Sport is set to play a starring role in Australia from next week, with a major Commonwealth ministerial conference taking place the day before the 21st Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast.

The Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, will chair the ministerial meeting before attending the opening of the Games.  She will also participate in Gold Coast’s Trade 2018 initiative and the Women of the World festival in Brisbane.

The 9th Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting will be held in Gold Coast on 3 April.  Governments will focus on collective action to measure the contribution of sport to development objectives in areas such as health, education, economic improvement and community.

In addition, ministers are expected to discuss how to improve links between government and sporting organisations. They will also consider ways to embed a rights-based approach in government sport policy, for example ensuring sport is free from abuse and discrimination, and tackle sport integrity threats such as doping and match-fixing.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said, “The Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting further demonstrates our work in harnessing the role of sport as a development tool, supported by strengthened governance, sport integrity and the protection of human rights in sport, towards more inclusive and sustainable development.

“Sport is a valuable asset, making an important contribution to strengthening the economic, social and cultural bonds of our growing Commonwealth family. The reach and impact of the Commonwealth Games exemplifies this.”

The launch of the Commonwealth Games will see athletes from 71 countries take part in 275 events during the course of the competition, which runs from 4 – 15 April.   For the first time, there will be an equal number of events for women as men.

In addition to the ministerial meeting and Games, the Commonwealth is also supporting a ‘pop up Commonwealth House’ initiative led by the governments of Queensland and Gold Coast. Commonwealth House will host business events to promote investment opportunities and establish international partnerships with the aim of developing new supply chains across the 53 member countries.

The venue will also play host to the third annual Commonwealth Debate on Sport and Sustainable Development on 6 April 2018. The debate will feature panellists including St Lucia’s Minister of Culture and Local Government Fortuna Belrose and two-time ju-jitsu world champion Shantelle Thompson.

The Commonwealth’s Head of Sport for Development and Peace, Oliver Dudfield, said, “The Commonwealth debate has become a leading global policy discussion on the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.

“This year, the debate topic is ‘Sport pays for itself in the Commonwealth” and will consider how the return from investing in sport can be enjoyed by more people and more communities across the Commonwealth.”

While in Gold Coast, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland will also deliver the concluding speech at gold coast’s ‘Trade 2018’ initiative, which will include a preview of the trade research that will be presented at next month’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London. The ‘2018 Commonwealth Trade Review’ magazine will also be launched at the event.

Following her visit to the Games, the Secretary-General will attend the ‘Women of the World’ (WOW) festival in Brisbane. The festival, which runs from 6 – 8 April, will focus on the achievements and challenges of women and girls in the Commonwealth.