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Published 19 May 2022
© Crown copyright 2022
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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-commonwealth-chair-in-office-report-addendum-2020-to-2022/uk-commonwealth-chair-in-office-report-addendum-2020-to-2022-continued-delivery-of-commonwealth-summit-commitments
The UK has been Commonwealth Chair-in-Office for four years (2018-2022), having taken up this important role after hosting the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in April 2018. We have been an active chair throughout and unwavering in our commitment to the strengthening and renewal of the Commonwealth.
In 2020, the UK published a comprehensive UK Commonwealth Chair-in-Office Report 2018-2020 detailing delivery towards creating a Commonwealth that is fairer, prosperous, more sustainable and more secure. Unexpectedly, our original tenure as chair was extended by a further two years due to the evolution of the pandemic, which led to the postponements of CHOGM in 2020 and 2021. The UK continued to work diligently throughout to deliver on Leaders’ shared priorities.
As Minister for the Commonwealth, I have always advocated for the Commonwealth as an important alliance of 54 countries voluntarily bound by shared values of peace, democracy and the rule of law. During these challenging times, I have been proud to witness at first hand our continued work across the Commonwealth: from our marine protection work with Small Island Developing States, to the promotion and protection of human rights in the UN, including delivery of the first ever joint Commonwealth statement in the UN Human Rights Council in 2020; to strengthening our cyber security in Africa and South Asia. During our extended tenure, I have also been able to continue to visit a range of Commonwealth countries, such as India, the Maldives and Rwanda.
I am pleased to commend this UK Commonwealth Chair-in-Office Report Addendum 2020-2022 to you, setting out a further update on UK delivery against the 2018 Commonwealth Summit commitments.
In the year of Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee and as we look ahead to the Kigali CHOGM, the UK will remain steadfastly committed to the Commonwealth after handing over the Chair-in-Office role to Rwanda. As the third largest multilateral alliance, the Commonwealth remains an important vehicle for realising the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and for meeting new and emerging challenges.
Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon
The UK has played a key role in helping to tackle the global challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
1.4 billion vaccine doses delivered to 52 Commonwealth countries[footnote 1].
As Chair-in-Office, the UK has continued to prioritise work with partners on Commonwealth strengthening and renewal.
Largest single donor to the Commonwealth intergovernmental organisations and their programmes.
The UK has worked with Commonwealth partners to highlight our strong collective commitment to the shared values of human rights and the rule of law.
Delivered first Commonwealth statement in the UN Human Rights Council[footnote 2].
We have boosted intra-Commonwealth trade by removing trade barriers and deepening economic partnerships.
Continued support to over 3,500 women-owned businesses to become more competitive and generate over £32 million in sales.
With UK funding, the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub (CFAH) supports some of the most climatically vulnerable countries to strengthen their climate action.
Helped to secure US$38 million in climate finance[footnote 3].
The UK has invested over £15 million[footnote 4] into the implementation of the Commonwealth Cyber Declaration across all member states in support of an open, democratic, peaceful and secure Cyber Space.
Delivered 130 events in 32 countries.
It has been four years since the UK hosted the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM18) in London, during which Leaders committed to building a Commonwealth that is fairer, prosperous, more sustainable and more secure. As Commonwealth Chair-in-Office (CiO), the UK worked with member states and partners to deliver on those commitments, and two further priorities for strengthening the Commonwealth: to boost the voice of the Commonwealth as an advocate of the rules-based international system, and to increase the practical solidarity between member states.
A package of over £500 million of programmes and projects was announced in 2018 to support these priorities; the outcomes from our investments are detailed in the UK Commonwealth Chair-in-Office Report 2018-2020. [footnote 5]
The UK Commonwealth Chair-in-Office Report Addendum 2020-2022 summarises the UK’s extended delivery against Heads’ commitments, together with the UK’s strengthening priorities (voice and solidarity), during our additional tenure as CiO from 2020 to 2022. This document builds on the deliverables set out in the UK Commonwealth Chair-in-Office Report 2018-2020 but gives greater focus to health security, given the critical need to adapt and respond to the pandemic. The Government of Rwanda has designated health a key focus area for Heads of Government at CHOGM22.
The UK would like to offer our sincere gratitude and appreciation to our many committed delivery partners, and to our UK High Commissions for their strong support to our Commonwealth family over this intensely challenging period. Annex A provides more detail on specific areas of UK-funded project and programme activity.
