The 2015 Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta saw 5,000 delegates and 1,000 journalists visit the island for the November summit. The biennial event was the last for outgoing Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma and saw the return of Queen Elizabeth, who was unable to make the journey to the 2013 summit in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
At the end of the summit, which ran from 27–29 November, leaders released statements on migration, violent extremism and climate change. They also issued a separate statement on climate change, supported by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the President of France, François Hollande, which tied in with climate change negotiations at the COP21 international climate summit in Paris that took place just after CHOGM.
Commonwealth leaders also restated their commitment to ending polio. Polio survivor Ramesh Ferris spoke during CHOGM and called on leaders to finish the job and eradicate the disease. Commonwealth heads of government have historically been at the forefront of work to eradicate polio – at the CHOGM in Perth in 2011, more than $100 million in new funds were pledged toward ending polio. Since the Commonwealth’s statement of support four years ago, there has been unprecedented progress against the virus. India and the entire South-East Asia region were certified polio-free last year and dangerous outbreaks in the Horn of Africa and Middle East were stopped.
The Commonwealth and the governments of Malta, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and India announced a new trade-financing fund to help boost trade and investment flows, particularly for small and developing countries. The voluntary fund hopes to attract start-up capital of $20 million to provide member countries facing trade challenges with the finance they need to increase their trade capacity. It is estimated that for every dollar invested, the fund will generate $20.
The facility, structured as a guarantee fund, will cover risk for providers of trade credit in financial institutions of Commonwealth countries. Financial investment will be sought from member countries and other parties that have expressed an interest in participating. Malta will host the fund and manage its governance structure, providing oversight for contributing member countries. The initiative is the result of a mandate issued at the 2013 leaders’ summit to help small and developing Commonwealth countries increase their trade capacity.
Patricia Scotland of Dominica was elected as the new Secretary-General – the first woman to hold the post. Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat made the announcement at a press conference during the Commonwealth summit. Baroness Scotland, former UK Attorney-General, is the sixth Secretary-General since the Commonwealth Secretariat was established in 1965. She replaced Kamalesh Sharma of India, whose eight-year tenure came to an end in March 2016.
Speaking during her first press conference, Baroness Scotland expressed her pride and gratitude at being given such a privilege at the same time as the first ever Commonwealth Women’s Forum recognised the importance of women in leadership.
She added: ‘The Commonwealth shares a great deal. It has 33% of the world’s population. It has the capacity to bring together people of all religions; and concentrate on what joins us. It’s a real opportunity to invest and work together. If you work together with people respectfully, you can bring about change. Human rights and development go hand-in-hand.’
The CHOGM 2015 communique can be found here.