Friday, November 23, 2007

CHOGM 2007 - Opening Ceremony

Your Majesty,

President Museveni,

Distinguished Heads of State and Government,

Representatives of Commonwealth organisations and civil society,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure to join President Museveni in welcoming you to Kampala, and to thank him for hosting our meeting in this beautiful country of Uganda

I also thank Her Majesty the Queen, the Head of the Commonwealth, for being with us again.

There are many things which bind our Modern Commonwealth: our values, our language, our history, our institutions, our concerns and aspirations – and you, Your Majesty.

Thank you for all that you are to us.

If people are the lifeblood of the Commonwealth, then CHOGM is its heart.

When the heart beats strong, the body of the Commonwealth works at its best.

CHOGM is the place in which our political agenda is set, and from which all our activities flow.

It’s also the climax of a Commonwealth fortnight here in Uganda.

It follows gatherings of our young people, our civil society organisations, our business people, and our Foreign Ministers.

It debates and reflects the concerns of those groups.

Since we last met in Malta two years ago, a great deal has been done:

… entrenching democracy and promoting development …

… at the level of governments and of citizens …

… in policy work and in practical assistance …

… supporting good governance, and much more.

We have been hard at work, meeting the needs of our members and the challenges of our times.

Distinguished Heads of Government, the last time you met, you mandated us to address a number of issues. Let me mention four.

First, in the wake of the violence of terrorism and its consequences, you asked the Commonwealth – the embodiment of diversity – to explore how to make that diversity work better, and how to address the danger of extremism in our world.

The response of a group of our best minds is a new publication: Civil Paths to Peace.

It offers exciting ideas for the Commonwealth and for the wider world.

Second, you asked us to help bridge the so-called ‘digital divide’, and to use the extraordinary power and reach of technology as a tool for transformation.

So we launched and developed the Commonwealth Connects programme – helping governments develop ICT strategies, while, at the grassroots level, making technology available to all communities.

Third, you asked us to look at how we can maximise the trade and other economic links between ourselves.

We have been as clear about the many ways in which we do – and will – bring each other advantages … as about our Commonwealth role in the wider world, in which we continue to press for a better world trade deal, for all.

And fourth you charged us with reviewing the way we take on new members – both how we should do it, and what we should expect of them.

Our response shows how we can remain both true to our fundamental values, and open to growth.

A dynamic and evolving organisation, in a dynamic and evolving world.

Let me just raise two issues which you will be addressing.

One way or another, climate change is happening.

To all of us.

We already have Commonwealth action plans – and networks – in place.

But we need more.

You, Commonwealth Heads of Government, must respond here in Kampala.

The other is young people – so-often voiceless – who make up nearly half our number.

Without them at the core of our planning, our budgeting and our doing, our Commonwealth has no future.

Ladies and Gentlemen, for the last 8 years, I have had the great privilege of serving you as Secretary-General.

Two beacons have guided me in that time.

The first is the values for which this organizations stands.

Freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law – and opportunity for all, especially women and young people: those who need us most.

The second is perhaps best captured in a Maori saying from my homeland of New Zealand.

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!

What is the most important thing in the world? People! People! People!

On Sunday, I shall formally take my leave of CHOGM.

But for now, I thank you, and I wish you all a happy and successful Meeting.


Download the speech: Opening Ceremony, Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

Commonwealth Secretariat - Opening Ceremony, Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting