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Big gathering of Commonwealth leaders a security worry for tiny island

November 27, 2015 - MALTA

Security ranks as the top concern at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Valetta because the biennial gathering of former British colonies and territories brings four members of the British Royal Family and world leaders by the score to the tiny Mediterranean island.

Recent terror attacks in Tunisia, Paris and Kuwait deliver a powerful message about the vulnerability of the event.

Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, will attend, as well as the prime ministers and presidents of many of the 53 Commonwealth member countries. The number includes two newly-elected prime ministers, Australia's Malcolm Turnbull and Canada's Justin Trudeau. It might also include Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama: Fiji was readmitted to the Commonwealth following elections in Sep 2014.

Security, climate change and irregular migration are expected to top the summit agenda. The Commonwealth plans to focus on proactive anti-terrorism measures that include a push to prevent the religious radicalization of youths.

The climate change debate promises to be heated. Thirty out of the 53 Commonwealth members are small island states, vulnerable to rising sea levels from global warming. They will be arguing for richer members to set higher emissions reductions targets ahead of the UN climate change summit in Paris, which begins the day after the CHOGM ends.

Malta has served throughout history as a bridge between North Africa and Europe, so many of the flood of refugees crossing the Mediterranean from Libya with sights on Italy didn't make it all the way and landed on Malta's shores.

Another order of business at the CHOGM is the start of the election process to replace Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma.

The Commonwealth boasts 2.2 billion citizens and 20 per cent of global trade. The CHOGM brings together a vast variety of cultures in a member country. Malta hosted it once before, in 2005.

For the first time in 2015, the CHOGM will feature the Commonwealth Women's Forum. The meeting is aimed at empowering women.

CHOGN 2015

CHOGM in safe hands but visit by four members of Royal Family adds pressure on security chiefs (Independent 19 Jul 2015)

Malta ready to take in its share of refugees (Malta Today 9 Sep 2015)

A Tiny Mediterranean Nation, Awash in Immigrants With Nowhere to Go (NYT 22 Sep 2012)

Date written/update: 2015-10-21