Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting & Constituent Forums ConcludeMary-Jean Nleya
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting of 2018 (CHOGM) and its constituent Forums – the Commonwealth Business Forum, People’s Forum, Women’s Forum, and the vibrant Youth Forum – have wrapped up. Ahead of the gatherings by leaders at CHOGM, each of the Forums had mandates over the initial three days to discuss, debate and to ultimately provide recommendations to the heads of government.
The Commonwealth Youth Forum concluded on 18 April 2018 when it culminated in the announcement of a new Commonwealth Youth Council – with a tenure of two years. On the final day of the Youth Forum, youth delegates convened for the sitting of the General Assembly to vote for various motions.
The closing session of the Youth Forum saw the president of the Senate in Malaysia, H.E. Senator Datuk S.A. Vigneswaran conclude the session. He urged youth delegates to “translate ideas into actions”. Earlier in the concluding ceremony, June Sarpong, Ambassador for the “Be Cool, Be Nice” Campaign said to the youth delegates: “Together your voices have created powerful plans on the manner to work towards a common future.” The Commonwealth Youth Forum during the week of CHOGM draws to a close with a task for youth leaders to go and be a positive force in society.
Adjoining the CHOGM and the respective Forums was a music festival that took place with the aim of “influencing positive change on a global scale”. The festival, known as the Global Citizens Live took place in London on 17 April 2018. The festival brought together musicians such as Emeli Sandé, poets, a DJ, world leaders and global citizens – some of whom included the youth delegates. During the music event, former UN Secretary-General and chair of The Elders, Kofi Annan, advised the crowd: “You are never too young to lead and you are never too old to listen.”
The heads of government meeting was officially opened by Her Majesty, the Queen at Buckingham Palace on 19 April 2018. During the Queen’s opening remarks she said the Commonwealth is “one of the world’s great convening powers – a global association of volunteers who believe in the tangible benefits that flow from exchanging ideas and experiences and respecting each other’s point of view.” The Queen also expressed her “sincere wish” for Prince Charles to be the future head of the Commonwealth one day.
Different world issues that affect Commonwealth states were tabled into the agenda for debate and discussion by the 53 heads of Commonwealth governments, including: climate change and environmental sustainability – such as championing the Blue Charter, cyber security, immigration, trade, youth empowerment and more. The gathering of heads of government concluded on 20 April 2018.
The week-long activities, leading to CHOGM 2018 were centred around promoting democracy, celebrating diversity, boosting trade and investment, promoting gender equality, creating shared prosperity, protecting human rights, amplifying the voice of small states within the Commonwealth. After the debates and discussions at the Forums and the heads of government meeting, all 53 member countries of the Commonwealth agreed on the CHOGM 2018 communiqué.
Achieving the aims of a communiqué such as this requires the staunch commitment across the spectrum from government leaders, civil society, business leaders and of course young leaders. It is after CHOGM that the real work begins.
The next CHOGM is scheduled for 2020 and it is expected to take place in Rwanda when a reappraisal of CHOGM 2O18 will be made.
It was recognised by the Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness, during his remarks at the joint-forum plenary on 17 April 2018, that it cannot be ignored that the Commonwealth brings together nations with divergent perspectives and interests. He also pointed out that developing Commonwealth countries require a fair environment within which to operate; and simultaneously leaders of developing nations are required to play their own role. Yet, despite the divergence and varying interests, that difference and the shared history can be a force for good if harnessed. CHOGM is a reminder that the ultimate purpose of the Commonwealth is for the common wealth of its nations and people.