Storm ravaged countries need the Commonwealth’s innovative regenerative model to build back better and stronger, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland asserted last night in a powerful presentation about the Commonwealth’s importance.
Delivering the prestigious 42nd Sir Winston Scott Memorial Lecture in the Caribbean island of Barbados, the Secretary-General gave a moving account of the total devastation she witnessed during her recent visits to Barbuda and her home country Dominica, which were savaged by apocalyptic, category 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria within weeks of each other.
Recounting her encounter with a woman in Dominica who was sitting among the rubble of her home, which Hurricane Maria had completely demolished, she said, “There are many things for us to ponder, because the situation of that woman is symbolic of the challenge facing many countries in the Commonwealth today.”
“Responding to the wide range of needs arising from such occurrences, particularly as they seem to be happening more and more frequently and more and more powerfully, building resilience to respond and recover from their negative impact becomes ever more urgent,” Secretary-General Scotland told the hushed, captivated audience of dignitaries, politicians, scholars and members of the general public.
The Secretary-General went on to outline the nuts and bolts of the regenerative model. It will, she said, draw on the resilience, resourcefulness and ingenuity of people, and involve all sectors and professions working together to construct buildings, create technology and forge cultures that respect, protect and complement the natural environment.
Later, Secretary-General Scotland took the audience on a journey through the illustrious rise and rise of the modern Commonwealth from its conception in 1949 to the moment in 2015 when its 53 members led the world to the historic agreement to slow down the dangerous spiralling of global temperatures, and then to impressive achievements since April 2016. These, she said, demonstrate that the Commonwealth is qualified and has the power and potential to achieve resilience in all aspects of development.
Responding to questions and comments after the lecture, which included concerns about getting more women into business and stemming the rise of suicides among young people, the Secretary-General pointed to Commonwealth initiatives such as the coming innovation hub and the recently established Countering Violent Extremism Unit (CVE) and Office of Civil and Criminal Justice Reform (OCCJR). These, she said, along with action to end domestic violence, will help to protect and empower women and youth and equip them to realise their full potential.
The Sir Winston Scott Memorial Lecture is organised and hosted annually by the Central Bank of Barbados (CBB). It honours the memory of Sir Winston, an esteemed Barbadian physician, and politician. It precedes the Barbados independence celebrations which will take place on Thursday this week.
Before attending the lecture, the Secretary-General met with Barbados Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart, who declared that the Commonwealth looked more attractive than ever, as he pledged his continued support for the organisation. Discussing the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which will be held in the UK next April under the theme ‘Towards a Common Future’, he described the line-up of issues for discussion as pressing and relevant.
The prime minister also stressed the need for the Secretariat to advance with its vulnerability index, to help make aid rules fairer for developing countries which are prone to frequent and violent natural disasters.
Earlier, the Secretary-General paid a courtesy call on Barbados’ Acting Governor General Sir Philip Greaves, and met with leader of the opposition Mia Mottley. Today the Secretary-General will meet with Senator Maxine McClean, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.
The Secretary-General expressed her deep gratitude to acting governor of CBB, Mr Cleviston Haynes, staff and CBB board for hosting her, and for continuing to support the lecture series.
She added, “As I prepare to leave Barbados tomorrow, I would also like to thank Bajans for their boundless generosity to the people of Dominica. What we saw in the tragedy of Maria and Irma is the immense power of collaboration. I know we can work together to effectively respond to each other’s needs, build resilience and regenerate our countries and economies.”