02

Making an impact

Secretary-General Patricia Scotland

My 2018 biennial report on attainments and progress achieved in the preceding two years is being presented with something new: this companion website that tells the stories and introduces the people behind the results. This is entirely fitting in view of the emphasis throughout the period covered by the report on reform and renewal of the Commonwealth Secretariat, and on doing things in new ways in the Commonwealth more generally.

This microsite provides illustrative examples and stories of personal involvement in Commonwealth work. These convey in compelling ways the very positive difference our interventions and assistance make in the lives of the people and institutions of our member countries.

Most of all, the interlinked online format offers the options of taking a broad overview, or of finding out more about our work and its impact through interconnected layers of progressive disclosure, with graphics and videos that bring our results alive. This reflects our collective determination to adopt less compartmentalised approaches to serving the needs of member countries.

My first task as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth was to undertake a review and plan for radical reorganisation of the Commonwealth Secretariat. Our distinctive strength derives from being responsive to the needs of our membership, being able to convene and consult, and being a knowledge centre. This report shows how the Commonwealth is stepping up in fresh ways and in new configurations to tackle a range of needs identified by member countries.

My first task as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth was to undertake a review and plan for radical reorganisation of the Commonwealth Secretariat. Our distinctive strength derives from being responsive to the needs of our membership, being able to convene and consult, and being a knowledge centre.

Drawing on these assets and abilities, we have moved forward with delivery of a range of important new initiatives in the fulfilment of mandates delivered by Heads of Government and the responsibilities they entrusted to me.

During my first year in office, the Commonwealth’s Climate Finance Access Hub opened for business. Its specialist advisers are now assisting government ministries across the Commonwealth. They are helping prepare bids to fund projects for climate change adaptation and mitigation, including the creation of greener technologies and the construction of storm defences. We also launched a Commonwealth initiative to identify and implement innovative and sustainable ways of tackling climate change and to bolster human security by using the regenerative model of development.

Just how necessary these interventions are has sadly become abundantly clear over recent months. We see mudslides and desertification in Africa, floods in Asia, storms in Europe, cyclones in the Pacific and unprecedented devastation caused by hurricanes in the Caribbean. These catastrophes have left thousands dead, displaced millions and destroyed entire economies. They demonstrate that we are dealing with harsh realities, not theoretical possibilities.

Building resilience and overcoming vulnerabilities applies in social, economic and political contexts as much as in relation to the physical environment and infrastructure. This report shows how the Commonwealth is stepping up in fresh ways and in new configurations to tackle a range of needs identified by member countries. Our ‘Faith in the Commonwealth’ initiative is an example of this.

The political values and principles of the Commonwealth Charter, including on separation of powers as expressed in the Latimer House Principles, remain a primary area of focus for the support I offer through my Good Offices, and my work alongside leaders to resolve conflict through engagement and dialogue.

The creation within the Commonwealth Secretariat of a Countering Violent Extremism Unit is already proving of immense value. Drawing together and disseminating collective Commonwealth experience and expertise can aid member countries in devising strategies to address underlying causes and drivers of extremism, and towards building more harmonious and cohesive communities on the foundations of respect and understanding.

Since I was appointed Secretary- General, I have often said that my focus is on putting ‘wealth’ back into the Commonwealth and the ‘common’ back into wealth. This depends on encouraging enterprise that creates employment and inclusive prosperity, which are the foundations for equitable development in which all can share.

We advance these through Commonwealth support for trade and economic empowerment, in particular by building on the ‘Commonwealth advantage’. Similar and interoperable regulatory frameworks and legal systems greatly ease business, and they accelerate very substantially the rate at which member countries can reap the beneficial impact of this Commonwealth effect.

To capitalise on this, and as an early component of our Innovation Hub, we established the Commonwealth Office for Civil and Criminal Justice Reform. This provides ready access to toolkits and drafting assistance, with model laws and templates for legislative and regulatory reform on climate change, human rights and a wide range of other issues.

Our aim for this biennial report is to present a clear vision and narrative. Stories about the people behind our work or involved in delivering it help show in ways that can be readily appreciated the remarkable scope and impact of work undertaken or co-ordinated by the Commonwealth Secretariat. Our officers and staff work diligently and with great professionalism as a team to make a difference in the lives and livelihoods of the 2.4 billion people we serve.

Although our resources are constrained, which results in challenges of capacity, we remain alert and agile in responding to the individual and collective expectations of member countries. In a swiftly changing global context, we innovate and combine in practical ways to answer the entrenched and emerging needs of all the people of the Commonwealth.