The COVID-19 pandemic provided a sobering backdrop to our extended CiO tenure, which required the UK to significantly scale up global health activity, in addition to those areas already identified under the sustainability pillar. To this end, in our capacity as chair, the UK facilitated a joint statement of Commonwealth Heads of Government on COVID-19[footnote 6] in summer 2020, and co-ordinated closely with partners to keep key transport and trade routes and supply chains open across the Commonwealth, including for food and medicines.
Through the investment of over £500 million into the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX), the UK has, to date, helped to play a key role in supporting the delivery of over 1.4 billion vaccine doses, including in 52 Commonwealth countries. The Prime Minister’s pledge in donating vaccines bilaterally has also delivered over 60 million doses, including to 19 Commonwealth countries. [footnote 7]
The UK has worked to strengthen countries’ capacity to prepare, prevent and respond to future health emergencies. Over £10 million has been invested in supporting Commonwealth countries, such as Pakistan, Zambia and Nigeria since 2018, enhancing their ability to comply and implement the requirements of the International Health Regulations (IHRs)[footnote 8]. Furthermore, the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team has deployed to a number of Commonwealth countries in response to COVID-19 outbreaks.
Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, the UK has remained committed to tackling the ever-growing health security threat posed by antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Through the UK’s Fleming Fund, the UK has invested over £42 million since 2018 in projects to strengthen AMR surveillance systems and build the skills and capacity of healthcare professionals in 14 Commonwealth countries.[footnote 9]
As CiO, the UK has prioritised work with partners on Commonwealth strengthening and renewal. A comprehensive set of reform recommendations, adopted by Commonwealth Foreign Ministers (at their meeting chaired by the UK in 2019), are due to be endorsed by Heads at CHOGM22 and will support performance and delivery of the Commonwealth Secretariat. The UK has also continued to be the largest single donor to Commonwealth intergovernmental organisations and their programmes.[footnote 10] During this period, we have played an active role in the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which oversees member state adherence to the Commonwealth’s fundamental values.
The UK has boosted the voice of the Commonwealth and enhanced cooperation between member states, including delivering the first ever Commonwealth Statement in the UN Human Rights Council in October 2020[footnote 11], which reflected our strong collective commitment to the rules-based international system. In autumn 2020, the UK instigated a strong joint Foreign Ministers statement on racism, committing Commonwealth members to accelerate efforts to address the causes of racial discrimination.
In November 2021, to encourage practical solidarity between member states, the Prime Minister, in his capacity as chair, convened Commonwealth Heads of Government attending the COP26 World Leaders’ Summit to press for urgent collective action on the climate emergency.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: 3 Good health and well-being, 4 Quality education, 5 Gender equality, 10 Reduced inequalities, 16 Peace, justice and strong institutions
At CHOGM18, Leaders emphasised that the full social, economic and political participation of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status, is essential for democracy and sustainable development to thrive.
In our extended tenure, we have continued to prioritise our human rights work, including with all of our Commonwealth partners to ensure we each live up to these shared principles. We have, for example, continued to fund the Equality and Human Rights Commission to perform the vital role of Chair of the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions. We have built on the previous 2018-20 CiO-supported project “Commonwealth Partnership for Democracy (CP4D)” by supporting the UK Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA-UK) to strengthen parliamentary oversight and accountability in the Commonwealth.[footnote 12] In the area of inclusion and open societies, we have continued to work with The Commonwealth Equality Network to encourage the reform of legislation which fails to protect LGBT+ people and support the important work of human rights defenders in Commonwealth countries.[footnote 13]
Throughout our CiO tenure, the UK has been one of the leading donors of the Commonwealth Small States Office (CSSO) in Geneva, which continues to provide a vital platform for small Commonwealth states to engage more actively in one of the key multilateral capitals of the world. In addition to UK support to the trade team at the CSSO, we have continued to fund the work of two dedicated Human Rights Advisers. These advisers have helped to strengthen the capacity of small and developing Commonwealth member states to participate even more actively across a range of human rights fora, including through their membership of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) or through other human rights accountability mechanisms such as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Process.
