Mr. President, thank you for welcoming us to your beautiful inspiring country. It is so wonderful to be in Rwanda and in this incredible, thriving, rising continent.
Your Royal Highnesses
Distinguished Guests, Friends and Colleagues
Welcome to Kigali. This CHOGM has been a long time coming. The period since we last gathered together has been marked with sorrow.
More than 1 million of our brothers and sisters across the Commonwealth, from all walks of life, including Heads of Government, have died. And as we formally open this vital meeting, I invite you all to join with me in a moment of silent reflection in memory of them all.
Excellencies, in 1953, Her Majesty, the Queen shared her vision for Commonwealth which bears no resemblance to the empires of the past. To an entirely new conception built on the highest qualities of the spirit of man, friendship, loyalty and the desire for freedom and peace, and equal partnership of Nations and races, to which she gave her heart and soul. She has given her heart and soul.
In the year of her Platinum Jubilee with heartfelt thanks and the greatest admiration, we pay tribute to her and we warmly welcome her representative and the future head of the Commonwealth, His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales.
Her Majesty’s vision Remains the standard against which we judge ourselves as a family of nations. In 1919, at the end of a war which killed millions, during a pandemic which killed millions more, leaders gathered in France, striving for an internal peace. Their Quest must noble but it failed. That failure had profound and devastating consequences.
After the horrors and bloodshed of the second world war, it fell upon a new generation to shape a just and lasting peace. And the International System, as we know it today, was born. The Commonwealth is part of that system, brought together to bring a touch of healing to kinships which were changing, but which continue to bind us.
I believe profoundly that the Commonwealth today, in 2022 is a beacon within that International System. A place where people come together, where we work together, where no voice is louder or more important than any other and where no one is left behind.
Yes, we have shared interests and practical advantages, but we are the most significant grouping of countries in the history of the world which is bound above all by values, which we all aspire to.
These values of peace and justice, of tolerance, respect, and solidarity and our role as the foremost international champion for small and vulnerable states, remain our enduring responsibility. They express a vision for the world that will outlast all of us.
They make us different. They make us special. Honouring these values and that vision is our most sacred trust and our gift to the generations which will follow.
Today, as we gather in the midst of new and decisive shifts in our world, it is imperative that those values shape the choices we will make in the hours and days ahead. The economic damage of COVID-19 and mounting debt confront us all.
The rapid intensification of climate change poses an existential threat. The tremors of conflict and instability in our world. The spiralling costs of food and fuel and economic uncertainty threaten a serious and protracted crisis.
This CHOGM is first and foremost, an opportunity to find answers to these questions. It will not be easy. We will have to dig deep. We will have to respect each other and find what joins us.
We must trust each other. We must talk and listen to each other and give all that we have to achieve progress for the 2.5 billion people we all represent but here in Rwanda, something else is at stake. Something even more transformational. The world is changing. People are anxious.
I understand the pressure on each and every Head of State today. The last few years have shaken the kaleidoscope but before the pieces settle, we have an opportunity right here right now to show the world what real unity, real solidarity, real cooperation and real progress look like.
To have served as your Secretary General these past six years is the great honour and privilege of my life. Together we have been friends in good times and in bad, voices for the voiceless, advocates for development and progress.
We have laid the foundations for transformational change and I am determined that when the role of Secretary General rotates to Africa, two years from now, I will hand on the baton with a stronger more effective, more powerful Commonwealth than ever before.
I have an unshakable belief that we can take our Commonwealth to new heights to hold our values ever closer and to set an example for the whole world. As Her Majesty, The Queen has said, it has always been easy to hate and destroy, to build and to cherish is much more difficult.
This week face-to-face, with each other and in the presence of her son and Heir, we have the greatest opportunity we will ever have to live up to those words.
It is a huge task, but if our history tells us anything, it is that we can seize the moment with confidence in our values and each other. And I thank you.