Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting opensThe 22nd Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) opened today in Sri Lanka’s capital city Colombo with a theatrical welcome to leaders and representatives from the Commonwealth’s 53 member countries.
Young people lined the streets of Colombo to greet guests as they made their way to the opening ceremony at the Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre for the ceremony. Performances included a traditional Sri Lankan welcoming dance and song, and a dance representing the culture, environment and religions of Sri Lanka using folk songs and ‘barata’ and Kandyan dancing.
HRH The Prince of Wales is representing HM Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Commonwealth.
In his address The Prince spoke about the Charter of the Commonwealth, which reaffirms the core values and principles of the Commonwealth. The Charter was signed by The Queen on Commonwealth Day in March this year.
The Prince said: “At this CHOGM, and guided by that spirit, the Commonwealth is being charged to confront the many issues affecting the security and well-being of its nations and peoples.
“The Queen wishes you well in these vitally important deliberations.”
This year’s CHOGM theme is ‘Growth with Equity: Inclusive Development’.
Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa said: “We believe that this theme has broad relevance to the larger Commonwealth, and highlights the importance of equity in economic development, particularly in view of the existing disparities in the distribution of wealth, and economic benefits. Inclusive development promotes progress and contributes towards achieving Millennium Development Goals.”
Over the next three days Heads of Government will discuss: debt management, solvency and resilience in small member states; climate finance; the global trade agenda; unlocking the potential for member governments to assist each other directly; the global development agenda particularly the post-2015 development goals; expanding access to broadband; and examination of how Commonwealth borders can be opened to promote exchanges between citizens.
In his opening ceremony address Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said: “Deep awareness that our destinies are joined drives us forward in seeking together for practical solutions to the many great tasks before the Commonwealth, and the world at large. In these times of flux and rapid alteration, a shared vision of our collective striving and resolve are needed more than ever.
“That is the role of all CHOGMs - to bring us closer as a family and to move us forward together. We turn to our heads gathered here to lead us forward in that spirit and purpose. We are the world’s North, South, East and West. And we illustrate to the wider world that the Commonwealth closes the distance between them.”