Commonwealth Round Table
The Round Table international community, while based in the United Kingdom, is a worldwide network of interested people involved in international affairs, drawn from academic, political, bureaucratic and non-governmental spheres. It provides a focal point for deliberation and activity in support of the values, objectives and programmes of the Commonwealth of Nations.
The principal function of the London group is the production of its quarterly journal, The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs. First published in 1910 the journal remains a highly reputable source of analysis and commentary on all aspects of world affairs, especially on the role of the contemporary Commonwealth of Nations.
Commonwealth Round Table in Australia
Australians were active in a local chapter of the Round Table through the first half of the twentieth century. However, it was the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Coolum in 2002 which provided the stimulus for setting up a renewed Commonwealth Round Table in Australia (CRTA), with the aim of promoting the current relevance and value of the Commonwealth, mindful of Australia’s role in the Association as a founding member, and of the contribution that continues to be made by Australians from many walks of life to the wide range of Commonwealth associated activities throughout the world.
The CRTA believes there is a need to maintain an active place in the thinking of those who formulate policy and those who help inform political opinion in Australia on the positive value of the Commonwealth, its contribution to global peace and security and the betterment of its people.
The objective of the CRTA is to promote the Commonwealth of Nations in Australia by:
- providing a focal point for serious review and consideration of current Commonwealth issues
- encouraging academic research in Australian institutions on Commonwealth history and contemporary political and developmental issues
- engaging politicians and policy makers on current and contentious issues of importance to the Commonwealth
- promoting the modern Commonwealth in public forums.
These objectives are pursued through a range of activities including seminars, representations, publications, media liaison and sponsorship of an annual Commonwealth Lecture in Australia. The CRTA works with other Commonwealth bodies in Canberra and local institutions interested in international relations and development, including the Australian Institute of International Affairs, the Australian National University, and with the Commonwealth Secretariat and other agencies in seeking a higher profile for the Commonwealth in Australia.
Successful events convened by the CRTA include the following:
- the semi-annual Commonwealth Lectures, given by the Hon John Howard (2003 in Canberra); Justice Michael Kirby (2005 in Canberra); the Hon Don McKinnon (2006 in Melbourne); the Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser (2007 in Canberra); Justice Nicholas Hasluck (2008 in Perth); and the Hon Kevin Rudd (2011 in Perth).
- Pre CHOGM briefings by senior DFAT officers;
- former Senator Margaret Reid’s report on the Sri Lanka election observer group in 2008;
- public briefings and seminars by senior Commonwealth figures, academics anddiplomatic representatives in Canberra.
- public lectures (with ANU) by HE Olara Otunnu on the UN Report on Children and Armed Conflict; and Archbishop Pius Neube of Bulawayo on Today’s Zimbabwe.
The Anthony Low Annual Commonwealth Lecture
A significant development on the CRTA's annual program was the inauguration in 2016 of the Anthony Low Annual Memorial Lecture. The lecture has been established as a major academic presentation of the Australian National University, in conjunction with the CRTA. It celebrates the outstanding contribution made to academic life in Australia and Britain by the founder of the CRTA, the late Professor Anthony Low. The inaugural lecture was given by the Vice Chancellor of the ANU, Professor Gareth Evans QC on the Commonwealth's role in the ending of apartheid in South Africa. The lecture subsumes the former semi-annual lectures held under CRTA auspices, mentioned above.
The CRTA is a not-for-profit body, and comprises an entirely voluntary group of individuals. It has no formal membership or organisational structures, and no fees. CRTA activities are open to the public and are organised and resourced as collaborative projects with like-minded bodies.
More broadly, the CRTA aims to encourage a loose Commonwealth ‘coalition’ across the country, and CRTA activities have taken place in Melbourne and Perth.