Leaders of Commonwealth member states met with His Majesty King Charles III at Marlborough House, the Headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat Friday.
After their meeting with the King, leaders from the Commonwealth’s 56 member states then met privately to discuss issues of mutual interest, including initiatives to support the empowerment of young people, as this year has been designated the Commonwealth Year of Youth.
The King has described the Commonwealth as a ‘cornerstone’ of his life, expressing his unwavering support for the values, people and countries of the Commonwealth. At their Heads of Government Meeting in 2018, Commonwealth Leaders decided that he would succeed Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Commonwealth, and he acceded to the role upon her death in September 2022.
During Friday’s meeting, the King greeted the leaders warmly and posed with them for a commemorative family photograph. Later that day, leaders will also attend a reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by the King.
Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland KC, said: “I can think of no stronger signal of His Majesty’s deep connection to our Family of Nations than taking time to meet with Commonwealth Leaders at Marlborough House ahead of his Coronation. Earlier this year, the King highlighted the Commonwealth’s ‘near-boundless potential as a force for good’.
In today’s meeting, leaders reaffirmed their unwavering and unified commitment to the continued strengthening of our Commonwealth family and assuring its future by investing in the 1.5 billion young people across our 56 nations.
The Secretary-General observed that the Commonwealth is growing in size, scale and influence, especially as the event also welcomed the leaders of Togo and Gabon, who attended their first meeting of Commonwealth Leaders today.
The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, in his role as Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth, also addressed the meeting. He welcomed the leaders of the two newest Commonwealth countries and paid tribute to the new Commonwealth Head. President Kagame also said, “We appreciate the King’s lifelong devotion to Commonwealth affairs, just as we remember the role of her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, in giving the modern Commonwealth its shape and spirit.”
His Highness Tuimalealiifano Va’aleto’a Sualauvi II, the Head of State of Samoa also attended the event as the incoming Commonwealth Chair-in-Office. In 2024, Samoa will succeed Rwanda as chair at the 27th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in the capital, Apia.
Alongside the Leaders Meeting, the Commonwealth Secretariat also hosted a gathering of the spouses, partners and the invited guests of Commonwealth Heads of Government. The event, which was hosted by Jeannette Kagame, the First lady of Rwanda, focused on the action needed to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer and tackle challenges impeding progress towards this goal across the Commonwealth. The spouses and partners in attendance pledged to champion advocacy and action in their respective countries.
The year also marks the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Commonwealth Charter, which reaffirms the values and principles of the Commonwealth as well as its aspirations. As well as being designated the Year of the Youth, 2023 is also being marked as the Commonwealth Year of Peace.