Commonwealth Day 13 March 2023.
For the past few years this Blog has published an edition to commemorate the annual Commonwealth Day celebration usually held on the second Monday of March. Since last year The Commonwealth has increased in size with the accession to it of the Francophone African republics of Gabon and Togo. Both countries had no previous constitutional links with Britain or any other Commonwealth countries but their admission to the organisation does mean that The Commonwealth now has 56 members, more than ever before.
In September 2022, it saw the death of the former Head of The Commonwealth, the late HM Queen Elizabeth II who was much loved and admired throughout both the countries of The Commonwealth and the entire world. She was succeeded as monarch of her realms by her eldest son, King Charles III, who had previously been approved as her successor as Head of The Commonwealth at a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, and his coronation on 6 May 2023 will be a great Commonwealth event and should be accompanied by a host of stamp issues.
2022 also saw the hosting of a highly successful Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England’s biggest city after London, where the teams of over 70 countries and territories participated in the friendly and joyful sporting event.
Unfortunately, a degree of Commonwealth disunity is apparent as the 2023 Commonwealth Day dawns following the recent vote in the United Nations which was intended to support the suffering people of Ukraine and which called on their Russian oppressors to quit the country they had violently invaded causing vast amounts of death and destruction of innocent Ukrainian civilians and their heroic armed forces. The governments of Commonwealth countries in south Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh,Sri Lanka), sub-Saharan Africa (South Africa, eSwatini, Mozambique, Namibia, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Togo, Gabon, Cameroon and Namibia) and The Caribbean (Dominica and Grenada) all failed to show the moral integrity needed to call for the end of Putin’s murderous assault on Ukraine but pleasingly they were greatly outnumbered by the forty Commonwealth governments which supported Ukraine in this time of its anguish. Integrity in a country’s attitude to national and individual freedoms and support for the oppressed are key features of being a Commonwealth member and some governments are clearly falling short in living up to these fine and noble ideals which The Commonwealth holds so dearly by not fully supporting Ukraine in its struggle against the murderous Russian invaders.
The theme for this year’s Commonwealth Day is Forging a sustainable and peaceful common future which is a little hollow when sixteen, more than a quarter of, Commonwealth members fail to support a country experiencing extreme aggression from its vastly bigger neighbour. Philatelically, however, some Commonwealth postal administrations will be supporting the cause of peace when they participate in this year’s EUROPA omnibus issue from European postal services which is themed, Peace the highest value of humanity. Issues can be expected from Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus postal service on 3 May, Cyprus Post and Jersey Post on 9 May and Guernsey Post on 24 May. Royal Mail of course does not intend to participate in the EUROPA omnibus - it will be much too busy releasing items to commemorate the BBC comedy Blackadder on 17 May and the game Warhammer (a somewhat contradictory title when most other European postal services are promoting peace as an ideal) on 8 June 2023.
This year’s Commonwealth Day will mark the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Commonwealth Charter which outlines the values and principles which unify the fifty six Commonwealth countries”. In her Commonwealth Day message, the Baroness Scotland, Secretary General of The Commonwealth, said, “We stand together now to face the challenges of the moment. Where there is violence and conflict we work for peace. Where there is insecurity, we protect the culture, process and institutions of democracy. Where there is poverty we tackle it. Where there is injustice we challenge it.
“Where our brothers and sisters have their lives threatened and disrupted by the impacts of climate change we stand with them, working tirelessly for climate action and a more sustainable world. I believe profoundly that our family of fifty six nations and 2.5 billion people is stronger, more vibrant, more connected and more purposeful than ever”. You can say what you like - The Commonwealth’s heart is in the right place even if sometimes words are not translated into actions by those who lead those fifty six nations.