The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, in her keynote speech at the 23rd Commonwealth Law Conference (CLC) held in Goa, India this week, called on lawmakers and the legal community to use their skills to take on the challenge of protecting the environment, improving governance, enhancing freedoms and enabling the most vulnerable.
This week marks 20 years since the adoption of the Commonwealth’s Latimer House Principles. In her speech, the Secretary-General emphasized the importance of the progress made over the past 20 years and noted that the Latimer House Principles provide an effective framework for governments, parliaments and judiciaries to implement the Commonwealth’s fundamental values.
In her speech, Secretary-General Scotland said:
“As lawyers, we can change the world if we choose. We are jointly charged to deliver justice, particularly for the poor, the marginalised, the silenced and the vulnerable. The Commonwealth must set an example. At a time of increased global insecurity caused by climate change, war and the ravages of Covid 19, we see that the economic scales continue to tip in favour of the powerful and away from the powerless. We must use the law as our weapon against injustice and wield it with skill and determination whilst teaching the next generation to do the same. There should be no difference between the law and justice, the law is the tool through which justice can be delivered, crafted and fashioned.”
Organised by the Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA), the 23rd CLC is being held in Goa, from 5-9 March 2023 on the theme of ‘Common Challenges in Uncommon Times’.
In her speech, Secretary-General Scotland highlighted some of the most recent work of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Law teams to increase access to justice for the vulnerable and use the law to fight the impacts of the multiple crises facing Commonwealth member states.
Some of these tools include:
- The Commonwealth Plan of Action on the Equal Access to Justice Declaration
- The Law and Climate Change toolkit – a large repository of legislation on the climate and the environment from across the Commonwealth
- The Commonwealth’s Anticorruption Benchmarks – This publication provides 25 benchmarks on good anti-corruption practices for national governments and public sector bodies.
- Commonwealth Elections Cybersecurity Best Practice Guide – This product has been developed to help election management bodies identify and manage cybersecurity risks.
- Environmental, Social and Economic Development provisions in Investment contracts – a resource for government lawyers in the Commonwealth, to protect the environment.
- Adoption of Model Laws on Data protection – to strengthen rules for protecting and handling the personal data of the 2.5 billion people living across the Commonwealth.
- Commonwealth Law Ministers’ unanimous agreement to recommend the ‘Commonwealth Principles on Freedom of Expression and the Role of the Media in Good Governance at CHOGM 2024
The Commonwealth Secretary-General was in Goa on Sunday 5th and Monday 6th of March 2023, before she travelled to Doha, Qatar to advocate for the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable countries at the 5th United Nations Least Developed Countries Conference.