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Commonwealth response to Coronavirus epidemic

16 March 2020
Statement by: Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland

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Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland:

The rapid spread of the coronavirus epidemic has demonstrated to us with deadly and distressing clarity how closely we are interconnected as humankind.

The spread of the virus from local origin to worldwide catastrophe has happened with startling speed.

There have seldom been times when we have been more aware of our connectedness and interdependence.

So it is ironic, in this year when the focus of the Commonwealth is on Delivering a Common Future, that we should as individuals be self-isolating, and as countries and communities be erecting barriers to travel and curtailing trade.

But there is far more to the current crisis than that.

Because we must still work to deliver our common future.

To defeat coronavirus, to survive, and once again to flourish, we have to work together.

This means connecting, innovating, and transforming the way we do things.

We have to learn from each another, support one another, overcome vulnerability, and build resilience.

That is how the nations of the Commonwealth have worked together, prospered, and developed over many decades.

We continue to do so during these daunting times – as we have during dark days in years gone by.

Always, we look and work for a brighter future, and we know that we shall reach horizons of hope more surely and more swiftly with the mutual encouragement, support and strength which come from solidarity.

So I want to assure you that Commonwealth connectivity is continuing to function and to bring together the creativity which abounds in our member countries – particularly pivotal and innovative contributions by young people.

It is helping us to pioneer new ways to cooperate, to develop and deliver the technical and administrative advances that are needed now more urgently than ever.

This means supporting healthcare policy and planning – for immediate needs and for the longer term.

It means mobilising funding and economic resources, and sharing expertise to help all – particularly the most marginalised and more vulnerable - to survive the unpredictable stresses and strains of stormy financial markets.

Through these times of great turbulence and trouble, of anxiety and apprehension, we must strengthen rather than turn away from the multilateral methodologies and mechanisms among which the Commonwealth continues to shine as a beacon.

In navigating our way towards what we devoutly hope will soon be calmer and safer waters, we approach with utmost seriousness and collective Commonwealth determination the needs of each and every one of our member countries.

So, for example, the Commonwealth Secretariat has already implemented the necessary IT infrastructure to support virtual meetings and events.

This reduces costs and facilitates remote working, enhancing the meeting experience for those joining online from any of our member countries.

Our multi-channel communications platforms enable secure communications and online engagement from high and low bandwidth environments.

They also support and promote co-creation and sharing of innovative ideas, enabling us to maintain delivery in challenging circumstances.

At present this includes assistance with access to pharmaceuticals and protocols for maximising access to healthcare.

We are also supporting member countries with vital aspects of debt management as budgets are revised to cope with huge unforeseen demands.

The very name Commonwealth, meaning our ‘common weal’ or ‘common good’, speaks powerfully of our collective concern for the lives and livelihoods of others as well as ourselves, for their wellbeing and their welfare, for their health as well as their wealth.

In times such as these, we need the Commonwealth to shine and show the way as a powerful influence for good.

Which is what we have always done, which is what we are doing now, and which is what we will continue to do as we work to deliver a common future – connecting, innovating, transforming.

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