Lord Marland hails Rome Commonwealth Club's 70th

Edward Mura, Jill Morris, Lord Marland. Photo by Konrad van Halewyn

  ROME --The Commonwealth Club of Rome celebrated its 70th anniversary Friday with speeches and a luncheon at the Villa Wolkonsky, the British Ambassador’s residence in Rome, spearheaded by the Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise & Investment Council, Lord Marland of Odstock.

 Representatives from 15 embassies in Rome came to hear Lord Marland and Jill Morris, the British Ambassador to Italy speak on their vision for expanding personal and business relations with members of the Commonwealth countries.

 CWCR Chairman Edward Mura presented Lord Marland and Ms Morris with commemorative 70th anniversary Club jerseys emblazoned in gold letters. In Lord Marland’s words, “politicians are distanced from their fellow citizens.” Drawing from his experiences in British politics and in extensive travelling, he described being “struck by” the inability of governments to connect with their citizens.

 In England, Theresa May is leading a country who voted for Brexit, but as in Lord Marland’s words, "do not give her a mandate to be able to fight effectively for her country." He also commented upon the rise of Macron's power in France, stating that his "party is made up of men who have not previously held political careers." He expressed the opinion that the party, and Macron's, lack of political experience may actually allow them to have "brilliant" future success. 

 In his view, political governance is rebelled against by the people, and this leads to a disconnect between ruler and subject. In contrast, he cited Queen Elizabeth as a uniting and apolitical figure that allows the countries in the Commonwealth to form bonds unhindered by political disagreement.

 Thus, the member states of the Commonwealth are uniquely positioned to foster trade connections, and to boost economies of its 53 member countries around the world. When speaking directly to The Insider, CWCR Chairman Mura summarised the utility of the Commonwealth network: "Italy is fantastic in certain aspects, but so is Australia. It is best when they can work together to fill the gaps of the other country, and both grow together."

 Both the Ambassador and Lord Marland were of the view that Britain would be seeking to further trade agreements with Commonwealth countries post-Brexit, and that this was a time in which deeper bonds could be forged between nations, especially "quick wins" with Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Ms Morris explained that Britain was keen to keep a "strong partnership with the EU" and with the Commonwealth, and that the government is planning new deals at this moment. 

 Emphasis was also placed on the importance of free and open trade for all communities, as in Lord Marland’s words, “trade within the Commonwealth is 19 percent more competitive than extraneous trade. That is reason enough to understand the importance of the Commonwealth connections.” He expressed the opinion that "free and open trade is the area in which the Commonwealth can set an example to the rest of the world." This focus can be seen in the CWCR’s support of the Commonwealth Business Forum, which next year is being held in London, and to which representatives of all 52 countries are expected to attend. 

 Representatives from Italy, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria also posed questions to the speakers on the development of the Commonwealth community in the coming years, and underlined some areas in which the community could focus to improve the quality of life in their countries. The British Ambassador, Ms Morris, answered a question on the ways in which the Commonwealth support women. She explained that there are several fora co-ordinated by countries in the Commonwealth which aim to increase and explore women's role in peacekeeping. She talked about her interest in the role of women as mediators, and remarked that it made "very little sense to leave women, 50 percent of the world's population, out of roles contributing to every level of the community."

 The questions were rounded off by Ms Morris describing two paths in which Britain, and the Commonwealth could take: "inwards and backwards," or "outwards and forwards." The sentiment of the conference was very much towards the latter, with the focus on the collaboration and strengthening of relations among these countries around the world. 

 The Commonwealth Club of Rome has been running since 1947 to provide information about the Commonwealth and promote its values. 

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Lord Marland, Jill Morris. Photo by Konrad van Halewyn
Lord Marland casts an appraising eye over the Italian Insider. Photo by Konrad van Halewyn