The Queen's speech at the opening of the 2005 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting


We in the Commonwealth are our own 'world wide web'.

Prime Minister Gonzi, Mr. Secretary-General, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you for your words of welcome. It is fitting that Commonwealth leaders are meeting here in Malta, a country that has historically been a bridge between the diverse civilisations that touch the Mediterranean Sea.

The world we live in is marked by diversity, and through being accommodating, compassionate, tolerant, and respectful of others, the Commonwealth can exploit its diversity as a source of great strength. We are a colourful spectrum of nations, faiths, cultures, and people. Individually, we are different and distinct; collectively, we can be strong and effective.

This has been well illustrated in the Commonwealth's response to the many natural disasters that have touched us all over recent years - floods, hurricanes and cyclones. Last year's terrifying tsunami washed away lives and livelihoods across the Indian Ocean and more recently, we have witnessed the dreadful earthquake and aftershocks in southern Asia. At times like these, there has been an outpouring of concern and generosity as we have struggled together first to save lives and then to rebuild. These times of trial have brought us together as they have also shown how vulnerable we can be alone and yet how much more we can do together.

I pay tribute to the emergency workers from around the Commonwealth who volunteered their time and expertise, while other Commonwealth members contributed the necessary funding to support them. This shows how our Commonwealth network can bring resources and results together all over the globe.

Determined and collective action can also help us tackle other challenges that cannot be addressed alone, such as the scourge of terrorism which is a threat to us all and has directly affected a number of our countries. I would like to express my thanks for the many expressions of

sympathy and support which I received from around the Commonwealth after the London bombings in July.

The theme of this meeting 'Networking the Commonwealth for Development' indicates the importance of networks to underpin longer term needs beyond the more immediate and pressing. I said in Durban six years ago, we in the Commonwealth are our own 'world wide web'. We have networks of contacts that bring people together across countries and continents. The key characteristic of our web is that it is built not only on technology but also on groups and associations, both formal and informal, between people. These occur in their most intimate form in families, extend to neighbourhoods and to other forms of local governance, and stretch to countries and regional groupings. If the electricity fails, our Commonwealth networks do not.

Several months ago, many of you here today attended a summit at the United Nations in New York. That was the occasion to review the Millennium Development Goals. There was some satisfaction that five years of effort has achieved some progress towards tackling the root causes of poverty and misery in the world. There was greater and more sober recognition that much still remains to be done if the Goals are to be achieved by 2015.

There are almost limitless opportunities to join forces across the Commonwealth to do so. Such connections allow us to transfer ideas, technical expertise, funding, and other forms of support. Everyone and every member country can find some way to contribute to this most important of global pursuits. There are development challenges that weigh heavily upon so many of our members. It is our collective responsibility to help.

Ladies and Gentlemen, these Commonwealth Heads of Government gatherings remain unique occasions for networking; providing the opportunity to share experiences, to learn from each other, to test ideas, and to talk as a gathering of like-minded colleagues. The discussions over the next day or so offer the opportunity to build on the consensus of the past and to identify new opportunities for the future. I am confident that what is achieved here in Malta will sustain our great family of nations and people in practical, positive ways for many more years to come.

I wish you well in your important deliberations.

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