24 April 2018
Commonwealth Heads of Government Affirm Commitment to Sustainable, Fair, Prosperous, Secure Future
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The Commonwealth Heads of Government agreed on a number of commitments in line with the SDGs and other global agreements.

In a Communiqué, Heads of Government present their commitments related to health, education, gender equality, climate action, oceans, natural resources, good governance and other areas.

20 April 2018: The Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting agreed to a number of commitments to contribute to a more sustainable, more fair, more prosperous and more secure future. In a Communiqué titled, ‘Towards a Common Future,’ signatories reaffirmed their commitments to action on health, education, gender equality, climate action, oceans, natural resources, good governance and other areas, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

On health, the Heads of Government reiterated their commitment to achieving SDG 3 (good health and well-being), and other health-related SDGs targets. They agreed to accelerate universal health coverage (UHC), including through strengthening health systems, sustainable financing and integrated services, in line with SDG target 3.8. The Commonwealth Heads of Government welcomed efforts to combat malaria, committed to halve malaria across member countries by 2023, and committed to accelerate efforts to reduce malaria globally by 90% by 2030.

On education, the Heads of Government encouraged actions to provide at least 12 years of equality education and learning for girls and boys by 2030. In line with the aim of leaving no one behind, they agreed to support marginalized groups and those who have dropped out of school to progress through secondary education and training through policies, advocacy and strategic partnerships.

On gender equality, the Heads of Government affirmed the role of gender equality empowerment in realizing the 2030 Agenda as well as the Commonwealth Charter. They committed to ratifying and implementing the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in social, economic and political life, in line with SDG target 5.5. The Heads stated that they are encouraged by continuing action by countries to prevent and eliminate sexual and gender-based violence, in line with SDG target 5.2, as well as on child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation, in line with SDG target 5.3, calling such practices “barriers to development” and the full realization of human rights and sustainable growth and development. The Heads further resolved to address systemic barriers to women’s full and economic participation in the economy, as called for in SDG target 8.5, by taking a gender-responsive approach to the development of trade policy.

On climate change, the Heads of Government expressed concern that without urgent action to mitigate climate change, reduce vulnerability and increase resilience, climate impacts “could push an additional 100 million people into poverty by 2030.” They renewed their commitment under the Paris Agreement on climate change, and encouraged member countries to ratify and implement the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol. The Heads agreed to engage with the Talanoa Dialogue and to complete the Paris Agreement on climate change work programme at the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). They further supported the approach by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to address greenhouse gases (GHGs) in international aviation and shipping, respectively.

On oceans, the Heads of Government expressed “alarm at the deteriorating health of the world’s ocean,” identified biodiversity loss, climate change, including sea-level rise and acidification, overfishing and plastic pollution as significant pressures on the ocean and called for ambitious, coordinated global action, in line with SDG 14 (life below water). They adopted the Commonwealth Blue Charter through which member countries will lead efforts to sustainably develop and protect the ocean. Heads agreed to establish Action Groups on ocean issues led by Commonwealth member countries to address priority ocean issues.

On natural resources, the signatories committed to work towards sustainable use of energy and natural resources and to share best practice in managing natural resources. They recognized an imperative to transition towards clean forms of energy and encouraged member countries to participate in the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy to the conservation of forests for future generations.

On good governance, the Heads of Government affirmed their commitment to strengthen good governance and the rule of law, to promote democratic principles and human rights, to promote peace and security and to strengthen democratic institutions. They stressed the full participation of all as essential for democracy and sustainable development. Heads further recognized the importance of SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) and progress towards its targets as “essential for development to flourish.”

Heads highlighted the role of information and communication technology (ICT) and science, technology and innovation (STI) in supporting good governance, reducing the digital divide and promoting inclusion and sustainable development, in line with SDG target 9b. Heads encouraged member countries to prioritize access to ICT for all in national development plans.

On youth, the Heads agreed to mainstream young peoples’ priorities in national development policies and plans and to promote the participation of youth at all levels of decision making. They emphasized the importance of creating meaningful employment opportunities for youth, and agreed on a need to invest in a system approach to support youth people, including through entrepreneurship and skills building and improving data to target interventions.

The Heads of Government also expressed their commitment to progress in a number of other areas, including disability and mental health to ensure that no one is left behind, and free trade. They reaffirmed the contribution of sport to the 2030 Agenda, and committed to work with Commonwealth sports bodies to maximize this positive impact and take collection action to promote good governance, address corruption and promote human rights through sport.

On migration, the Heads recognized that safe, regular and responsible migration can deliver socio-economic benefits and lead to sustainable development. They called for active involvement in negotiations on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees.

On small and vulnerable States, the Heads recognized that although some small states, especially small island developing States (SIDS), have medium to high per capita gross domestic product (GDP), they suffer disproportionately from “diseconomies of scale,” external economic shocks and climatic effects. They urged further action to address challenges faced by these States and called on the international community to support measures to alleviate vulnerabilities and challenges. Heads also noted the continued relevance of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway and others programmes of action as opportunities for implementation of the SIDS Agenda.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) convened in the UK, from 19-20 April 2018. The Heads accepted the offer of the President of Rwanda to host the CHOGM in 2020, and welcomed Samoa’s offer to host the 2022 CHOGM. [Commonwealth Press Release] [Towards a Common Future]

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