Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

The twenty-five Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings have been hosted by seventeen countries in twenty-two cities across five continents.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM; əm/ orm/) is a biennial summit meeting of the heads of government from all Commonwealth nations. Every two years the meeting is held in a different member state and is chaired by that nation's respective Prime Minister or President who becomes the Commonwealth Chair-in-Office until the next meeting. Queen Elizabeth II, who is the Head of the Commonwealth, attended every CHOGM beginning with Ottawa in 1973 until Perth in 2011,[1] although her formal participation only began in 1997.[2] However, she was represented by the Prince of Wales at the 2013 meeting as the 87-year-old monarch was curtailing her overseas travel.[1] The Queen to attended the latest CHOGMs held in Europe and was present at the 2015 summit in Malta[3] and the 2018 CHOGM held in London.

The first CHOGM was held in 1971 in Singapore, and there have been 25held in total: the most recent was held in London, England. They are held once every two years, although this pattern has twice been interrupted. They are held around the Commonwealth, rotating by invitation amongst its members.

In the past, CHOGMs have attempted to orchestrate common policies on certain contentious issues and current events, with a special focus on issues affecting member nations. CHOGMs have discussed the continuation of apartheid rule in South Africa and how to end it, military coups in Pakistan and Fiji, and allegations of electoral fraud in Zimbabwe. Sometimes the member states agree on a common idea or solution, and release a joint statement declaring their opinion. More recently, beginning at the 1997 CHOGM, the meeting has had an official 'theme', set by the host nation, on which the primary discussions have been focused.[4]

History

The heads of government of five members of the Commonwealth of Nations at the 1944 Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.

The meetings originated with the leaders of the self-governing colonies of the British Empire.[5] The First Colonial Conference in 1887 was followed by periodic meetings, known as Imperial Conferences from 1907, of government leaders of the Empire. The development of the independence of the dominions, and the creation of a number of new dominions, as well as the invitation of Southern Rhodesia (which also attended as a sui generis colony),[6] changed the nature of the meetings.[5] As the dominion leaders asserted themselves more and more at the meetings, it became clear that the time for 'imperial' conferences was over.

From the ashes of the Second World War, seventeen Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conferences were held between 1944 and 1969. Of these, sixteen were held in London, reflecting then-prevailing views of the Commonwealth as the continuation of the Empire and the centralisation of power in the British Commonwealth Office (the one meeting outside London, in Lagos, was an extraordinary meeting held in January 1966 to co-ordinate policies towards Rhodesia). Two supplementary meetings were also held during this period: a Commonwealth Statesmen's meeting to discuss peace terms in April 1945, and a Commonwealth Economic Conference in 1952.

The 1960s saw an overhaul of the Commonwealth. The swift expansion of the Commonwealth after decolonisation saw the newly independent countries demand the creation of the Commonwealth Secretariat, and the United Kingdom, in response, successfully founding the Commonwealth Foundation.[7] This decentralisation of power demanded a reformulation of the meetings. Instead of the meetings always being held in London, they would rotate across the membership, subject to countries' ability to host the meetings: beginning with Singapore in 1971. They were also renamed the 'Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings' to reflect the growing diversity of the constitutional structures in the Commonwealth.