Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is a huge pleasure to be here at the QE2 Centre at the start of this historic Commonwealth week in London and Windsor.
It is very easy at the start of a week like this, when so many Heads of Government are gathering, to believe that the summit and its communiqués and statements are all that the Commonwealth is about.
The Commonwealth, I am pleased to say, is a lot more than that.
First of all, let me pay tribute to our Australian friends, who have just put on the most fantastic festival of sport with the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. And well done for topping the medals table – obviously everyone in the United Kingdom is just thrilled for you.
But the Commonwealth is a lot more than even politics and sports. When the question is asked, as it sometimes is: what makes the Commonwealth unique? I answer with great confidence that it is you who make the Commonwealth unique.
The Commonwealth has rightly been described as “the mother of all networks”. There is no other organisation on earth that marries politics with the civil society and the networks that the Forums represent.
And you are just the tip of the iceberg: there is a huge number of organisations representing every profession and walk of life who network across the Commonwealth – scientists, archivists, activists, medics, museums, universities, commerce – I could go on. These bodies, and your work in these Forums, bring a world that needs more communication, not less, together. What this gathering represents is a connection based on empathy, compassion and a shared desire to make our world a better place.
There is no other network on earth that even comes close to this – we must make the most of it, cherish it, and protect it for the generations to come, who will build on it.
And let's start this week – you represent millions of diverse voices, so use your combined intellect and creativity to challenge the status quo and to push the boundaries of what the Commonwealth is capable of.
I hope tonight's event speaks to this sense of togetherness and creativity, an approach to the world which is open and recognises shared experience. You will see around you many of the inventions and products which represent the very best of British ingenuity.
Tonight the organisers, representing Britain, have tried to focus on those ideas forged through partnerships across the Commonwealth – illustrating exactly this point.
My purpose here on stage tonight is to welcome you to the United Kingdom, and I am delighted to do so. If I may, though my duty is to formally welcome you on behalf of the whole country, I wanted to extend a personal note of welcome too. During the course of this week, across all the different events, you will be seeing a lot of the Royal Family.
For us in the Royal Family, supporting The Queen who has dedicated her life loyally and without fail to the Commonwealth is an enormous honour.
We hope, above all, that you prosper from your time together this week and that your sense of family deepens. It is a great pleasure for me and for all of the family to share your week with you.
So, welcome. We have five extraordinary days before us, with over five thousand people here in London from every corner of our Commonwealth family.
Have a good evening; and a very good week.