Canada and the Commonwealth
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 53 countries that work together toward shared goals in democracy and development. These member states range from large countries such as Canada to small islands such as Jamaica.
The mandate of the Commonwealth is to serve the needs of its member governments and their citizens in political, economic and social development and to provide a forum for deliberation, problem solving, consensus decision-making, and action on matters of importance to the organization.
Canada joined the Commonwealth in 1931 and has played an important role in its evolution, from the days of the British Empire before the Second World War through its transition into the modern Commonwealth of today—a worldwide, multicultural association of sovereign and equal states.
Canada’s support for the Commonwealth
Canada funds the Commonwealth and its institutions through assessed contributions as a member state of the Commonwealth, and through voluntary contributions for specific projects and programs, with the amounts determined at Canada’s discretion. Key institutional partners include the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Commonwealth Foundation, and the Commonwealth of Learning (located in Vancouver, British Columbia). Canada’s support to the Commonwealth of Learning contributes to helping member governments provide increased access to affordable, quality education and training opportunities for those who need it most, particularly women and girls, using open, distance and technology-based approaches.
The Secretariat's focus on helping member countries strengthen their public policy and management capacities to achieve economic growth makes it a key multilateral partner for Canada in formulating, negotiating and implementing trade policies, diversifying export bases, strengthening debt management, and attracting new investment.
The Secretariat promotes peace and democracy by helping to strengthen democratic institutions and processes in member countries, including improving election processes, strengthening the rule of law, adopting and implementing human rights standards, and implementing measures to prevent and combat corruption.
In 2011, with the support of Canada and other donors, the Commonwealth and its institutions:
- Sent Commonwealth teams to observe and assess elections in Zambia, Cameroon, Gambia, St Lucia, and Guyana
- Helped seven member countries ratify or adopt eight different human rights agreements and conventions, including protecting the rights of children, protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and protecting political rights
- Helped four Caribbean countries develop national and regional policy frameworks and associated legislation related to maritime and ocean governance to build economic resilience and contribute to improved food security and livelihoods
- Established the Caribbean Association of Debt Managers to provide practical assistance to countries within the region in developing technical capability and meeting core debt management objectives
- Helped 300,000 girls and boys in 10 countries attend 12 open schools (learning on-line or through correspondence rather than physical presence in a school)
- Helped an estimated 108,000 students in 10 countries learn how to improve maternal and child health, prevent HIV/AIDS and non-communicable diseases, and improve environmental health
- Increased access to quality technical and vocational education/training through open and distance learning in seven institutions in three African countries
- Helped the Virtual University of Small States of the Commonwealth offer courses in six institutions in six countries
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