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Happy Commonwealth Day! And many more!

    Web 2.0 Manager Lewis Brown looks at the increasing irrelevance of post-Second World War supranational bodies and wonders whether both old alliances and new organisations could supersede them. 

    Happy Commonwealth Day everybody! Okay so it’s not one of those widely celebrated joyous occasions like, say, Europe Day where public servants across the continent from Dublin to the Danube are cajoled into wild Return of the Jedi-like celebrations of the beloved Union.

    But Commonwealth Day is a reminder of the strength, size and influence of the 54-member organisation that, as our former Director Ruth Lea wrote last year, could be a powerful, truly international free trade bloc if we were to shed ties to the increasingly delusional political union to which we subscribe in Brussels (German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble this morning calling the Euro a ‘hedge against global economic turmoil'). Indeed, if we are to shed our ‘little Europer’ mind-set and begin to look to the global growth in emerging (and ‘emerged’) nations instead of to a declining social democratic bloc, the Commonwealth – with its shared language, history and ties – represents as good a route as any.

    It is a sad fact that many of the supranational bodies created in the post-Second World War era are creaking and not fit for purpose. Much has been and is written on the European Union’s continuing woes, but the Arab Spring – in particular Syria - has demonstrated the extent to which the toothless United Nations has become irrelevant. Pick any oppressed country with an authoritarian leader too bloodthirsty for the West to do business with and the chances are China and Russia are there to meet its needs. This might make good business sense, but it does mean that any time real change is possible in these countries, you can expect those two nations to wield their veto, or at least threaten it so that any substantial and effective resolution is watered-down and meaningless.

    NATO, while continuing its vital work throughout the world, suffers from a reputation problem and an unfortunate lack of interest from European nations (including this one) when it comes to funding. I would like to see a body that was ready to use the success in Libya as an example to take on international crises such as Syria, or the increasingly likely confrontation with theocratic Iran, by embodying the values that so many are deprived of and fight for – Liberal Democracy. A League of Liberal Democracies – based on criteria such as Freedom House’s Freedom in the World survey – would assert the moral authority of nations that live up to the responsibility of democracy while bypassing the important, but negligent, nations on the Security Council. This wouldn’t be a body of hawks spoiling for a fight – countries such as Argentina, India, Brazil, France and Germany augmenting USA, the UK, Israel and Australia. But it would allow for swift, decisive political action whenever the unacceptable situation of a state attacking and murdering its own people occurred. Membership would not be subject to considered application but set on automatic criteria of free and fair elections, meaning it would be easy, for instance, for President Putin to set the conditions to see Russia gaining entry.

    Perhaps this isn’t likely to happen anytime in the near future. But with some advocating an EU referendum on election day in 2015, here’s hoping there may be a future where the Commonwealth flag flies a little higher in all our hearts and minds (but please, no fines if it doesn’t). 

    Lewis joined the Centre for Policy Studies in April 2011 with responsibility for social media and digital engagement.

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