KIGALI, Rwanda (TSWT) — Leaders of Commonwealth countries are meeting in Rwanda on Friday at a summit that promises to tackle climate change, tropical diseases and other challenges made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Commonwealth Heads of State Summit in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, is the culmination of a series of meetings earlier in the week that have reported some success in efforts to improve the lives of people. of the 54-nation bloc that is home to 2.5 billion people.
Those numbers are set to rise with the planned admission into the Commonwealth of the African nations of Togo and Gabon, who have applied to join the bloc despite having no colonial history with Britain. The Commonwealth mainly comprises former British colonies, but countries such as Mozambique and Rwanda – a former Belgian colony with an Anglophile leader – have in the past made successful bids to join the group whose titular leader is Queen Elizabeth II. .
Rwanda’s hosting of the summit is controversial for some who cite the country’s poor human rights record under Paul Kagame, an authoritarian leader who has served as de facto ruler or president since the 1994 genocide. Critics are unhappy with what they see as an illegal and cruel deal with Britain to transfer migrants thousands of miles to Rwanda. This agreement is facing legal obstacles and the first group of migrants has not yet arrived in Rwanda.
World leaders at the Kigali summit range from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose Conservative Party leadership suffered an overnight blow as voters rejected the party’s candidates in two special elections, is also in Rwanda.
Prince Charles represents his mother who, at 96, restricts her official duties.
Other meetings on the sidelines of the summit reported some successes in efforts to address pressing issues such as managing climate change and tackling deadly diseases.
More than $4 billion was pledged on Thursday for global efforts to accelerate the fight against malaria and other neglected tropical diseases. The money will come from governments, philanthropists and other private sector actors. In addition, pharmaceutical companies have donated 18 billion tablets to prevent and treat these diseases.
Observers say the fundraising marks a significant breakthrough as malaria is one of the leading killers in Africa.
Dr. Francisca Olamiju, head of a non-governmental organization in Nigeria that advocates for the poor, told the TSWT of her high expectations for such a large gathering to strengthen campaigns against tropical diseases.
World leaders must “follow the example” and mobilize more resources for the cause, she said.
The summit also calls for increased climate action ahead of the UN climate change summit in Egypt later this year.
Commonwealth leaders are set to adopt the long-awaited ‘Living Lands Charter’, an action plan to tackle climate change, land degradation and biodiversity loss. The charter aims to achieve climate goals through a mix of political influence, funding, technical assistance, governance. and the sharing of knowledge among nations.
Commonwealth governments have been asked to submit their emissions reduction targets by September 23.
Some 32 of the Commonwealth’s members are small states, of which 25 are small islands and developing states classified as vulnerable to climate change.
The Switzerland Times writer Rodney Muhumuza contributed to this report from Kampala, Uganda.