Queen Hosts Commonwealth Meeting At Palace
The Queen is hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Buckingham Palace, where dignitaries, royals and the PM have gathered.
The Prince of Wales spoke of “strong and affectionate bonds” between the 53 nations as he welcomed their leaders.
Issues under discussion at the two-day summit include ocean conservation, cyber security, trade and the Queen’s successor as head of the Commonwealth.
The PM said the issue of plastic waste would be “central” to the UK’s agenda.
During the opening ceremony, Mrs May said the meeting would “take on some of the 21st Century’s biggest questions”.
She said: “There have been difficulties, successes, controversies, but I believe wholeheartedly in the good that the Commonwealth can do.”
The prime minister thanked the Queen for hosting the event, calling the monarch a “steadfast and fervent champion” of the Commonwealth.
Prince Charles said the modern Commonwealth had a “vital role to play”, adding: “I pray that this [meeting] will not only revitalise the bonds between our countries, but will also give the Commonwealth a renewed relevance to all its citizens.”
The Commonwealth represents about 2.4bn people, but critics say the organisation is so disparate that it struggles to know what it is for, says BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said he will raise LGBT rights with leaders of Commonwealth nations on the fringes of the meeting.
Theresa May said she would be “rallying” Commonwealth countries to follow the UK’s fight against marine plastics – which has included a ban on microbeads and proposals to introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks containers in England.
“The Commonwealth is a unique organisation, with a huge diversity of wildlife, environments and coastlines,” she said.
The UK is due to consult on proposals to ban plastic straws and cotton buds – 8.5bn of which are thrown away in the UK every year – as part of plans to tackle the issue.
It comes as 60 UK music festivals, including Bestival in Dorset and Boomtown in Hampshire, also pledged to ban plastic straws at their events
As head of the Commonwealth, the Queen presides over the meeting but does not take part in the leaders’ discussions.
A decision on whether Prince Charles will succeed her as head of the Commonwealth is expected from the heads of state on Friday, No 10 has said.
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry and Prince William are among the royals attending the opening ceremony.