Dr Vincent Biruta, Linda Yueh and Lord Ahmad

In the middle of an eventful Commonwealth Week, the roadmap to the next big Commonwealth get-together was unfurled at the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS). The RCS’s virtual webinar The Road to CHOGM took place on 11 March, bringing together the UK’s Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, and Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr Vincent Biruta.

RCS chair Dr Linda Yueh presided over the short session, which explored the UK’s priorities as the current-chair-in-office in the run-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in June, as well as the agenda for incoming Commonwealth chair Rwanda.

Both ministers saw continued efforts to tackle coronavirus, climate change and gender equality as priorities for the Commonwealth. Dr Biruta, a former health and environment minister in Rwanda, said it would be critical to build “resilient health systems” to deal with the current Covid-19 pandemic and to “better prepare for future ones”.

Dr Biruta said Rwanda also intended to put the main focus on “implementation and impact”.  Rwanda wanted to implement agreements from previous CHOGMs as well as agreements coming out of CHOGM 2021 in Kigali, he added.

Asked about ensuring equal access to Covid vaccines, Lord Ahmad said the UK had announced it was allocating £548m to provide 1.3 billion Covid vaccine doses for 360 million people. He said Covid had taught the Commonwealth and the wider world the “interdependence of humanity”, adding: “We are stronger together.”

Lord Ahmad said that the UK, which had stayed in office an additional year because the pandemic had delayed CHOGM 2020, saw the Commonwealth’s priorities as sustainability, security, education and prosperity. “We need to strengthen the voice of the Commonwealth at international fora,” he said.  “Our diversity is a unique strength and dynamism of our Commonwealth family.”

Dr Biruta said that governments could not deal with current challenges alone and that action would be needed from stakeholders and the young people of the Commonwealth.

View the RCS event here: 

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