LONDON: The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting formally opened at Buckingham Palace on Thursday (Apr 19).
Leaders of 53 nations, including Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, are in London for the week-long summit, which began on Monday and runs till Friday.
They are expected to discuss global and regional issues of concern and review developments in the Commonwealth.
The opening, which marks the official start of CHOGM, featured a celebratory welcome for leaders which included a guard of honour as well as cultural and musical performances.
“It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations, and will decide that one day the Prince of Wales should carry on the important work started by my father in 1949,” said the Queen, who was speaking at the opening.
“By continuing to treasure and reinvigorate our associations and activities, I believe we will secure a safer, more prosperous and sustainable world for those who follow us: a world where the Commonwealth's generosity of spirit can bring its gentle touch of healing and hope to all.”
Leaders then received an official welcome from UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland at the St James’ Palace. They were also greeted by the Commonwealth flag bearer and 53 flag bearers for each Commonwealth country.
Following that, leaders convened for their first executive session. The closed-door executive sessions are for Commonwealth leaders to discuss issues of concern, and how to move the association towards a common future.
CONFIDENT THAT COMMONWEALTH CAN TACKLE “SIGNIFICANT GLOBAL CHALLENGES”: THERESA MAY
Speaking at the first executive session, UK Prime Minister Theresa May spoke of significant global challenges, like how the rules-based international system that has “consistently delivered both prosperity and peace” is now under threat.
Other issues include climate change - a topic particularly important for small islands, which make up a big part of the Commonwealth of Nations - and cybersecurity.
“New opportunities afforded by the digital world have brought with them new risks, with our cybersecurity under attack from individuals and state actors”, said Mrs May.
But she was confident that the Commonwealth can tackle these challenges.
“The great strength of the Commonwealth is that all our members have equal status, an equal voice, and an equal right to make that voice heard”, she said, adding that the meetings offer an opportunity for countries to deliver “lasting change” that benefits its 2.4 billion-strong population.
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 53 independent countries, almost all of which were formerly under British rule. Altogether, its members make up about a third of the world’s population, and about 40 per cent of the world’s young people.
It is widely believed that this will be the Queen’s last CHOGM, as she no longer travels long distances. The next meeting is to be held in Malaysia.