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2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

24th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
CHOGM 2015
Host country Malta
Dates27–29 November 2015
Venue(s)Mediterranean Conference Centre;
Radisson Golden Sands;
Corinthia Palace Hotel
Fort St. Angelo (retreat)
Għajn Tuffieħa, Mellieħa;
St. Julian's
Participants52 (of 53 members)
Heads of State or Government31 (30 at Opening Ceremony)
ChairJoseph Muscat
(Prime Minister of Malta)
Key points
Climate change and global sustainability
Extremism, terrorism and security
Refugee crisis
Economic issues
Election of Secretary-General
Decriminalisation of homosexuality

The 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, also known as CHOGM 2015 was the 24th Meeting of the Heads of Government of the Commonwealth of Nations. It was held in Malta from 27 to 29 November.[1] Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena handed the position of Commonwealth Chair-in-Office to Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat at the meeting.


The summit, which was originally designated to be hosted by Mauritius, was given to Malta when the Mauritian Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam refused to attend the CHOGM 2013 over the human rights situation prevailing in the host country, Sri Lanka, and thus withdrew as the host of the 2015 summit as protocol had required him to attend the summit in order to personally invite other member states.[2]


The summit was held at various venues in Valletta and Għajn Tuffieħa's Golden Bay with retreats at Fort St. Angelo in Birgu.[3] The opening ceremony and reception were held at the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta with executive and special sessions held at the Radisson Golden Sands at Golden Beach. Most press conferences were being held at the InterContinental Hotel in St. Julian's.[4] The official theme of the event was "The Commonwealth - Adding Global Value". A series of civil society conferences in the form of a People's Forum, Women's Forum, Youth Forum and Business Forum were held in the days leading up to the main summit and explored avenues such as building democracy and rule of law, championing small states, creating economic opportunities, empowering youth, inclusive development, human rights, and public service reform among Commonwealth nations.[5]

Due to poor weather, the official welcoming ceremony for the royal party occurred at San Anton Palace rather than an open air event at St. George’s Square in Valletta as originally planned.[6]

Commonwealth Secretary General election

The meeting elected a new Commonwealth Secretary-General to succeed Kamalesh Sharma who is retiring April 2016 at the end of his second term, the maximum that can be served.[7] Candidates for the position included Antiguan ambassador to the United States and former high commissioner to the United Kingdom Sir Ronald Sanders; former Attorney General for England and Wales Baroness Patricia Scotland, nominated by her native country of Dominica; and former deputy secretary-general for political affairs Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba, nominated by Botswana.[8] Furthermore, Alexander Downer, a former Australian foreign minister and Liberal Party leader who currently serves as Australia's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom had been suggested by British and Australian officials as a possible compromise candidate.[9] Trinidad and Tobago's former planning minister Bhoendradatt Tewarie and Tanzanian foreign minister Bernard Membe were both nominees earlier in the process but withdrew as candidates before the summit began.[7][10] The election took take place on 27 November.[8]

Baroness Patricia Scotland was elected the 6th Commonwealth Secretary-General after two rounds of voting and took office on 1 April 2016.[11] According to Antigua's foreign minister, Charles "Max" Fernandez, while the CARICOM countries largely backed Sir Ronald Sanders over Baroness Scotland, African countries favoured Masire-Mwamabe: "After the first round, Sir Ron received the fewest votes. For the second round, Antigua & Barbuda put its support behind Baroness Scotland because we felt we'd be supporting the candidate from another Caribbean country." Fernandez also asserted that Scotland had the support of "European" and Pacific states.[12] Australia also supported Baroness Scotland after its compromise candidate, Alexander Downer, failed to obtain support.[13] Sanders had been seen as the leading candidate prior to the summit, particularly as the Caribbean Commonwealth countries argued it was their turn to have a secretary-general come from their region, however the failure of the entire CARICOM to support Sanders and a Daily Telegraph article published two days prior to the summit accusing him of corruption may have damaged his campaign.[14]

