Op-Ed: The Commonwealth stands firmly against acts of aggression

Op-Ed: The Commonwealth stands firmly against acts of aggression
A Ukrainian soldier walks at the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels near Popasna, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Tuesday, Dec 7, 2021. (AP/ANDRIY DUBCHAK)

By Patricia Scotland, QC, secretary-general, Commonwealth of Nations

The Commonwealth was built on the bedrock of an international order which recognized the vital importance of peaceful co-existence based on the shared values of democracy, peace, security, justice, respect for international law, the advancement of the rule of law and the protection, respect and fulfilment of human rights of all people. These principles run through our Charter and bind our family. However, they are not limited to the Commonwealth; they are universal values that apply to everyone, everywhere.

The acts of aggression unfolding in Ukraine are an egregious assault on our fundamental principles and our shared beliefs. They threaten the very core of the integrity of our multilateral architecture, for which the Commonwealth Charter reifies.

Many, to whom we are grateful, have condemned the act of aggression. This should not pass without consequence. Today, more than ever before, war and invasion cannot be legitimized as a means of statecraft, and the very notion of doing so stands in stark contrast to the values and principles that undergird the Commonwealth and the world as we know it.

It is also deeply concerning that, together with peoples from all parts of the world, many Commonwealth citizens are currently caught in the regions experiencing the ongoing violence. I commend the response of nations who have ardently called out for peace, as well as those who have already offered aid and shelter to those displaced by this conflict. We also commend the strength and bravery of people in countries on both sides of the conflict, who have chosen to stand up against the violence and aggression.

What we are witnessing is a culmination of the gradual fraying of the rules-based international order which has kept our post-war world intact. This is a reminder that we could very easily undo the structures that guarantee life as we know it and fall into a much more turbulent and unpredictable world.

To this end, a peaceful resolution is absolutely critical. We, along with members of the Commonwealth, are calling for the cessation of these acts of Russian aggression and an end to the violence, whilst intensifying the pursuit of diplomacy to diffuse the tensions which have brought this crisis upon the world. In the days ahead, I will work with our member countries and colleagues in other multilateral organizations to offer any assistance the Commonwealth can give to efforts to end this abhorrent violence and restore peace.