Caribbean-Born Woman Makes History As Commonwealth Secretary-General


Baroness Patricia Scotland, c., was selected at the new secretary general of the Commonwealth on Nov. 27, 2015.

By NAN Staff Writer

News Americas, LONDON, England, Fri. Nov. 27, 2015: A Dominica-born woman has made history by becoming the first woman to take the helm as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 53 independent and equal sovereign states. It is home to 2.2 billion citizens, of which over 60% are under the age of 30. Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of the Commonwealth.

Baroness Patricia Scotland was selected new as the Secretary-General of the body according to Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who made the announcement at a press conference during the Commonwealth summit during the 24th biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

“I am incredibly proud to be the first woman Secretary-General,” she commented.

Responding to a question about the high number of Commonwealth countries that violate LGBTI rights, Baroness Scotland said that if the Commonwealth choses to work together it will find a way to bring about this necessary change.

“Human rights and development go hand in hand. We will walk with and work with our partners to help everyone appreciate human dignity,” she said while pledging to prioritize gender equality and combat domestic violence.


Born in 1955, Baroness Scotland moved with her family to Britain. She obtained her LLB in 1976, was called to the Bar in 1977 and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1991. She received a life peerage and was created Baroness Scotland of Asthal in 1997.

Baroness Scotland has held the position of UK Attorney General (2007 to 2010), UK Minister of State (Home Office) (Crime Reduction) (2007 to 2007), UK Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management) (2003 to 2007), and Parliamentary Secretary (Lord Chancellor’s Department) (2001 to 2003) in government.

She will be the sixth Commonwealth Secretary-General and will take office on April 1, 2016, replacing Kamalesh Sharma of India.

The other candidates for the job were Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba of Botswana and Guyana-born Sir Ronald Sanders, who is currently Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United States and the Organisation of American States.

There is no formal job description for the post of Secretary-General. Candidates must be citizens of Commonwealth countries and can only serve two terms of four years. The role is to promote and protect Commonwealth values and principles set out in the Commonwealth Charter, represent the Commonwealth globally and manage the Commonwealth Secretariat and its various programmes.

The Secretary-General facilitates consultation and is responsible for convening the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings, Commonwealth Ministerial Meetings and a range of other meetings. The Secretary-General maintains contact with Commonwealth governments as well as with civil society and other leaders. Another important function is to exercise ‘Good Offices’ when the Commonwealth’s fundamental values are threatened or when political tensions arise in member states.



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