For the first time in Commonwealth history, the Commonwealth Foundation organised a debate between the candidates as part of the Commonwealth People's Forum. This was held on 25 November - two days before the election - in the Maltese House of Representatives. It was chaired by the Speaker of the House, Angelo Farrugia, who took questions from members of civil society present in the chamber. The three declared candidates at the time of debate - Masire-Mwamba, Sir Ronald and Baroness Scotland - were all present. Two representatives of the Maltese parliament also attended and spoke briefly at the end of the debate.[citation needed]


Floor plaque commemorating the walkway of the Commonwealth in front of Auberge de Provence

The Commonwealth meeting was held immediately prior to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. The Commonwealth conference accordingly held a special session on climate change and global sustainability[15] in an attempt to build political support around the issue prior to the Paris summit;[16] In consideration of small island nations that are being threatened by rising sea levels that accompany climate change, a proposal was discussed to allow these countries to write off their debts in exchange for taking measures to protect the environment.[17]

The summit, being held in the aftermath of the November 2015 Paris attacks and growing conflict with ISIL, also addressed terrorism and security issues and the European migrant crisis, as well as economic and trade issues.[15][18] corruption,[19][20] The continued criminalization of homosexuality in 40 of the Commonwealth's 53 members was not on the official agenda but was an issue brought up by civil society groups and was also raised by both Prime Minister Joseph Muscat (chairing the occasion) and British Prime Minister David Cameron during their remarks to the Commonwealth leaders. In addition, newly elected Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, Baroness Scotland of Asthal committed herself to using the first two years of her tenure to promote decriminalization of homosexuality in Commonwealth countries that continue to forbid same-sex relationships.[21] Cameron also pledged to increase cooperation among members to deal with "poisonous ideologies" and violent extremism.[citation needed]

The leaders also chose a new venue for the next summit, originally scheduled for 2017, as Vanuatu, which was originally selected as host, rescinded its offer to host due to the long-term effects of devastation to the island nation's infrastructure caused by Cyclone Pam in March 2015.[22] It was determined that Britain would host the next CHOGM in London in the spring of 2018, delayed from late 2017 due to other international commitments.[19][23] Accordingly, the 26th CHOGM that was planned for Malaysia in 2019 was pushed back to 2020.[24]


Elizabeth II, as Head of the Commonwealth, along with the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall all attended the summit.[25] The summit coincided with a state visit to Malta by Elizabeth II as Queen of the United Kingdom, her first visit to the country since 2007.[26] It was also her last overseas visit as monarch.[27]

Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon[28] and French President François Hollande addressed a special session on climate change. Ban and Nicolas Sarkozy, Hollande's predecessor, had previously attended CHOGM 2009 in Trinidad and Tobago prior to the Copenhagen Summit for the same reason. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was absent from the meeting; his government opposed arguments that the country should curtail its use of coal fired electrical generation and other greenhouse gases. India was instead represented by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.[29][30]

Leaders in attendance included Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.[31][32] At least 15 leaders did not attend the summit and sent cabinet ministers or other officials as representatives,[32] including the Tongan Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva, who absented himself due to health reasons and domestic priorities,[33] Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, who sent his deputy prime minister instead,[34] and Vanuatu Prime Minister Sato Kilman, who could not attend due to a government crisis that resulted in a snap election.[35] Tanzania was represented by its High Commissioner, whilst Kenya was represented by its High Commissioner at the Opening Ceremony as Uhuru Kenyatta did not arrive until the second day of the summit.[36]


Climate change

The leaders agreed on and issued the Commonwealth Leaders’ Statement on Climate Action which called climate change an "existential threat" to many states and called for the upcoming 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) to produce "an ambitious, equitable, inclusive, rules-based and durable outcome ... that includes a legally binding agreement" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and control climate change.[37] The statement asserted that "many of our most vulnerable states and communities are already facing the adverse impacts of climate change ... (and) for some it represents an existential threat."[37] The leaders also called for developed nations to spend $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries deal with the effects of climate change.[37] To that end, Canada pledged $2.65 billion over five years to help developing countries tackle climate change.[38] The UK committed £21 million for disaster management and £5.5 million for the ocean-based economy whilst Australia has committed $1 million for a new Commonwealth initiative, the Climate Finance Access Hub,[39][40] and India pledged $2.5 million in assistance.[41] A $1 billion Commonwealth Green Finance Facility, proposed by the Prince of Wales, was also created to support environmental projects among poor Commonwealth nations.[41][42]

