United Kingdom (Commonwealth Union)_ The 22nd annual Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting (CFAMM) convened in London, with Foreign Ministers from various Commonwealth nations in attendance. The meeting was organized at the Commonwealth Secretariat headquarters, Marlborough House, in London and primarily centered on boosting the resilience of Commonwealth nations. The members discussed the pressing and interconnected issues of climate change, the continuing effects of the pandemic, and the rising costs of food and energy, which all pose risks to global peace and stability.
As the Commonwealth Secretary-General Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC addressed the gathering, she stated, “We have shown again this week that our Commonwealth Family is unique in the world: bound by our special blend of shared interests, practical advantages and shared values. We are strengthened by our diversity, and united in our commitment to our Commonwealth Charter”. She added, “As we mark the Charter’s tenth anniversary, we can renew our commitment to the vision it expresses: for a fairer, more equitable, more peaceful and sustainable world rooted in democracy, justice and human rights. And we can take confidence in the firm foundation it provides us: to face the challenges of today and seize the opportunities of the future.”
According to the Honourable Dr Vincent Biruta, the present Commonwealth Chair-in-Office and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Rwanda, “The CHOGM 2022 Summit in Kigali was a success for all Commonwealth nations. The involvement of Commonwealth members in Kigali, and in the preceeding months of preparation, exemplified the Commonwealth spirit of goodwill, collaboration, and sharing. Moving forward, we must rely on this collective goodwill in our efforts to advance the CHOGM 2022 results”. He added, “A further celebratory aspect of CHOGM 2022 is the extension of our family of nations, increasing our union to 56 members, with the welcome addition of both the Gabonese Republic and the Republic of Togo. We anticipate working with Ministers and officials from both countries.”
The Secretary-General highlighted the importance of Commonwealth’s youth empowerment. She said, “In this Year of Youth, the ideals of our charter remind us of our responsibility to provide the 1.5 billion young people of the Commonwealth with the skills they need to shape their futures and realize their ambition.” During the meeting, ministers had the opportunity to discuss how they could work together to tackle challenges that threaten the values and aspirations of the Commonwealth Charter. The major challenges are disruptions to food and energy security, the looming threat of climate change, regional and local disputes, and high debt burdens which are adversely affecting people’s lives throughout the Commonwealth.
Additionally, ministers acknowledged that strong governance and accountability structures, along with other critical components that ensure the rule of law, are essential for increasing resilience and mitigating the impacts of these challenges. They also highlighted the ongoing efforts in the areas of governance, rule of law, good offices, and debt management, with particular emphasis on the latter in the current global status. Regarding the broader theme of climate resilience, the ministers emphasized the need to build on the outcomes of COP27. They also highlighted the importance of collaboration in unlocking climate financing and finding innovative solutions to meet Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Additionally, the ministers reflected on the Commonwealth Living Lands Charter, which was adopted during the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), and discussed further towards its implementation.
At the meeting, the ministers acknowledged that intra-Commonwealth trade is a critical advantage that can be further leveraged. In 2021, Intra-Commonwealth exports rebounded and reached an all-time high of US$768 billion, a significant increase of nearly $150 billion from the previous year. It is estimated that these exports have surpassed $800 billion in 2022, and are expected to continue growing steadily over the next five years, reaching over US$1 trillion by 2026. In addition, the ministers urged for more ambitious actions to fully realize the potential of the Commonwealth Advantage, aiming to achieve $2 trillion by 2030. In pursuit of this objective, supporting countries in enhancing connectivity and developing digital trade was identified as a main priority.
In addition to discussions on trade, the ministers were also updated on the ongoing situations in Guyana, Belize, Cyprus, and the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh. They also conveyed wishes to the Secretariat on Commonwealth Day and appreciated the Commonwealth Flag for Peace, which was hoisted in Commonwealth countries worldwide on the day. The next Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting is scheduled to take place in September 2023, in conjunction with the UN General Assembly.