• Caribbean Tourism Performance Scores High Marks Despite The Pandemic

    Despite daunting challenges presented over the past 18 months by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Caribbean tourism and hospitality industry recorded many significant successes, and data points to an encouraging outlook ahead.

    Speaking during the opening plenary session at the Caribbean Hotel & Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS) held last week, Acting CEO & Director General of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) Vanessa Ledesma presented insights on the performance and outlook of the Caribbean tourism industry.

  • Caribbean urged to look within to grow tourism

    Leaders in the Caribbean tourism industry have been advised to embrace and develop the strengths of their people to keep the industry among the most competitive in the world.

    The charge came from the acting secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Neil Walters speaking at the Grenada Tourism Authority’s inaugural awards ceremony held at the Spice Island Beach Resort in Grenada.

    “Yes, we can have the most beautiful properties, the best airports, the best seaports, but it is the people who make the Caribbean tourism product what it is. It is your welcoming and hospitable spirit which encourages visitors to return,” said Walters.

    The acting SG said demands from visitors for experiences beyond the traditional ‘sun, sea and sand’, only served to enhance the need for the industry to equip the hospitality workforce to perform at the highest level.

    “If we took a snapshot of tourism at this point in time, we will see that one of the strongest reasons for the continued growth in the number of persons visiting our shores is the spirit exuded by the amazing individuals who get up and go out and work on the front line every day.  The individuals who don’t just see it as a job but see the value of the service they are giving. That is the thing success stories in this industry are made of,” said Walters.

    He said the trends towards experiential tourism call for the industry to shift away from excessive standardisation and embrace the unique culture of the destinations in the Caribbean.

    The acting SG admonished tourism leaders to leverage the natural beauty and infrastructural edge the region has to develop emerging areas such as community-based tourism.

    “In all the examples of community-based tourism I have seen, the key selling point for the visitor has been the chance to come and be in that community, to experience that community, to experience the people of that community. These communities create the unified voice necessary to market and sell the product, and, in turn, sustain the community’s project,” said Walters, who emphasised such an approach must build on the existing model of hotels which form the bedrock of the thriving Caribbean tourism industry.

    “What we have to strive for is stronger links between this model with its sea and sand and the experiences which lie sometimes unlocked, away from the sea shore. As we change to match the demands of the times and embrace the treasures of experiences which exist inland, we must re-educate ourselves to see the value that we often overlook. Facets of traditional life that we may see as less than noteworthy, visitors may see as fascinating,” said Walters.

    Walters said the Caribbean must embrace its identity and take pride in elements of its culture that can also serve to boost the attractiveness of destinations to the modern day visitor.

    “I know that in recent times, across the Caribbean we have seen food festivals emerging which promote indigenous cuisine, which are popular with visitors. Well, let’s not hold back on the traditional delicacies which we are sometimes hesitant to unleash on visitors. I am sure many of our visitors would love those experiences. Some of our countries have communities skilled in pottery. We may need to move away from just selling pottery to giving pottery lessons.  These are just a couple examples of the ways the things we do and how we live can become added value as we enhance our tourism industry” said Walters.

    The acting CTO SG said the direction of the tourism industry calls for a rethink of how we maximise the value of our natural and intrinsic assets to create better selling points for the destinations and to do this people must be empowered to keep driving the industry forward.

     

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  • Celebrating Jamaica as ‘0121 Festival begins

    Jamaica 0121 is on us today as the free outdoor festival will bring a fusion of Jamaican and British culture featuring live bands, performing artists, DJs, workshops, the finest cuisine and a variety of exciting stalls and demonstrations to ‘wet’ everybody’s appetite.

    It’s a weekend-long celebration marking the country’s 57th year of Independence of the sunshine island with the free outdoor family festival providing the perfect visual demonstration of the strong links that have been established between Birmingham and Jamaica.

    The ‘Jamaica 0121 Festival - One Love, One Vibe, One City’, in Victoria Square, in Birmingham, promises to be another exhilarating dazzling display of Jamaica’s influence on today's culture engaging everyone that attends and encapsulating the diverse spirit of Birmingham with a variety of stalls providing the very and original jerk chicken, rum punch, music, crafts, miscellanies goods and a wide choice of business opportunities and a wide array of entertainment for the whole family.

