Former Attorney General of the United Kingdom, Dominica- born Baroness Patricia Scotland, made history today when she became the first woman to be elected as head of one of the most influential international organizations.
Baroness Scotland was one of two Caribbean candidates nominated for the post of Commonwealth Secretary General. She was Dominica’s candidate and also had strong support from Barbados. The other contender from the region, Sir Ronald Sanders, was nominated by Antigua and Barbuda and had the backing of the majority of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne said Sir Ronald was withdrawn after the first round of voting and his country supported Baroness Scotland as the compromise candidate.
Botswana’s Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba, a former deputy secretary-general of the Commonwealth, was the third candidate.
“The greatest privilege I have had is to be asked by my country to take on this role,” Scotland told a news conference after being elected the sixth Secretary General.
“I was incredibly proud to be one of the candidates, but the two other candidates, Antigua and Botswana, have much to offer, and I am humbled that I was chosen in their stead. But can I just say to Antigua that they have indeed won because I too am an Antiguan through my father so Antigua and Dominica are conjoined. As for Africa, I am a daughter of Africa too, so maybe what I might be able to give is the combination of all the Commonwealth because I am truly a child of the Commonwealth,” she added.
Scotland said she hopes that all 53 member states will work together for the development of the organization.
“There is much to do but I hope all 53 of us will look together at the vision, we will look at what we need to do on climate change, on education, on science and technology, and we will make this a better world for our children.”
Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit offered congratulations to Baroness Scotland following her election, “for the honour she has brought to Dominica and the Caribbean as a whole”.
“She follows in the footsteps of worthy holders of the position, including another Caribbean luminary, Sir Shridath Ramphal, and we are confident she will admirably acquit herself of her responsibility to the Commonwealth as it faces the harsh realities of the 21st century,” Skerrit said.
In an earlier interview with Barbados TODAY, Baroness Scotland stated that should she be elected to the post, she would focus on youth development and eliminating violence against women, among other areas.
“I have an acute interest in ending domestic violence throughout the Commonwealth, in fact, throughout the world. According to the World Health Organization, one in three women will suffer from domestic violence at some stage. It’s the greatest cause of morbidity in women and girls.
“And I think I would really like to do much to reduce the level of violence. In the United Kingdom, I was privileged to act as a deputy permanent secretary and I was the minister for Criminal Justice and Law Reform. And during the period when I was a Government minister, we managed to lower crime to the lowest it had been since 1981 but more significantly reduce domestic violence by 64 per cent,” she said at the time.
Baroness Scotland succeeds Kamalesh Sharma of India, who held the post since 2008. She is expected to officially take up duties next year when Sharma steps down.