Speech of the Australian High Commissioner to Ghana
To High School students on Commonwealth Day, 10 March 2014, Accra
My name is Joanna Adamson and I am High Commissioner for Australia to Ghana. Many people ask me why my title is High Commissioner and not Ambassador. The answer is that ambassadors are what foreign countries send to each other. Commonwealth countries are not foreign to each other, and we send High Commissioners instead.
As you know, the Commonwealth is an association of 53 countries around the world- from Africa, Asia the Americas, the Caribbean the Pacific and Europe. Overall, about a third of the world’s population live in Commonwealth countries.
Originally, membership of the Commonwealth was limited to Britain and its former colonies, including Ghana and Australia. Membership has broadened now to include a few countries in Africa – Mozambique, Rwanda, Cameroon – which wanted very much to join up and made a good case for doing so.
What’s special about Commonwealth countries is that they have shared history, and shared values, and are working together to achieve common goals.
The Commonwealth is also about practical cooperation in diverse fields like education, the professions, business, civil society - and sports. Commonwealth scholarships offer the opportunity to study abroad. Commonalities of language and administrative systems make doing business together much easier. And both Australia and Ghana hope to bring home gold medals from the Commonwealth Games to be held later this year in Scotland!
Getting back to values – Commonwealth values have been set out in various documents over the years. The most recent statement was contained in the Commonwealth Charter, which was agreed by all Commonwealth leaders in December 2012 and was signed by the Head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II, on Commonwealth Day last year. The Charter sets out the values of democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and respect for diversity.
The late President Nelson Mandela memorably said that “the Commonwealth makes the world safe for diversity” – that sums it up very well for me.
It is indeed a privilege to be a High Commissioner on Commonwealth Day.