    The party in the Square finish on Sunday, August 4.

  • Charity honours heroic animals ‘who also served’ this VJ Day

    On the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, which marks both the surrender of Japan and the end of the Second World War, leading vet charity, PDSA, paid their tribute to the brave hero animals ‘who also served’ and helped save countless lives during World War II.
     
    The charity commemorated the milestone by sharing exclusive e-books which tell the remarkable stories of animal heroes honoured with the PDSA Dickin Medal**, known as the animals’ Victoria Cross. These include the incredible story of English Pointer Judy, who is the only dog to ever be listed as an official Prisoner of War in Japan, where she helped to maintain morale among her fellow prisoners and saved many lives through her intelligence and watchfulness.
     
    The prestigious PDSA Dickin Medal recognises outstanding acts of gallantry and devotion to duty displayed by animals serving with the Armed Forces or Civil Defence units in theatres of war.
     
    The Medal was instituted by the charity’s Founder, Maria Dickin, with the approval of the War Office and Imperial War Museum, to raise the status of animals and acknowledge the remarkable roles they play in society. It was first awarded to a messenger pigeon named Winkie on 3 December 1943.
     
    PDSA’s Awards and Heritage Manager, Amy Dickin, said: “Throughout history, animals have made an extraordinary difference to the lives of so many, not only the men and women who serve, but also civilians who our military are protecting.

    “Sharing the stories of these incredible animals this VJ Day is a great way to celebrate the incredible, life-saving role animals have played throughout history, and continue to play today.”
     

  • China's Supreme Court hires Uganda's ex-chief justice

    China's Supreme Court has hired Uganda's former Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe, as a member of its expert committee on adjudication of international commercial disputes.

    Justice Katureebe will sit on the committee for the next four years. He retired from Uganda's Supreme Court in June after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 years.

    "I am profoundly excited about this appointment, for it is a high-level committee that will keep me professionally connected," he is quoted as saying in a statement tweeted by Uganda's judiciary. The expert committee, established in August 2018, is part of the China International Commercial Court (CICC) which is an organ of China's Supreme Court.

    The committee is comprised of 31 leaders of international organisations, legal experts, scholars, judges and lawyers selected from different countries, the statement by Uganda's judiciary added. It mediates international commercial disputes assigned to it, provides legal opinion on foreign laws when asked and gives advice on the future of the CICC.

    The Chinese embassy in Uganda has congratulated Justice Katureebe on his appointment.

  • CHOGM 2021 to be postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic

    His Excellency Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, and Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, are today announcing the postponement of CHOGM 2021 as a result of the continuing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
    Having reviewed all available evidence and risk assessments including with the World Health Organization (WHO) and their risk assessment tool, and after close consultation between the Commonwealth Secretariat and Member States, the decision has been made to postpone the CHOGM in Kigali for a second time.
    Speaking on the postponement, President Kagame said: “The decision to postpone CHOGM for a second time has not been taken lightly. The health and welfare of all Commonwealth citizens at this critical time must take precedence. We look forward to welcoming the Commonwealth family to Kigali for CHOGM at the appropriate time.”
    Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC said: “We know that the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to have a hugely damaging impact on our member countries, many of whom continue to face huge losses to lives and livelihoods.
    “And while it is with deep disappointment and regret that we cannot bring Commonwealth leaders together at this time to discuss many of these critical issues, we must be mindful of the huge risks large meetings pose to all.
    “I want to thank the Government and people of Rwanda for their professionalism, support, patience and their impeccable readiness to hold CHOGM. And I want to thank all our member countries and, in particular, the United Kingdom as our Chair-in-Office and India, who have suffered so grievously in these trying times. I look forward warmly to a time when we can be reunited with the Commonwealth family, face-to-face, in Rwanda when the conditions allow for us to do so safely and securely.”

     

  • CHTA Education Foundation And Dominica’s Secret Bay Team Up To Support Hospitality Training

     

    The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Education Foundation (CHTAEF) and Dominica’s award-winning Secret Bay boutique resort are joining forces to support the professional development of the region’s hospitality workers.All proceeds from the raffle of a five-night stay for two at the exclusive property will go toward providing Caribbean hospitality industry workers with opportunities such as scholarships, continuing education programs and on-the-job training. 

