This month the UK hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), bringing together leaders from all the member countries for a week, in London and Windsor. The theme was: 'Towards a common future', cementing the unified vision of all 53 nations. It is a moment when leaders come together to reaffirm our common values and is a positive chance for us all to explore the shared global challenges that we face.
The future of our Commonwealth depends on one billion young people, with 60% of the population being under 30. It is therefore fundamental that these meetings should have a strong youth focus and one of the key issues this time was education. In that vein the Prime Minister pledged £212 million to ensure that children, particularly girls, who are living in developing Commonwealth countries, will receive at least 12 years of quality education. The initiative will see nearly one million more girls go to school and we cannot underestimate the huge difference that this will make. These children are our scientists, doctors, teachers and engineers of the future. If we invest in them we are investing in our future.
Theresa May also saw CHOGM as a chance to readdress the widespread deadly killer of Malaria. Six out of the ten countries most affected by malaria are members of the Commonwealth: Nigeria, India, Mozambique, Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania, accounting for nearly half of the total number of cases in 2016. Whilst malaria funding has increased tenfold in as many years, one child every two minutes still dies from the disease and, for the first time in years, the number of worldwide malaria cases actually went up in 2016.
Encouragingly the PM has gained pledges from the leaders of more than a dozen malaria-affected Commonwealth countries to commit to a goal of halving malaria by 2023. I am proud too that the UK is leading the battle with a commitment to invest £500 million each year, over the next three years, in the fight against malaria. Alongside this, we have promised a further £100m for the Global Fund and unveiled a new £50m malaria programme in Nigeria which, with 57 million cases in 2016, suffers the highest number in the world.
Unjust deportation scares affecting members of the Windrush generation of the 60's also came to the fore during CHOGM and Theresa May rightly took the opportunity to address the issue with the leaders of those Caribbean countries affected. She gave a heartfelt apology for the anxiety caused and she has affirmed that that no one who has the right to be here will be asked to leave. She made it clear that the Windrush generation and their children are British and their contribution to this country is both recognised and appreciated. I reinforced that message when I visited Black Cultural Archive Heritage Director Paul Reid at the iconic BCA Heritage building in Windrush Square, Brixton during CHOGM week (photo here).
The Commonwealth is a huge and diverse group of countries, including many of the largest and smallest economies in the world. It is home to half of the globe's top emerging cities and, with a combined population of 2.4 billion people, nearly a third of the global population. CHOGM is a unique chance for us to gather together with one aim, to create a better future for us all. By working together, we can promote trade and investment, educate our children, create jobs and ensure the health and prosperity of all our people.
This is a comment for The Voice newspaper written by Helen Grant MP within her role as Vice Chair (Communities) of the Conservative Party.
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