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Our Year in Review

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

2023 has been an extraordinary year for the Society and the Commonwealth. With the Coronation of His Majesty The King and Her Majesty The Queen, the Commonwealth has a new Head and has entered into a new era.

In March, the Society was honoured to deliver the Commonwealth Day Service of Celebration at Westminster Abbey on Commonwealth Day. This Service is the world's premier public event to celebrate the values of the Commonwealth and also served as His Majesty's first major event in his new role in the Commonwealth.

During the Service, The King delivered his first Commonwealth Day Message, in which he spoke of The Royal Family's commitment to the organisation and its international Commonwealth family. He said:

“The Commonwealth has been a constant in my own life, and yet its diversity continues to amaze and inspire me. Its near boundless potential as a force for good in the world demands our highest ambition; its sheer scale challenges us to unite and be bold… Whether on climate change and biodiversity loss, youth opportunity and education, global health, or economic cooperation, the Commonwealth can play an indispensable role in the most pressing issues of our time. Ours is an association not just of shared values, but of common purpose and joint action.”

Reflecting on the Commonwealth Year of Youth and Year of Peace, the Service highlighted the tremendous contributions of all those who contribute selflessly to promote the value and values of the Commonwealth. Watch this year's Service and view the photo gallery.

2023 has been another record-breaking year for The Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition (QCEC). 34,924 children from 50 out of 56 Commonwealth countries entered the QCEC.

As part of Winners' Week, we were privileged to be hosted by Her Majesty The Queen at Buckingham Palace for an Award Ceremony to celebrate the incredible achievements of Siddhi, Shreeya, Kong and Mitali, the 2023 winners who hailed from India and Malaysia. Find out more about them, read their winning entries and view all the photos from the Award Ceremony.

This year also marks 140 years of the QCEC, and we were delighted to be joined by former competition winners at the House of Lords to launch a commemorative publication, The Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition: 140 Years of Excellence, published by Bloomsbury. Watch this video to hear from former winners about the impact this unique competition has had on their lives:

To expand the reach of the QCEC, we were delighted to launch a new digital literacy initiative, Write Around the World, in partnership with the Royal Society of Literature (RSL). Through a series of interactive and engaging video modules presented by an RSL Fellow, Write Around the World will introduce young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, under-represented demographics and remote communities to creative writing while also developing critical literacy skills that can increase educational attainment. 

Throughout the programme, young people will hone their skills in journalism, poetry, letter writing, short story writing, scriptwriting, and essay writing. 

By the end of the programme, participants will not only be equipped with the tools to express themselves in a way that can generate the changes they wish to see in the world, but they will also have produced a piece to submit to The Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition. Find out how to participate and view an introductory video by RCS Ambassador Ayesha Dharker. 

We were again delighted to host the High Commissioners' Banquet with the City of London Corporation and in partnership with the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council at Mansion House. This annual black tie event highlights the Society's unique position within the Commonwealth family to bring together the Commonwealth's political and diplomatic representatives with civil society, business and youth leaders.

With Samoa becoming the Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth in October 2024, we were honoured to welcome The Hon Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa, Prime Minister of Samoa, who addressed Banquet guests on the vital role we must all play in addressing climate change.

Biodiversity, resilience, and ocean conservation will be critical issues leading to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2024, and ocean plastic is an issue that unduly affects the Commonwealth. Commonwealth member states account for 36 per cent of the world's national marine waters, and 49 out of 56 countries have marine coastlines.

One of the Society's strategic aims is to prevent 1 million pieces of plastic from entering our oceans by 2025. In support of this, the Society was pleased to share details of a new campaign to tackle ocean plastic pollution with guests that will be launched in 2024. This youth-led campaign will seek to involve the entire Commonwealth and shine a spotlight on plastic pollution and the unequal effect of marine pollution on Small Island States, which make up nearly half of all Commonwealth countries. This initiative will help countries to deliver the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, which has highlighted that "plastic is the most harmful type of ocean pollution".

We would welcome your support in helping to achieve this goal. Whether through donations, volunteering to help pick up plastic, or attending webinars to learn more, your assistance would be greatly appreciated. Find out more about how you can support this campaign. 

As the year comes to a close, I would like to thank all of our volunteers, supporters and partners who have taken the time to support our work this past year. To become more involved in 2024, please consider becoming a Friend. It is only with your generous support and our collective endeavour that we will make the world a better place for all Commonwealth citizens.

Season's Greetings. 

Dr Linda Yueh CBE

Executive Chair

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