By Patricia Scotland
LONDON, Sep 18 2023 – In today’s increasingly interconnected world, marked by grave economic, environmental, and security crises that transcend global boundaries, it’s abundantly clear that our interdependence is an undeniable reality.
These challenges loom large as countries from across the world gather at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Our world is under pressure, and people are looking to its leaders for action.
Since world leaders last gathered in New York, we have seen a litany of natural disasters continue to devastate our world. Flooding, wildfires, storms and droughts have hit countries across the Commonwealth and the world. From Rwanda to India, the USA to New Zealand the whole world is feeling the impact of climate change.
If you listen to individuals from all walks of life, you can hear the fear and the desperation in their conversations, the anxiety that though we all recognise the problem, leaders are not taking the action we all need to tackle the challenges we face.
Our history serves as a poignant reminder that our choices boil down to two paths: cooperation, where we harness our collective humanity or to suffer in isolation.
The capacity to unite behind the moral force of our principles enshrined in our Commonwealth Charter, and the power of our practical purpose, is the foundation and beauty of the modern Commonwealth.
Our independent member states, stretched across five continents and home to one-third of humanity embody a remarkable blend of ingenuity and determination. This fusion of qualities not only propelled India to land a spacecraft on the moon but also instilled in us the shared resolve to stand united in confronting the challenges of climate change, instability, and economic adversity.
On the margins of the General Assembly, the citizens of the Commonwealth can be assured that our Foreign Affairs Ministers, and our Environment Ministers, will meet to further deepen their commitment to action on the threats to resilience and sustainability in our member states, and the wider world. Moreover, in a recent milestone, youth ministers, education stakeholders, and young leaders from across the Commonwealth convened in London just last week. Together, they forged agreements on policies and initiatives designed to bolster and empower our youth. At the core of these discussions were our young leaders, whose energy, passion and innovation we will need to take us forward.
United in purpose, we remain steadfast in our commitment to advancing pioneering initiatives, exemplified by the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub, an endeavour that has successfully mobilized over $250 million in crucial support for the countries most in need. Simultaneously, intensifying calls for reform in global development finance to equip the most vulnerable nations with the resources they need to tackle the long-term impacts of environmental breakdown.
When we gather this week in New York, we seek to bridge the gap between rhetoric and implementation, deepening the alliances which transcend borders and self-interest, and advance the vital work to build a resilient and sustainable future for all.
We will set the stage for the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which is to be held in Samoa in October 2024.
The road to CHOGM 2024 starts in New York and winds its way through the great capitals of our Commonwealth Family before culminating in Apia. And while we can never underplay the scale of the challenges we face, the fact that the Commonwealth nations sit together as partners with an equal voice and an equal stake in a shared mission means that we approach them – like India’s space mission – with the mindset of what is possible.
Our ministers will gather to reaffirm our dedication to resilience, sustainability, and equitable development. We are never just observers; we are active participants, ready to tackle the urgent issues of our time. We will act to bridge the gap between words and deeds, working together to build a better future.
In October next year when our Heads of Government meet in Samoa, we know that our strength will be in our unity. Progress is always difficult, and the challenges we face sometimes seem insurmountable, but we know that through the Commonwealth, and our unwavering commitment to unity and collective action, we shall prevail.
IPS UN Bureau
The author is Commonwealth Secretary-General