Patricia Scotland sets out priorities in new role as Commonwealth chief

By on 04/04/2016 | Updated on 25/09/2020

Tackling corruption and championing good governance is among the top priorities set out by Baroness Patricia Scotland, the new secretary-general of the Commonwealth.

Outlining her agenda for her four-year term, Scotland called on Commonwealth nations to “create a best practice toolkit to deal with corruption and other legal challenges.”

Trade and good governance is one of four issues Scotland, who assumed her role heading up the 53-nation group on Friday, wants to concentrate on during her time in office, she told an audience in London today.

Other agenda points are addressing climate change; a focus on young people “so they are not tempted by the destructive agenda of the extremists”; and tackling violence against women and girls.

Domestic violence, which affects one in three women around the world, Scotland said, “has always been a priority for me.”

“Across the Commonwealth people have told me that if we continue to allow women to be abused and disregarded then that has a huge impact on the social and economic health and wellbeing of our world,” she said.

“If there is no peace in the home, there will not be peace in our world.”

Scotland is the sixth secretary-general of the Commonwealth and the first ever woman to be appointed into the role.

She said she has “always been rather sad” that she is the first, adding that she is “looking forward to where the next generation of female leaders will come from, and the next and the next after that.”

“And I will be so happy when someone tells me: ‘I’m the second or the 202nd woman to be appointed to a post so many women have already qualified for’,” she added.

Scotland, a trained solicitor who was UK attorney-general between 2007 and 2010, also said that she has “achieved some firsts along the way: the first black woman to be a QC [a senior barrister appointed on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor] and the only woman to be attorney-general since the post was created in 1315.”

Before being appointed attorney-general, she held various ministerial roles under the Labour government including  minister of state for criminal justice and offender management from 2003 to 2007.

Scotland, who was born in a small village on the Caribbean island of Dominica, to a Dominican mother and Antiguan father and brought up in north-east London, she describes herself as a “classic child of the Commonwealth.”

On her first day in office, Scotland went to Dominica to open a new disaster rehabilitation centre on the island following the devastation caused by tropical storm Erika.

Her introductory speech today was accompanied by a steel band, singers and dancers from the Caribbean, and featured a performance by British soul singer Heather Small.

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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