Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and Secretary-General Patricia Scotland joined forces to inspire and support young people at the Caribbean Youth Conference in Saint Lucia this week.
Describing his father’s journey from humble beginnings to great success and recounting his own rise to prominence, Prime Minister Chastanet urged the youth to aim for the sky.
“Look at the stars”, he said, “those are how many excuses you can make for not succeeding”. He added, “People who succeed have something in common, they don’t make excuses."
Secretary-General Scotland also encouraged the audience of Caribbean young people to “dream big dreams”. “Everything with the grace of God and hard work is possible,” she added.
The Secretary-General, the first woman to hold the post, was born in Dominica. In the UK, she was the first black woman, and at 35, the youngest woman to be appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1991. Later she was the first black woman to be appointed deputy high court judge. In 2007 she became attorney general, the first woman to hold the post in the UK since it was created in 1315.
She urged the young people to be bold and act. “It starts with you. Don’t think that taking a small step makes no difference. It does. You have to be the final arbiter of your destiny. Don’t let other people define you, define yourself.”
President of the Saint Lucia National Youth Council, Jeshurun Andrew, described the Secretary-General’s speech as “very touching”. “It hit home for a lot of us young people. The Commonwealth has always taken the opportunity to bring young people together, so that we can share our experiences and teach each other from things that have been successful in our various countries.”
He joined other youth at the event to call for better resourcing of youth initiatives, allowing young people’s voice to influence policy and making more scholarships available.
During the conference, Secretary-General Scotland reiterated the Commonwealth’s firm commitment to youth empowerment. She met Edmund Estephane, St Lucia’s minister for youth development and sports, to discuss collaboration with the Secretariat.
They reviewed outcomes of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), which include Prince Harry’s appointment as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador. In his first speech the prince announced the creation of 150 new Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarships to support young academics from low and middle-income countries.
Secretary-General Scotland is in the Caribbean to agree with leaders and other stakeholders tailored implementation of the CHOGM mandates, including those relating to resilience building and addressing climate change impacts.
In St Lucia she met the prime minister, ministers, the leader of the opposition and Governor General Sir Emmanuel Neville Cenac, who praised her effective leadership of the Commonwealth.
The Secretary-General will meet Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and other officials in St Vincent and the Grenadines today before flying to St Kitts and Nevis.
Later this week she will attend a workshop for judges and prosecutors in Guyana, organised by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. It will focus on the prosecution and management of money laundering cases and the role of prosecutors and the judiciary in combating terrorism, terrorist financing and violent extremism.
While in Guyana, the Secretary-General is expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The agreement will set the terms for collaboration between the Commonwealth and CARICOM in justice reform, climate change and resilience, economic growth, crime and security and youth empowerment.