KAMPALA, January 22, 2024 – The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland KC, addressed leaders from 121 countries at the Non-Aligned Movement [NAM] Heads of State and Government Summit in Kampala yesterday.
In her remarks, she commended President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni on his chairmanship of the NAM and promised the Commonwealth’s full support during his term that runs to 2027.
Addressing leaders, foreign affairs ministers and strategic partners as an official observer, Scotland said: “Our world is tightly bound by a tangled knot of crises spanning global economic, environmental and security systems. These crises are serious, complex and increasingly entrenched. Overcoming them will require a level of international political and economic cooperation, which is unprecedented in this century.”
While acknowledging the immense pressure on the multilateral system, she remained optimistic, adding: “Together, we have the power to shift the balance of our fracturing world from mistrust and confrontation to dialogue and collaboration. Your perspectives are essential, and your action is imperative.”
Touching on the disproportionate impacts of the climate crisis on people, communities and economies across the Commonwealth, the Secretary-General recounted the recent devastation in Vanuatu – a member of both the Commonwealth and NAM.
She said: “The beautiful island nation of Vanuatu was devastated by category five Cyclone Lola last year, which hit seven months after the twin cyclones Judy and Kevin wiped out 50 per cent of the country’s GDP, with rebuilding efforts now estimated at 80 per cent of GDP.”
Expressing concern over the absence of adequate international support for climate-vulnerable developing countries, Scotland stressed that the limitations of the global financial system are letting many countries down.
With no alternative, she added, many developing countries are forced to borrow loans for rebuilding on unfavourable terms, resulting in a “vicious cycle of unsustainable debt”.
Research reveals that many climate-vulnerable developing countries spend more on external debt payments than on projects to protect people from the impacts of climate change.
In response, Scotland repeated her call for the reform of the global financial system, adding:
“We need to rewire the entire system, with action rooted in the sharpest honesty about where we are, driven by evidence, and flowing through every sector: from finance, energy and trade to health, education, and digitalisation. In all of this, we must work and act together,” she said.
Without meaningful reform, Scotland warned of setbacks in the fulfilment of human rights, basic needs, and the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs].
She pledged her commitment to the reform process, stating: “The Commonwealth will not rest until all countries, from the largest to the smallest, have an equal say in decisions affecting them.”
In closing, Scotland thanked NAM, which shares 44 of its 121 members with the Commonwealth, for its longstanding engagement with the Commonwealth.
During the summit, she also met with leaders from Commonwealth countries to discuss shared interests and opportunities for further collaboration.
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