Press release

Saga survey reveals Britain's fading knowledge of today's Commonwealth as it turns to celebrate it's 60th anniversary

Saturday 11 October 2008

2009 marks the 60th anniversary of The Commonwealth, which is made up of 53 independent and sovereign states, spread over every continent and ocean in the world, representing 1.8 billion people – around 30 per cent of the world's population and over a quarter of the world's countries.

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association, which consults and co-operates on issues that are of common interest to their peoples including the promotion of international understanding, support for countries to achieve good governance and democracy, human rights, and economic development.

However, a recent survey commissioned by Saga Travel reveals that a large percentage of the British population – especially young adults - have little or no knowledge of today's Commonwealth, what it stands for and its global impact in economic, social or cultural terms.

Key statistics from the survey reveal that:

  • Almost 10% of those surveyed were not able to name the head of the Commonwealth;
  • One in ten 16 to 24-year-olds think that George Bush is head of The Commonwealth;
  • Nearly three quarters of the same group think that the USA is a Commonwealth state;
  • Two-thirds of those surveyed couldn't say how many Commonwealth states there are;
  • Almost 20% of those surveyed were not able to recognise whether a given country was or was not part of the Commonwealth

Saga Holidays – the UK's leading travel company for the over 50s - commissioned the survey as part of their own Commonwealth celebrations, which includes a comprehensive online guide to The Commonwealth and a competition to win free holidays and a three-month round-the-world cruise, taking in 21 of its member states.

Andrew Goodsell, Group Chief Executive of Saga said "It may be older people's continuing thirst for travel to beautiful and far flung destinations that explains why they know more facts about the Commonwealth than other age groups. But we should not lose sight of the fact that it is Britain's youth who have most to gain from knowing about the Commonwealth - its great cultural diversity brought to us within the UK, and a demonstration of how different nations can cooperate and be a force for peace, democracy and understanding. "

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Research for The Commonwealth survey was conducted by BMRB amongst 1000 people aged between 16 and 65.

The Commonwealth mission is to be:

* a force for peace, democracy, equality and good governance

* a catalyst for global consensus-building

* a source of assistance for sustainable development and poverty eradication

Some facts about the Commonwealth:

* Nearly one third of the world's population lives in Commonwealth countries

* The Commonwealth is made up of 53 countries, spread over every continent and ocean in the world.

* There are nearly two billion people - over half of them under 30 years old - living in the Commonwealth, representing around 30 per cent of the world's population and over a quarter of the world's countries.

* One third of the world's young people live in the Commonwealth

* Today, the Commonwealth of Nations comprises more than a third of the Muslim population of the world

* Every two years heads of government of Commonwealth States meet in a different country to identify matters of concern to the Commonwealth and priority areas for action. This is called CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting).

* Nearly 90 professional and advocacy organisations bear the Commonwealth's name and work in the 53 member countries, across five continents and three oceans, in order to promote shared goals and values.

* The Secretariat and its work are financed by three separate budgets or funds.

1.) All member countries contribute to the Commonwealth Secretariat on an agreed scale based on capacity to pay. The UN scales are used as a broad guide. The current budget for the Secretariat in 2007/8 is 14,203,796.

2.) The Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation (CFTC) is financed by voluntary contributions. The current budget for CFTC in 2007/8 is 25,635,621.

3.) The Commonwealth Youth Programme is financed by voluntary contributions. The current budget for Commonwealth Youth Programme in 2007/8 is 2,666,352. The total income for the Commonwealth Foundation year ending 30 June 2007 is 3,160,480.

Friends of the Commonwealth is an independent charity whose aim is to promote the good work going on around the Commonwealth and to give people a chance to find out more about it. It consists of individual members and is open to all 53 countries of the Commonwealth, as well as those outside of Commonwealth countries but interested in its work.

2009 will be the 60th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth however the history of the Commonwealth goes back to the 19th Century. As a result, many Commonwealth associated groups pre-date the modern Commonwealth.

For further press information please contact the Saga Press Office on: 01303 771118.



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