In 2018, the United Kingdom will be hosting the largest ever gathering of Heads of Government in the UK, bringing together up to 52 Commonwealth leaders and foreign ministers for the Commonwealth Summit. That’s not to mention the huge array of civil society actors, businesses and individual citizens who will represent the great diversity and vibrancy of the Commonwealth network. These will be represented at four Commonwealth fora; the People’s Forum, the Youth Forum, the Women’s Forum, and the Business Forum.
On Tuesday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May hosted a reception for Commonwealth leaders at the margins of the UN General Assembly, to announce the theme and four main goals of CHOGM 2018. The UK is keen to pick up the baton from Malta’s chairing of the Commonwealth and push for a renewed and revitalised Commonwealth capable of serving the needs of its 2.4 billion citizens in the 21st century. This drive for a reformed network is expressed in the overarching theme: Towards a Common Future.
The four goals chosen by the Commonwealth are prosperity, security, fairness, and sustainability. These goals represent a golden opportunity to draw the Commonwealth family closer together, whether through increased trade, closer security co-operation, joint climate action, or the promotion of fundamental values like democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The recent devastation caused to the Caribbean, including several Commonwealth states, by hurricanes Irma and Maria underscores just how relevant these agendas are.
Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, spoke at the launch saying: “We have the most wonderful opportunity here together as the Commonwealth family. We live in troubled and troubling times, and one of the most wonderful opportunities we have is to share our common values, our common future and our common determination to have a world which is worth living in, for our children”.
At The Royal Commonwealth Society our work already encompasses these four goals. In the run-up to the summit, we’ll be organising round table events to stimulate debate on the four goals, and at the event itself we’ll be ensuring the voice of Commonwealth civil society is heard loud and clear on the most pressing priorities. On the goal of fairness, we want to make sure that ending discrimination against LGBT people across the Commonwealth is at the forefront of the summit agenda. On sustainability, we’re very pleased with the number of pledges we’ve already secured for The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy, and we’re determined to have all 52 member states signed up in time for the summit. We’ve also been striving to better connect Commonwealth countries, through our campaigns for visa liberalisation between the UK and the Commonwealth, boosting cultural ties and mutual prosperity.
Engaging with and elevating the voice of young people is central to the Society’s work. Our commitment to supporting youth leadership is embodied by the enthusiastic young people in our Commonwealth Youth, Gender and Equality Network and our community of Associate Fellows (CYGEN). Our stewardship of The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition uses literacy to empower some 13,000 young people across the Commonwealth every year to be global citizens. We’re delighted to see that with 60% of Commonwealth citizens under the age of 30, the UK has shown a strong commitment to putting young people at the centre of the summit. Speaking at the gathering of Commonwealth leaders, UK Prime Minister Theresa May said:
“Human networks, people-to-people links, are what define the Commonwealth. We need to recognise and nurture them. For the Commonwealth to have a future as vibrant and proud as its past, it must remain relevant to its youngest citizens. That is why we will put young people at the heart of our Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London and Windsor next year”.
Leon Ward, co-chair of the Youth Task Forum built on this commitment and issued a challenge to all leaders across the Commonwealth to be 'bolder and truly to be a force for good. Your Commonwealth, my Commonwealth and our Commonwealth are waiting on you to deliver'.
The RCS will do its part to support the whole Commonwealth network to meet this challenge and deliver on the ambitions set out by the UK.
Find out more about the 2018 summit: www.CHOGM2018.org.uk.
Photo: UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, announces the Commonwealth Summit with young people drawn from across the network.
The RCS’ work to promote the value and values of the Commonwealth at the Summit and beyond is only possible due to the generosity of our supporters. Find out more about how you can help.