As individual nations have faced these diverse exogenous shocks, it’s been pleasing to see our commonwealth family bind together and become a beacon of hope not just for our members but for others too. So it’s perhaps not surprising that both Togo and Gabon, having started on the road to membership before we were all battered by this catalogue of woes, showed such steadfast determination to complete the admission process, and in time for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali.
They were motivated to join not only by the desire to expand their political, trade, social and diplomatic relations beyond the Francophonie network, but, most importantly, were attracted to the Commonwealth’s values and aspirations as enshrined in our Charter. The attraction of this important, dynamic, and evolving network, which provides the opportunity to diversify and engage with international partners and strengthen cooperation with the Commonwealth family of nations was irresistible.
Membership to the Commonwealth also provides access to a variety of technical assistance resources aimed at strengthening institutions that support good governance, public sector, climate change adaptation and human rights framework.
From 8 to 56 members, working together to deliver our common wealth
In 1949, eight countries came together to form the modern Commonwealth where leaders agreed that members are “free and equal members of the Commonwealth of Nations, freely cooperating in the pursuit of peace, liberty and progress”. This sense of the new Commonwealth was also recognised by Her Majesty The Queen in 1953 when she acknowledged that the Commonwealth “bears no resemblance to the Empires of the past”. She spoke of a Commonwealth that is “an entirely new conception built on the highest qualities of the spirit of man: friendship, loyalty, and the desire for freedom and peace…an equal partnership of nations and races”.
The Commonwealth today continues to shine as a beacon of hope and promise, inspiring confidence in the benefits of international cooperation and collective action. As an institution uniting 56 nations and 2.5 billion people – nearly a third of the world’s population – across varying geographical regions, cultures and religions, the Commonwealth provides a platform for member countries to engage each other on how to transform their communities and address common challenges in innovative and dynamic ways.
Be it climate change or the impact of COVID-19, it is clear that our world is changing and so are the solutions and partnerships needed to address these challenges.
Together we are committed to the development of free and democratic societies, the promotion of peace and prosperity, and most importantly, solidarity in our quest to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and improve the lives of our people, across the Commonwealth, especially those in small and vulnerable states. Our work helps to grow economies and boost trade, deliver national resilience, address threats such as climate change, debt, and inequality, and empower young people, who account for more than 60 per cent of the population.
Our continued growth, beyond the scope of our history, reflects the strength of our association and our common belief in the values of democracy, human rights and good governance, which can be converted into progress for each of our member governments across a full range of priorities.
So, by joining the Commonwealth, Gabon and Togo will now have the opportunity to be part of critical discussions and a mutually supportive community of independent and sovereign states, aided by over 40 technical assistance tools and more than 80 Commonwealth organisations.
I am thrilled with the addition of these two vibrant countries to our family – a tight-knit family based on the certainty that no matter what challenges we face, the Commonwealth always comes together to face them as one. We leave no one behind. This, I believe, is what makes the Commonwealth special.