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Commonwealth Day 2018: Towards a common future

On March 12th, more than 2,400 million people all over the world come together for Commonwealth Day 2018 celebrations. These people make up around 30% of the world’s population. They not only share a common trade and legal system, but also more emotionally linking ties, such as history, culture and language. The predecessor of this celebration is Queen Victoria’s birthday which then turned into Empire Day after her death. Its background is of a more patriotic nature as it promoted commitment towards the Empire and what it stood for and served the purpose of unifying the Empire’s territories in its glory. In 1958, the focus was set on different aspects and the Empire Day turned into the Commonwealth Day celebrated on another day of the year: the second Monday of March.

Commonwealth Day 2018 is no different than others in previous years in that it has never been accepted as a national holiday. Nonetheless, most of the countries in the Commonwealth do have celebrations on the day; they celebrate the links and associations created by the Commonwealth that bring the world together.

Each year, the Queen and members of the Royal Family go to a special service at Westminster Abbey that is held in respect of different cultures and religions including Elizabeth II’s annual Commonwealth Day address which can be observed all over the world. In territories such as Gibraltar, Belize and the Bahamas, schools are closed to celebrate the Commonwealth Day.

Commonwealth Day 2018: what is the Commonwealth?

The Commonwealth, as we know it today, is a free association that is formed by all the nations that once belonged to the British Empire being 53 independent states in total and including 32 republics. Queen Elizabeth II is the monarch of 16 member states and forms the head of the Commonwealth. Although she is acknowledged as the organisation’s symbol, her functions are merely representative.

In accordance to the Commonwealth’s pursued values of democracy, freedom of speech, human rights and the rule of law, member states are not bound to legal obligations with each other and can leave the organisation out of free will. However, if a country’s actions contradict those values, it can be forced to. In history, it occurred that countries chose to no longer be a part of the union, such as Ireland or Burma, have been suspended and accepted again, or excluded from the Commonwealth for an indefinite period.

Commonwealth Day 2018: brief history of the Commonwealth flag

The flag was designed 1976 and in 2013 there have been made a few changes to it in tilt, shade of colour and number of spears around the depicted globe. It is obvious what the globe stands for, namely the Commonwealth’s global influence and thinking. What is less obvious though, is that the number of spears do not symbolise the number of member states, or anything alike, but the diversity that can be found in the organisation. These symbolic spears of diversity form a “C” for Commonwealth.

Further information on activities and highlights of Commonwealth Day can be found online.

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