    “Advancing the education and training of Caribbean hospitality students and professionals has never been more important as we maneuver our lives, livelihoods and careers through these choppy waters,” said CHTAEF chairman Karolin Troubetzkoy. 

    Situated on a spectacular clifftop in Dominica, known as the Caribbean’s “Nature Island”, Secret Bay is among the leading boutique resorts in the world. An acclaimed Relais & Châteaux property, the secluded six-star resort comprises elegant villas, each featuring a private plunge pool and dedicated villa host. Guests have access to a secret beach as well as an on-call concierge, chefs and guides. 

    Conceptualized by architect Fruto Vivas, Secret Bay’s award-winning, open-air villas are known worldwide for an artistic fusion of high-level design and local craftsmanship. As a Green Globe-certified resort made entirely of sustainably sourced materials, Secret Bay takes environmental responsibility to the highest level while maintaining its commitment to guest comfort. 

    “The Education Foundation has a stellar history of supporting hospitality professionals, and it is our honor to play our part, particularly during tough times,” said Gregor Nassief, Proprietor of Secret Bay, which was recently ranked the number one resort in the Caribbean in Travel + Leisure’s 2020 World’s Best Awards.

    CHTAEF was established in 1986 as an independent nonprofit offering tax-exempt status for donations. As part of its mission, CHTAEF provides people throughout the Caribbean region with an awareness of the varied career opportunities in the industry, as well as technical and professional development through scholarships, special assistance initiatives and other training programs.

    Today, CHTAEF volunteer trustees administer one of the largest scholarship programs available in the Caribbean hospitality and tourism industry. Funds for these scholarships and grants are generated from corporate sponsorships, benefit auctions and special events, such as the Secret Bay raffle. The foundation also encourages the co-sponsorship of scholarships through companies that do business with the Caribbean, national hotel associations and individual resorts.

    “The Education Foundation is committed to playing our part to ensure that our Caribbean hospitality professionals will have access and opportunity to complete their training and expand their skills,” said Troubetzkoy, who is also executive director of the world-renowned Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain resorts in nearby St. Lucia.

    Each US$50 purchase secures one entry for the five-night stay prize, which is valued at more than US$6,500. Entries will be accepted until 12 p.m. ET on September 30, 2020.

  • CHTA President Predicts Rapid Return of Caribbean Tourism

    Pablo Torres, the president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), predicted the Caribbean will see a return of tourism to the region, “faster than many parts of the world,” thanks to the protocols and partnerships implemented throughout the region to help lessen the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Averring 2021 would be a year of recovery, Torres declared, “Tourism is our key to recovery, to restoring the livelihood of thousands of employees in our industry, to reopening our doors, and welcoming our guests.” In addition to replenishing tax revenues to cash-strapped governments, Torres noted that a tourism revival would refresh and renew “the minds, bodies and spirits of millions of travelers who will discover that the Caribbean is the best place on earth to recover from the ravage of this pandemic.”

    Describing COVID-19 as an unprecedented challenge, he applauded the Caribbean’s rapid response to the pandemic, which helped to contain the spread of the virus more effectively than many other parts of the world. He saluted the “countless health heroes” whose dedication and sacrifices had averted a great deal of human suffering and have helped to set the stage for the economic recovery the region will be experiencing in the coming months.

    Torres commended not only health care professionals but also front- and back-of- house workers across many industries, including tourism, airports and airline personnel, immigration and customs officers, and ground transportation workers: ”You have led by example, providing exemplary services while adhering to essential health safety protocols. We are all in debt to your service.”

    The hospitality industry veteran lauded CHTA’s “key partners in health”, including National Hotel and Tourism Associations, the Caribbean Public Health Agency, the Caribbean Tourism Organization, the UN World Tourism Organization, and the World Travel and Tourism Council: “Through collaboration and sharing insights and expertise we all help one another.”

    From territory- and country-specific COVID-19 testing requirements and stringent cleaning and sanitization protocols in place at accommodations providers to social distancing and face mask policies and rules limiting capacity at restaurants and other gathering places, Torres noted that the Caribbean hospitality sector has gone to great lengths to protect and ensure the health and safety of both residents and visitors. 

    Recalling that the Caribbean and its tourism sector has weathered many crises over the years and has always rebounded, Torres described 2020 as a year when CHTA members were challenged to do more with less, including significant revenue shortfalls.

  • CHTAEF and Les Roches launch professional development program for Caribbean hospitality managers

    The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Education Foundation (CHTAEF) and Les Roches Global Hospitality Education are launching a new professional development program for Caribbean hospitality professionals.

  • Church opens its doors for Muslims to pray at end of Ramadan

    A church in Berlin, in Germany, has opened its doors to allow Muslim worshipers, who are unable to fit into their mosque, under new social distancing rules.

    Germany has allowed religious service to resume on May 4, but worshipers must maintain a distance of 1.5 metres (5ft).

    As a result, the Dair Assalam mosque in the city’s Neukölln district could only hold a fraction of its congregation.

    But the Martha Lutheran church in Kreuzberg offered to help by hosting Friday prayers at the end of Ramadan.

    Throughout the month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex from dawn to dusk. Normally families and friends would gather to break their fast and attend communal prayers, but in Berlin - as in countries across the world - this year's celebrations have been affected.

    The mosque's imam said: "It is a great sign and it brings joy in Ramadan and joy amid this crisis. This pandemic has made us a community.

    “Crises bring people get together”.

    Noting the contrast to Islamic worship, congregation member Samer Hamdoun said: "It was a strange feeling because of the musical instruments, the pictures.

    "But when you look, when you forget the small details, in the end this is the house of God."

  • City leaders meet online to support the European University for Well-being

    Civic Leaders from cities across Europe came together online for the first ‘EUniWell Mayors' Meeting’.

    The event united leaders from the home cities of the seven universities which form the European University for Well-Being (EUniWell). It gave them the opportunity to meet each other, learn more about the alliance and develop first ideas for cooperation.

  • City retains Fairtrade status for 17th year running

    Wolverhampton has retained its Fairtrade City status for a 17th successive year.

    Achieving Fairtrade City status is recognition of Wolverhampton's ongoing commitment to supporting Fairtrade and using licensed products with the Fairtrade Mark. The city received notification of the accolade from the Fairtrade Foundation in recognition of the achievements and hard work of Wolverhampton City Fairtrade Partnership over the last few years.

    The Fairtrade Foundation cited the efforts made by the Partnership to engage with people through workplaces, schools, places of worship and local community organisations, the continued promotion of Fairtrade products and the support of local businesses and the city’s Mayor, Councillor Claire Darke. They were particularly impressed with the number of people who have been reached through the work of the Partnership, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Mayor Councillor Darke said: “Achieving Fairtrade City status is an amazing success, with Wolverhampton now having held this recognition for 17 years running. The accolade is testament to the dedication of the Wolverhampton City Fairtrade Partnership, local residents and Fairtrade supporters. I congratulate everyone involved.”

    Barbara Gwinnett, Chair of Wolverhampton City Fairtrade Partnership, added: “We’re delighted to mark the 17th year of the city’s Fairtrade status with its renewal this year. 

    “In 2019 we demonstrated that we were firmly established in the city, promoting Fairtrade across a range of organisations and agencies and holding talks and events each month. In March 2020 we had to cease outward facing activities due to the coronavirus pandemic, but carried on with our meetings online and held an online presentation during Fairtrade Fortnight 2021.

    “During this period, Partnership members have worked with and support the work of the Wolverhampton Fairtraid shop as they have found innovative ways to continue to sell Fairtrade items to their customers. We look forward to picking up links and moving forward once the current pandemic restrictions are lifted.”

  • Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks' house on display in Italy

    The one-time home of US civil rights legend Rosa Parks has gone on display inside the Royal Palace of Naples in Italy.

     

    Ms Parks came to world prominence when, in 1955, she refused to give up her seat on a racially segregated bus.

     

    On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger and was arrested for civil disobedience.

     

    It became a leading moment in the US civil rights moment. For her, though, she received death threats and moved north to Detroit, where she briefly lived in the white clapboard house with relatives.

     

    The incident led to a year-long bus boycott in the city and in November 1956, a federal court ruled that bus segregation was unconstitutional, and Parks was immortalised as a key figure in the fight against institutionalised racism.

     

    Detroit city authorities planned to demolish the two-storey building after the financial crisis in 2008. But Parks' niece Rhea McCauley bought it from Detroit officials for $500 and sold it to US artist Ryan Mendoza.

