Between the 20th and the 25th of June 2022, Rwanda hosted the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting that should have been held in 2020 was postponed.
The location of the meeting was purposeful as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson handed over the role of chair-in-office of the Commonwealth to President Paul Kagame. His country was the most recent member to join before this year’s additions. And this was the first CHOGM held in Africa since Uganda in 2007.
According to the UK Parliament’s Commons Library, some of the outcomes of the 2018 meeting included a commitment to boost intra-Commonwealth trade to US$2 trillion by 2030, ensuring all Commonwealth states ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and providing more support to small states vulnerable to climate change (25 of the world’s 38 small island developing states (SIDS) are Commonwealth members).
This year’s theme is “Delivering a common future: Connecting, innovating, transforming.” Included proposals to protect natural resources and increase trade.
- Now that President Kagame has taken the position of chair Rwanda’s human rights record may come under scrutiny. Several organisations most prominently the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have written an open letter to Commonwealth Heads of Government to ask them to speak up on it. They argue that failure to do so “risks undermining the organisation’s human rights mandate, as well as its integrity and credibility”.
- Member states discussed the impacts of Russia’s illegal and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine which has caused rising food and gasoline prices, a growing fear of famine, and a general strain on resources. These challenges are compounded by the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.
- Two unexpected members Gabon and Togo were confirmed. In the past one of the requirements of joining the Association was a historic link with Britain, as well as a commitment to human rights and democracy, but the former is no longer a defining factor. Other member countries that do not have past ties to the former colonial power are Rwanda and Mozambique.
- Commonwealth leaders officially adopted the Living Lands Charter: A Commonwealth Call to action on Living Lands (CALL), which binds all member countries to safeguard global land resources while taking coordinated action on climate change, biodiversity loss, and sustainable land management. The Declaration on Sustainable Urbanisation and the Kigali Declaration on Child Care and Protection Reform was also adopted.
- The Commonwealth Secretariat and some of the world’s largest youth organisations signed a historic agreement to form the Commonwealth Alliance for Quality Youth Leadership. The partnership will link more than 250 million young people to leadership and life skills.
- The Governments of Kenya and Eswatini were named the first Champion Countries for geothermal energy and energy literacy, as part of the Commonwealth Sustainable Energy Transition (CSET) Agenda. In their new roles, they will lead the formation of voluntary coalitions made up of member countries willing to work together to develop shared strategies and align actions.
- The Commonwealth Blue Charter Project Incubator was launched to support Commonwealth Ocean states in cultivating and scaling-up projects that protect the marine environment while also tackling climate change.
- Heads of government issued a communiqué affirming a renewed commitment to free and democratic societies and the promotion of peace. Commonwealth leaders also re-elected Patricia Scotland as the Commonwealth Secretary-General and agreed to set reforms to modernise the Commonwealth and improve its governance.
- The Commonwealth Women’s Forum (CWF) launched the Economic Cost of Violence Against Women and Girls Guidelines, which utilises a new framework to determine the cost of violence for various sectors in the economy and state.
- The launch of the A4HPV – a Taskforce under the Commonwealth Youth Health Network focused on advocating for action towards cervical cancer elimination.
- The Commonwealth Youth Forum under the theme ‘Taking Charge of Our Future’ presented a six-point action plan on youth development. The plan included a strong call for governments to raise their climate financing commitments and increase the taxation of polluting industries while promoting and investing in sustainable alternatives. This includes putting into use the global pot of money for climate action called the Green Climate Fund and ensuring all countries can draw from it for their projects. It also urged for the eradication of child labour, gender-based violence, and child marriages.
Read more about the meeting’s activities and outcomes here.