The ambition

During the week of 16th April, leaders from across 53 countries came to London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018.

The summit’s theme was: ‘Towards a common future’ and focused on building on the strengths of the Commonwealth to ensure the organisation is responsive to global challenges and delivers a more prosperous, secure, sustainable and fair future for all its citizens, particularly its young people.

The future of the Commonwealth depends on its one billion young people and the summit had a strong youth focus.The summit built links between countries to offer young people access to knowledge and skills; and give them a voice on key issues such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Across the 53 countries, member states face common challenges: weak global trade and investment flows; new cross-border security threats; the effects of climate change on small and other vulnerable states; threats to our shared values of democracy, good governance and inclusivity as set out in the Commonwealth Charter.

A more sustainable future

The impacts of climate change and pollution on the world’s oceans is a global problem, threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people who rely on them. Without urgent action to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience the impacts of climate change could push an additional 100 million people into poverty by 2030. The Commonwealth is well placed to take action: driving global ambition; piloting innovative approaches to increasing resilience; and underlining the Commonwealth’s ongoing commitment to tackling climate change. 

Leaders renewed their commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement to keep the increase in average global temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature to increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.  

Leaders agreed a landmark Commonwealth Blue Charter to protect the health of the world’s oceans and promote the growth of blue economies.  Under this initiative, the UK and Vanuatu have launched a Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance, working with 7 other countries (Australia, Fiji, Ghana, Kenya, Sri Lanka, St Lucia and New Zealand) to tackle the scourge of marine plastic pollution.  

Other Commonwealth countries will lead further work to tackle different threats faced by the oceans: from climate change and ocean acidification to the protection and restoration of coral reefs and mangrove forests.  

Leaders also agreed to take steps to drive significant improvements in key global health challenges. In particular a commitment to halve malaria across the Commonwealth by 2023, and eliminate blinding trachoma from the Commonwealth by 2020.

A fairer future

The Commonwealth has a proud history of taking action to promote and protect democratic principles. The Commonwealth Charter sets out a shared vision of democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law to which all its member states subscribe. By upholding and promoting those principles the Commonwealth can ensure a fairer future and provide the essential basis for sustainable development.

Leaders emphasised that the full social, economic and political participation of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status, is essential for democracy and sustainable development to thrive.  

Leaders adopted a revised approach to election observation, ensuring the Commonwealth’s flagship programme to support Commonwealth democracies remains fit for the 21st century, while retaining its unique Commonwealth quality. 

Guided by the principle of leaving no-one behind, leaders encouraged action to provide the opportunity for at least 12 years of quality education and learning for girls and boys by 2030.

A more secure future

The unprecedented security threats we face are a shared 21st century issue. Challenges of terrorism, serious organised crime, cyber crime, violent extremism and human trafficking ignore borders and can only be addressed by increased multilateral action and cooperation. This was the first time security was a substantive theme at a CHOGM and Leaders agreed a range of actions to partner, aid and learn from each other in tackling shared threats. 

Leaders adopted a Cyber Declaration - the largest ever inter-governmental commitment to cybersecurity co-operation - which sets out a common commitment to an open, democratic peaceful and secure internet, respecting human rights and freedom of expression.

Leaders also agreed to enhance efforts to tackle the enablers of serious and organised crime by increasing transnational law enforcement cooperation and engagement with regional bodies liked INTERPOL, and called for effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour. 

A more prosperous future

The Commonwealth contains a diverse group of countries, including many of the largest and smallest economies in the world.  It is home to half of the globe’s top emerging cities and, with a combined population of 2.4 billion people, nearly a third of the global population.  By working together the Commonwealth can promote trade and investment as a means to drive economic growth, create jobs, and ensure the prosperity of our citizens.

Leaders expressed concern about continuing risks to the global economy and - for the first time - underlined the importance of resisting all forms of protectionism.  They recognised trade and investment as a means to deliver a more inclusive and prosperous future for all and therefore reaffirmed the Commonwealth’s long-standing support for free trade in a transparent, inclusive, fair and open rules-based multilateral trading system.

With the ambition of increasing intra-Commonwealth trade to beyond US$2 trillion by 2030, Leaders launched a Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda that aims to boost trade and investment links across the Commonwealth. The agenda considers ways in which the Commonwealth can promote inclusive and sustainable trade by enhancing cooperation on five areas: physical, digital, regulatory, business to business, and supply side connectivity. 

The week also marked the UK succeeding Malta as ‘Chair-In-Office’ of the Commonwealth for two years. Rwanda will host the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2020.