Commonwealth leaders with the Queen in 2002Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting photo 2002. [photo: Commonwealth Secretariat]

[The last time a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) had been postponed was in 2001, in the wake of 9/11. Here’s an excerpt from a Round Table editorial on the 2002 CHOGM which you can find in full with references in the Round Table’s archives.]

ZIMBABWE, ZIMBABWE, ZIMBABWE … security, and the future of the Commonwealth—these three somewhat interrelated matters were the dominant themes, motifs, of the rearranged CHOGM held at Coolum on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in early March 2002.

For months—back before the CHOGM earlier planned for Brisbane in early October 2001—it had been clear that Mugabe’s persistent and serious violation of the Commonwealth’s Harare principles, drawn up in 1991, constituted a strong challenge to its credibility and effectiveness. This was a situation that worsened as intimidation, thuggery, contempt for the rule of law and other violations of the Harare–Millbrook principles (see The Round Table, No 357, pp 640–46) increased in the weeks preceding Zimbabwe’s Presidential election and thereby diminished the standing and reputation of the Commonwealth in the view of many outsiders and for many of its votaries. The main unfolding of events on Zimbabwe from September 2001 to March 2002 is set out in Derek Ingram’s Commonwealth Update.

This was an intensely security conscious CHOGM, not surprising in the light of the events of the preceding 11 September (see The Round Table, No 363, 2002) and the ensuing preoccupation with terrorism. New fences, some 5–6 feet high, fringed much of the extensive Hyatt estate complex where the Heads stayed and met. Though some observers speculated that roos could jump these fences, electric sensors helped to pick up quite a number of wallabies and possums that perished as suicide would-be terrorists on these fences. The mere mortals of the media were not allowed to do any walkabouts within the estate, being transported to and from the big media marquee by coach, for security reasons it was said. Their IDs and credentials were scrutinized at several stations en route by the firm but friendly presence of the extensive corps of Queensland police and the Australian army. Some of the patrolling and much of the servicing of this CHOGM was performed by local volunteers, large numbers of them, thereby giving a semblance of recognition and meaning to‘the people’s Commonwealth’. Otherwise this Coolum meeting was mostly, though not entirely, a secretive, retreat-style CHOGM.


This was a retreat-style CHOGM without a retreat; for the Heads of Government stayed on site at the Hyatt Regency Resort, 125 km north of Brisbane throughout. The resort consisted of chalets intermingled with lakes, golf courses (not much used this week-end it seems) and trees. For the Executive sessions and more informal discussions of the Heads of Government (HOGs) a large tented pavilion was used. For the Media Centre a large 4500 m2 marquee was erected on the hotel’s golf driving range.

The meetings of officials and the Committee of the Whole took place at the Twin Waters Resort at Mudjumba about 10 minutes drive away from the Hyatt complex. Most of the media people were in hotels at Noosa Heads, 15 km to the north and the extensive administrative and security personnel were scattered along Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Logistical problems were thus considerable, but were eased somewhat by an ample supply of shuttle buses and many local volunteers.

Fifty-one delegations attended, led by 35 HOGs. Antigua and Grenada were not represented and Pakistan was still under suspension. Official delegations varied in size from two to 36. There were nearly 1000 accredited media personnel, but only about 30 accredited NGO representatives as the Brisbane People’s Festival had gone ahead in October (see The Round Table, No 363, and ‘Cultural Diversity and the Commonwealth’ in Documentation in this issue).

There were 4000 Queensland police, 2000 defence force personnel, over 100 federal police as well as volunteer helpers and the regular resort staff—and this for a deliberately lower key, albeit security conscious, CHOGM.

Related articles

A CHOGM under a COVID cloud – The Round Table Journal

2001 – Commonwealth meeting postponed – The Guardian

“No Frills” CHOGM comes to Sunshine coast – ABC

CHOGM 2002 in Coolum, Australia – The Commonwealth