MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL

Tanzania 2018 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

TBY talks to Hon. Patricia Scotland, Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations, on the advantages of being a member of the Commonwealth, the need to celebrate diversity, and Tanzania's war against corruption.

Hon. Patricia Scotland
BIOGRAPHY
The Hon. Patricia Scotland was appointed as the first female and sixth Commonwealth Secretary-General in 2015. She assumed office on April 1, 2016. Born in Dominica, she moved to the UK as a child, and later trained as a lawyer. In 1991, she was the first black woman and the youngest woman, at 35, to be appointed a Queen’s Counsel. She joined the House of Lords in 1997 as Baroness Scotland of Asthal, serving later as a minister in the Foreign Office, Home Office, and Lord Chancellor’s Department. In 2007, she was appointed Attorney General, and became the first woman to hold the post since its creation in 1315.

What are the mutual benefits of Tanzania's involvement in the Commonwealth of Nations?

There are many ways the 52 member nations of the Commonwealth benefit across trade, law, the environment, and society in general. The historical ties and shared legal structures of Commonwealth members make it, on average, 19% cheaper for member countries to trade with each other. We pledged to work in closer partnership with the African Development Bank Group on areas such as climate change, natural disasters, equality and gender, rule of law, good governance, and youth unemployment. We agreed to develop and implement an outcomes-focused MoU on joint programs that will lead to real and tangible differences to the lives of Commonwealth citizens. In 2015, we deployed a Commonwealth Observer Group, headed by Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, former president of Nigeria, to observe the Tanzanian electoral process, and make recommendations for continuing to implement improvements in the delivery of free and fair elections. In addition, the Commonwealth Secretariat provides technical support to member countries with the aim of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and fair and equitable development for all. This includes assistance on trade, climate change, rule of law, and governance, among others.

How do you strike a balance between encouraging English for ease of doing business and championing national languages for nationwide civic inclusivity?

We celebrate diversity across the Commonwealth, and, as a key part of this, a rich variety of languages and dialects should be embraced. However, we should not forget that English is the most widely spoken language across the Commonwealth, and this is reflected in the many model laws, publications, and reports that the Secretariat publishes. A common language can only help the Commonwealth become more inclusive for the common good and enable countries to share best practices. The common language spoken across the Commonwealth also contributes to the "Commonwealth advantage," which is the benefit that results from similarities in language, law, and institutions when trade occurs between member countries.

Given that the Commonwealth of Nations is actively involved in advising its members on stable and fair trade deals, what is your assessment of the ongoing discussions regarding the EAC-EU EPA?

The Commonwealth is built on the twin pillars of democracy and development. Trade is an important area, in which we constantly work with our members to advance their development. We do this through supporting them to have the appropriate policy and legal frameworks, such as national trade policies and export strategies; supporting them on trade facilitation; and concluding trade agreements with partners. What is most important is that Tanzania and its partners in East Africa are able to come to a consensus on what is best for them as countries and as a region. The EAC is an important regional integration entity that makes advances in several areas. The region has always shown itself able to rise to challenges, and, because of this, will be able to forge consensus and come to a position that takes into account the concerns of all its members.

Compared to other member states, how do you evaluate the progress made so far by the Tanzanian government to reduce bureaucracy and crack down on corruption?

The Secretariat's public sector governance work assists in the strengthening of anti-corruption agencies of developing member countries in the Commonwealth in order to tackle the problem more effectively and help achieve SDG 16. The annual Heads of Anti-Corruption Agencies' meeting acts as a focal point for peer review of country anti-corruption reports, and shared transferable experiences and lessons. In this, Tanzania is a founding member; it also has a comprehensive body of laws, regulations, and oversight agencies designed to prevent, investigate, and sanction corrupt practices. The legislation deals with corrupt activities at all levels. Since assuming office in November, President Magufuli has been rebuilding trust with Western organizations by cracking down on corruption.