Set against the backdrop of New York’s famous skyline, the world stage of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) opened this week with a passionate call to support multilateralism. And as the usual hustle and bustle of the city’s streets multiplied ten-fold with leaders, ministers, dignitaries and observers representing peoples, languages and cultures from every nook and cranny of the globe, the Commonwealth family made a bold stand for multilateral organisations.
Speaking at a Commonwealth reception in New York, hosted by Jeremy Hunt, the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland encouraged nations to celebrate the affection, comity and consensus that defines the Commonwealth family and which offers a clear example of the power of multilateralism.
She said, “We will have seen today two very clear examples of why our family is of vital importance to the international family. The issue of multilateralism has been warmly and vigorously debated today, and I want us to consider the remarkable success we enjoyed in London at our Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), because what that meeting demonstrated is the level of comity that exists between the 53 members of the Commonwealth family, at a time when international dissonance seems to be the order of the day and where agreement between partners is complex and difficult.”
She continued, “I believe it was quite remarkable that 53 countries from five different regions of the world, representing one third of humanity, 60 per cent of whom are under the age of 30, came together to reach consensus on a most comprehensive agenda with global significance covering issues from climate change to security and trade.”
Mr Hunt, who will chair the Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting, which will convene on Thursday on the margins of UNGA, spoke about the cultural roots that bring the Commonwealth together.
“For me the Commonwealth is not just something that is practical, it is something that comes from the heart…. It’s an alliance of countries with shared history, shared language, but actually shared values. And it is particularly unique in global politics where we spend so much time trying to build east-west alliances and relationships. To have something that is focused on those north-south relationships is what makes the Commonwealth so special,” he said.
The Secretary-General earlier commended Canada for its stalwart leadership and support for girl’s education and gender parity at Prime Minister Trudeau’s leaders’ dialogue on “Together for Girl’s Education in Conflict-Affected and Fragile Contexts”.
Today Secretary-General Scotland is continuing bilateral meetings with leaders and foreign ministers about implementing the mandates agreed at CHOGM. She will also chair a private roundtable Building Resilient Economies and Preserving Marine Ecosystems in Coastal Nations at Bloomberg’s Global Business Forum.