This year, we commemorate Commonwealth Day by focusing on the values of “respect and understanding.” We firmly believe that the Commonwealth of 53 Nations, which makes up one third of the global population, has an integral role to play in the promotion of these essential values.
Given its strength and significance as a cohesive Family of Nations rich in diversity, in history, culture, religion, race and ethnicity, the Organization can have a positive impact on individuals, countries and the international community in effecting change.
Throughout the years, the Commonwealth has progressed as a unique Organization in managing and showcasing diversity to the benefit of all its member countries and citizens, irrespective of race, colour or creed. The successful hosting of spectacular Commonwealth Friendly Games and the development of many artistic and cultural exchange programmes attest to its multifaceted characteristics.
Notwithstanding its cultural diversity, the Commonwealth has effectively increased networking and cooperation among its member countries in promoting collective interests at the social, economic and political levels, with the highest level of respect and understanding towards a common goal for growth and development.
With this approach, the Commonwealth has particularly adopted measures to promote peace through conflict prevention and conflict resolution and to help combat social issues, including racism, poverty, illiteracy and ill health. In line with its focus on youth development, the Commonwealth has motivated young people to show respect and understanding and encouraged them to embrace and share in each other’s culture, especially through youth exchange programmes and educational links.
As the Commonwealth continues its drive to promote respect and understanding, it remains cognizant of the many global challenges, including conflicts, disregard for the basic rights of individuals, lack of respect for the culture and religious affiliation of different nations. Commonwealth leaders will undoubtedly address these and other pertinent issues at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Kampala, Uganda, in November 2007.
As societies, nations and regions work best in the absence of tensions and conflicts, today, we especially implore all Commonwealth States to focus on issues concerning conflict prevention, the rights of others, the benefits of cultural diversity and the empowerment of young people at the national and international levels, to respect differences and to promote understanding in the world.
The involvement of our youth in these celebrations is very important as it gives them an opportunity to learn more about the Commonwealth. I am therefore pleased that students from the corporate area, as well as rural parishes, are participating in today’s activities.
It is my hope that as we observe Commonwealth Day 2007, may we learn to respect each other and their differences and try to promote peace and understanding amongst ourselves. This is the true test of our strength as a Commonwealth of Nations.
I wish for all Jamaica a happy Commonwealth Day.

JIS Social