United Kingdom (Commonwealth Union)_ The Commonwealth Secretary-General urged unprecedented international cooperation to address the interlocking challenges of environmental collapse, economic insecurity, and growing inequality in a timely and systematic manner. The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland KC, Secretary-General, delivered her keynote speech on the topic of “Commonwealth and Global Challenges” at the 2023 Cumberland Lodge Residential Conference in Windsor, United Kingdom,
The Secretary-General addressed delegates, journalists, and observers throughout the Commonwealth, saying, “We gather in the midst of new and decisive shifts in the world. The human damage, economic dislocation of COVID-19 and mounting debt confront us all. The rapid intensification of climate change poses an existential danger. The tremors of conflict and instability in our world, the spiraling costs of food and fuel, and economic uncertainty threaten a serious and protracted crisis.”
According to the Secretary-General, all of these issues can be resolved via international cooperation. However, she emphasized that the international system is under enormous pressure, urging a revitalization of multilateralism. She also added that people are concerned about the ability of governments and international organizations to offer the necessary leadership and action.
As she highlighted the Commonwealth’s expanding cooperation, which commenced with a group of eight countries and now includes 56 sovereign nations, Secretary-General Scotland noted that the Commonwealth is an enduring example of the power of multilateralism. She added, “It is telling that, in a world, which often feels like it is fracturing, the Commonwealth is growing precisely because of what we stand for and what we can deliver. Our ability to bring leaders together as equals, to have difficult conversations in a constructive spirit and face the world’s challenges together, underlines our strength and value.”
The Secretary-General stated that this has been a defining characteristic of the Commonwealth, and that its 74-year history covers collective action to end apartheid, the spearheading Lusaka Declaration on Racism in 1979, the landmark Langkawi Declaration on the Environment in 1989, and endless support for the small and the vulnerable. She added, “These interventions shifted the dial… Today, we must have the courage to break new ground and shift the dial again.”
The Secretary-General also detailed the successful results of last year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which gathered leaders from 56 countries, representing every continent, and reached consensus on a broad agenda ranging from health to the environment and trade, as further evidence of the Commonwealth’s unique strengths. She also noted that these achievements will have a good influence on the global community.
The Secretary-General further explained the Commonwealth’s program of action, support, and assistance with a wide array of projects. They are:
- The Commonwealth Living Lands Charter, which aims to combat climate change, biodiversity loss, and land degradation.
- The Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub, which has released around $60 million for poor nations to combat climate change.
- The Commonwealth debt management system, which handles their debt portfolios and is used by 43 member states.
- The Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda, which aims to increase intra-Commonwealth commerce to $2 trillion by 2030.
- The Universal Vulnerability Index, which aims to promote a more sophisticated understanding of identifying and quantifying a nation’s vulnerability to economic and environmental shocks.
- The Commonwealth Anti-Corruption Benchmarks, which are intended to assist countries in combating corruption in the public and commercial sectors.
- The Commonwealth Says NO MORE campaign, which employs a culturally appropriate strategy to eradicate domestic and sexual abuse.
- The Commonwealth’s efforts to safeguard the democratic process, institutions, and culture via election observation and peace-building activities.
The Secretary-General concluded her address by highlighting that the Commonwealth has the potential to gather people and contribute to the goal of a more peaceful, equitable, and sustainable future for all, while emphasizing the need for renewed international cooperation to address the global challenges.