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Aaron Hape: Sharing Commonwealth values

Aaron Hape: Sharing Commonwealth values

Commonwealth values and what they mean for the next generation of leaders

The Founder and Executive Director of Commonwealth Youth New Zealand, tells Queen’s Young Leaders why he believes the Commonwealth enables us to collaborate for a better future.

No matter where in the world I am, one thing I notice is the commonalities in the values held by good people – no matter their culture, what language they speak, or how or where they were brought up.

Last year, the Commonwealth Secretariat celebrated its 50th anniversary. For half a century, it has done its best to champion good governance and the rule of law, and to ensure human rights are upheld across the globe.

Only two years before in 2013, the Commonwealth Charter was formally agreed – setting in stone the values that 53 member states would do their best to uphold.

You may think the Commonwealth is an outdated relic of a post-colonial era – a throwback to the days of the British Empire – or you may not have an opinion at all.

Whatever your view, one thing that must be acknowledged is how well the Commonwealth keeps its members true to their values.

Shared values

While I write this post in New Zealand, you may be reading it in Malta, or Jamaica or Canada. What brings the Commonwealth closer – and allows us to share, collaborate and understand – is the fact that our countries share values.

For example, In 2015 I served as part of the team observing the Trinidad and Tobago parliamentary election. As part of a Commonwealth Observer Group, we observed party election rallies, met key members of the government and media, and drew up a set of pragmatic recommendations for the government to consider before the next election.

Overall, our purpose was to ensure that the Commonwealth’s core principles were being upheld. Commonwealth countries – like New Zealand and Trinidad and Tobago – share very similar government, judicial, legal, and political structures. This made it easy to slot in and learn about the issues facing that country in a context I already understood.

Young leaders

Now, why is this relevant to young people?

The Commonwealth is almost unique among organisations of a similar size and purpose. Where some would pressure for change with the threat of military action, the Commonwealth explores all avenues for diplomatic discourse and conversation.

In a politically unstable world, it is often difficult for young people to understand problems facing their counterparts in their own countries – let alone in other people’s.

But young leaders excel at what they do because they understand the value of principles. And to understand others, one must first be able to articulate and contextualise what one believes in.

Commonwealth Values and the Commonwealth Charter set out a good basis on which young people can determine what they want to fight for and where they want to focus their passion.

Sharing values does not just allow us to share common thoughts and interests. In a wider context, it allows people – who, at first glance, may not have anything in common – to share, grow, and collaborate for the good of their communities, their families, their cultures and their societies.