LSBM Lighthouse - Towards a Common Future: Prosperity

13 Feb 2018

LSBM was visited last week by Philippa Drew CB (middle of picture) who works on the human rights of LGBT people and is a Trustee of the  Kaleidoscope Trust; a Trustee of the Human Dignity Trust; and a Stonewall Ambassador. She was here to join a panel discussion along with Arif Zaman (right), Deputy Director, Centre for Research and Enterprise at LSBM and Endris Talani (left), President of the LSBM Business and Enterprise Society to talk about 'Towards a Common Future: Prosperity'.

In April 2018 the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting will take place in London (and Windsor) under the thematic banner of 'Towards a Common Future', particularly focusing on four areas:

  • Prosperity: boosting intra-Commonwealth trade and investment
  • Sustainability: building the resilience of small and vulnerable states to deal with the effects of climate change and other global crises
  • Security: increasing cooperation across security challenges including global terrorism, organised crime and cyber attacks
  • Fairness: promoting democracy, fundamental freedoms and good governance across the Commonwealth

This event was the first in a series of four LSBM Lighthouse events that are designed to address each of those themes, starting with prosperity.

The Commonwealth have set up a website for the event which you can find here.

They define 'a more prosperous future' in the following terms:

"The Commonwealth contains a diverse group of countries, including many of the largest and smallest economies in the world.  It is home to half of the globe’s top emerging cities and, with a combined population of 2.4 billion people, nearly a third of the global population.

By working together, we can promote trade and investment as a means to drive economic growth, create jobs, and ensure the prosperity of our citizens."

Speaking at a reception of Commonwealth Trade Ministers, in the margins of the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference in Argentina (which took place in December 2017), Dr Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary, reaffirmed the UK’s support for tackling trade barriers to ensure all Commonwealth countries can have a more prosperous future.

“Next year’s Heads of Government Meeting in London is our chance to showcase the Commonwealth’s ability to lead the response to global economic challenges, influencing global trade policy and setting an ambitious pace for the delivery of multilateral agreements.

We have the opportunity to strengthen our Commonwealth partnerships, and usher in a new era where expertise, talent, goods, and capital can move unhindered between our nations in a way that they have not for a generation or more. I believe that the Commonwealth has the potential, and the responsibility, to take a leading role in the defence of global commercial freedoms.”

It is with that backdrop of sentiment that LSBM has undertaken in this, and the following three Lighthouse events, to explore what a common future may really mean in the context of the Commonwealth.

Philippa began by talking about her own background and how it had informed her views. She was born in 1946 and her parents took in lodgers from Sri Lanka (Ceylon at the time) and India. Yet despite the passage of over 70 years since that time, 9 out of 10 people in the Commonwealth are still living in countries where same sex relationships are illegal, with penalties for private, consensual sexual conduct between same sex adults remaining harsh in 36 out of 52 Commonwealth countries. These include:

  • 10 years imprisonment and hard labour in Jamaica
  • 14 years imprisonment in Kenya
  • 20 years imprisonment plus flogging in Malaysia
  • 25 years imprisonment in Trinidad and Tobago
  • Life Imprisonment - Bangladesh, Barbados, Guyana, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda have a maximum sentence of life imprisonment
  • Death - While in the 12 northern states of Nigeria the maximum penalty for male homosexuality is death.

Given those facts, Philippa addressed the question of why we should even bother with the Commonwealth?

Her own answer to that question was that she felt that the core values of the Commonwealth, as enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter, enabled progress to be made in terms of human rights and in enabling outside parties to continue to hold the Commonwealth to account where it was falling short.

You can read the Commonwealth Charter here.

One area of progress that Philippa pointed to was the accredited registration of 'The Commonwealth Equality Network' (TCEN), which is described in the following terms on the commonwealth website:

"Founded in 2013, The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN) was established to catalyse the meaningful change needed to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or sex characteristics. The network provides a sustainable platform for LGBTI activists and civil society organisations across the Commonwealth to share expertise, gather evidence, carry out joint advocacy and participate in Commonwealth policy processes."

You can find their own discussion of LGBTI Human Rights in the Commonwealth here.


The official accreditation of a LGBT rights-focused body was seen as significant, as it gives access to commonwealth resources and channels of influence (such as inputting to reports) that otherwise wouldn't be available.

For example, the TCEN was able to input into Commonwealth reports and discussions on each of the areas that LSBM is exploring with its Lighthouse events. In addition, normalising discussions about the LGBT experience was seen as significant.

Once area that Philippa was particularly keen to explore, with regards to prosperity, was the role of women in the Commonwealth, and the possibility to unlock the latent potential and talent that exists with decent jobs and decent work that don't wreck the planet. With regards to women, she was keen to emphasise quite how many of the world's goods women globally are responsible for buying (she put the figure at 80%). Hence, exploring work and entrepreneurial opportunities for women could be pivotal for the potential for growth in the Commonwealth, which could involve:

  • easier tendering for contracts
  • more open contracting opportunities
  • simplifying the tax systems to encourage enterprise
  • actively encouraging entrepreneurship from women, as well as
  • attacking systemic mismanagement and corruption

Throughout this dialogue, Philippa was keen to say that this should not be done at the expense of human rights, and that high minimum standards both of human rights and ways of conducting business should be maintained. She pointed to 'friction' points in society across the Commonwealth that potentially minimised trade, including a claim of an estimated loss of between 0.1% to 1% loss to the Indian economy due to their current treatment of the LGBT community.

Endris Talani, President of the LSBM Business and Enterprise Society, spoke about the benefits that he had got from participating in the Social Storm Hackathon, that LSBM students actively participated in during November 2017, and felt that one good way of encouraging prosperity was to have more such participatory events that forced a dialogue around entrepreneurship and the active encouragement of business and problem solving.

There then followed a debate between the audience members and the members of the panel around how to empower women, with Phillipa commenting that sanctions could potentially be counter-productive and that a better way to proceed was at a more granular level with men being encouraged to talk about women's rights and how they could make a difference. Mentions went to Mary Beards book, Women and Power: A Manifesto.

In the context of LGBT rights and religion, Phillipa recommended that people read the discussion prompted by Rev Dr John Holder, Archbishop of the West Indies who argued that the bible does not support sodomy laws.

“The reluctance of the former colonies to abandon sodomy laws may more be a cultural thing rather than a legal one, or even a moral one or religious one,” he said. (read more)


We would like to thank all the speakers and everyone for coming along to the event and would encourage you to future events.  

You can also read the write-ups from the other events in this series here:

Details of next event:

Note - In order to attend you will need to register on Eventbrite (available through the event links above) so that we know room capacities, facilities etc that may be needed.

You can also find links to past and present Lighthouse events on our Lighthouse page.

Stuart Brown
Media and Content Manager

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