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Strengthening Scotland’s connections with the Commonwealth

Humza Yousaf, Minister for Europe and International Development

Minister for Europe and International Development Humza Yousaf writes about Commonwealth Week.

This week events are taking place across Scotland to celebrate Commonwealth Week and the legacy of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Through hosting the best games ever last year, Scotland strengthened its connections with the Commonwealth and enhanced Scotland’s reputation as a vibrant, welcoming and culturally-rich nation.

On Monday I attended at the Commonwealth Day Observance service at Westminster Abbey where I listened to inspirational speakers, such as Nobel Peace Prize winner, Kailash Satyathi, and the Queen’s Young Leaders winner, PJ Cole, talk of their work to improve the lives of others.

Yesterday, through a Scottish Parliament debate to mark Commonwealth Week, we reflected on how people in Scotland are working with individuals and organisations in Commonwealth nations to change lives and increase life chances. Contributions ranged from women’s rights to the fact we have such a young Commonwealth.

Before the debate, the First Minister and I met with UNICEF Youth Ambassador Monica Dzonzi – an inspirational woman who is doing excellent work to transform lives through sport at the Bangwe Youth Centre in Blantyre City, Malawi.

The meeting took place ahead of a reception to celebrate the opening of UNICEF’s new Scottish operations. Having last met Monica during the Games, it was great to see her again and learn more about how UNICEF’s role as a Commonwealth Games partner has led to them established a permanent base in Edinburgh.

UNICEF do incredible work, in over 190 counties internationally, to transform the lives of children. In 2013, through the International Inspiration project, the charity provided better sport, PE and play for over 15 million children in 20 countries. UNICEF also provided emergency relief for children in 18 countries, and 185,000 sets of winter clothing and 1 million blankets for the children of Syria. 

We all remember UNICEF’s appeal to spectators, athletes and one billion TV viewers to ‘Put Children First’ at the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. The appeal allowed people to text in £5 million of donations for the charity, which has since supported projects across the Commonwealth, helping to create a real international Games legacy.

Commonwealth values of humanity, equality and destiny are universal and cherished in Scotland. As we celebrate Commonwealth Games Legacy Week, it’s important that we continue to build on Scotland’s international profile and reputation and work together with our friends across the Commonwealth to secure a better, more prosperous and peaceful future for all our people.