“As a Commonwealth, each country has something unique and special to give each of the others. Together we are so much stronger than we would ever be on our own. I know that we are going to deliver inclusive creative solutions to difficult problems,” stated Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, on the eve of becoming Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Yesterday, Patricia Scotland QC delivered closing remarks at the 15th Conference of Presidents and Governors-General in Antigua and Barbuda. In her last speech before becoming Secretary-General, she highlighted tackling violence against women and girls, addressing climate change and promoting trade and good governance as her top priorities. She is the first woman to take up the position.
She described the 31 small developing states that make up the majority of the 53 member countries of the Commonwealth as “innovators, the challengers and creators of change” and stressed the need to come together as a family in “troubled and troubling” times.
“The challenges that face us are real…each and every one of our countries will need the 52 others to stand beside us,” she emphasised.
Referring to outcomes from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta last year, Patricia Scotland QC singled out leaders’ commitment to support a 1.5 degree limit on global temperature rises as the “most important decision”. She commended the Antigua conference for prioritising climate change and urged joint and immediate action. “The gun has gone off now…The race has really begun.”
She expressed solidarity with the people of Pakistan following the recent attacks in Lahore that killed around 70 people and left scores injured, and stressed that combatting violent extremism is a pressing challenge facing the Commonwealth. “Our hearts go out to those affected by such a brutal act of terror,” she said.
Describing young people as the Commonwealth’s "best asset", Patricia Scotland QC said "we just have to make sure that that 60 per cent of our population have their aspirations realised."
Pointing to a 19 per cent cost advantage for trade between two Commonwealth partners, she said the Commonwealth must continue to find ways to make it easier for partners to work together by leveraging the “common” in Commonwealth – laws and systems, a language and opportunities in common. “I want a Commonwealth that delivers practical solutions,” she stated.
Born in a small village in St Joseph, Dominica and brought up in north-east London, Patricia Scotland QC said her journey to become UK Attorney-General, a peer in the House of Lords of the UK Parliament and the first woman Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations was a journey any Commonwealth citizen could take.
“I hope that I will be able to create a pathway for many, many other Commonwealth citizens to do just the same,” she concluded.