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Commonwealth Secretary-General wraps up Malaysia visit, promotes good governance

24 August 2016

Secretary-General Patricia Scotland concluded her first official visit to Asia on Tuesday, as part of a global Commonwealth drive to promote innovation in public service, good governance and human rights.

In Malaysia, the Secretary-General spoke at three major conferences hosted by the Government of Malaysia including the Commonwealth Ministers for Public Service Forum.

During her stay, she met with Prime Minister Najib Razak as well as opposition leader Wan Azizah. In addition, she had discussions with civil society groups and SUHAKAM, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia.

In her meetings, the Secretary-General underscored the Commonwealth’s commitment to both Asia and Malaysia. “I am firmly of the belief that, by working together, we will deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals and uphold the values enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter,” she said.

She also took the opportunity to meet with the King of Swaziland and President of Nauru, among other dignitaries who were attending the International Conference on Blue Ocean Strategy, in Putrajaya.

The Secretary-General received backing from the leaders for her priorities for office, which include promoting trade and good governance, anti-corruption and the rule of law, combatting climate change, tackling violence against women, and empowering young people.

At the Commonwealth Ministers for Public Service Forum, also in Putrajaya, Secretary-General Scotland urged all 53 Commonwealth countries to promote “greater public transparency, with democratic oversight and institutional responsiveness”.

Launching a new book, entitled ‘Key Principles of Public Sector Reforms: Case Studies and Frameworks’, she urged governments to strengthen integrity efforts and clamp down on poor governance practices if they are to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.

“The gap between what is needed to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and what is available roughly equates to what is siphoned off through corruption. If our countries are to deliver on the SDGs, dealing with that level of corruption becomes non-negotiable,” she stated.

At the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM) biennial conference, which followed the ministerial meeting, the Secretary-General encouraged public servants to not only tackle corruption, but also to be less “cautious and timid” and embrace a culture of creativity.

Guyana is expected to host the next Commonwealth Ministers for Public Service Forum and CAPAM conference in 2018, after an invitation was warmly received by Guyana's Minister of State, Joseph Harmon. A final decision will be made by the government’s cabinet.

During her visit to Malaysia, the Secretary-General also launched the new headquarters of the Commonwealth Youth Council in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. There she said young people must be recognised as “catalysts for positive change”, able to push for democracy and good governance.

On concluding her visit, the Secretary-General said: “I am so grateful to the people and government of Malaysia for their openness, warmth and hospitality and I look forward to visiting the country again.”