The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC has made history by becoming the first Commonwealth Secretary-General to address the Pan-African Parliament.
She was speaking at the opening ceremony of the First Ordinary Session of the Sixth Parliament of the Pan-African Parliament on 31 October in Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, where she delivered a message of hope and solidarity to the people of Africa.
Convening parliamentarians from across the continent, the meeting, which runs until 11 November, is being held under the 2022 African Union theme – “Building resilience in nutrition on the African continent: Accelerate the human capital, social and economic development”.
During her special address, the Secretary-General commended parliamentarians for their roles in meeting the needs of citizens at a time of global uncertainty where interlinked crises such as hunger, food insecurity, the cost-of-living crisis, and the impact of climate change – all of which affect Africa and vulnerable countries the most – are pushing countries to the limit.
PAP Opening Ceremony 3
“We are at code red on climate change, debt is spiralling, the international financial system is fracturing, interstate conflict is on the rise and areas which have long been peaceful are showing shockingly dangerous tendencies to implode.
“Our citizens have never needed your courage, wisdom and acuity more than they do today. And we thank you for being willing to take up this burden. We salute you!”
‘Together we are invincible’
Underscoring the importance of solidarity during these turbulent times, the Secretary-General urged the parliamentarians to work together to defeat corruption, deliver good governance, and create smart solutions to challenges as part of efforts to deliver Sustainable Development Goals.
“We in the Commonwealth are your family and your friends. Twenty-one (21) member states of this Parliament are members of our Commonwealth family of Nations. And they are the largest regional bloc of our family and represent the voice of Africa. Everything we do and have is therefore yours. When I speak of Commonwealth, I speak of Africa.
“We are already partners. Your issues are our issues. Your hurts are our hurts. Your hopes are our hopes. Your future is our future.
“On our own we are invisible. Together we could be invincible. So, let’s build a better, bigger and fairer boat so we can all survive the storms ahead.”
The Secretary-General also highlighted a number of Commonwealth initiatives such as the Connectivity Agenda, the Commonwealth Blue Charter, the Disaster Finance Portal, the Climate Finance Access Hub, the Living Lands Charter, and the SMART toolkit which have been designed to support member countries respond to challenges such as climate change mitigation, enhancing trade and development, and improving governance.
She was one of four special guests at the opening ceremony including Hon. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, Speaker of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament and Hon. Rawhi Fattouh, Speaker of the Palestine National Council also delivered messages of solidarity. The session was officially opened by South Africa’s Minister of Justice, Hon. Ronald Lamola, who represented President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Read the Secretary-General’s speech
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The Secretary-General is currently in South Africa on the second leg of a week-long visit to Southern Africa which will see her hold meetings with leaders and key stakeholders to discuss issues of mutual interest and address bilateral and global issues affecting the Commonwealth.
Over the weekend, she attended the historic coronation of His Majesty King Misuzulu kaZwelethini as he was handed a certificate of recognition by President Cyril Ramaphosa, affirming his role as King of the Zulu nation. While in South Africa, she will also attend the Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide taking place from 1-2 November.
In Lesotho, the Secretary-General attended the inauguration ceremony of Prime Minister Samuel Matekane, and held audiences with His Majesty King Letsie III and Prime Minister Matekane to discuss the Commonwealth Secretariat’s continued support to the country.