Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland has arrived in Tongatapu, on her first visit to Tonga, leading a Commonwealth team to discuss future initiatives and key challenges in the region

In a bilateral meeting with the Tongan delegation, headed by the Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni, they discussed issues that are visible both in Tonga as well as other small island nations, including the effects of climate change, maritime security and national debts.

Scotland, said that one of the main challenges the Commonwealth is facing in the Pacific Island region is, mostly, climate change.

“All of our member-states are affected by climate change,” she said.

The impacts and damage caused by climate change has resulted in the Commonwealth’s most affected member countries becoming “hugely in debt”, including Tonga.

“Some, like Tonga, are now classified as ‘debt distressed’, this not because of any lack of care or attention by the countries, it is because of the devastating impact of climate change,” she said today.

However, she reiterated her confidence that the Commonwealth will do everything in their capability to support Tonga and other small island nations in the Pacific in recovering and dealing with these issues.

“It is our real honour and privilege to be able to be here to see all that you have done to recover. Everything we have is yours and we will do everything we possibly can to support you.”

Hu’akavameiliku said that although the weather today was not what he wished for her visit, “it’s important to show the Secretary-General some of the issues that we are facing in Tonga, like the rain and the flooding.”

Scotland said that the Commonwealth has launched an AI Academy for young people, and she encouraged them to take advantage of the free online resources.

“We have launched an AI Academy -with intel, we have put together some free training materials so you can train to understand how to use AI safely and well.”

The free courses are designed to help young people become stronger, better and more able to support themselves and their families.

“We will not allow any of our young people to be left behind,” she said.

While in Tongatapu, Commonwealth Secretary General went on an island tour of areas affected by the volcanic eruption including, ‘Atata and Niutoua.

On Monday, 01 April she will travel to Vava’u before returning to Tongatapu on Tuesday to meet with the Civil Society and Youth groups.

The Commonwealth delegation is scheduled to depart Tonga on Wednesday 03 April.

Before Tonga, they made an official visits to Samoa, where she met with Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa to discuss the preparations for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled for this October in Apia.