On behalf of Her Majesty The Queen, Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda from 22nd to the 24th of June.
As you will be very aware, the Commonwealth is a free association of 54 equal and independent member states. Bringing together a third of the world’s population, the Commonwealth’s global network of 2.5 billion people represents every geographic region.
This will be the first Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting since 2018. After this enforced hiatus, Their Royal Highness are particularly pleased that Rwanda will be hosting this meeting having joined the Commonwealth only in 2009 – a country which shares the values, goals and aspirations of the Commonwealth family, if not its history.
At the invitation of the Government of Rwanda, Their Royal Highnesses will also undertake a bilateral visit to Rwanda. This will be the first Royal Visit to Rwanda: one of a minority of the world’s nations not yet visited by Her Majesty the Queen.
Their Royal Highnesses’ visit will provide an opportunity to learn more about the journey Rwanda has been on to reflect, rebuild and advance following the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi. They will begin by visiting Rwanda’s National Genocide Memorial and museum, where they will lay a wreath followed by meeting and listening to survivors.
Later that day, His Royal Highness will travel to a Memorial Site and reconciliation village where he will meet perpetrators and survivors who live side by side, to listen to their experience of the genocide and the difficult process of reconciliation.
Earlier this year The Prince marked Kwibuka 28, the 28th commemoration of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. His Royal Highness was joined by former Rwandan International Footballer and Genocide survivor, Eric Murangwa Eugène, as they planted a tree in Dumfries House to remember those who were killed.
Having long worked to protect the environment and restore biodiversity, as enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter, His Royal Highness looks forward to visiting a local farming community who have transformed the land, increased agricultural production and thus boosted local incomes.
The Prince will also announce a new partnership to create a ‘Living Lab’, aimed at restoring more land, linked to similar initiatives His Royal Highness is supporting around the world.
Continuing this theme, the following day, The Prince will visit a wildlife sanctuary that works to reclaim wetlands, protect biodiversity and conserve the endangered Grey Crested Crane.
More than sixty percent of those who live in Commonwealth are aged under 30 so The Prince, who has spent decades supporting young people with developing skills and supporting employment opportunities, was determined to visit one of Rwanda’s Regional Colleges. The event on the second day of Their Royal Highness’ tour will be a chance to meet students who are benefiting from the country’s ambition to rapidly increase its technical training in order to boost the country’s economic growth whilst delivering increased employment. His Royal Highness will also meet young beneficiaries of the Prince’s Trust International’s work in Rwanda and their partners from across the Commonwealth.
Her Royal Highness and the First Lady of Rwanda will jointly visit a Public Library, which is supported by Book Aid International (a charity of which The Duchess recently became Patron, taking it on from The Duke of Edinburgh). The visit will highlight the library’s initiatives to promote literacy and literature in Kigali; and will showcase The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition, an initiative run by The Royal Commonwealth Society, of which Her Royal Highness is Vice Patron (Her Majesty is Patron). The Competition is increasingly popular in Rwanda and The Duchess and the First Lady will meet some of the country’s gold award winners.
With COVID delaying the 2020 CHOGM, The Prince and President Kagame hosted leaders from all Regions of the Commonwealth last Spring to identify those issues that most matter to the member states. A particular focus on action to be taken around climate change emerged. At COP 26 His Royal Highness hosted a reception for these Leaders to listen further to their concerns, this time face to face.
The more formal agenda on 23rd June will provide The Prince with an opportunity to meet some of the hundreds of business representatives from around the Commonwealth who are convening to deepen economic ties, particularly those around green, inclusive and sustainable growth.
His Royal Highness, with President Kagame, will host a meeting of leaders and CEOs from the Sustainable Markets Initiative which, since The Prince launched it in January 2020, has been working to align industry, investment and national priorities to deliver net zero with a more sustainable approach to the market economy. This work was recognised and welcomed at the G7 and G20 Summits last year.
Their Royal Highnesses are delighted to learn that the visit will coincide with Rwanda’s Fashion Week, where they are looking forward to meeting some of the designers and members of the Rwandan fashion community. His Royal Highness has also connected Rwanda’s Fashion Week with the Fashion Task Force of the Sustainable Markets Initiative.
With President Kagame, and as President of “Malaria No More” His Royal Highness will also join Commonwealth Leaders as they reaffirm their commitments to eradicate this disease. This underlines the importance of investing in developing more resilient health systems, and so improving the response to future pandemics.
The Duchess will then join a CHOGM event on violence against women and girls. She will meet participants and, along with the First Lady and the Secretary-General, give a speech on this issue, which is so close to her heart, and an engagement she makes in every country she visits.
Representing Her Majesty, The Prince of Wales will address the opening ceremony of the formal Heads of Government meeting on the morning of the 24th of June. As is traditional, His Royal Highness will host a reception for Heads of Government who have been appointed since the last CHOGM and that evening will host a dinner on behalf of The Queen for all heads of Commonwealth delegations. The meeting is of course an opportunity for His Royal Highness to meet in person leaders from across the Commonwealth and it is expected that he will have a series of bilateral meetings throughout the day.
Throughout their visit, Their Royal Highnesses will take the opportunity to recognise the extraordinary distance Rwanda has travelled over the last thirty years on the vital issue of national reconciliation, to celebrate the Commonwealth’s unique and diverse family of nations in this Platinum Jubilee Year, bringing together people from all walks of life in support of youth opportunity, action against climate change and ending biodiversity loss.