CHOGM Forums begin in London in true British grandeur ‘Towards a common future’

Tuesday, 17 April 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • UK Prime Minister Theresa May opens the Business Forum
  • The Commonwealth Secretary-General opens the Women’s Forum
  • Prince Harry opens Commonwealth Youth Forum

The 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), described by British Prime Minister as the largest summit of its kind in the United Kingdom’s history, got off to a flying start in London yesterday with the three days of Forums – to run simultaneously covering youth, women, business and civil society, in the midst of events fashioned in the best of British traditions and all its grandeur. 

The Forums are a prelude to the CHOGM Executive sessions proper of the State leaders starting after the formal opening of CHOGM that will takes place at Buckingham Palace on Thursday. Prime Minister Theresa May leading the way, declared the Business Forum open, while Patricia Scotland and Prince Harry, fifth in line to the British Throne, opened the Women’s Forum and Youth Forum, respectively. ‘A welcome to the UK’ reception was held at the Queen Elizabeth Centre late evening for the participants of the Forums to end the opening day’s star studded program.

The Forums offer a unique platform for the people of the Commonwealth to come together to address shared challengers and help frame the discussions of leaders. Almost 2,000 representatives from business, civil society, youth-led organisations and government, are meeting, within the three Forum days to discuss and raise the issues that are most important to the citizens. 

The Women’s, Youth and People’s Forums commenced and ran concurrently yesterday at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, situated opposite the UK Houses of Parliament, while the Business Forum is at Guildhall in the City of London. The three day Forums will end tomorrow with the outcomes document set to be presented to the Heads of State at the end of their sessions on Friday. 

The Women’s Forum’s focus is to explore the Commonwealth’s role in achieving gender equality in line with UN aspirations and the crucial role women have to play in politics, business and peace building. 

Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “CHOGM 2018 promises to deliver transformational change for the people of the Commonwealth. The Presidents and Prime Ministers and other high-level government representatives from one quarter of the countries of the world are assembling. Through consensus they will reach agreement on collective action, with the impact of their decisions likely to extend far beyond the boundaries of the Commonwealth.”

“Agreement among our culturally diverse and geographically widespread member countries to collaborate and innovate often provides the basis for broader progress regionally and internationally. Immediate impact combined with wider influence make the Commonwealth an unparalleled force for building understanding and cooperation towards realising global goals for social and political progress, inclusive prosperity, and sustainable development,” she said.

The 2018 Women's Forum will reflect on some of the global challenges still faced by women, as part of a wider commitment to "leave no one behind" in the Commonwealth journey to achieving gender equality by 2030. 

The Women's Forum has drawn international delegates from the Commonwealth and the rest of the world to highlight women's positive political, economic and societal contributions and establish how women and girls will be key to building sustainable and resilient societies.

The first Commonwealth Women's Forum (CWF) was held in Malta in the lead up to the November 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM) as a response to a proposal from the 10th meeting of the Commonwealth Women's Affairs Meeting of 2013. 

The purpose of the CWF is to affirm high-level support and direct top-level policies for gender equality and women's rights, for women to be given the opportunity to interact with leaders and for the Commonwealth's commitments to gender equality to be positioned high on the agenda for Heads of Government.

The 2018 CWF is addressing the theme of "An empowered future for women and girls". The theme signals a clear message that gender equality, women's rights, and women's empowerment are goals and means towards achieving sustainable development as pursued through the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The program includes substantive plenary sessions and parallel workshops providing the opportunity for participants to focus on specific areas including: Women in leadership, Women, peace and security, Women's economic empowerment, Gender parity in education, Ending violence against women and girls, and Eliminating harmful practices. 

The future of the Commonwealth depends on its one billion young people. The Commonwealth Youth Forum provides an opportunity for the young people of the Commonwealth to build cross-cultural connections and networks, debate the challenges facing its young people, and agree youth-led initiatives to influence decision makers and ensure young people have a voice in its future.

The 2018 Youth Forum’s theme of ‘Powering Our Common Future’ reflects the CHOGM theme of ‘Towards a Common Future’ and illustrates the powerful potential of young people across the Commonwealth in devising solutions to complex global challenges as well as their ability to bring forward meaningful recommendations to the Heads of Government meeting.

The Forum will include opportunities for plenary discussions and action planning breakout sessions, focused around CHOGM's four themes: prosperity, security, sustainability and fairness.

The Commonwealth Youth Forum will also recognise the achievement of the twenty Commonwealth Youth Awards finalists and includes the announcement of the four Regional Young Persons of the Year and the overall 2018 Commonwealth Young Person of the Year implemented by the Commonwealth Youth Council and youth-led organisations across the Commonwealth.

The People’s Forum, a joint venture between the Commonwealth Foundation and the UK government, is the single largest gathering of civil society representatives in the Commonwealth and is aimed at discussing key issues facing Commonwealth people. This year’s forum will address the theme Inclusive Governance: The Challenge for a Contemporary Commonwealth.

CPF 2018 brings a civic perspective to this discourse, with the central theme being Inclusive Governance: The Challenge for a Contemporary Commonwealth.

The Youth Forum has brought 500 young people together to engage in planning, capacity-building and a General Assembly where they will finalise their priorities on youth-led action in development. These priorities will be presented to heads of Government and Sessions on each of the Forum’s three days focus on a particular theme:

Day 1: ‘Leave No One Behind’: Exploring Exclusion in the Commonwealth

Day 2: ‘Politics of Hope’: Taking on Injustice in the Commonwealth

Day 3: ‘Accountable Governance’: Understanding the Imperatives for a Renewed Commonwealth

More than 350 delegates from 53 Commonwealth countries and beyond are expected to attend.

The program combines panel discussions, in-depth conversations, case studies and creative expression. It provides platforms for voices from across the globe and concludes with a call to action for a contemporary Commonwealth in the context of inclusive, just and accountable governance.

The Business Forum started off at Guildhall in the City of London The Business Forum will be held across the Guildhall and Mansion House in the City of London and the QEII Conference Centre, Westminster and will be addressed by heads of government, ministers and global business leaders. The Commonwealth Advantage – with its shared values, regulatory systems and language – has the potential to increase intra-Commonwealth trade by 20% and can reduce the cost of doing business between member countries by up to 19%.

It is a unique platform for dialogue, bringing together business and government leaders from across the Commonwealth. Organised by the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, in partnership with the City of London, the Forum is in discussion on a range of issues affecting businesses across the Commonwealth and to develop ideas for promoting inclusive economic growth.

A first at CHOGM’s Forums today 

Today for the first time, all four Forums (Women, Youth, People, and Business) meet together on one platform in plenary. This opportunity is expected to generate discussion around shared themes and stimulate collaboration between the Commonwealth’s main partners.

This unique session will take place at Queen Elizabeth II centre. The Forum will address the CHOGM 2018 theme 'Towards a common future' and will focus on six key areas; accessing modern financial services, easing the pathway for business and growth, harnessing Commonwealth technology and innovation, creating a new attitude to sustainable business, mobilising an export economy and attracting inward investment.