THE Foreign Ministers from across the Commonwealth met on Wednesday for the 22nd annual Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting (CFAMM). The meeting was held in person at the Commonwealth Secretariat headquarters, Marlborough House, in London.
The agenda focused on enhancing the resilience of Commonwealth countries, recognising the concurrent crises and challenges faced by many members such as climate change, the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and spiralling food and energy costs, which pose risks to peace and stability.
Addressing the gathered Ministers, the Commonwealth Secretary-General Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC said:
“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.
“As we celebrate 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.”
As the representative of Rwanda, the current Commonwealth Chair-in-Office, the Honourable Vincent Biruta, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Rwanda, said:
“The CHOGM 2022 Summit in Kigali was a success for all Commonwealth members. Members’ participation in Kigali, and in the months of preparation before, embodied the Commonwealth spirit of goodwill, collaboration and sharing. Going forward, we need to draw on this collective goodwill in our efforts to progress the CHOGM 2022 outcomes.
“A further celebratory point of note from CHOGM 2022, is the extension of our family of nations, bringing our union to 56 members, with the welcome addition of both the Gabonese Republic and the Republic of Togo. We look forward to working with Ministers and officials from both nations.”
Speaking on empowering the Commonwealth’s youth, the Secretary-General said:
“In this Year of Youth, the values of our charter remind us of our responsibility to equip the 1.5 billion young people of the Commonwealth with the tools they need to shape their futures and realise their dreams.”
The meeting’s agenda gave ministers the opportunity to discuss governance structures and ways of working together to address challenges to the values and aspirations embodied in the Commonwealth Charter. Disruptions to food and energy security, the urgent threat of climate change, regional and localised conflict and high debt burdens are affecting the lives of people across the Commonwealth.
Ministers recognised that strong governance and accountability structures, as well as other fundamental elements guaranteeing the rule of law are crucial to increasing countries’ resilience and minimising the impacts of these challenges. Ministers noted ongoing work in the areas of governance, rule of law, good offices as well as debt management, with the latter being considered especially critical in the current global climate.
In addressing the broader theme of climate resilience, emphasis was placed on building on the outcomes of COP27. Ministers emphasised the importance of seeking ways of working together to unlock climate financing and to find innovative solutions to meet Nationally Determined Contributions, NDCs,. Ministers recalled the Commonwealth Living Lands Charter, adopted at the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, CHOGM, and looked forward to its implementation.
Intra-Commonwealth trade was identified as a crucial advantage which can be further harnessed. Intra-Commonwealth exports rebounded in 2021 to reach an all-time high of US$768 billion, up by almost $150 billion from 2020. In 2022, these exports are estimated to have surpassed $800 billion. Intra-Commonwealth exports are forecast to grow steadily over the next five years, surpassing US$1 trillion by 2026. Ministers encouraged more ambitious action to realise the full potential of the Commonwealth Advantage, to achieve $2 trillion by 2030. Supporting countries in improving connectivity and maximising digital trade were identified as a key objective.
During the meeting Ministers also received an update on ongoing country situations in Guyana, Belize, Cyprus as well as the plight of the Rohingya in Bangladesh. They also congratulated the Secretariat on Commonwealth Day and heard of the Commonwealth Peace flag which was raised in Commonwealth countries around the world on Commonwealth Day on Monday.
The next Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting is expected to take place in September 2023 in the margins of the UN General Assembly.