Jamaica is pleased to join other members of the Commonwealth family across the world in commemorating Commonwealth Day 2016, under the theme “An Inclusive Commonwealth”.
The Commonwealth encompasses 53 states from all major continents and boasts a total population of over 2.2 billion people, representing the world’s major religions and racial groups. It exhibits rich cultural diversity, and is arguably one of the best examples of inclusiveness. This is further reinforced by the fact that the Commonwealth consists of countries of various sizes and stages of development. It includes the second largest country in the world, as well as tiny islands and landlocked states, all of which are recognised as sovereign states, and all having an equal voice.
Bound by our collective commitment to the core values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, the Commonwealth is a testament to the principle of inclusiveness. The Commonwealth promotes mutual understanding and respect for different cultures, while rejecting intolerance, prejudice and racism.
Adherence to the principle of inclusiveness within the Commonwealth has redounded to the benefit of many Small Island Developing States (SIDS), including Jamaica. The Organisation’s role in championing the cause of thirty-one small states within its fold has been seminal. Over the years, the Commonwealth has worked assiduously to raise global awareness of the vulnerabilities and development needs of these states, while forging partnerships that deliver tangible solutions. Importantly, the Commonwealth remains at the forefront of policy research and global advocacy to assist small states to build resilience, access financing, alleviate debt burdens and devise measures to respond to natural disasters and the impacts of climate change.
The Commonwealth’s active involvement in the International Conference on Small Island Developing States in 2014, which led to the adoption of the SAMOA Pathway, as well as the International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa in 2015, which adopted a development financing framework which reinforced the special needs of small states, is noteworthy. The Commonwealth’s advocacy on behalf of small states has left no doubt that these countries remain valuable members of the Commonwealth family.
The Commonwealth’s role in the protection of the interests of small states is underpinned by a recognition that the Organisation must serve all its members, especially its most vulnerable. It is this principle that guides the approach of the Government of Jamaica to governance as it seeks to promote and protect the welfare of all its citizens, regardless of colour, creed or class, in keeping with our national motto: “Out of Many, One People”. It is therefore incumbent upon all citizens of this great nation to continue to promote a just and inclusive society, based on the principles of respect and mutual understanding.
As we commemorate Commonwealth Day 2016, I invite all Jamaicans to partner with the Government in the promotion of an inclusive society, as we work towards eradicating social and economic inequality, and empowering all Jamaicans to maximise their fullest potential, in accordance with the tenets of Vision 2030 Jamaica: National Development Plan.