Additional reporting by Chief Reporter Laura McCallen
Countries from across the globe are celebrating Commonwealth Day today as the 52 member nations come together in a united front, working to support the 2 billion plus people who make up the Commonwealth.
A Commonwealth Summit will take place in April 2018 in London it has been announced. Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle will host events where Malta, the current Commonwealth Chair country, will work to transfer this position to the United Kingdom.
On Monday, Prime Minister Theresa May met with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of Malta to discuss the transition. Leaders from over 50 Commonwealth countries will attend the summit. The Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary are establishing a ministerial group for the much-anticipated event.
Speaking of the day, Theresa May said: “As we prepare to host the Commonwealth Summit in London next April, we are reminded today of the unique and proud global relationships that we have forged with the diverse and vibrant alliance of Commonwealth nations.
“The UK has a longstanding and firm commitment to the Commonwealth and to the values it upholds, of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
“And in hosting the Commonwealth Summit next year, the UK is committed to working with all members not only to reaffirm these shared values but also to re-energise and revitalise the Commonwealth to cement its relevance to this and future generations.
“As we look to create a truly global Britain, the deep partnerships that we share through a 21st century Commonwealth can help us strengthen the prosperity and security of our citizens, and those of our many friends and allies across the world.”
The dedicated ministerial group will report directly to the Prime Minister, who has appointed Tim Hitchens as its CEO. Mr Hitchens was previously British Ambassador to Japan, and has served as Africa Director and Europe Director in the Foreign Office, and also as Assistant Private Secretary to The Queen.”
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: “Commonwealth Day will be celebrated across the globe, in the fifty-two diverse nations that make up this unique organisation. This year’s theme of ‘A Peace-Building Commonwealth’ demonstrates the relevance of the network in tackling the shared challenges we face. It is an organisation dedicated to developing free and democratic societies, and to promoting peace and prosperity: our doctors and nurses have worked together tackling Ebola; our soldiers are
“It is an organisation dedicated to developing free and democratic societies, and to promoting peace and prosperity: our doctors and nurses have worked together tackling Ebola; our soldiers are on peace keeping operations together; we have monitored successful transitions of power in fourteen countries in the past two years.
“I passionately believe in a Commonwealth with a strong and vibrant future. The Commonwealth’s next generation continues to inspire: they have the potential to drive change, innovate, and create an environment that improves the lives of people from Fiji to Malawi, Belize to Bangladesh, and beyond.
“Together we can prosper and deliver economic growth for all. We look forward to continuing to strengthen our partnership with the Commonwealth and to welcoming the Commonwealth family to the UK in 2018.”
This morning The Queen began the official countdown to the 2018 Commonwealth Games when she launched the baton relay at Buckingham Palace, with the Duke of Edinburgh at her side.
The relay will see the baton travel more than 200,000 miles through 71 countries over the next 388 days before reaching the Gold Coast in Australia, where the 2018 games will be held.
The Queen and Prince Philip are due to mark Commonwealth Day with a service at Westminster Abbey later today where they will be joined by The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex.
The theme this year will be ‘a peace-building Commonwealth’, and in a message to the more than 2.4 billion Commonwealth citizens in today’s Order of Service, The Queen wrote: ‘The cornerstones on which peace is founded are, quite simply, respect and understanding for one another. Working together, we build peace by defending the dignity of every individual and community.
“As members of the Commonwealth family, we can find much to be thankful for in the inheritances we have received from those who came before us. Through consensus and co-operation, great things have been achieved.”
Baroness Scotland, the Commonwealth Secretary-General also released a Commonwealth Day message that was today read at flag ceremonies across the country. In her message, she stressed that: “By linking governments and institutions – both public and private – and bringing together in a spirit of goodwill people of all ages and from all walks of life, Commonwealth gatherings and networks lay foundations of respect and understanding that enable lasting peace to be built.”