Peace and security

The final Communiqué issued by leaders at the end of the CHOGM also addressed the issues of peace and security, affirming that "radicalisation, violent extremism and terrorism in all its forms and ramifications are serious threats to the whole world" and called upon Commonwealth members to fully implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178 (2014) on terrorism and extremism and called for the implementation of "national strategies to counter radicalisation, violent extremism and terrorism" including education and the addressing of grievances and alienation by susceptible individuals, particularly young people.[24] The Commonwealth leaders also agreed to a British proposal to create a new unit of experts to counter extremism. The body will be run by the Commonwealth Secretariat, which will combat radicalisation and terrorist recruitment across the Commonwealth. Australia has committed $2.5 million to the unit in addition to a £5 million by Britain.[13][43]

The Communiqué also encouraged all countries to accede to and fully implement the Arms Trade Treaty of 2014 in order to curtail the illicit trade in conventional weapons including small arms.[24]

Human rights, good governance, and migration

The statement also reaffirmed commitments to human rights and good governance, and respect for rule of law and democratic principles and "agreed to enhance national and international efforts to address the causes of irregular migration including prevention and abatement of conflict and violent extremism and terrorism; eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable economic development; strengthening the rule of law; nurturing inclusive and pluralist political systems; combatting organised crime, human trafficking and people smuggling, and modern day slavery; and reinforcing respect for human rights"[24] and called for international co-operation and the adherence of international law in regards to migration, calling on "all stakeholders to work towards a lasting solution to this global issue".[24]

Sustainable development

On the issue of sustainable development leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and called for its implementation in the hopes that it would "lead to the eradication of poverty in all its dimensions and ensure no one is left behind"[24] and also agreed to "provide continued assistance to member states in attaining long-term debt sustainability by means of technical advice on institutional strengthening, debt financing, debt strategy formulation and debt restructuring."[24]

Other issues

The Communiqué also touched on the concerns of small states, pledging to advocate internationally on their behalf, trade, in particular pledging to augment access to trade and investment finance for small, vulnerable, or developing states, youth, and the importance of developing youth leadership, gender equality and women's empowerment, calling in particular for continued efforts to "prevent and eliminate child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation",[24] public health, underlining the importance of immunization programs to tackle diseases such as malaria and committing states to the eradication of polio as a global priority, and calling "on the Commonwealth at large to support the strengthening of policies for universal health coverage in order to build strong and resilient health systems that will, in turn, enable better responses to public health threats and emergencies".[24]

The meeting also called for easier movement of Commonwealth citizens between member states.[24]

Country issues

Leaders also welcomed progress on continuing national and regional issues such as improve bilateral relations between Belize and Guatemala and their border disagreement, reaffirmed its call for the implementation of existing United Nations resolutions on the Cyprus dispute, expressed solidarity with Guyana in its ongoing border dispute with Venezuela.[24]

