The official start of the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), with the theme “Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming,” was conducted on Friday in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.
For the first time since the COVID-19 epidemic raged around the world and caused the summit to be postponed by two years, presidents, prime ministers, and their representatives from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, the Pacific, and Europe gathered in person at the Kigali Conference Centre.
Additionally, it is the first CHOGM to take place in Africa since Uganda in 2007.
In his capacity as the head of the Commonwealth this morning, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales emphasized the importance Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II places on the shared friendships, humanities, and values of the Commonwealth.
Such friendships are more crucial than ever as we recover from the epidemic that claimed so many lives, as we address climate change and biodiversity loss that endangers our basic existence, and as we witness lives being destroyed by the unchecked aggressiveness of violent forces, the speaker said.
“Our Commonwealth family is and will always be a free alliance of sovereign, independent states. To improve the lives of all Commonwealth inhabitants as well as those around the world, we meet and converse on an equal footing.
The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, who is both the host and the new Commonwealth Chair-in-Office, gave delegates a warm welcome and said, “We unite together to pay tribute to Her Majesty The Queen, the Head of the Commonwealth and its most committed champion. The Commonwealth has expanded in both size and ambition over her 70 years of service.
Our decision to keep rethinking the Commonwealth for a changing world is expressed by the fact that this summit is being held in Rwanda, a new member with no historical ties to the British Empire.
“The Commonwealth we need is at the forefront of global concerns, not observing from the sidelines. Bringing attention to topics that could otherwise be ignored is one of our specialties.
He highlighted the existential threat of climate change to small islands and developing states, and unlocking potential for new technologies to create jobs for young people, as some of these issues.
In her address, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, underlined the shared values of the group:“[The Commonwealth] has shared interests and practical advantages, but we are the most significant grouping of countries in the history of the world which is bound, above all, by values which we all aspire to.
“These values of peace and justice, of tolerance, respect and solidarity – and our role as the foremost international champion for small and vulnerable states – remain our enduring responsibility. They express a vision for the world that will outlast all of us. They make us different. They make us special.
“Honouring these values, and that vision, is our most sacred trust – and our gift to the generations which will follow.”
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, highlighted the various global challenges confronting global leaders, including climate change, ensuring girls’ education and the Russian-Ukraine conflict. As outgoing Chair-In-Office, he thanked member countries, stating: “As I pass on this responsibility (as Chair-in-Office) to President Paul Kagame, a close friend and a partner, I know that he shares my boundless optimism about the future of the Commonwealth at the forefront of the international agenda and benefitting all our peoples.”
The opening ceremony featured performances by the National Ballet of Rwanda and the Rwanda School of Creative Arts and Music.
It follows four days of Commonwealth forums on youth, women, business and civil society, high profile side events and preparatory ministerial meetings.
Over the next two days, heads and their representatives will meet in executive sessions and a leaders’ retreat to discuss shared priorities that will shape the work programmes of the organisation.
Discussions will cover issues related to democracy, peace and governance, sustainable and inclusive development, and post-COVID 19 recovery. Leaders will also decide on the post of Secretary-General.
A final communiqué capturing the outcomes of their deliberations will be issued at the conclusion of CHOGM on Saturday 26th June.