The Big Picture on Small States: How Can the Commonwealth’s Small States Navigate Global Challenges?

The panellists outline examples of how such countries are currently furthering global initiatives, particularly in the sphere of advancing human rights and democratic values, and highlight the key future challenges they face.

Members event, Panel Recording
16 April 2018 — 12:45PM TO 2:00PM
Chatham House, London

31 out of 53 Commonwealth members are ‘small states’ – countries with a population of less than 1.5 million, though in some instances, more populous countries such as Jamaica, Lesotho and Namibia are included to reflect their limited levels of institutional capacity.

These states face a unique set of challenges: limited economic and human resources, inadequate access to international systems and political constraints imposed by their reliance on the support of larger states.

Despite these challenges, these states, supported by the Commonwealth, have been key in the establishment of institutional mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

This event draws on themes being discussed at this year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London – Towards a Common Future – to analyse how small states can best work with other governments and institutions in order to make the most positive impact across the globe.

This event is in association with Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.


Senator the Honourable Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Australia

Lord Bates, Minister of State, UK Department for International Development

Caroline Morris, Senior Lecturer and Co-Director of the Centre for Small States, Queen Mary University of London

Patsy Robertson, Chair, Ramphal Institute; Chair, The Commonwealth Association; Director of Communications, Commonwealth Secretariat (1983-1994)

Chair: Dr Alex Vines OBE, Research Director, Area Studies and International Law; Head, Africa Programme, Chatham House

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