At the last two sessions of the HRC (in October 2021 and April 2022), the advisers provided direct technical assistance to seven Commonwealth members (Guyana, Lesotho, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, The Gambia and Vanuatu), enabling them to have a greater voice in the Council’s work as well as playing a more active role in holding others to account for their adherence to human rights standards. During this time, the advisers also provided technical assistance to Eswatini and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on their UPRs as well as support to other Commonwealth countries in meeting their treaty body reporting obligations. [footnote 14]
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: 4 Quality education, 5 Gender equality, 8 Decent work and economic growth, 10 Reduced inequalities, 17 Partnerships for the goals
Leaders endorsed communiqué language at CHOGM18 that supports a rules-based, free, open and fair multilateral trading system; resists protectionism; and supports inclusive and sustainable growth, in particular through promotion of a gender-responsive trade approach. In support of this agenda, the UK has continued to work with Commonwealth partners to encourage intra-Commonwealth trading opportunities, including through our network of Trade Envoys to Commonwealth countries, such as South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda.
Since 2020, the UK has secured trade agreements with 33 Commonwealth countries. This includes Free Trade or Trade and Cooperation Agreements with Singapore, Cyprus, Malta, Australia and New Zealand, and a Trade Continuity Agreement (TCA) with Canada, maintaining the effects of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
These also include our Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) covering 27 Commonwealth African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. These development-focused agreements promote increased trade and investment by putting our trading relationships on a more equitable footing, supporting sustainable growth and poverty reduction.
Nineteen Commonwealth countries currently benefit from preferential trading arrangements through the UK’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP). Of these, 14 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) benefit from duty free, quota free trade with the UK. Average annual exports from all Commonwealth countries to the UK eligible for the UK’s GSP are around £8 billion (2016-2019). In summer 2022, we will launch a new more generous preferences scheme—known as the Developing Countries Trading Scheme—making it simpler for partner countries and businesses to use. This will be a major opportunity to grow free and fair trade with developing Commonwealth partners.
Announced at CHOGM18, the Commonwealth Standards Network[footnote 15] and the Commonwealth Trade Facilitation Programme[footnote 16] have together created a more enabling environment for intra-Commonwealth trade across 50 participating countries. [footnote 17]
The UK has additionally supported the Commonwealth Secretariat in the production of the 2021 Commonwealth Trade Review[footnote 18], and supported the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC) to convene Commonwealth governmental and business leaders at the Commonwealth Trade and Investment Summit in September 2021 and the upcoming Commonwealth Business Forum at CHOGM22.
The newly re-launched British International Investment (BII—previously known as CDC) will mobilise up to £8 billion a year by 2025 to support sustainable infrastructure and offer reliable financing to low and middle-income countries, including many in the Commonwealth, to generate clean growth and new jobs.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: 3 Good health and well-being, 5 Gender equality, 12 Responsible consumption and production, 13 Climate action, 14 Life below water
The Commonwealth family has long been a strong advocate for action on climate change and protection of the natural environment. Of the 54 Commonwealth members, 32 are small states and 25 are Small Island Developing States (SIDS), many of whom are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and natural disasters. The Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub (CFAH), co-funded by the UK, is helping some of the most climatically vulnerable countries to gain access to finance for climate action. FCDO funding has supported the deployment of dedicated climate advisers in Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica and St Lucia, which has helped to mobilise over US$38 million in climate finance for 23 programmes. [footnote 19] This has included support for national adaptation plans and sustainable and resilient fisheries sectors. The climate advisers have also helped to strengthen institutional capacity and knowledge in key ministries in these countries.
