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Education is pivotal to the future of the young Commonwealth, Secretary-General tells conference

29 August 2017

Education plays a pivotal role in equipping future generations with the tools to tackle some of the most pressing issues, not least filling the skills gap which is a global challenge faced by many member states, said the Commonwealth Secretary-General.

Speaking at the Council for Education in the Commonwealth’s annual conference, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said education and collaborative working were central to addressing challenges such as climate change, violent extremism, violence against women and girls, and strengthening the facilitation of trade promotion across the Commonwealth.

Addressing more than 200 attendees, including education ministers, academics, professionals and other stakeholders in Windhoek, Namibia, the Secretary-General added that education would help drive all 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Delivering the keynote address to the conference, which is taking place outside of London for the first time in 58 years, the Secretary-General said:

“This year’s conference theme highlights the dynamic and symbiotic relationship between education, employment, and economic development – on which we depend for a future of sustainable prosperity.

“The Commonwealth’s eclectic mix of talents and cultures and diversity gives us a richness of understanding that few organisations can hope to emulate. We are able to communicate directly in the same language, we are governed in similar ways by similar parliamentary structures, we share similar common law, and we share similar aspirations which are embedded in our Commonwealth Charter. And in all of that, education is pivotal.”

The Secretary-General added that member countries were uniquely placed to face the new paradigm and create a better future, stating that the young Commonwealth, where 60 per cent of citizens are under the age of 30, has vast human development potential on which to capitalise for the social and economic development of its societies.

“We live in troubled and troubling times and many of our member states are facing Goliath-sized problems, but the vibrancy and talent of our youth are an invaluable asset in which we need to invest. What I believe we can do as a Commonwealth and at the Commonwealth Secretariat is to help put the perfectly-weighted stone in David’s sling,” she said.

The Secretary-General also emphasised the importance of collaboration with other Commonwealth member states, as well as with partner organisations such as the Association of Commonwealth Universities. Together, this would ensure that countries could learn from each other’s successes and failures to ensure a stronger approach going forward.

She also warned that this approach would be vital for all countries to succeed. The Secretary-General said, “We can either swim together, which I hope we will choose to do, or we can drown separately. And I, for one, am for swimming.”

The Secretary-General told participants that she was looking forward to a constructive conference, which would outline a number of key areas to be addressed by governments at the 20th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Fiji in March 2018. The gathering of ministers will be the first since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“There has never been a moment when our comity, and the friendship which exists between the Commonwealth, has been more important than today,” the Secretary-General said.

During the course of her visit the Secretary-General, who is visiting Namibia for the first time, will meet also hold meetings with President Geingob, as well as the Speaker of the House, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Industrialisation, Trade & SME Development, the Minister for Education, the Minister for Gender Equality & Child Welfare, and the Minister for Environment.