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Celebrating milestones – the Commonwealth Secretary-General reflects on 75 years of the modern Commonwealth

The Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, delivered the inaugural Commonwealth Lecture in Barbados, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the modern Commonwealth. In her speech at the Cave Hill Campus, she noted that The University of the West Indies is also celebrating its 75th anniversary. 

The Commonwealth Secretary-General described the myriad achievements of the 56-member union bound by the Commonwealth Charter, while noting that there was still important and significant work left to be done. She recalled the words of Nelson Mandela, who she described as one of her heroes, “remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.” 

The Commonwealth Secretary-General said:

“Arising from all this is an essential truth: we are the world’s largest association of democratic nations – and the most significant grouping of countries in the history of the world – which is bound, above all, by values to which we all aspire: the values enshrined in our ground-breaking Charter”.

“The strength of our combination of advantages, interests and values shines in the fact that, with a multilateral system under strain, the Commonwealth as a multilateral organisation is growing precisely because of what we stand for and what we can deliver”.

She said that while the world faces grim challenges, highlighting the intersecting effects of the climate crisis, the necessary solutions will require a transformative and collaborative approach to change. 

Her speech highlighted that both small and large states have been affected by climate shocks and noted that they have devastating economic and human impacts. The Commonwealth Secretary-General pointed to the disproportionate effect of climate disasters on small and vulnerable states, many of whom already have high debt burdens. These shocks can also lead to increased debt as countries turn to multilateral financial institutions to finance recovery efforts.

Outlining some of the work of the Commonwealth Secretariat, she noted that the Commonwealth Meridian system supports governments in managing their debts so that they more efficiently manage their obligations. She also noted that the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub has assisted countries in unlocking US$360 million in climate finance, sharing with the audience that there were projects worth more than $500 million in the pipeline. 

She also mentioned that the Commonwealth Secretariat had recently updated the Global Youth Development Index that measures progress in six areas: education, employment and opportunity, health and well-being, equality and inclusion, political and civic participation and peace and security. The report shows that Commonwealth countries have made meaningful progress. 

After her address, the Secretary-General further explored several issues raised in her speech during a conversation with Jan Yves Remy, Director of the Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy and Services. Dubbed a ‘veranda chat’, they explored the growing importance of digital technology, including artificial intelligence, in the Commonwealth Secretariat’s work. 

She said her conversations with young people have revealed that they need support to prepare them to thrive in a world that is increasingly digital. She shared that the Commonwealth Secretariat’s AI Academy offers free courses for Commonwealth citizens.

Earlier that week, in her native country of Dominica, she also delivered the keynote address at the 35th Caribbean Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (CARAIFA) conference, themed ‘Your Protection, Our Mission’. In addition, she met with dignitaries, including the President and Prime Minister of Dominica.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General was hosted by Chief Lorenzo Sanford, who heads the Kalinago people, an indigenous people in Dominica. There, she planted a tree that she was told could grow up to 100 feet, which she said was among the highlights of her visit. 

About The Commonwealth

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 56 independent and equal countries. It is home to 2.5 billion people, and includes both advanced economies and developing countries. Thirty-three of our members are small states, including 25 island nations. Our member governments have agreed to shared goals like development, democracy and peace. Our values and principles are expressed in the Commonwealth Charter.  


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