From 20 to 27th June 2022, Rwanda will host the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). What exactly is the Commonwealth? What is the point of this international summit, and why was Rwanda chosen to host it? Learn more about this lesser known but influential association, and about its newest member, Rwanda.
The Commonwealth is one of the most original and dynamic global associations. Made up of 54 countries from five continents, it is composed of both advanced economies and developing countries, and home to over 2.5 billion people, 60 per cent of whom are under the age of 30.
This month (June), the leaders of the 54 Commonwealth nations will meet for the first time in four years in Kigali. While CHOGM is usually held every two years (the most recent CHOGM was held in London in 2018), this summit was delayed twice due to COVID.
This CHOGM is going to be historic for many reasons. As the first post-pandemic meeting, CHOGM will play an important role in advancing members’ shared interests and helping each other overcome the challenges inherent to post-COVID reconstruction. More importantly, by choosing, for the very first time, to organise CHOGM in a country with no ties to the British empire, the Commonwealth demonstrated its forward-facing agenda and ability to evolve.
The Commonwealth’s newest member
Having joined in 2009, Rwanda is the newest member of the Commonwealth, and one of the only two members with no history of British colonial rule, along with Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony. Rwanda’s selection to host CHOGM barely 13 years after joining the association is testament to the strides our country has made towards achieving our development goals, all of which are in line with the Charter of the Commonwealth. Chapter 12 of the Charter on gender equality, for instance, resonates particularly with Rwanda, where we are immensely proud to have the highest representation of women in parliament globally.
As an active and responsible member of the international community, Rwanda’s ambition for CHOGM is to bring energy and focus in responding to the needs of the 2.5 billion citizens of the Commonwealth. The overall theme for the summit is “Delivering a common future: connecting, innovating, transforming,” and there will be particular focus on economic development, expanding intra-Commonwealth trade, youth development, tackling social inequality and climate action – objectives close to Rwanda’s heart.
Rwanda, as an active member of the Commonwealth has campaigned for action on many important causes, such as the 2015 Kigali Declaration that called for Commonwealth-wide action to prevent and eliminate child, early and forced marriage. We are committed to greater cooperation between members, particularly in areas such as climate action and sustainable urbanisation. On the latter, we have been working closely with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales who, alongside the Duchess of Cornwall will be in Rwanda for the first time during CHOGM.
Kigali – the place to be this June
Rwanda has proved to be an attractive destination for international travellers thanks to our high COVID-19 vaccination rate (over 64 per cent, one of the highest in Africa). Our low COVID numbers allowed us to ease our travel restrictions months ago, meaning that delegates can expect a safe and seamless experience, especially as 30-day visas are available on arrival and are free of charge to all Commonwealth citizens.
CHOGM is not just about the Heads of Government. The week-long programme of events will see the entire Commonwealth converge on Kigali, from government officials to businesspeople and members of the wider civil society.
Starting from 20th June, Kigali will host Commonwealth Forums on Business, Youth, Women, the People’s forum as well as the Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases. Each forum will hold engaging discussions and workshops with high-level speakers and will aim to generate tangible outcomes that benefit the citizens of the Commonwealth.
Kigali will be buzzing with side events such as a fashion show at the Kigali Arena (now the BK Arena), which will showcase Made-in-Rwanda and African fashion, street festivals, networking activities at Kigali’s new 18-hole golf course, and even a cricket festival at Gahanga stadium – affectionately known as the Lords of East Africa.