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What is the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting?

You’ve probably seen the acronym CHOGM a lot lately, or you’ve heard about a Commonwealth meeting that begins today in London. What is CHOGM? And what’s the meeting?

CHOGM stands for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which is a large meeting of all the nations in the Commonwealth that takes place every two years. There are currently 53 nations in the Commonwealth, and they touch every continent.

The 53 nations are: Botswana, Cameroon, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nambia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and The Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Cyprus, Malta, Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and the United Kindgom.

Queen Elizabeth had attended every single CHOGM meeting, until 2013, when the Prince of Wales represented her for the first time, as she was stepping back from overseas travel, and the 2013 meeting took place in Sri Lanka. She attended the 2015 meeting in Malta and will again play a prominent role this week in London.

CHOGM is a chance for all Commonwealth leaders to meet and discuss issues pertaining to the Commonwealth. A Commonwealth country is chosen to be the host of the meeting, and that country’s president or prime minister chairs CHOGM. That person also becomes the Commonwealth Chair-in-Office until the next meeting.

At each meeting, there are executive sessions and informal retreats for the heads of Commonwealth countries to discuss their business. At past CHOGMs, issues addressed include imposing sanctions on apartheid-era South Africa and the rules of succession that displaced daughters with sons (later known as the Perth Agreement for its approval during the Australian CHOGM in 2011).

CHOGM 2018’s theme is “Towards a Common Future” with a focus on “building on the strengths of the Commonwealth to ensure this unique organisation is responsive to global challenges and delivers a more prosperous, secure, sustainable and fair future for all its citizens, particularly its young people.”

There will be four forums this week: a Business Forum, a People’s Forum, a Youth Forum and a Women’s Forum, where major issues pertaining to each subject will be discussed. It has also been reported that the issue of Prince Charles succeeding his mother as Head of the Commonwealth will be discussed, though an official decision won’t be reached until The Queen’s death, as the title is not hereditary. The idea of nominating The Queen for a Nobel Peace Prize will also reportedly be discussed.

Before CHOGM, there were several types of meetings amongst the countries in the British Empire, first with the Colonial Conference in 1887 to 1902, and renamed the Imperial Conferences from 1907 to 1937. Following the Second World War, the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Meetings were held 17 times between 1944 and 1969.

CHOGM replaced this in 1971, as the boundaries of the Commonwealth changed and now-independent countries wanted the creation of a Commonwealth Secretariat. It was decided that the meeting location would rotate between Commonwealth countries instead of being centralised in London as past meetings had been, and the first CHOGM was held in Singapore.

CHOGM is meant to take place every two years; however in 2017, Vanuatu was hit by a devastating cyclone that damaged the infrastructure on the island, and CHOGM was postponed until 2018, with London stepping in as the host. This has affected future years, as the 2019 CHOGM was pushed back to 2020.

The next CHOGM will take place in Malaysia although the dates haven’t been announced.

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