     

    In 2016, after trying to have the city save the building, he took it apart and moved it to Berlin for display at his studio.

     

    Two years later, in 2018, Brown University in Rhode Island said it would display the house as part of a civil rights exhibition, but then dropped out because of a legal dispute with her family. Mr Mendoza later contacted the Morra Greco Foundation where he previously worked who agreed to show the house at the Royal Palace in Naples, with the backing of the regional government in Campania.

     

    The display is part of an exhibition called Almost Home - The Rosa Parks House Project.

     

    A repeating soundtrack titled ‘8:46’ plays alongside the displayed house, in reference to the length of time police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the neck of George Floyd in May.

     

    His killing sparked international protests and condemnation of police brutality and racism in the US.

     

    As she lies in state in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington DC the US Congress referred to Rosa Parks as "The First Lady of Civil Rights."

     

    After a legal dispute, the house is now on display in Italy.

     

  • Commemorating Easter

    As the most solemn week of the Christian year, Holy Week - the week leading up to Easter, marks the week during which Christians particularly remember the last week of Jesus's life.

    Having begun on Palm Sunday, commemorating Christ's triumphant arrival in Jerusalem to the cheering crowds who gathered for the Feast, they heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting; “Hosanna,” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” and “Blessed is the King of Israel!”

    As crosses are burned at the start of Lent today, to provide the ash for Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday saw Christians remember it as the day of the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and established the ceremony known as the Eucharist, today’s Good Friday commemorates the Passion: the execution of Jesus by crucifixion before Holy Saturday is marked Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon, or Resurrection Sunday,which is a festival and holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

     

    Easter Monday, also known as Bright Monday, Renewal Monday, Wet Monday, and Dyngus Day, is similar to the services on Pascha (Easter Sunday) and often include an outdoor procession. As the second day of Eastertide, the day after Easter Sunday is also a public holiday in some countries.

    It’s also a Bank Holiday - a national public holiday in the United Kingdom and the Crown dependencies as people mark the occasion with Easter Eggs to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  • Commonwealth benchmarks to help countries fight corruption

    A landmark set of measures to support international efforts in tackling corruption has been launched by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

    The Commonwealth Anti-Corruption Benchmarks are designed to help governments and public sector organisations assess laws, procedures and actions against international good practice and make improvements if needed. United Nations figures indicate that corruption costs the global economy $3.6 trillion each year. Global proceeds from criminal activities are estimated at between $1 trillion and $1.6 trillion per year.

    The amount of money lost globally through corruption is equal to the total amount needed to successfully implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In development since 2018, the new benchmarks offer a comprehensive roadmap to reduce corruption across 25 areas of public and commercial life.

    Among the wide range of topics covered are corruption offences, investigation and prosecution, the court system, parliament, political elections and funding, public officials, procurement, management controls, and transparency to the public. The benchmarks also include mechanisms for engaging and mobilising the public and private sectors in educating, reporting and providing independent support and oversight.

    The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, said: “Throughout the world, including in member countries of the Commonwealth, corruption continues to undermine social and economic development and have immensely damaging consequences, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable of people and communities.

    “Our Commonwealth Anti-Corruption Benchmarks are a robust set of recommendations and good practices brought together as an interlocking identification, prevention and reporting system designed significantly to reduce the risk of corruption in the public and private sectors.

    “The Commonwealth Anti-Corruption Benchmarks package is a landmark initiative, unrivalled in scope and ambition, which I firmly believe provides a basis for transformational action in the Commonwealth and more widely towards ending the destructive scourge of corruption in all its forms.” Designed to be achievable, practical and auditable, this set of measures provides a holistic system that aims to reduce and deal with the risk of corruption.

    The benchmarks promote honesty, impartiality, accountability, and transparency and provide for specific anti-corruption measures. In cases where there may be no recognised international good practice, the benchmarks propose  good practice measures.

    The Commonwealth Secretariat’s Office of Civil and Criminal Justice Reform has worked in partnership with the Global Infrastructure Anti-Corruption Centre (GIACC) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to develop the benchmarks. There has also been wide consultation with the African Union, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Commonwealth law ministries, anti-corruption agencies and Commonwealth partner organisations.

    Neill Stansbury, Director of GIACC, and one of the authors of the benchmarks, said: “Corruption causes enormous damage in developed and developing countries, and primarily impacts on the poor.

