Prince Charles is to be the next head of the Commonwealth, Commonwealth leaders decided at the end of a two-day summit in London. It followed in the wake of the Queen expressing her strong wish that her son, the Prince of Wales, be her successor to the role that she took over from her father in 1952.
The issue was discussed by leaders of the 53-nation community at Windsor, where they participated in a “retreat” on the second day of summit, that followed Thursday’s intensive day of executive sessions and bilateral discussions, as leaders sought to give new impetus the community. Questions about the 91-year-old Queen’s successor have arisen for sometime now, with some suggesting that reaching beyond Britain could give the organisation new life, and a signal that it had moved beyond the colonial associations it had started with. However, in a speech on Thursday opening the summit the Queen expressed her “sincere wish” that he take over as its head, while he described the Commonwealth as a “fundamental feature of my life as long as I can remember.” India is understood to have supported the choice of Prince Charles, so long as the system of choosing a British royal to head the organisation did not become institutionalised in the body.
The potential for the Commonwealth as a bastion against protectionism, and the abuse of the “international rules based system,” climate change, and the importance of the community in sustainable development particular pertaining to small island states formed some of the key-pegs of the wide-ranging discussions in London.
India also sought to take a stronger role than it had in the past: it was the first time an Indian Prime Minister had attended CHOGM since 2009. Among the issues stressed by India during discussions on Thursday was the focus the body could give to sustainable development of small island states that make up around 60% of the Commonwealth (in terms of numbers). For India cementing relations with small island states – some of which it has no diplomatic in – is seen as one of the main opportunities of the Commonwealth.
Declarations were made on cybersecurity cooperation, a blue charter on preserving the sustainability of the world’s oceans, while member states will also target pushing intra-Commonwealth trade to $2 trillion by 2030. In a joint communique, the heads made a statement of political commitments including ratifying and implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against women and to take steps to prevent and eliminate sexual and gender based, violence, as well as their joint commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change.
However in Britain, the conference was overshadowed by controversy over the treatment of British citizens from a number of Caribbean islands, including from the Commonwealth, who had wrongly been treated as undocumented by British authorities and in some cases denied medical treatment and deported. “They are British. They are part of us and we are all stronger for their contribution,” Prime Minister Theresa May said at the end of the summit.