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The Queen has officially opened the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
A specially invited audience seated in the Ballroom of Buckingham Palace was introduced to Heads of Government and senior leaders from 53 Commonwealth Member Countries, as well as the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland.
Many members of the Royal Family joined the gathering before the arrival of The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, accompanied by the Prince of Wales.
The British pop star, Emeli Sande, sang her country's national anthem accompanied by a string quartet.
Prince Charles welcomed the guests saying that the modern Commonwealth had a role to play in building bridges between member states creating 'fairer societies within them and a more secure world around them'.
In her remarks, Secretary-General Scotland paid tribute to The Queen.
“We owe an untold debt of gratitude. Both as a symbol of our free association, and through deep personal identification with the highest ideals of respect and understanding, Her Majesty has won a place of great affection in the hearts of people in all countries of the Commonwealth,” she said.
The Secretary-General referred to the CHOGM theme of 'Towards a Common Future', and the focus on creating a fairer, more prosperous, sustainable and secure future.
“Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings are distinctive for being both receptive and responsive to the needs of all, especially the young, the marginalised and the vulnerable, she said.
“Our dialogue is different, because there is a special dynamic in our Commonwealth ecosystem.
We can think back to the Langkawi Declaration on the Environment made at the 1989 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malaysia.
“A visionary and pioneering statement, that early blossom now bears fruit in initiatives such as The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy and our current work on the Commonwealth Blue Charter and the blue economy. Such continuing abundance and productivity depend on processes of refreshment and renewal that are essential for the continuing vitality and development of any organism.”
The Commonwealth would embrace fresh opportunities to bring positive change, continued the Secretary-General.
“Numerous examples show Commonwealth synergy accelerating progress. To tackle climate change and plastic pollution, to eliminate child, early and forced marriage and modern slavery, to eradicate polio and malaria, and to reduce prevalence of non-communicable diseases.”
Officially opening CHOGM, The Queen spoke of the enduring influence of the Commonwealth.
“Put simply, we are one of the world's great convening powers, a global association of volunteers who believe in the tangible benefits that flow from exchanging ideas and experiences and respecting each other's point of view.
“And we seem to be growing stronger year by year. The advantages are plain to see. An increasing emphasis on trade between our countries is helping us all to discover exciting new ways of doing business. And imaginative initiatives have shown how together we can bring about change on a global scale. The Commonwealth Canopy has emphasised our interdependence, while the Commonwealth Blue Charter promises to do the same in protecting our shared ocean resources.”
The Queen emphasised the role that young people play in the Commonwealth, 60 per cent of whom are under the age of 30, observing:
“It remains a great pleasure and honour to serve you as Head of the Commonwealth and to observe, with pride and satisfaction, that this is a flourishing network.
“It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations and will decide that one day The Prince of Wales should carry on the important work started by my father in 1949.”
Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat also paid tribute to the example set by The Queen. He commended the Prince of Wales for his close identification with the work of the Commonwealth and looked forward to His Royal Highness offering continuing leadership.
Meanwhile, Commonwealth heads have met in executive session at Lancaster House in London.
They discussed how they could collectively tackle global and Commonwealth challenges.
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) heard about the work which has been carried out by the Commonwealth Secretariat on behalf of the 53-member states and 2.4 billion citizens.
Leaders heard about the need to collaborate to tackle the existential threat of climate change, encouraged to adopt the Commonwealth Blue Charter on ocean governance and the importance and benefits of trading together.
Tomorrow the Commonwealth heads will meet at the CHOGM retreat to decide the priorities for the next two years.
The theme for this year's CHOGM is 'Towards a Common Future', seeking a fairer, more sustainable, prosperous and secure future.
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