A New Generation - this year’s theme for Commonwealth Day

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, the head of the Commonwealth, in a message for Commonwealth Day 2001, yesterday said:

"The theme this year - A New Generation - captures the reality of a young Commonwealth. More than half of our 1.7 billion people are under the age of twenty five. They are the future of the organisation.

These young people face a world of challenge and change. Many must cope with a life where even the basics of human existence - food, shelter and clean water - are far from guaranteed, or in very short supply. Others have had their lives blighted by war, disease or environmental damage. Far too few enjoy the prospect of decent education, or work which can give expression to their talents and energies. Yet for all its ills and difficulties the world of the new generation also offers opportunities: instant communication, the transfer of knowledge, and advances in science and technology which , if applied sensibly can help people achieve a more fulfilling life.

Despite all these opportunities, we still seem transfixed by our differences. This is where our young people are so important. They know there are many problems which can only be resolved when people in different countries work together. I hope we can persuade them that the Commonwealth, whose very strength is in its diversity, has much to offer them in charting a path across the barriers of race and religion, distance and economic circumstances.

Making our Commonwealth matter to its younger members is the task of those of us who have lived through its development over the last fifty years or so. I hope that when the ten Commonwealth leaders who have been charged with conducting a review of our association’s future report to the summit in Brisbane in six months’ time they will bring with them a message of hope and renewal. For what the Commonwealth becomes will depend on its success in addressing itself to the new generations; capturing their imagination; firing their vision; and enlisting their energy and commitment to an association which I believe can be as important to the twenty-first century as it has been to the twentieth.