April 15, 2024

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Commonwealth Secretary-General becomes first Caribbean and British person to receive UC Berkeley’s Global Leadership Award

The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, has become the first Black woman as well as the first Caribbean, Dominican and British person to receive the University of California (UC) Berkeley’s prestigious Global Leadership Award in recognition of her exceptional contributions to improving the lives through innovation and technology.

The award was presented to the Commonwealth Secretary-General during an award ceremony at the Berkeley Innovation Forum in California on 21 April 2023.

Presenting the award, the organisers commended the Secretary-General’s decades-long commitment to fostering a culture of innovation throughout her legal and political career, particularly in her current role, adding that her leadership has to the promotion of “innovation and use of technology to expand markets around the world and empower people at the bottom of the pyramid”.

The award is conferred upon extraordinary global leaders who promote open innovation – a practice which enables the exchange of ideas across organisations – to create significant change.

Previous recipients of the award include then-President of India Pranab Mukherjee, then-President of the US Barack Obama, then-President of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and then-President of the World Bank, Alden W. “Tom” Clausen.

Secretary-General Scotland is the third woman to receive the award after Sadako Ogata, then-Minister of Japan to the United Nations, and Janet Yellen, then-Chair of the Broad of Governors of the US Federal Reserve System, won it in 1978 and 2014 respectively.

In her acceptance speech, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, who is the first woman to hold the post, said:

“I am deeply honoured to receive the Global Leadership Award from the University of California Berkeley. This recognition is made all the more special as it coincides with the seventh anniversary of my tenure as Secretary-General.

“My journey has not been without obstacles, but I am proud that it has led to this point. Throughout my life and career, I have been driven by a fierce belief that things could be different, better, fairer, and more equal, and that by embracing innovation and its transformative potential, we can create meaningful change that benefits both individuals and society at large.”

She added:

“Today, I feel a great sense of pride to lead the Commonwealth Secretariat which serves more than 2.5 billion people, 60 per cent of whom are under the age of 30. By accepting this award, I encourage each one of them to never let anyone tell them that they cannot succeed. They must dare to dream and work hard to make it happen – and always remember the timeless words of Nelson Mandela: ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done’.”

Since taking up office in April 2016, Secretary-General Scotland undertook a strategic reform of the Commonwealth Secretariat to ensure the organisation transforms itself into a fit-for-purpose partner to help its member countries uphold the values of the Commonwealth Charter and realise the Sustainable Development Goals.

In addition to her accomplishments in her previous roles as a lawyer, Attorney General and Minister in various UK Government ministries, the award recognises the Secretary-General’s achievements in championing innovation for sustainable development through an array of Commonwealth-wide initiatives and programmes, as part of the reform process. These include:

  • Innovation Hub: An online platform that compiles innovative ideas from all across the Commonwealth, features thousands of Commonwealth publications and connects collaborators.
  • Meridian: A state-of-the-art software that helps 43 countries proactively manage their public and publicly guaranteed debt.
  • Trade Connectivity Dashboard: A online tool that maps trade links and potential connections among Commonwealth countries as well as regional trade hubs to boost intra-Commonwealth trade to $2 trillion by 2030.
  • Secretary-General’s Innovation Awards: An annual celebration that recognises innovators from Commonwealth countries who come up with forward-looking solutions to advance the values of the Commonwealth Charter.
  • AI Learning Platform: An online training course, developed in partnership with Intel, that enables public sector officials from the 56 Commonwealth countries to better understand emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI).
  • Consortium on bridging the digital divide: A consortium of global tech firms, start-ups and universities led by the Commonwealth Secretariat, that seeks to bridge the digital divide, with a focus on the Commonwealth’s 33 small states.
  • FinTech Toolkit: An innovative toolkit that helps countries unlock the potential of financial technology to deliver inclusive economic progress.
  • Digital upskilling of young people: A partnership with Simplilearn that is training tens of thousands of young learners in digital economy skills, equipping them with the knowledge and confidence they need to thrive in the digital age.
  • CommonSensing: A project, managed by a consortium of partners, including the Commonwealth Secretariat, that supports Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu with access to vital satellite-based data on disaster risks to inform planning, manage food security and unlock climate finance.  
  • Commonwealth Says NO MORE portal: A first-of-its-kind online portal, which offers free to access tools and resources to Commonwealth member countries to help them address domestic and sexual violence more effectively as well as provide urgent assistance to those in need.

The award ceremony was attended by more than 100 guests, including senior executives, thought leaders, policymakers, philanthropists, researchers and civil society representatives.

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