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Politics & press news – Embassy 61

Commonwealth elects woman SG

Baroness Patricia Scotland has made history after her election as the Commonwealth’s first female Secretary General, striking a blow for gender equality in the 53-nation organisation.

High Commissioners in London welcomed the election of the Dominca-born peer and former British Attorney General, whose public profile will give the Commonwealth  a boost.

Representing both the Caribbean and Britain, it is felt Baroness Scotland will form a bridge between the organisation’s 32 small island states as well as the large, wealthy OECD states such as Britain, Canada or Australia.

Although Baroness Scotland officially takes over from the incumbent Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma in April, she was quick to set out some priorities for her term.

Her election at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting came on the eve of the COP21 Climate Conference in Paris and Baroness Scotland used her new platform to voice the concerns of many of the Commonwealth’s small island states.

She said climate change represented an “existential threat” to these members, including the country of her birth, Dominica, which was recently devastated by tropical storm Erika. 

Echoing the demands of many Commonwealth members, she called for an ambitious 1.5 degree global warming limit for the COP21 deal. At the start of the conference this was considered optimistic but at its conclusion the new target was adopted by a broad coalition of more than 100 developed and developing nations, including the EU, US and Canada.

As the first female Secretary General, gender equality and combatting domestic violence will  figure high on her agenda. Ending discrimination against LGBT Commonwealth citizens is a sensitive subject but one which Baroness Scotland would like to address if consensus can be reached among member states.

“We do not have the right or opportunity to force states, but we can start a really good conversation to work with them,”she said.

Another focal point will be to tackle the “corrosive” effects of corruption, she said.

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