See also


  1. ^ "Malta to host CHOGM 2015". 17 November 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  2. ^ "Cameron set to antagonise Commonwealth summit hosts again". Yahoo!. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  3. ^ "UN chief to attend CHOGM". Times of Malta. 28 September 2015. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  4. ^ "Today at CHOGM". The Commonwealth. Commonwealth Secretariat. Archived from the original on 27 November 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  5. ^ "Theme". The Commonwealth. Commonwealth Secretariat. 19 October 2015. Archived from the original on 26 September 2020. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  6. ^ "Queen to greet line-up of despots at meeting of Commonwealth leaders in Malta". Daily Telegraph. 26 November 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  7. ^ a b "CHOGM Decides – The election of the next Commonwealth Secretary General". Commonwealth Oral Histories. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  8. ^ a b "Lady Scotland vies to be next Commonwealth secretary general". The Guardian. 24 November 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  9. ^ "Alexander Downer touted as next secretary general of the Commonwealth". The Guardian. 10 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  10. ^ "Tewarie withdrawn as T&T supports Sanders for Commonwealth SG". Trinidad and Tobago Guardian. 29 October 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2015.
  11. ^ "Commonwealth elects first woman secretary general". Times of Malta. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  12. ^ "The Baroness beats Sir Ron". Antigua Observer. 27 November 2015. Archived from the original on 30 November 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  13. ^ a b "New Commonwealth unit to fight extremists". 30 November 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  14. ^ "Baroness Patricia Scotland wins the election". Antiguan Observer. 27 November 2015. Archived from the original on 30 November 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  15. ^ a b "PM to attend CHOGM and visit Berlin". Scoop Independent News. Press Release. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  16. ^ "CHOGM 2015 to give final push to Paris climate change Summit – Environment Minister". Malta Independent. 7 September 2015. Retrieved 9 October 2015.
  17. ^ "Canada's Commonwealth agenda: Special climate session, Trudeau toast to Queen". CBC News. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  18. ^ "Justin Trudeau could be a fresh face for a Commonwealth in need of renewal". Ottawa Citizen. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  19. ^ a b "David Cameron: Commonwealth must fight corruption and extremism". BBC News. 28 November 2015.
  20. ^ "Commonwealth seeking strong solutions on climate change". The Economic Times. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  21. ^ "Baroness Scotland uses new role as secretary‑general of the Commonwealth to call for LGBT rights". The Independent. 28 November 2015. Archived from the original on 1 May 2022. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  22. ^ "Commonwealth dream looms in Brexit campaign". BBC News. 26 November 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  23. ^ "Britain to host next Commonwealth summit in 2018". Global Post. Agence France-Presse. 28 November 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting Communiqué (CHOGM Malta 2015)" (PDF). The Commonwealth. Commonwealth Secretariat. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  25. ^ "Queen to travel to Malta for Commonwealth summit".
  26. ^ "State Visit to Malta and CHOGM". British Monarchy press release. 27 October 2015. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  27. ^ "Queen Elizabeth II and the Commonwealth". The Royal Family. Retrieved 15 March 2024. The last Commonwealth country The Queen visited was Malta in 2015 for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. This was also Her Majesty's final overseas visit.
  28. ^ "UN chief to attend CHOGM". Times of Malta. 28 September 2015. Retrieved 9 October 2015.
  29. ^ "Hollande to Address Malta Commonwealth Summit on Climate Change". Bloomberg. 25 November 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2015.
  30. ^ "Sushma Swaraj leaves for Malta to attend Commonwealth Summit". DNA India. 26 November 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2015.
  31. ^ "Commonwealth summit kicks off amid unprecedented security". Business Standard. Press Trust of India. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  32. ^ a b "At Commonwealth, Trudeau is on the strange case of the Maltese Talkin'". Globe and Mail. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  33. ^ "Domestic concerns come first for Tonga PM". Radio New Zealand. 25 November 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  34. ^ "PM DECIDED NOT TO ATTEND COP21 DUE TO PARLIAMENT". Solomon Islands B. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  35. ^ "Vanuatu's president dissolves parliament after MPs convicted of bribery". Radio Australia. 24 November 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  36. ^ "Queen to open Commonwealth meeting in Malta". The Herald Voice. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  37. ^ a b c "Commonwealth leaders call for legally binding climate change deal". CTV News. 29 November 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  38. ^ "Trudeau pledges $2.65B to climate-change fund at Commonwealth summit". Toronto Star. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  39. ^ "Australia, Britain and Canada commit to climate change action at Commonwealth summit". The Commonwealth. Commonwealth Secretariat. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  40. ^ "New Hub to help small states access millions for climate change". Commonwealth Secretariat. 28 November 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  41. ^ a b "India pledges $2.5 million aid for Commonwealth nations". Omnamorama. 29 November 2015. Archived from the original on 1 December 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  42. ^ "Prince of Wales proposes new initiative to help environmental projects". The Commonwealth. Commonwealth Secretariat. 26 November 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  43. ^ "Britain to fund team of counter-extremism experts in Commonwealth". The Guardian. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
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2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
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