Voices Abroad: Patricia Scotland addresses the Hague on the importance of the Commonwealth

Chatham House / Flickr

Chatham House / Flickr

ON TUESDAY 20th October, Baroness Scotland addressed the Hague Institute for Global Justice. “At the root of all is a cry for justice… a thirst for the rule of law”. This was how the Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC began her speech as she addressed those eager to discover how to ‘pursue and apply justice in a globalized world.’

The speech essentially promoted the present relevance of the Commonwealth. However, considering the fact that she was announced as the Dominican candidate for the position of Secretary General of the Commonwealth back in May, it was unsurprising that this topic was such a central component of her speech.

This new position stands as an opportunity for Scotland to add to already spectacular list of achievements, from introducing the International Criminal Court Bill to the United Kingdom, which ratified the jurisdiction of the court into national law, to being considered for appointment as Leader of the House of Lords. She is known most notably for holding the position of Attorney General under the Blair government in the U.K., as well as for the introduction of the Crime and Victims Act, which was used to prosecute the killers of Baby P who would otherwise have escaped any responsibility for his death.

Facing a hall filled with students, lawyers, politicians and professors alike, Baroness Scotland desperately searched for the raised hands representing some prior knowledge of the institution she was about to promote. After a weak response to this question of prior knowledge, Scotland proceeded to justify the present importance of the Commonwealth, an institution that “represents 30% of the world’s population”.

Scotland’s analysis of the Commonwealth presents us with a representation of all of the world’s problems, through the problems of the 53 nations that make up the organisation. In her view the Commonwealth is more relevant now than ever before due to the sudden realisation that “our idea of local crime is not understood by the criminals”. In reality local crime always has a connection to international crimes and issues.

She accepted that in recent years the Commonwealth had not been as creative, or as vocal as it should have been. However, she expressed the strong stance the organisation had taken on climate change.

Her greatest plea was for greater cooperation between the nations of the Commonwealth. She called for a sharing of ideas, and technology – using our own perspectives to solve issues in other regions of the world. Scotland referenced Uganda’s revolutionary methods of water collection, as well as Rwanda’s allocation of iPhones to all nurses, permitting contact with any doctor, anywhere. She relayed the success that nations have had working together through the example of the ‘Istanbul Convention’, which was used to combat domestic violence throughout Europe.

Within this plea was a call for the creation of a new environment for the rule of law. She concluded by praising and expressing the importance of the lawyers in the room for their key role in the defence of the rule of law in this globalising world. She quoted Shakespeare’s “let’s kill all the lawyers” to express this, for it is they, she stated, who respond with “No, but…”

To listen to as distinguished a person as she speak about the necessity of mutual international support and cooperation in the idealistic manner that she did, was truly inspirational. There is little doubt that if anyone were to turn the Commonwealth into an institution of such a level of importance, it would be her. Scotland left the audience with the source of her own inspiration, for “when people say you can’t change the world… I think of Rosa Parks”.