The 2018 International Meeting was preceded by a Youth Day, during which young branch members and RCS Associate Fellows were able to network and discuss Commonwealth issues which were important to them. Led by RCS Regional Youth Coordinators, topics of discussion included ‘What does the Commonwealth mean to you?’ and what the young attendees hoped to gain from their involvement with the work of the RCS.
For the first day of the International Meeting we were kindly hosted by the South African High Commission in London. Delegates from over 35 RCS branches and networks were welcomed by speeches from the High Commissioner for South Africa Her Excellency Ms Nomatemba Olivia Tambo, our new Chief Executive Dr Greg Munro and the new Chair of our Board of Trustees Dr Linda Yueh. Mr Philip Parham CMG, UK Envoy to the Commonwealth, gave an address outlining the UK’s priorities for its time as Commonwealth Chair-in-Office which began with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April this year. Picking up on discussions from the previous day, afternoon sessions focused on youth engagement and participation in the work of the RCS.
The second day of the International Meeting took place in Methodist Central Hall Westminster, the location of the the first meeting of the UN General Assembly in 1946. Morning sessions centred on integrating young people into RCS branches, before attendees split into regional breakout groups to discuss issues pertinent to their areas. In the afternoon, delegates heard presentations on localising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from Lucy Slack of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum and on environmental challenges from Asia Williams of the Youth Climate Change Network, the RCS’ Nathan McKenzie and Jeff Ardron from the Commonwealth Secretariat whose work on the Commonwealth Blue Charter was featured as the cover story of the September issue of Commonwealth Voices magazine. Following the day’s discussions, delegates were able to attend a lecture given by the Commonwealth Secretary-General in Westminster Abbey.
For the final day, attendees returned to South Africa House where they heard about the RCS’ contribution to achieving the SDGs and heard a presentation from representatives of the Eden Project about the Commonwealth Big Lunch programme. In the afternoon, delegates offered their perspectives on what they had gained from the week and heard pitches from branches wishing to host the next International Meeting in 2020. In the evening, a reception was hosted at Lancaster House by Her Majesty’s Government to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the RCS, where it was announced that The Duchess of Cornwall is to become the Society’s inaugural Vice-Patron.