An historic moment – Patricia Scotland to be first woman Secretary-General

From a Press Release by the Commonwealth Secretariat

In what has been a true breakthrough for gender equality in the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland of Dominica was elected new Secretary-General - the first woman to hold the post. Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat made the announcement at a press conference during the Commonwealth summit.

Baroness Scotland, former UK Attorney General, will take office on 1 April 2016 as the sixth Secretary-General since the Commonwealth Secretariat was established in 1965. She will replace Kamalesh Sharma of India, whose eight-year tenure comes to an end in March next year.

While talking to the press, she singled out climate change as an “existential threat” to small island states and reminded the audience about the extensive damage caused to her country by Tropical Storm Erika. She referred to the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) in December as an opportunity for the Commonwealth to really make its mark.

“COP21 gives us an opportunity to put the Commonwealth on a different path. I hope the Commonwealth will be a beacon of knowledge and care to put this right,” said Baroness Scotland.

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.

She stated: “Human rights and development go hand in hand. We will walk with and work with our partners to help everyone appreciate human dignity.”

In her final remarks, Baroness Scotland pledged to prioritise gender equality and combat domestic violence.

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

The election of the new Secretary-General took place in a closed session during the 24th biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). The process was overseen by the CHOGM Chair and the Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat.