[To President Kagame] Mr President, thank you for welcoming us to your beautiful, inspiring country – it is so wonderful to be in Rwanda, and in this incredible, thriving, rising continent.
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Your Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Guests, Friends and Colleagues.
Welcome to Kigali!
This CHOGM has been a long time coming.
The period since we last gathered together has been marked with sorrow.
More than one million of our brothers and sisters across the Commonwealth – from all walks of life, including Heads of Government – have died.
And as we formally open this vital meeting, I invite you all to join with me in a moment of silent reflection in memory of them all.
Excellencies, in 1953, Her Majesty The Queen shared her vision for a Commonwealth which “bears no resemblance to the Empires of the past”.
To “an entirely new conception, built on the highest qualities of the spirit of man: friendship, loyalty and the desire for freedom and peace…an equal partnership of nations and races to which she would give her heart and soul”
She has given her heart and soul.
In the year of her Platinum Jubilee, with heartfelt thanks and the greatest admiration, we pay tribute to her.
And we warmly welcome her representative, and the future Head of the Commonwealth, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
Her Majesty’s vision remains the standard against which we judge ourselves as a family of nations.
In 1919, at the end of a war which killed millions, during a pandemic which killed millions more, leaders gathered in France striving for an eternal peace.
Their quest was noble, but it failed. That failure had profound and devastating consequences.
After the horrors and bloodshed of the Second World War, it fell upon a new generation to shape a just and lasting peace – and the international system as we know it today was born.
The Commonwealth is part of that system – brought together to bring a touch of healing to kinships which were changing, but which continue to bind us.
I believe profoundly that the Commonwealth today, in 2022, is a beacon within that international system.
A place where people come together.
Where we work together.
Where no voice is louder or more important than any other.
And where no-one is left behind.
Yes, we have shared interests and practical advantages, but we 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.
They express a vision for the world that will outlast all of us.
They make us different.
They make us special.
Honouring these values, and that vision, is our most sacred trust – and our gift to the generations which will follow.
Today, as we gather in the midst of new and decisive shifts in our world, it is imperative that those values shape the choices we will make in the hours and days ahead.
The economic damage of COVID, and mounting debt, confront us all.
The rapid intensification of climate change poses an existential danger.
The tremors of conflict and instability in our world, the spiralling costs of food and fuel and economic uncertainty, threaten a serious and protracted crisis
This CHOGM is, first and foremost, an opportunity to find answers to these questions.
It will not be easy.
The solutions will simply not ride up here onto the stage and present themselves before us.
Real progress has never happened that way, and it never will.
We must talk, and listen, to each other, and give all that we have to achieve progress for the 2.5 billion people we – you - represent.
But here, in Rwanda, something else is at stake – something even more transformational.
The world is changing. People are anxious.
I understand the pressure you, as Heads of Government, are under.
The last few years have shaken the kaleidoscope.
But before the pieces settle, we have an opportunity – right here, right now – to show the world what real unity, real solidarity, real co-operation and real progress look like.
To have served as your Secretary-General these past six years is the great honour and privilege of my life.
Together, we have been friends in good times and in bad
Voices for the voiceless
Advocates for development and progress
We have laid the foundations for transformational change
And I am determined that, when the role of Secretary-General rotates to Africa two years from now, I will hand on the baton with a stronger, more effective, more powerful Commonwealth than ever before.
I have an unshakeable belief that we can take Commonwealth to new heights, to hold our values ever-closer, and set an example for the whole world.
As Her Majesty has said, “It has always been easy to hate and destroy. To build and to cherish is much more difficult”
This week, face to face with each other, and in the presence of her son and heir, we have the greatest opportunity we will ever have to live up to those words.
It is a huge task, but if our history tells us anything, it is that we can seize the moment with confidence in our values, and each other.
For further information, the Commonwealth Secretariat's point of contact for all media activities related to CHOGM 2022 is:
- CHOGM Communications team, Commonwealth Secretariat
- + 44 7894 593508 | E-mail