CHOGM 2022 is held under the theme, ‘Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming’.
Presidents, prime ministers and their representatives from across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, the Pacific and Europe assembled in person at the Kigali Conference Centre for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic spread globally and delayed the meeting for two years.
As he delivered remarks, President Kagame thanked Queen Elizabeth II, the Head of the Commonwealth where her seventy years of service has seen the Commonwealth growing, ‘both in number, and in the scope of its ambition’.
The Head of State said that the fact of holding the meeting in Rwanda yet it is a new member with no historical connection to the British Empire, expresses the choice to continue re-imagining the Commonwealth, for a changing world.
“The Commonwealth does not replace other institutions. It adds to them. That is why we always have important special guests with us. Let me recognize in particular, His Highness, the Emir of Qatar and I thank him for being here with us,” he said.
The President emphasized that the needed Commonwealth is one on the frontline of global challenges not on the periphery, watching events unfold.
He said that the bloc’s special strength is to bring issues into focus that might otherwise be overlooked.
Kagame pointed out an example of climate change and the way new technologies can be leveraged to create high quality global jobs for the youth.
"We are united by a shared language whether English is our first, second, third, or even fourth one. But what really defines us, are the values enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter and the commitment to good governance, the rule of law and the protection of rights. That is why we shall always be open to new voices and new members," he noted.
The Secretary-General of Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland said that members have shared interests and practical advantages where they are the most significant grouping of countries in the history of the world ‘which is bound, above all, by values which we all aspire to’.
“These values of peace and justice, of tolerance, respect and solidarity - and our role as the foremost international champion for small and vulnerable states – remain our enduring responsibility,” she noted.
The Prince of Wales, representing Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Commonwealth, emphasised the great value she has placed on the common friendship, humanities and values of the Commonwealth.
“As we build back from the pandemic that has devastated so many lives, as we respond to climate change and biodiversity loss that threatens our very existence, and as we see lives destroyed by the unattenuated aggression from violent forces, such friendships are more important than ever.
Our Commonwealth family is and will always remain a free association of independent self-governing nations. We meet and talk as equals, sharing our knowledge and experiences for the betterment of all citizens of the Commonwealth, and indeed the wider world,” he said.
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, highlighted the various global challenges confronting global leaders, including climate change, ensuring girls’ education and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
As outgoing Chair-In-Office, he thanked member countries, stating: “As I pass on this responsibility (as Chair-in-Office) to President Paul Kagame, a close friend and a partner, I know that he shares my boundless optimism about the future of the Commonwealth at the forefront of the international agenda and benefitting all our peoples.”
The opening ceremony featured performances by the National Ballet of Rwanda and the Rwanda School of Creative Arts and Music.
It follows four days of Commonwealth forums on youth, women, business and civil society, high profile side events and preparatory ministerial meetings.
Over the next two days, heads and their representatives will meet in executive sessions and a leaders’ retreat to discuss shared priorities that will shape the work programmes of the organisation.
Discussions will cover issues related to democracy, peace and governance, sustainable and inclusive development, and post-COVID 19 recovery. Leaders will also decide on the post of Secretary-General.
A final communiqué capturing the outcomes of their deliberations will be issued at the conclusion of CHOGM on Saturday 26th June.
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 independent and equal sovereign states. Its combined population is 2.5 billion, of which more than 60 per cent is aged 29 or under.
The Commonwealth spans the globe and includes both advanced economies and developing countries. Thirty-two of members are small states, many of which are island nations.
The Commonwealth Secretariat supports member countries to build democratic and inclusive institutions, strengthen governance and promote justice and human rights.
Its work helps to grow economies and boost trade, deliver national resilience, empower young people, and address threats such as climate change, debt and inequality.
Member countries are supported by a network of more than 80 intergovernmental, civil society, cultural and professional organisations.