Secretary-General Patricia Scotland was part of a lively panel discussion at the Commonwealth Parliamentarian’s Forum in Church House Conference Centre, Westminster, this week.
The event was organised by the UK Commonwealth Parliamentarians’ Association (CPA) and gave insight into the four key themes that have shaped the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) agenda in April - namely fairness, prosperity, security, and sustainability.
One of the key discussion points was ‘how can parliamentarians share insights about what works across the Commonwealth, scale ideas and initiatives, and collaborate for sustainable development’. Secretary-General Scotland said: “One of the wonders of the Commonwealth is that it is a network of networks – there are 88 accredited organisations who are members of our Commonwealth family, within those there are a number of committees and organisations.
“The great thing is almost every profession has a Commonwealth association, including doctors and nurses, through to prosecutors, judges, farmers and journalists. That gives us this whole network of networks to deliver things to. It’s important this is a Commonwealth of people. It is essential that the Secretary-General of the CPA and I are working together to see how we can complement and collaborate on the SDGs and enhance what is being made available so everyone can share.”
Asked about the relevance of the Commonwealth Charter, she said: “The Commonwealth Charter took over two years to agree and is the cornerstone of what has become the sustainable development goals. So it is important to recognise that we are a coalition of countries bound together by our values rather than any rigid constitution.
“There is real power and flexibility in that, as it has allowed us to come together and to hone those values that we share and express that commonality. We have listened to the 53 member states, as to what they want, and are putting together effective and progressive frameworks and toolkits to deliver that change. But if the countries tell us that they want something different, we will listen. We are very much the servant of the 53 member states.
She was joined on the panel by Lord Ahmad, UK Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy President of the Senate, Nigeria, and Emilia Lifaka MP, CPA International Chair, Cameroon. The event was hosted by James Duddridge MP, chair of the CPA executive committee.