World Kindness Day
(13 November 2020)

Message from The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, Secretary General of the Commonwealth

I want to thank you for inviting me to speak today to mark world kindness day.

Given the current instability in the world it would seem to me that this day, and kindness more generally, is more important than ever.

It is too easy at times such as these, where we are bombarded with difficulty and challenge, to see only trouble at every point, disunity and conflict wherever you look.

To see darkness and not the light. However, even a tiny candle with only one flame has the capacity to extinguish the darkness.

The flame for us today, in this most troubling of troubled times, is kindness. It is the balm which has made the unbearable bearable.

If there is one fundamental truth we have learnt as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is just how interconnected and dependent our lives, and the wellbeing of our communities and indeed our nations, are.

In a way, we could never have envisioned just a few decades ago we have become a truly and an ever more globalised world.

Like woven thread, we are knit together across the whole surface of this world through the bonds of culture, commerce, trade and migration.

The threads of this global network are based upon technology and transport yes, but also upon relationship, faith, shared heritage and understanding.

And while too often in our past we have seen these things rent apart from each other by conflict and war, I am also keenly aware as the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, that the human spirit, while often fallible also contains a drive within it to connect, to build relationship, to understand others and to heal.

That is what I find unique about my position and my organisation, that despite many differences in the past we, the Commonwealth, have as a body of 54 member states, representing 2.5 billion people, sixty per cent of whom are under the age of thirty, made a decision to stand for something greater than the sum of our parts.

We have decided to be woven together in a relationship and common purpose for the benefit of us all.

Not brittle relationships based on only rules and doctrines, that tear and come apart under pressure, but deep, living relationships that are based upon friendship and common endeavour.

Here is something that you may well already know. Many types of cloth can often be stronger when they are wet than when dry. This is especially true of cotton that most universal of fabrics.

You’ve asked me to speak today to mark kindness day. Well I would suggest that yes, the woven fabric of our relationships have grown and flourished over the past years and decades becoming ever more elaborate and intertwined ever more beautiful to see.

But what keeps our relationships, our friendships from getting dry and brittle, breakable and easy to tear is the that most fundamental attribute of kindness.

Kindness is a type of grace, that moves among us, that soaks through relationships, seeps into the corners of our lives, in a way which often cannot be explained, and strengthens it.

Because kindness is not only a strength but something that builds and strengthens.

It soaks through relationships like water in cotton and makes them stronger and more able to bear the weight and strains of life.

And what is true in the small relationships and friendships of our lives, based on kindness and compassion for each other, is also true of the big institutions and organisations of this world.

Yes we need rules, the Commonwealth is fundamentally committed to a global rules based order. But if we only rely on rules, on dogma, it makes for a brittle system, prone to breaking.

Small kindnesses are the glue that binds all that is best in our society together. It is why, within the Commonwealth, when needed, it is normal for countries to share resources, such as intellectual property, best practice or financial assistance.

Not because we have rules that dictate this, but because we are a family of nations, built on understanding and kindness, rather than ideas of competition or Darwinian fantasies.

And that is what is so wonderful about the SDG Choupal and the other organisations represented here today.

SDG Choupal have taken their principles and worked to engage people over every background in the SDG Agenda, an agenda we at the Commonwealth are equally committed to.

Their initiative seeks to empower and inspire people across the communities to enable achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

All of the organisations here have made the decision to act upon these principles, and in the spirit of kindness, serve your communities. Listening to people, talking with people, involving people.

Acting in kindness. Because Rules, justice and order are of course important, but the glue that binds a society together, the water that strengthens the cloth is kindness, compassion and grace. I’m reminded of a quote from the American public thinker Cornel West.

He said “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” I would maybe add that kindness is what service looks like in public and in private, in the everyday and the mundane.

It is the continued daily commitment to pour water on the fabric of our relationships, to keep them strong and vibrant.

So I want to thank you and commend you all for the work that you do. To urge you to continue in your commitment to kindness, compassion and relationship.

And remind you that kindness is not an abstract idea or a display weakness, but a demonstration of our commitment to each other, to our relationships and to a better more vibrant and more sustainable world.

It is our strength. Thank you.