Pacific’s global influence on the rise

A Pacific nation could lead the Commonwealth as the secretary-general possibly by 2032, according to current secretary-general Patricia Scotland.

This year former Tuvaluan governor general Sir Iakoba Italeli made an attempt to garner support for the role, however this did not eventuate after the Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting decided to reappoint Ms Scotland for two more years to finish out her second term.

Mr Italeli became the first person from a Pacific Small Island Developing State to campaign for the position.

Ms Scotland said it is very possible to have someone from the Pacific because the Commonwealth was created in order to preserve equality.

“We would rotate one region after another. Now, my term has been the Caribbeans term, and it’s been decided that the next will be Africa. But the next after that will be the Pacific,” she said.

“And so I am from a small state. Dominica has 72,000 people, I think Fiji has a little more, so it’s not unknown, for a small state.

History was made at the CHOGM in Kagali last month when for the first time, Samoa was given the go ahead to be the next host of the meet in 2024.

Commonwealth secretary general Patricia Scotland speaking to the media in Fiji. Picture – Patricia Scotland QC Twitter

Samoa is definitely looking forward to hosting the event and showcasing its culture and people to the world.

Focusing on the Pacific, Ms Scotland said that it was now accepted that there was a correlation between climate change and rising debt.

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She highlighted that climate change had so far impacted five per cent of the Pacific’s combined gross domestic product (GDP). She said for Tonga and Vanuatu, natural disasters had impacted 10 per cent of the GDP.

Fijian PM Voreqe Bainimarama, Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland, and Australian PM Anthony Albanese. Picture – Patricia Scotland QC Twitter

These nations have taken major capital projects and with it debts to complete those projects. Ms Scotland said the situation in the Pacific showed rising debt levels and contracting economies.

The Commonwealth Secretariat has been developing a universal favourability index, which looks at the vulnerability not just in relation to climate change, but in relation to social and economic and health shocks.

Women in power, from left to right- Commonwealth secretary general Pactricia Scotland, New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern, Samoa PM Fiame Mataafa. Picture – Patricia Scotland QC

“None of us understood that the pandemic would be likely to devastate us economically. On top of that pandemic, we now have the fallout of the Russia Ukraine situation, which means that food insecurity has come not because of anything we’ve done, not because we contributed to it, but because it is another exogenous shock,” Ms Scotland said.

“So what we in the composite territories do in creating a new universal vulnerability index, will ensure we can better address that issue.”

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