CHOGM 2018: towards a common future - Stuart Gill

The UK will follow Malta in chairing Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings

The 2015 CHOGM opening ceremony. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

The 2015 CHOGM opening ceremony. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

The UK is delighted to be hosting the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April, taking over from Malta as the new chair-in-office. We will be doing our very best to match Malta’s wonderful CHOGM 2015 by building on the strengths of “Our Commonwealth”, a unique family of human networks and the people-to-people links.

The summit will bring leaders together to work to ensure that the Commonwealth has the institutional strength to face common challenges effectively. With the theme ‘Towards a Common Future’, leaders will focus on delivering a fairer and more prosperous and secure future for our citizens.

A key summit priority also focuses on achieving a more sustainable future by building the resilience of small and vulnerable states to deal with the effects of climate change and other global crises.

We have seen how heads of government came together in Malta in 2015 to press for the ambitious Climate Change Agreement in Paris later that year. More recently, we have witnessed the valuable work of the secretary general and her secretariat in brokering a political agreement in Zambia.

This is just one example of how the Commonwealth has been instrumental in bringing about change. It continues to perform an important role today through its championing of small island states, such as Malta, and through its work to promote democracy and human rights around the world.

The Commonwealth remains as relevant as ever before. With over 2.4 billion people, the Commonwealth is home to one-third of the world’s population, 60 per cent of which is under the age of 30. Also, the Commonwealth network has influence in nearly every international country grouping.

The world is changing rapidly, and if the Commonwealth is to represent and serve its overwhelmingly young population in the 21st century, it needs wholesale reform

It contains some of the world’s fastest-growing economies and accounts for one-fifth of global trade. The Commonwealth’s largest members – India, South Africa, Canada, Australia and the UK – make up a quarter of the G20. A unique institution built on deep partnerships with a diverse membership, this global network can help meet some of the major challenges we face both today and in the future.

Malta and the UK share a historic bond, and we will continue to work closely together on the collective challenges we face in the years to come. And as we keep saying, we are leaving the EU institutions; we are not leaving Europe. The UK is committed more than ever to upholding the enduring partnership between our two countries and our two peoples.

And here is where the Commonwealth helps in binding us together further, and cementing our strong and durable relationship. Both our countries belong to this community of shared values, and we are both committed to not just a Commonwealth of words, but a Commonwealth of actions. We want the Commonwealth summit to set an ambitious and dynamic agenda for the modern age, a conversation in which Malta has a key role.

The CHOGM events, to take place from April 16 to 20 in London and Windsor, will begin with four forum events across three days, bringing together representatives from the worlds of business, civil society and government.

The forums offer an opportunity for Commonwealth dialogue and provide a platform for wider debate of some of the key issues and challenges in advance of discussions by leaders during the summit.

Up to 52 heads of government and 52 foreign ministers will meet later in the week. The leaders will attend working sessions to discuss shared global challenges, attend a dinner hosted by Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace and gather at Windsor Castle for the Leaders’ Retreat, a day when leaders can engage in frank dialogue and set the course for future Commonwealth cooperation.

The Commonwealth has achieved many major milestones, but the world is changing rapidly, and if it is to represent and serve its overwhelmingly young population in the 21st century, the Commonwealth needs wholesale reform.

Together we have the opportunity to build a reformed and revitalised Commonwealth, better able to answer the aspirations of its citizens.

Malta started this process in 2015, and the UK is determined to carry forward that agenda for the long term.

Stuart Gill is British High Commissioner for Malta.

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