Commonwealth conference: Anglican communion to pay active role

Preparations are almost complete for the biennial meeting of leaders from 53 countries in the Commonwealth of Nations, which will take place next week in the grounds of Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Lancaster House, the Commonwealth’s international headquarters. The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is one of the world’s largest international summits, bringing together representatives from small and large nations across the globe. Representatives from a number of Anglican provinces within the Commonwealth will be taking part; and in a parallel event, the Archbishop of Canterbury will host a High-Level Roundtable on Freedom of Religion or Belief at Lambeth Palace, his official London residence.
The Commonwealth of Nations – originally called the British Commonwealth – is mainly made up of countries that used to be part of the British Empire. It is a voluntary association of 53 independent nations of equal status. Commonwealth countries are present in 26 Anglican provinces from the Americas to Oceania.
The  summit is expected to attract around 5,000 participants from government, business, and civil society under the theme “Towards a Common Future”. Ahead of the meetings, the Archbishop of Canterbury will preach at an eve-of-Summit evensong service at Westminster Abbey.
On Monday, three days of forums begin, covering youth, women, business and civil society – and a number of the participants are women and young people from the Anglican Communion. The formal summit business begins with a meeting of Commonwealth Foreign ministers on Wednesday before the heads of government assemble at Buckingham Palace for the formal opening on Thursday. On Friday, the leaders will head to Windsor Castle for a private retreat, where they will discuss collaboration on global and Commonwealth priorities and consider reform and renewal of the Commonwealth.
“CHOGM 2018 promises to deliver transformational change for the people of the Commonwealth,” Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said. “The presidents and prime ministers and other high-level government representatives from one quarter of the countries of the world are assembling. Through consensus they will reach agreement on collective action, with the impact of their decisions likely to extend far beyond the boundaries of the Commonwealth.
“Agreement among our culturally diverse and geographically widespread member countries to collaborate and innovate often provides the basis for broader progress regionally and internationally. Immediate impact combined with wider influence make the Commonwealth an unparalleled force for building understanding and cooperation towards realising global goals for social and political progress, inclusive prosperity, and sustainable development.”
At their meeting next week, the leaders will consider a “Commonwealth Blue Charter” on ocean governance, a connectivity agenda for trade and investment, a declaration on cybercrime and revised Commonwealth guidelines on election observation in member countries.
The Women’s Forum will explore the Commonwealth’s role in achieving gender equality in line with UN aspirations and the crucial role women have to play in politics, business and peace building; while the Youth Forum will bring 500 young people together to engage in planning, capacity-building and a general assembly where they will finalise their priorities on youth-led action in development.
The women’s, youth and business forums will also meet together, to discuss ways in which their shared agendas can support each other’s aims.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby – who appointed a special representative to the Commonwealth, Flora Winfield, last October – has published a prayer for the Commonwealth , and will take an active role in a number of CHOGM-related events. “The Commonwealth summit can be a major step in educating, supporting and inspiring us in the UK, to be outward looking, part of a family, a Commonwealth with whom we trade, in material goods and cultural and moral good,” the archbishop said.
“The majority of the 39 provinces of the Anglican Communion are part of the Commonwealth, and we in the Church of England learn much from them to our mutual benefit.
“Hosting the summit in London gives us the opportunity throughout the country to learn and celebrate the heritage of those in our communities whose family roots are in the countries of the commonwealth. They are a dynamic and integral part of who we are. We are a richer, diverse society through what they bring. Let us celebrate their gift of culture, faith and entrepreneurial spirit in our national life.”
Next week’s meeting will be the second time that the UK has hosted a CHOGM summit. The first was in Edinburgh in 1997. The host country of the next CHOGM meeting, in 2020, will be decided at next week’s summit.

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