WHAT IS CHOGM?

The Queen has landed, the pomp and ceremony are on, and the official cars have already got their fair share of coverage.

But what is CHOGM and what’s it all about?

The first CHOGM – an acronym for Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting – was held in Singapore between the 14th and 22nd January 1971. Since then, there have been 23 CHOGMs held, which with a bit of basic maths, will make you realise that this is a biennial meeting.

Malta has held two of these meetings, the first between the 25th and 27th November 2005, which then-Prime Minister Dr Lawrence Gonzi had chaired. Now, at the time of writing, Dr Joseph Muscat is doing the honours with this one.

The Queen is the Head of the Commonwealth, and she has attended every single meeting between 1973, which took place in Ottawa, Canada, and the one in Perth, Australia in 2011. A representative from the British Monarchy is always present at a CHOGM.

the-queen-chogm-2015

Photo credits: DOI, Reuben Piscopo

 

But what do those present discuss, and why is it such an important event?

The Commonwealth of Nations is made up of 53 nation states, spanning from Canada to Australia, encompassing countries from each of the five continents, including India in Asia; Malta, Cyprus and the UK in Europe; South Africa in Africa; the Bahamas and Barbados in America; and New Zealand in the Australian continent. The list includes republics, nation states that are still part of the Commonwealth realms (of which The Queen is still the monarch), and even kingdoms that are completely separate to the UK.

All the members of the Commonwealth combined cover almost 30,000,000Km² (a fourth of the world’s land) and represent 2.3bn people (a third of the world’s population).

Members of the Commonwealth have no obligation to each other per se, but due to their shared history and language, which were sown by the British Empire throughout the last 200 years of history, these countries get together to discuss both global and Commonwealth issues.

Concert-at-St-John's-Cathedral

Photo credits: DOI, Clifton Fenech

 

The most important part of CHOGM is that, following the very public and documented opening, the various heads of state go on a ‘retreat’, where they can discuss issues in an informal and private environment. This gives them the time and space to discuss anything that affects them as a nation and as part of the wider world. Topics discussed in the past included climate change, international peace, security, democracy, health, racial equality and human rights.

While many deem CHOGM as inconsequential, few can deny that these meetings have, if nothing else, created a sense of solidarity and comradeship among the countries that form part of this group. CHOGM, in fact, does what it says on the tin – it brings 53 nations together to discuss important and crucial matters in the world, while also creating links between countries that would otherwise have none.

So, with that in mind…

What are you hoping our heads of government will discuss at CHOGM 2015?

Let us know in the comments section below.

 

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