Commonwealth foreign ministers have met face-to-face for the first time in almost three years, ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.
The meeting has allowed ministers the opportunity to hold formal discussions on the CHOGM theme, “delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming,” focusing on three topical issues.
In her opening remarks, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, said that it is a source of great joy that they were finally back together, in person, at CHOGM after so many years of change and challenge, and so much detailed planning.
“Since CHOGM 2018 in London, we have worked intensively to help member countries respond to their needs, priorities and requests. We have blended our technical assistance with advocacy at the highest levels of the international system. This week, here in Kigali, we have a precious opportunity. To come closer together, once again, in spirit as well as in person,” said Hon Scotland.
“In a changing world, we need unity and purpose, drawn deep from the wells of Commonwealth history, values and potential, to achieve our shared goals and realize our potential. In that effort, you will always have a willing servant and partner in me and the Secretariat. We stand ready and eager to implement the fresh ideas and mandates of this CHOGM,” she added.
Ministers discussed new and evolving challenges to ensuring peaceful, just, and inclusive societies, and how the Commonwealth is addressing these challenges now and in the future.
They also considered multifaceted issues relating to sustainable and inclusive development such as climate change, the environment and oceans, sustainable energy, youth and innovation. Ministers discussed how member states should address these complex issues, with a special focus on the needs of small states and least developed countries.
As countries around the world continue to recover from the deep impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ministers also examined the severe consequences of the pandemic on public health systems, trade, and connectivity, and how governments can build back better systems capable of handling future crises.
Ministers heard how the Commonwealth can strengthen health security and resilience, support trading systems and small states, and harness other opportunities for a sustainable and inclusive post-COVID-19 recovery.
Several high-level guests were invited to attend the meeting. Ministers had the opportunity to hear from the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed, and the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who presented their organizations’ perspectives and offered ideas for greater inter-organizational collaboration to tackle these matters.
The meeting outcomes will inform the policy agenda for the gathering of heads of government at CHOGM, scheduled to open on 24 June 2022.