21.September.2023: in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the 23rd Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting (CFAMM) brought together foreign affairs ministers and distinguished representatives from member states to discuss critical global challenges and chart a course for a more interconnected and resilient future.
The meeting was chaired by the Honourable Dr. Vincent Biruta, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Rwanda, as Rwanda is the current Commonwealth Chair-in-Office.
In her report to ministers, Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, underscored the unique nature of the challenges facing the world today. She acknowledged the profound economic challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine, as well as the growing pressure on democratic processes and the escalating impacts of climate change. She emphasised that these crises are interconnected, amplifying social, political, and economic inequalities.
In her opening remarks, Secretary-General Scotland said:
“I stress the importance of multilateralism in addressing these global challenges, even as it appears to be under strain. The reality of the world today is that it is more connected, more complex and yet more challenged than ever before. We must work together or we suffer in isolation. The Commonwealth’s distinctive advantage in this regard, through its diverse membership, spanning Africa, Asia and the Pacific, the Caribbean, Europe, and North America offers a unique platform to defend shared values and advance common interests.”
Ministers heard from Hon Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Tourism, of Samoa about preparations for the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), taking place in Samoa in 2024. She also announced the theme of CHOGM 2024 as “One Resilient Common Future: Transforming our Common Wealth”.
Ministers also heard a report on the Commonwealth Secretariat’s work and progress on implementing mandates from CHOGM2022. Ministers also received a report on the outcomes of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) which was held on Monday 18 September 2023 and on the resulting decision to partially suspend Gabon. Ministers requested the Secretary-General to persist with her Good Offices engagement to help the country return to democracy as soon as possible.
Ministers also noted specific challenges in the territories of some member countries, namely Bangladesh, Belize, Cyprus and Guyana. The CFAMM 2023 serves as a vital platform for member states to reaffirm their commitment to the Commonwealth’s shared values and chart a path forward to address the world’s most pressing challenges.