Fairness, Security and the impact of students on the Commonwealth

20 Mar 2018

LSBM was visited last week by Dr. Godfred Boahen (centre) from the Commonwealth Organisation for Social Workers (COSW). This is an organisation which is described in the following terms

"COSW is an organisation for citizens of the Commonwealth who are interested in promoting and supporting social work and social development. It contributes a social work perspective to Commonwealth activities. It is supported by social work associations in the Commonwealth and has formal links with the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW)."

He was joined by Top-up Business Management student Yetundi Ademuwaguu (right) and Arif Zaman (left), Deputy Director, Centre for Research and Enterprise at LSBM to discuss Fairness, Security and the impact of students and younger people on the Commonwealth.

Dr Godfred Boahen is a qualified social worker and the Policy and Research Officer for the British Association of Social Workers, which is affiliated to the Commonwealth Organisation for Social Workers (COSW). After a degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at Oxford University, Godfred worked in the third sector and for local authorities. On completing his PhD Godfred became an academic before his current post. 

Godfred brought the personal and professional experience of ‘fairness’ to his work on the themed paper for the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). which will be taking place in London in April 2018 (https://www.chogm2018.org.uk/). 

The UK will be playing hosts and hoping to build bridges of all kinds with our Commonwealth partners at the conference, and one of the key fundamentals that partner organisations have had input into is the papers which will stand as the foundations for much of the talk of the participants.

Godfred spoke extensively about the process that the 80 policy organisations involved in setting the agenda for the CHOGM meeting had gone through to reach consensus.

With the theme of ‘Towards a Common Future’, leaders will be working to address common challenges, and focus on delivering:-

  • A more prosperous future
  • A more sustainable future
  • A more secure future
  • A fairer future 

Today's discussion was addressing 'a fairer future', which the CHOGM website defines in the following terms: 

"The Commonwealth has a proud history of taking action to promote and protect democratic principles. The Commonwealth Charter sets out a shared vision of democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law to which we all subscribe. By upholding and promoting those principles we can ensure a fairer future for all members of the Commonwealth, and provide the essential basis for sustainable development." 

It is important to realise that the four areas that have been set up as conduits for change in the Commonwealth are really only like coat hangers to hang ideas on. Much of the pre-process involved in what will actually be talked about at the CHOGM conference has been created through discussion at such gatherings, with the policy organisations being brought together before the conference to discuss the agenda. In a very real sense, the CHOGM conference is a bit like an iceberg, in that most of the body of work is not on display, and is hidden away, but is nevertheless very much the foundation upon which any policies that are decided to be acted upon will be based. 

The host nation for each CHOGM gets to set the agenda for the conference, so Godfred was making the point that understanding the process of how the final agenda is arrived at is important because it creates the energy around which decisions will ultimately be made.

At the heart of supporting the Civil Society Organisations that have created the agenda for the conference is the Commonwealth Foundation, which seeks to ensure that policy and government institutions are more effective contributors to development through the influence of civic voices.

In Oct/Nov 2017 the Civil Society Organisations came together to discuss the topic of 'A Fairer Future' to put together a policy document and try to reach a consensus about what should be discussed in April 2018.

The workplan for the Oct/Nov 2017 meeting involved all the civil society organisations and commonwealth foundation making both formal and informal alliances, and drawing on five key skills areas to help to decide on a common agenda for change, which Godfred identified as being:

  • Leadership
  • Networking
  • Oral Skills
  • Persistence
  • Detail v Strategy

The aim was to identify the aspects of equality, power and procedural fairness that can maximise co-operation between the parties. These would include discussions around human rights, equal opportunities, how power can be proportionate, ethical and fair, and how the process of a power exchange can be both respectfully carried out and transparent to all parties.

This means that the process of drafting a common outlook for a fairer commonwealth can lead to clarifying:

  • A shared ethical and value base
  • The varying levels of commitment to various aspects of the fairness agenda by different interested parties
  • Who are the leaders, key players and idea generators and what is most important

Godfred was keen to emphasise that the process to date has already led to extensive consultations both electronically and face-to-face, including discussions with the Cabinet Office (who have 80 members of staff working on the CHOGM conference), to reach agreement about which aspects of the discussions were original and which ones were a duplication of effort, as well as where the most important change areas might lie.

One of the key takeaways was the importance of diplomacy when establishing connections between disparate organisations that may share common intentions, but have very different ideas about the best ways to go about achieving them. This would include the ability to assert your ideas or opinions, knowing what to say and how to say it without causing offence or damaging relationships that in many cases may be in a fledgeling state. Tied into this is tact, which is the art of making a point without making an enemy. 

Godfred said that he felt that the Commonwealth was an organisation that could have an impact because it acted as a forum for engagement between countries that otherwise wouldn't happen. But that there was still the challenge of civil society organisations managing to maintain any CHOGM gains that might be achieved.

There then followed a lively debate that touched on areas involving security, Brexit, trade, visas, and where potential opportunities might lie. One of these areas that Godfred was particularly excited about was the development of new laws that could support legal reform, as much of the legal base in many commonwealth countries is still based on British laws that carried over at the time of independence, but which have long-since been changed in the UK as they are out-dated (David Hawkins also spoke about this in the LSBM CHOGM talk about 'Collaboration and Partnerships')

(You can also find some good resources around this area on this page here: http://thecommonwealth.org/office-civil-and-criminal-justice-reform)

Yetunde also spoke about the opportunity to take part in the Commonwealth Youth Forum at the CHOGM conference. You can find the programme for that, which will take place from 15 - 18 April 2018, here.)



We would like to thank Dr Godfred Boahen, Yetundi Ademuwaguu, and Arif Zaman for their interesting contributions, as well as the staff and students who attended.

This event marks the final event in the series of Lighthouse events around the subject of CHOGM.

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

Together these four events have formed a comprehensive introduction to many of the hopes, expectations and thoughts of leading thinkers who will be engaging with the CHOGM conference which will be taking place between 16 - 20 April 2018 in London and Windsor.

A big THANK YOU to all of the speakers who gave up their time to talk to us at the four events!

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

Stuart Brown
Media and Content Manager

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