In my earlier post, Strengthen Neoliberalism and Change the World, I argued that proponents of neoliberalism should encourage societies to share experiences of different policies. No trying thing, you might think: get some people in a room and away you go.
But how do we make sharing effective? By its nature, sharing’s most useful when it’s between people in similar situations: how could we ensure that citizens of countries with similar values and systems of government to the UK that are sharing with us? What would help is a network that the UK is already a part of: the Commonwealth of Nations.
The Commonwealth is a global organisation with 52 member-states that are mostly former territories of the British Empire. Citizens of its members amount to nearly a third of the world’s population. It’s voluntary by nature: members have no responsibilities to each other. Their shared British legacy mean they are united by language, history, culture and values.
A funny basis to group countries by, some might say. Indeed, Commonwealth members put special effort into strengthening their bonds, particularly their shared values. In 2011, members signed the Commonwealth Charter signed: it sets out sixteen core beliefs for members, including democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The Commonwealth has seen success promoting the values in its Charter. Its biggest ‘win’ was the ending of apartheid in South Africa, the Commonwealth’s role was underlined when the country rejoined in 1994.
However, the Commonwealth hasn’t always been great at promoting liberalism. Major failures include permitting the 2013 CHOGM to be held in Sri Lanka, even though its government had been accused of major war crimes at the end of its civil war. Moreover, homosexual acts between consenting adults remain illegal in a majority of Commonwealth members. Finally, the Commonwealth hasn’t succeeded in other areas like trade: there’s no Commonwealth free trade agreement, for example. This inability to find ways to contribute has caused some to question the Commonwealth’s relevance in the modern world.
I started this post by asking what would make sharing of policy experiences more effective at strengthening neoliberalism. The Commonwealth of Nations provides a network of countries that could underpin worthwhile sharing. However, questions about its relevance suggest we should look more closely at its record. If sharing policy experiences strengthens neoliberalism; perhaps it would strengthen the Commonwealth, as well.