The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth. Image courtesy Commonwealth Secretariat.

Foreign Affairs Ministers from across the Commonwealth met yesterday, Thursday September 16th, for the 21st annual Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting (CFAMM).

A statement from the Commonwealth Secretariat notes that the meeting was held virtually for the second year in a row due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agenda of the meeting focused on the Commonwealth’s role in recovering from the global COVID-19 pandemic and building back better, including on health and vaccine equity, trade issues, and climate change, in particular the upcoming COP26 Summit.

Addressing the gathered Minsters, the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland QC congratulated the Rt Hon. Elizabeth Truss MP on her recent appointment and welcomed her in her role as chair of the meeting saying:

“What an honour to have you with us and welcome to our wonderful Commonwealth family.”

The Secretary-General proceeded to update Foreign Ministers on the work of the Secretariat, speaking to the meeting she said:

“The world has changed radically since we last met. We have felt the growing force of the global COVID-19 pandemic, seen the acceleration of the impact of global warming, alongside a global increase in social unrest, increasing gaps between the rich and the poor, and growing disquiet about the resilience of the democratic institutions which have formed the bedrock of our prosperity over the past seven decades.

“The coming years will be tough. The fallout from the global pandemic will be far reaching and profound and cover every aspect of our lives from the economy to health care to political and democratic discourse and even to our families.

“If we, as a Commonwealth family, are to successfully plot a course through the coming years, it will require all of our experience, vision, prudence and passion.”

Speaking on climate change, the Secretary-General implored member countries to continue to work towards agreement ahead of COP26, saying:

“Climate is changing and won’t wait. We no longer have any excuse not to act. Emerging from the COVID pandemic, we have a critical window to set a new development path and build back better. What the world needs now is urgent, decisive and sustained climate action.

“The UK leadership of COP26 is an opportunity for our Commonwealth family to come together and to express our commitment with one voice so that as in 2015 the Commonwealth will continue to lead on this vital issue.”

The Secretary-General also encouraged Member Countries to find a way forward on equitable access to vaccines, especially for small states

“Vaccination works and is the only sustainable route out of this pandemic for the whole world. The rise of new variants shows that until everyone is safe no one is safe.

“This is why I urge that we start with those particularly vulnerable to the multiple impacts of the pandemic, the 42 small states of the world, 32 of which are members of our Commonwealth.”

During the meeting Ministers also noted two statements from the Commonwealth Ministerial Groups on Belize and Guyana.

About The Commonwealth

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 independent and equal sovereign states. The Commonwealth Secretariat supports member countries to build democratic and inclusive institutions, strengthen governance and promote justice and human rights.

The Commonwealth spans the globe and includes both advanced economies and developing countries. Thirty-two Commonwealth member countries are small states, many of which are island nations.

The work of the Commonwealth helps to grow economies and boost trade, deliver national resilience, empower young people, and address threats such as climate change, debt and inequality.

Member countries are supported by a network of more than 80 intergovernmental, civil society, cultural and professional organisations.