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A cross-section of participants at the event

British High Commission Hosts Commonwealth Big Lunch 2018

By Zigwai Tagwai 

 

The British High Commission in Nigeria, has hosted the Commonwealth Big Lunch, an annual get together for neighbours to share friendship, food and fun resulting into the creation of stronger bonds and happier communities.

The event, an idea from the Eden Project in Cornwall, United Kingdom, an educational charity and social enterprise that aims to connect people with one another and the natural world to explore a better future, is hosted across cities in all Commonwealth countries as part of the official celebrations leading up to the 2018 summit which will host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) unfolding over five days, with leaders, foreign ministers and over 2,000 delegates in London and Winsor, United Kingdom from 16- 20 April.

Over 150 individuals and groups invited from varying sectors in Nigeria converged at the Shehu Yar Adua Centre, Abuja, with representatives from young professionals and advocacy groups, the Commonwealth diplomatic community, youth leaders of political parties, members of the Chevening Alumni Association of Nigeria and Abuja residents for the event. Tasty Nigerian delicacies were served as the guests networked.

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, in his address, stated that, “we are gathered here to celebrate the Commonwealth, to celebrate young people in the Common wealth and see how we can work more closely together. The Commonwealth is a family, a family of 53 countries, and Nigeria I know is a very proud member, and as you would also know, I hope, that next month in London, on the 19 and 20, the Commonwealth Summit will take place.

“This is a huge meeting of Presidents and Prime Ministers from all over the Commonwealth who meet every two years or so, and we will be meeting in London, the Commonwealth will be meeting in London in a month’s time and of course President Buhari will be there representing Nigeria and we are delighted that he has said that he will come and that he has accepted her Majesty’s invitation to attend the Commonwealth Summit. The Summit has a number of theme’s aiming to build a more secure, sustainable, prosperous and a fairer future for everyone across the Commonwealth, and it’s a chance to celebrate what really makes the Commonwealth great, its people’s shared values and our history combined with a rich diversity.”

According to Arkwright, sixty per cent of the Commonwealth are under the age of thirty, forty per cent of the world’s youth live in Commonwealth countries, that’s one billion people living in the Commonwealth that are under the age of twenty five so, that is why you are here.

“You are representing young people, you represent youth organisations and I’m delighted that so many of you accepted our invitation to lunch today. You are working on really important issues and these are issues that matter to us in the Commonwealth, that matter to the future of Nigeria.

“Theresa May, the British Prime Minister has put youth at the heart of the Summit, she has invited youth delegates to address Commonwealth leaders in New York in September to talk about their vision for the Commonwealth’s future and we have been working closely with those delegates and the Commonwealth youth task force to ensure that young people’s voices are clearly heard at the Summit and as the Prime Minister set out in her speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last year, she said “as the world changes, so must the Commonwealth if it is to rise to the new challenges that the twenty first century presents”.

He further said it is the responsibility of all members to ensure we are working together towards a common future that will meet the needs of all of our people especially, our youth as well as ensuring young people play an important part in the Summit, member state will also be discussing how the Commonwealth can respond to challenges that deliver a more prosperous, secured, sustainable and fairer future for all its citizens especially its young people so, employment is on the agenda, climate change is on the agenda, peace and security is on the agenda and how to improve trade between all the Commonwealth countries.

“At the Summit, just before the leaders meet, there will be a Commonwealth Youth Forum, providing the opportunity for young people of the Commonwealth to build cross cultural connections and networks, to debate the challenges facing its young people and to agree youth led initiatives to influence decision makers and ensure that young people have a future and they have a voice in that future. The agenda for the Commonwealth Youth Forum is developed by an international task force made up of young leaders from across the Commonwealth, working in conjunction with the Commonwealth Youth Council”.

“As we all know, youth and young people here in Nigeria continue to face challenges and the good work that you all do, plays a vital role in empowering young people to overcome those challenges. To pick just one example, you should all be proud of your role in securing the passage of the ‘Not Too Young to Run’ bill, a reform that has been long overdue and a reform that I and other High Commissioner’s here present have also supported and I was delighted to meet the IYAGA group earlier and many congratulations to you on pushing for the passage of the bill but get you PVC’s, vote and make sure that your voice is heard and your voice is listened to,” the High Commissioner added.

The summit will see leaders from across 53 Commonwealth countries come together to address shared global challenges and discuss how together, they can create a better future for all our citizens.

The Commonwealth Day is marked every 12th of March and the theme for the year 2018 is “Towards a common future”, re-emphasizing the Commonwealth vision and commitment to building on the individual and collective strength of all member countries to respond to global challenges and deliver a more prosperous, secure sustainable and fair future for all of our citizens, especially our young people.

According to Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May “The Commonwealth is a diverse and vibrant network and its strength lies in the people-to-people links. The Eden Project brings together millions of people as part of their annual Big Lunch so we are delighted to partner with them on Commonwealth Big Lunches. Launching in March, Commonwealth Big Lunches will be an opportunity for people across the Commonwealth to come together and, over a shared meal, discover and celebrate their connections, experiences and stories.”

Peter Stewart MVO, Executive Director of the Eden Project said, “From Commonwealth Day, we’re encouraging people to come together to share friendship, food and fun with the people they live alongside. Celebrations are anticipated across 6 continents which is just phenomenal! Commonwealth Big Lunches bring people together, show the diversity we all have and importantly celebrate the commonality we all share which showcases the true spirit of the Commonwealth.”

Patricia Scotland, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth stated that, “Commonwealth Big Lunches remind us of the range and diversity of our connections and counterparts in countries and communities far away, and bring us together with those who live alongside us locally. They offer wonderful opportunities for people of all ages to bring our great Commonwealth family alive in new ways as we work towards a common future. Linking countries and communities set in every continent and ocean, our Commonwealth connection is both global and local. It is also organic and human, enabling us to build together as a worldwide family. Every nation, community or individual person is able to make a contribution to the common good, and each can benefit from our collective achievements.”

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