    “While preventive action must be taken by both the public and private sectors, it is incumbent on governments and the public sector to provide the legal, regulatory and enforcement environment which ​enables and ensures a corruption-free society. The benchmarks are designed to assist governments and the public sector achieve this​ objective.”   

    Christopher Alder, Global Director of Regulation at RICS, said: “These benchmarks represent a step-change in the co-ordination and integration of anti-corruption mechanisms - mechanisms which connect public, commercial, professional and legal enforcement expertise.

    “Taken together the mechanisms provide a framework for these ‘communities’ to co-ordinate their activities to support proactive and, if necessary, punitive action. Creating a framework through which these communities, their interests and responsibilities integrate leverages their collective power to transform the way that international and Commonwealth countries fight corruption.

    “Ultimately, this collective power can protect the poorest and most vulnerable in our societies whilst building a future free of corruption.”

  • Commonwealth countries end year with ‘uplifting’ and ‘powerful’ musical collaboration

    Secretary-General Patricia Scotland has described a never-before-attempted musical feat as “uplifting and a powerful testament to the Commonwealth’s resilience”. The recently released ‘Simple Gifts’ soundtrack under the United Commonwealth COVID Music Project, features a collaboration of musicians, each representing a Commonwealth country.

    The Secretary-General said: “Strings, woodwind, brass, percussion and the enchanting sound of the human voice of all ages, arranged in one powerful performance to the backdrop of the Commonwealth’s villages, cities and coastlines.

    “It is a true reflection of the iridescent spectrum of our multidimensional, multicultural Commonwealth.” She added: “As parts of the world descend into lockdown, as we face the heart-wrenching moments of saying goodbye to loved ones, as economic turmoil and uncertainty become our new norm, this video will hopefully lift our spirits and inspire hope for a bright 2021.

    “This project reminds us that we are not alone and that whatever we face, we face as a family, rich in talent and innovation. It reminds us that we have all the tools to build back better.” The Secretary-General pointed out the importance of considering the arts in COVID-19 recovery strategies. She said: “It is not just about employment prospects and developing human capital, it is also about mental health and other health benefits.

    “Research suggests that involvement in art or music not only raises morale, promotes a sense of community and improves personal resilience, but also has a measurable impact on stress levels and benefits the immune system.” 

    Delivered in partnership with a professional music group, Dionysus Ensemble, the project harnesses the power of music to lift spirits, improve mental health and encourage international camaraderie, as countries tackle the challenges of the pandemic. Project Leader and ​Artistic Director of​ The Dionysus Ensemble, Léonie Adams, ​connected with high commissioners, musicians and participants to put together the inspiring soundtrack.

    She said: “When I first listened to the finished project, the hair on the back of my ​neck stood up. It has been an amazing, exciting journey from Africa, to the Caribbean, to Asia to the Pacific, the Americas and right back here to the UK where I reside.

    "It has been great to connect with people from all walks of life all over the world putting this together. It has been an incredible chance to share some joy and to create the most extraordinary network across the Commonwealth in a year when musicians' livelihoods everywhere have been hard hit.”

    The Dionysus Ensemble is the Ensemble-in-Residence for the Commonwealth Resounds - the accredited music organisation within the Commonwealth.

  • Commonwealth countries target inclusive shift to clean energy

    The Second Commonwealth Sustainable Energy Forum concluded today with strong recommendations for member countries to work together to fast-track an inclusive, just and equitable transition to low-carbon energy systems across the Commonwealth.

    The biennial gathering, held virtually, explored practical solutions to help meet global commitments on energy made under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Participants discussed new low-carbon technologies, addressing the high cost of technology and need for better access to finance, as well as policy recommendations that promote sustainability in the electricity, transport, cooling and cooking sectors.

    Opening at the event, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “We must urgently step up our action to implement the Paris Agreement and achieve our commitments on sustainable energy. While the transition pathways may differ across Commonwealth countries, the move to clean energy systems is a common goal.

    “The pace of the energy transition needs urgent acceleration for which strong political will and ambition by Commonwealth member countries is required. Governments need to establish the enabling frameworks to attract finance, scale up technology and lower costs for energy transitions.” She encouraged a “people-centred” approach that is inclusive and leaves no one behind.


