The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Australia, promises to bring new vibrancy to the association, said HM Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth, at the opening of the three-day event today, 28 October 2011.
The Queen said the summit meeting of Commonwealth leaders is taking place in a venue which embraces so much of the Commonwealth spirit.
“We find ourselves confronting new and fresh challenges: insecurity and uncertainty in finance, food supply, climate change, and trade and development. The Commonwealth meeting is, for its part, the perfect opportunity to address these issues and find responses to today’s crises and challenges,” said the Queen.
She urged Commonwealth leaders in their discussions to agree on further reforms that respond boldly to the aspirations of today to keep the Commonwealth “fresh and fit for tomorrow”.
“In these deliberations, we should not forget that this is an association not only of governments but also of peoples. This is what makes it so relevant in this age of global information and communication,” she added.
The Queen said CHOGM leaders have the encouragement of the whole Commonwealth to maintain the vital tradition of “being attuned to the issues of the day and always looking to the future with a sense of vision and practical action to match”.
She stated that the results of the biennial summit meeting may be global in impact or simply touch a single individual, but she expressed hope that the outcome will be positive and enduring.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the strength and success of fellowship in the Commonwealth comes from a commitment to make Commonwealth values real and present in the life of each member nation, and to ensure those member nations that fall short understand that their peers want to see change.
“We are a Commonwealth of values: shared values of peace, democracy, racial equality, the rule of law and a commitment to social and economic progress. Shared values freely embraced and consensually expressed. Values we can put to work in addressing some of the most pressing concerns that face our world like climate change, financial stability and food security,” said Ms Gillard.
“The Commonwealth is vital to addressing such challenges. We must be a more agile Commonwealth, equipped to respond when our values are tested and to speak clearly when our voice needs to be heard.”
Ms Gillard noted that this summit of Commonwealth leaders in Perth can be a memorable one for being the meeting which gave the Commonwealth the direction it needed at a time of global uncertainty and risk.
“The world has changed, and a wise institution changes too. So as the Commonwealth journeys towards its centenary, it is time for renewal,” added Ms Gillard.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said CHOGMs are an occasion to take the pulse of the Commonwealth – “to check that we continue in good health, to review how far we have come in the last two years, and to set signposts for the future.”
He stated that the Commonwealth brings together in celebration the full breadth of a community.
“All can serve our three aspirations of democracy, development and diversity. And in offering global wisdom and value, we must continue to strive for equity, especially for the rights and causes of the small and vulnerable, and in the service of our people,” said the Secretary-General.
“If there is one rich vein of inspiration that must animate all of us in the days ahead, it is renewal and reform in order to be resilient and relevant. As we navigate this century, which has both peril and promise, and work together to shape the future Commonwealth, let us embrace the world of opportunity that lies ahead.”
The outgoing Commonwealth Chair-in-Office, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, stressed that the solidarity and co-operation in the Commonwealth can help to build resilience.
“We must seek counsel from the wise to overcome challenges be they volatile issues in politics, economy, social and environmental issues,” said Ms Persad-Bissessar.
“In this new era our concern is over the equitable distribution of wealth in the Commonwealth, to ensure that we harness the Commonwealth by networking for trade. We must not squander this opportunity for economic development, for human development and for prosperity for all our citizens. Let us recommit and pledge to translate hope into action. A proactive, vibrant and rejuvenated Commonwealth is an asset to member states.”