The reason I am here as high commissioner is because at the last Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, held in London in 2018, the then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was struck by how many member countries didn’t have a resident British office.
This included The Bahamas. He was determined to correct this absence and ordered the reopening of the British High Commission Nassau. He believed passionately in “deepening relationships across the Commonwealth”.
When I arrived in Nassau, people told me about the 1985 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. The meeting resulted in the Nassau Accord that condemned apartheid and the Nassau Declaration on World Order that called for “understanding and bridge-building across the divides of race, religion and economic and political systems”.
Now in 2022, the world is watching the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (also known as CHOGM) being held in Kigali, Rwanda.
CHOGM provides a space for important decision making and agenda setting for countries like the United Kingdom and The Bahamas and the other 52 members of the Commonwealth.
The CHOGM 2022 theme is “Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming”.
Some of the shared UK and Bahamas policy priorities include: climate change/climate action; COVID19 recovery; trade and investment; Commonwealth reform; and a focus on youth and women.
The UK believes that the Commonwealth is an expanding alliance, united behind values of democracy, human rights and sovereignty.
The Commonwealth is a vital network of prospering free nations.
Through the Commonwealth, we are collectively deepening alliances with allies old and new and offering a clear alternative to autocratic regimes.
Rwanda joined in 2009. Commonwealth countries are set to welcome Togo and Gabon into the fold this year.
The Commonwealth makes up a third of the global population with a collective GDP of $14.5 trillion and around 30 percent of the votes on the United Nations.
The Commonwealth’s way of working is different. We are marked by consensus among equals.
This means even smaller countries, like The Bahamas, have an influential voice in decision making and agenda setting on the issues that matter most like climate change.
The Commonwealth setup means that, for example, the Pacific archipelago of Tuvalu (population 11,000) will be at the same table as India (population 1.3 billion).
For all the differences between members, they are joined by an invisible thread of shared values, history, and institutions.
I look forward to watching the footage from CHOGM22.
I see the Bahamian delegation and many of my colleagues from the UK have already landed in Kigali and are enjoying Rwanda’s beautiful weather and a warm welcome; a very similar mood to the “understanding and bridge building” that was made possible in Nassau almost 40 years ago.
– Sarah Dickson OBE
British high commissioner Nassau