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 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.”
“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 the Innovation Hub, Meridian debt management software, Trade Connectivity Dashboard, Innovation Awards, FinTech Toolkit and AI Learning Platform.
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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