Every year, on the second Monday in March, the Commonwealth of Nations celebrates Commonwealth Day. This year, Commonwealth Day was celebrated on Monday, 14 March with the theme “An Inclusive Commonwealth”. Although the day is now over and done with it is never too late to reflect on the theme and draw some observations.
Commonwealth Day provides the opportunity to promote understanding on global issues, international co-operation and the work of Commonwealth organisations, with an aim to improving the lives of citizens. This year’s theme celebrates the diversity of the Commonwealth's 53 member countries, and its more than two billion people. It is an opportunity for individuals, communities and organizations alike to promote shared Commonwealth values of peace, democracy and equality, and celebrate the association’s rich diversity.
The Commonwealth Charter, whilst recognizing that every person is different, and each has something unique to offer, asserts that everyone is equal and deserves to be treated fairly, whether rich or poor, without regard to race, age, gender, belief or any other identity. The Commonwealth builds a better world by including and respecting everybody and the richness of their personalities. This concept is also enshrined in the CAA’s Constitution and this should be one of our guiding concepts in formulating our activities throughout the year.
The Head of the Commonwealth, The Queen, in her annual message, urged people everywhere to give practical effect to the theme by “supporting those in need and those who feel excluded in all walks of life”.
“Being inclusive and accepting diversity goes far deeper than accepting differences at face value and being tolerant. True celebration of the dignity of each person, and the value of their uniqueness and contribution, involves reaching out, recognising and embracing their individual identity,” the Queen said.
In his message on the day, the Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said “An Inclusive Commonwealth refers to the values of tolerance, respect and understanding, as well as equity and fairness, set out in the Commonwealth Charter, and the richness of the Commonwealth as a family of nations in which each member state is valued equally and has an equal voice. In changing times, the need for the Commonwealth to act as an inclusive
network for mutual support, development and growth of opportunity and rights for all is as great as ever.”
He added that “taking strength from its diversity, the Commonwealth succeeds in creating common ground on which to stand together in answering the challenges of our times.”
Commonwealth Secretary-General Designate, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, said that “as the first woman to be entrusted with the role of Commonwealth Secretary-General, I intend to make the role of women and women’s empowerment a big part of what I do”. She stressed that more must be done to improve the life chances of females if Commonwealth member countries, communities and businesses are to prosper.
The words of Kofi Annan, former U N Secretary General, have a special significance on this day when he said “Let me dwell on the word inclusive for a moment because it has a central place in the Commonwealth’s founding document. This puts the people at its heart and declares that plurality and diversity are its greatest strength. It also means that we must constantly strive to ensure that no child, woman or man is excluded or left behind. These are enduring principles which not only bind us together as citizens of the Commonwealth but are absolutely critical for our collective ambitions for our world It has never been more important for the Commonwealth to stress the bonds of human compassion and solidarity that unite us across the divides of race and religion, gender and geography.”
As architects we should strongly support this year’s theme and implement through our work the concept of inclusivity not only in our daily dealings, but also, in the buildings we design and develop. The purpose for all this is to achieve successful and healthy communities.
All our actions have an impact on the communities we live in and serve, so we must not only think of our own needs but also act in the public interest. Sustainable construction means, among other things, making careful use of natural resources that are available at present so as not to jeopardize their availability for future generations.
We have an obligation to ensure a Quality of Life for our citizens.
15 March 2016
[Commonwealth Day 2016]