At CHOGM18, Commonwealth leaders committed to preserving the marine environment with the launch of the Commonwealth Blue Charter which set out principles by which Commonwealth countries would lead international efforts to sustainably develop and protect the ocean.[footnote 20] Action Groups, led by 16 countries and joined by 46 Commonwealth members, are progressing cooperation on 10 priority issues. The UK is an active member of six Action Groups. In particular, we co-lead with Vanuatu the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance (CCOA) which is focused on reducing marine plastic pollution.[footnote 21] The CCOA has led to the creation of initiatives such as:
As CiO, the UK has supported SIDS through the Commonwealth Marine Economies (CME) Programme to sustainably develop marine economies that are more diverse and resilient to climate change, while safeguarding the health of the ocean. The programme has involved scientific research and capacity building, showcasing the UK’s leadership in ocean science, and working in partnership with SIDS governments to develop Maritime Economy Plans (MEPs). During our extended tenure, we have continued to support the CME Programme, including work to map the Blue Economy Financial Flows for SIDS in the Pacific, Caribbean and Atlantic, Indian Ocean and South China Seas, which is helping to inform future support and engagement. [footnote 23]
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: 5 Gender equality, 8 Decent work and economic growth, 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure, 16 Peace, justice and strong institutions, 17 Partnerships for the goals
At CHOGM18, all Commonwealth member states agreed and signed the Commonwealth Cyber Declaration, in support of an open, democratic, peaceful and secure Cyber Space. Throughout the UK’s extended tenure, capacity-building work has delivered against the declaration and every member state has taken steps to improve cyber security competence and capability. The UK’s international cyber capacity building programmes have invested over £15 million (2018-22), delivered over 130 events in 32 countries and trained over 6,000 people. The Commonwealth now has an opportunity to re-commit to the declaration at CHOGM22 and continue driving its implementation.
As part of our efforts to build a more secure Commonwealth, we have continued to work with Commonwealth countries at regional and national levels, and to increase our influence in multilateral institutions, raising the cost of cyber-attacks by our adversaries. From 2018, this has included developing a community platform for Commonwealth Cyber Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRT); provision of free cyber threat intelligence and detection to member countries in the Indo-Pacific and Africa; delivering National Cyber Risk Assessment training in partnership with the Home Office; and working with the Commonwealth Secretariat to tackle cybercrime by improving sharing of electronic evidence between member countries.
Our programmes have resulted in partner countries better protecting their critical national infrastructure from cyber-attacks, building stronger networks to exchange knowledge and expertise, enhanced sharing of threat intelligence and understanding of risks, and a more informed and engaged civil society.
We have continued to invest in the implementation of the Commonwealth Cyber Declaration, including testing new and innovative projects. As part of our extended programme of activity, we have continued to prioritise work around online safety. Get Safe Online has covered 22 Commonwealth countries, including Rwanda and partners across the Caribbean and Pacific, which has helped to increase awareness of online risks. We have delivered public online safety campaigns reaching over 60 million people, and trained over 230 local cyber “ambassadors”, who continue to train others and raise awareness after the project has ended.
The UK looks forward to building on the significant progress made since 2018 to increase our collective cyber security capacity across the Commonwealth and to promote a free, open, peaceful and secure cyberspace. [footnote 24]
During our extended tenure, the UK has worked diligently with partners to deliver a fairer, prosperous, more sustainable and more secure Commonwealth. We look forward to handing over the role of Chair-in-Office to Rwanda at CHOGM22 and, in July, welcoming all 72 Commonwealth nations and territories in the spirit of friendly competition to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Our partnership with the Commonwealth is vital.[footnote 25] We will remain steadfastly committed to this association of 54 equal and independent member states as a robust champion of our shared values of peace, security and democracy, and many of our international priorities, including climate, girls’ education and trade.
This annex covers UK-funded projects over 2018-22. Please see the original UK Commonwealth Chair-in-Office Report 2018-2020 for the initial portfolio of UK projects and programmes, which were launched in 2018.
Period covering 2018-2022 ↩
Period covering 2018-2022 ↩
Annex A: Project 29—International Health Regulations Strengthening. (Refer to Annex A for projects footnoted hereafter.) ↩
Project 30—Anti-microbial resistance (AMR) ↩
Annex A: Strengthening the Commonwealth ↩
Project 1—Good Governance, Parliamentary Oversight and Accountability across the Commonwealth ↩
Project 2—Building fairer, more equal and more inclusive Commonwealth societies ↩
Project 6 / 15—Supporting Commonwealth small states in Geneva-based international institutions on human rights and trade ↩
Project 11 – Commonwealth Standards Network (CSN) ↩
Project 12 – Accelerate Trade Facilitation ↩
Project 16 – SheTrades Commonwealth ↩
Project 25 – Climate Finance Access Hub (CFAH) ↩
Project 18 – Support for the Blue Charter ↩
Project 20 – Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance (CCOA) Technical Assistance Facility ↩
Project 19 – Commonwealth Litter Programme (CLiP) ↩
Project 24 – Commonwealth Marine Economies ↩
Project 31 – Commonwealth Cyber Security Programme. For more information https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/cyber-security-capacity-building-in-the-commonwealth-2018-to-2021 ↩
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