The next Commonwealth summit will reinforce a true global partnership and help create a safer world. This was the message from the Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, to mark Commonwealth Day. She said the 2018 Commonwealth Summit would cement the shared aims of good governance, sustainable growth, and inclusive social and economic development.
Leaders from more than 50 countries are expected to attend next year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which will take place during the week of 16 April 2018 in London and Windsor. For the first time, Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle will be among the Commonwealth Summit venues.
The Commonwealth is home to a third of the world’s population, with developed and developing countries, small states and vulnerable nations. Sixty percent are under the age of 30.
This will be the first Commonwealth Summit under the leadership of Secretary-General Scotland, who is nearing the completion of her first year in office.
“The wonderful thing about the Commonwealth is that we are a family of 52 nations spreading across 6 regions,” she said. “What motivates us as a family, and what has guided us, are the shared aims of good governance, sustainable growth, and inclusive social and economic development, aided by our common language, common laws, common parliamentary and other institutions, as well as our cultural ties.
“This is what the Commonwealth Summit, held in the UK, will reinforce, a true global partnership to tackle the issues facing us today and come up with solutions.”
The Commonwealth was uniquely placed to create a world free from violence, said the Secretary-General. “That is why this year we are celebrating ‘A Peace-building Commonwealth.’”
Secretary-General Scotland said there would be a special focus on ending all forms of domestic violence, “because unless there is fairness and peace in our homes we cannot expect to enjoy good community relations, or peace at national and regional level.”
“Every single one of us has a contribution to make. Imagine the impact we can make as a Commonwealth of 2.4 billion people in over 50 countries by saying no to abuse or violence in our homes; taking action against all forms of violence against women, men and children; making bullying unacceptable in our school or workplace, and ensuring that senior citizens are safe from intimidation.
In her message, the head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II, reflected on this year’s theme of “A Peace-building Commonwealth” and the onward journey of The Queen’s Baton Relay:
“Carried on its way by thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds, by the time it reaches its final destination, The Queen’s Baton will have brought together through its route and symbolism, almost 2.5 billion people who share the special connection of being Commonwealth citizens.”
In a Ministerial Roundtable last Friday, coordinated by the Secretariat, which brought together more than 40 member states, representative of all 6 regions, it was agreed that a key aim would be to increase intra-Commonwealth trade, building on the “Commonwealth advantage.” Trade among Commonwealth countries is projected to increase to US$1 trillion by 2020.
The discussions centered on the likely impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, which could disrupt market access into the UK and Europe.
The Secretary-General stressed that “no country should be left behind” in the post-Brexit trade landscape. Ministers acknowledged that Brexit provides opportunities for broader cooperation on trade and investment between Commonwealth countries, and committed to examining specific recommendations for practical initiatives that can be recommended to the Commonwealth Summit next year.
At that time, the UK will take over from Malta as chair of the heads of government until 2020. In the uncertain post-Brexit era, the Commonwealth hopes to serve as a bastion of peace and economic stability. The Secretary-General said the Commonwealth was ready to grasp both the challenges and opportunities which had opened up after the Brexit vote.