Perth, Oct 28: The 21st Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting was declared open today by Queen Elizabeth II here amid demands to take a tough stand against violation of human rights.
Vice President Hamid Ansari is representing India at the summit, which is also debating on tackling tough challenges posed by the global financial crisis, food security, climate change and trade.
It was an all-woman affair at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre when outgoing CHOGM chair and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Kamla Persad-Bissessar handed over charge to incoming chair, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II.
Bissessar highlighted the all-women character of the change at the top in her address to the biennial summit of the 54-nation grouping.
In her address, the Queen, who also heads the Commonwealth, asked the leaders gathered to keep the grouping "fresh and fit for tomorrow".
Underlining the relevance of the grouping, she said the "results of the meeting would have a global impact" and that they would be "positive and enduring".
Dressed in a powder blue silk jacquard dress by Angela Kelly, the Queen drove to the venue of the summit with people lining on either sides of the St Georges Terrace road waving flags and cheering as the motorcade rolled by.
The queen was joined by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the opening ceremony, which featured traditional Aboriginal dancing and a performance of Australia's national anthem.
The biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, will focus heavily on the global economy and human rights issues.
Gillard welcomed the crowd, and also cited economic concerns and food security as key issues in her address.
She also said the Commonwealth had "shared values, of peace, democracy, racial equality, the rule of law, and the commitment to social and economic progress."
Gillard said those were values "we can put to work in addressing some of the most pressing concerns that face our world, like climate change, financial stability and food security."
In her remarks, Queen Elizabeth II vowed to bring needed relevance to the Commonwealth in a time of global uncertainty and insecurity.
The queen cited financial concerns, food supply insecurity and climate change among key issues she expected the forum to tackle.
The queen also said the meeting would bring "new vibrancy" to the Commonwealth forum, which will be forced to defend itself against accusations of irrelevancy.
A scathing report questioning its effectiveness will be presented to Commonwealth leaders during the summit.
She concluded her speech with an Aboriginal proverb: "We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love, and then we return home."
All nations represented at the forum are former British colonies, except for Mozambique and Rwanda.
The Commonwealth is made up of 54 countries, although the military-ruled Fiji was suspended from the bloc over its failure to hold early democratic elections.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has said one of his main goals for the summit is to get leaders to agree to change the rules of royal succession so that sons will not take precedence over daughters.
"These rules are outdated and need to change," Cameron said as he arrived in Australia.
"The idea that a younger son should become monarch instead of an elder daughter simply because he is a man just isn't acceptable any more. Nor does it make any sense that a potential monarch can marry someone of any faith other than Catholic."
Any change would require the agreement of all 16 Commonwealth "realms," of which Queen Elizabeth II is head of state -- Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, Belize, St. Christopher and Nevis, St Lucia, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Papua New Guinea.