The UK Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth 2018-20: opportunities for Knowledge Quarter partners – a view from London School of Business and Management
‘The Commonwealth makes the world safe for diversity’ (Nelson Mandela)
The London School of Business and Management (LSBM) has in recent months engaged with key Commonwealth stakeholders including the Commonwealth Secretariat; the Association of Commonwealth Universities (of which it recently became the 500th member and whose HQ is in the Knowledge Quarter (KQ)); the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London; the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs; and various Commonwealth accredited organisations including the Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network and the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council. It has also had an opportunity to meet with the Cabinet Office team leading the planning and arrangements for the upcoming Heads of Government Meeting (the Commonwealth Summit) in April 2018 in London and with organisers of the parallel fora on youth, business and NGOs respectively (to be held at the QE2 Conference Centre). The UK will then assume the role of Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth from Malta and will be succeeded by Malaysia when it hosts in 2020.
The Commonwealth’s special strength lies in its diversity and its concern for the vulnerable. Its values of democracy, development and diversity bind its members together providing a common ground to help each other which is never more needed at this fragmented, fractured and fractious moment. Its strength has been demonstrated in its great potential to influence contemporary global policies and institutions – be it the SDGs, climate change or on youth. In March 2017 when Commonwealth Trade Ministers met for the first time they engaged in substantive dialogue with the private sector in London. There was recognition of a huge trade potential due to common language, legal systems and institutions. Bilateral trade costs between Commonwealth partners are 19% lower when compared to other country pairings. Intra-Commonwealth trade is growing and is expected to surpass US$1trillion by 2020. This needs to be set against the fact that the Commonwealth is home to one third of the global youth population and over a billion women with more than half of its citizens under the age of 30. Discussions in London highlighted the interdependence of flows of goods, services, people, ideas and opportunities for knowledge and stakeholder collaboration as a critical foundation for economic and social growth, echoed in meetings of IT, Finance, Women Affairs, Law, Trade and Youth Ministers since 2016.
When the last Commonwealth Summit was hosted in the UK in 1997 (in a far less connected world) there was no role for the host Government as the role of Chair did not exist. LSBM strongly feels that there are now several opportunities emerging for the KQ with the UK hosting the Summit and assuming the Chair. These include supporting the internationalisation of partners both in an outward and inward sense; reinforcing London’s position in a post Brexit world; and in engaging with the UK Government during its term as Commonwealth Chair. There is also an opportunity to tap into the growth of the 2nd and 3rd generation diaspora characterised in a tweet from a Conservative Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to a Labour Mayor of London on 06 May 2016.
Arif Zaman, Deputy Director of the Centre for Research and Enterprise and Lecturer and Module Leader at LSBM, is proposing to convene a small informal working group of interested KQ partners in September to articulate potential opportunities for the KQ prior to reporting back to the Knowledge Quarter Steering Group and a meeting with the Cabinet Office before the end of the year.
If you’re interested in being part of this working group then please contact Arif directly on firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 22nd September.