Op-ed: Transformative week spent at Birmingham Commonwealth Games

01 August 2022
Commonwealth Secretary-General The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, with athletes from Dominica

Op-ed by Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC

Last week I had the pleasure of welcoming Sports Ministers from across the Commonwealth for the 10th Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting (10CSMM). This meeting was particularly poignant as it marked the first Commonwealth gathering since we became a family of 56, after welcoming Togo and Gabon at CHOGM.

Held in the shadow of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK, the meeting saw leaders and world-renowned experts share Commonwealth examples of the crucial work being done in the sports sector to improve health outcomes, spark sustainable development, and bolster human rights.

I was thoroughly inspired and heartened to hear how sport programmes are being utilised to bolster human rights across the globe and welcomed the examples of innovation in the sporting sector, which brought home the incredible work being done to improve the lives of ordinary people at the grassroots level.

Sports ministers gather for a family photo at 10CSSM
Sports ministers from across the Commonwealth gather for a family photo at the 10th Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting.

Ministers agreed on a Ministerial Statement calling for the adoption of sport policies and interventions to accelerate the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; reduce incidences of preventable diseases across the Commonwealth; ensure the safeguarding of minors and the inclusion of all in sport; encourage increased transparency, good governance and integrity in competitions; and the maximisation of investment and social development opportunities – particularly for low and middle-income countries.

I welcomed the adoption of the 10 Guiding Actions for the Implementation of the Commonwealth Consensus Statement on Promoting Human Rights in and through Sport– a list of practical actions member states can take over the next decade until Australia hosts the Olympic Games in 2032. 

I also was impressed by the draft version of safeguarding legislation – designed to give blanket protections to minors across Commonwealth nations – brought before Ministers.

I firmly believe that the Commonwealth Model of Legislative Provisions on abuse of Position of Trust will transform the safeguarding of under-18s (in sporting contexts and otherwise) across the Commonwealth and look forward to it being tabled before Commonwealth Law Ministers later this year.

It was clear from the meeting that Ministers are totally committed to harnessing the power of sport to deliver benefits across the Commonwealth, and the Secretariat is actively supporting this work.

10CSMM was also a time for celebration.

I had the pleasure of presenting awards to Dame Louise Martin DBE, President of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), Ambassador Dr Amina Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Heritage, Kenya, and previous chair of CSMM, and Ambassador Deryck Lance Murray, Chairman of the Commonwealth Advisory Body on Sport, for their outstanding contribution to Sport for Development and Peace in the Commonwealth. 

I also welcomed the Sports Minister from Togo – Lidi Bessi - and marvelled at the young Sports Ministers I met who were once involved in our youth networks.

The 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham are truly an example of sport’s inspirational qualities.

Opening Ceremony of the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games
Opening Ceremony of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

After the meeting, I was invited to the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.

Watching the wonderful performers and athletes represent and celebrate their countries, I was reminded that sport has a unique ability to drive change across borders, catalysing better health and wellbeing, while promoting equality and building peace.

The 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham are truly an example of sport’s inspirational qualities.

Over the next few days, I got to watch so many events, and meet inspirational athletes, volunteers and change makers. I was overwhelmed by the joy, strength of spirit and dedication of each and every one.

This included the team from Dominica – my home nation – and the Samoan swimming team.

I was given the honour of presenting the medals for the Men's 4x100m Freestyle race, which further reminded me of the discipline, confidence and tenacity athletes have and how sport can open doors to competitors across the Commonwealth who dream of representing their countries. 

Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, presenting medals in the Men's 4x100m Freestyle race
Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, presenting medals for the Men's 4x100m Freestyle race.

Sporting endeavour and achievement are at the heart of the Commonwealth Games, and on a visit to the Athletes Village I was proud to convey thanks directly to competitors on behalf of millions of people across the Commonwealth who will be inspired by their efforts. 

But, beyond sport, the Commonwealth Games do provide an opportunity to come together with the wider Commonwealth family for meetings and events.

I delivered the keynote speech on food security at a brilliant event at UK House, jointly hosted by the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the UK Government.

I was proud to be able to visit General Sir Nick Parker and his team of RE:ACT volunteers and responders, for their diligence and service to the Games and their lifesaving work across the Commonwealth.

And I had the opportunity to visit the multi-faith centre at the Games, as well as Pride House. It was so powerful to see such a meaningful effort to highlight the Commonwealth’s wonderful diversity and the spirit of inclusivity which is alive at the Games. I am so grateful to my friends at Pride House for awarding me my very own Commonwealth Games medal! 

Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, meeting athletes at 2022 Commonwealth Games
Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, meeting with athletes representing Kenya in the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Alongside these visits, I was pleased to be able to spend time with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, and with Leaders, Ministers and High Commissioners from across the Commonwealth’s extended family, including the Prime Minister of Fiji, the Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Heritage and Culture in Kenya, the Dominican High Commissioner, and the First Lady of Malta.

All in all, the Games and 10CSMM have given me great hope, joy and confidence in the power of sport to inspire, motivate, and empower people across borders. The depth of Commonwealth talent on display was something to celebrate and cherish. It was an unforgettable experience.



Media contact

  • Amy Coles  Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
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