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

The Secretary General of the Commonwealth, 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.

Her speech outlined the connections between the 56 countries over more than seventy years. She recalled the words of Nelson Mandela, whom she described as one of her heroes: “Don’t forget to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.”

The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth said:

“And from all this emerges an essential truth: We are the world’s largest association of democratic nations – and the most important group of countries in the history of the world – bound above all by values ​​to which we all aspire: the values ​​that are enshrined in our groundbreaking Charter.

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

The Commonwealth Secretary-General described the numerous achievements of the 56-member union bound by the Commonwealth Charter, while noting that important work remained to be done. 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, noting that they have devastating economic and human consequences. The Commonwealth Secretary-General highlighted the disproportionate impact of climate disasters on small and vulnerable states, many of whom already have high debt burdens. These shocks could also lead to higher debt levels as countries turn to multilateral financial institutions to finance their recovery efforts.

She outlined some of the work of the Commonwealth Secretariat, noting that the Commonwealth Meridian system supports governments in managing their debt so they can manage their obligations more efficiently. She also noted that the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub has helped countries unlock $360 million in climate finance, sharing with the audience that projects worth more than $500 million were in the pipeline.

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

Following her speech, the Secretary General elaborated on several issues raised in her speech during a conversation with Jan Yves Remy, Director of the Shridath Ramphal Center for International Trade Law, Policy and Services. Dubbed a ‘porch chat’, they explored the growing importance of digital technology, including artificial intelligence, in the work of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, joined Jan Yves Remy, Director of the Shridath Ramphal Center for International Trade Law, Policy and Services for a ‘porch chat’.

She said her conversations with young people have shown they need support to prepare them for an increasingly digital world. She shared that the Commonwealth Secretariat’s AI Academy is offering free courses for our Commonwealth family.

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

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

Read the comments from the Commonwealth Secretary-General


Media contact

  • Charmaine Wright Head of Media Relations, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat

  • +44 20 7747 6242 | E-mail