    Countries were invited to lead ‘action groups’ focused on three key pillars, which make up the Commonwealth Sustainable Energy Transition agenda: Inclusive Energy Transitions; Technology and Innovation; and Enabling Frameworks. Countries also called for more collaboration on sharing knowledge, technologies and innovative solutions, including best practices on research, development and deployment of clean energy technologies in critical sectors, such as clean cooking and cooling.

    The event featured presentations by experts in the field as well as in-depth country presentations from Australia, Barbados, Botswana, Canada, Ghana, Kenya, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom. While discussions showed various countries are at different stages of the transitioning to using sustainable forms of energy, there was a consensus about its critical importance and learning from the experiences of other members.

    Delegates further acknowledged the challenges linked to energy transition, especially for economies that depend heavily on fossil fuels as a key source of income. Outcomes of the forum meeting will feed into Commonwealth contributions to the United Nations High Level Dialogue on Energy scheduled for September 2021, the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP 26 in November 2021 and the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

  • Commonwealth Day celebrated around the globe

    Celebrations and events were held around the world on Monday, 9 March to mark Commonwealth Day.

    This year’s event was centred around the theme ‘Delivering a Common Future’, highlighting how the 54 member countries in the Commonwealth family are ‘innovating, connecting and transforming’ to help achieve some of its biggest goals - such as protecting natural resources and boosting trade.

    Events to mark the occasion took place across five continents with the Commonwealth’s 2.4 billion citizens enjoying flag parades, church services, poetry mornings, dance performances and much more.

    Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth, released a message to mark the occasion.

    She touches on the theme of connectivity, mentioning how “advances in technology and modern media have now enabled many more people to witness and enjoy – with remarkable immediacy – the experience of Commonwealth connection, in areas such as education, medicine and conservation.”

    She ended by saying: “On this Commonwealth Day I hope that the people and countries of the Commonwealth will be inspired by all that we share, and move forward with fresh resolve to enhance the Commonwealth’s influence for good in our world.”

    The Queen joined Secretary-General Patricia Scotland at Westminster Abbey for a multi-faith service to celebrate the day.

    Highlights included performances from West-End star, Alexandra Burke; and multi-platinum, multi-award winning singer-songwriter, Craig David.

    World heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua also spoke at the service.

      

    In her message the Secretary-General said: “Our great strength as a family of nations, and of peoples growing together organically, is our ability to evolve and adjust to changing circumstances – whether in the field of human rights, democracy or trade.”

    She added: “An impressive example of how our member countries come together to pool knowledge and resources which deliver transformational change through innovation is the Commonwealth Blue Charter.

    “It provides a dynamic framework within which our member countries commit to working together on ocean health and to use marine resources in sustainable ways.”

     

  • Commonwealth Day Message from Head of the Commonwealth HRH The Queen

    “Over the coming week, as we celebrate the friendship, spirit of unity and achievements of the Commonwealth, we have an opportunity to reflect on a time like no other.

    “Whilst experiences of the last year have been different across the Commonwealth, stirring examples of courage, commitment and selfless dedication to duty have been demonstrated in every Commonwealth nation and territory, notably by those working on the frontline who have been delivering healthcare and other public services in their communities. We have also taken encouragement from remarkable advances in developing new vaccines and treatments.

    “The testing times experienced by so many have led to a deeper appreciation of the mutual support and spiritual sustenance we enjoy by being connected to others.

    “The need to maintain greater physical distance, or to live and work largely in isolation, has, for many people across the Commonwealth, been an unusual experience. In our everyday lives, we have had to become more accustomed to connecting and communicating via innovative technology – which has been new to some of us – with conversations and communal gatherings, including Commonwealth meetings, conducted online, enabling people to stay in touch with friends, family, colleagues and counterparts, who they have not been able to meet in person. Increasingly, we have found ourselves able to enjoy such communication, as it offers an immediacy that transcends boundaries or division, helping any sense of distance to disappear.

    “We have all continued to appreciate the support, breadth of experiences and knowledge that working together brings, and I hope we shall maintain this renewed sense of closeness and community. Looking forward, relationships with others across the Commonwealth will remain important, as we strive to deliver a common future that is sustainable and more secure, so that the nations and neighbourhoods in which we live, wherever they are located, become healthier and happier places for us all.”