Marlborough HouseA recent discussion convened by the Royal Commonwealth Society at the Cypriot High Commission, ‘A View to CHOGM’ drew attention to CHOGM and the election of a new Commonwealth Secretary-General this November. It highlighted the need and desire amongst the Commonwealth community to establish a clear set of qualities that a new Secretary-General should possess in order to lead a contemporary Commonwealth.

It is the responsibility of the Heads of the Member States to both nominate and appoint a new Secretary-General. It is surprising therefore that an official job specification has not been put together. Indeed it is interesting that no significant discussion has taken place amongst the member governments and Heads of State as to the appointment, given the enormous influence the appointment will have on the future direction of the Commonwealth.

There is a general consensus that a new Secretary-General should be someone who is bold, energetic, diplomatic, able to lift the Commonwealth’s profile internationally and help the nations develop a shared vision. Critically, it should be someone who is fully committed to promoting the values ingrained within the Commonwealth Charter.  Furthermore, by using the contemporary and historical strengths of the Commonwealth, it should be someone who can achieve a sense of ‘common-wealth' and 'family' amongst a broad diversity of nations experiencing their own circumstances, distractions and challenges at different times.

Currently there are four declared candidates:

Mmasekgoa Masire Mwambawho, who was until May 2014 Deputy Secretary General (Political) at the Commonwealth Secretariat. She has been nominated for the post by Botswana and is currently the only candidate nominated by any of the African bloc of nations. Sir Ronald Sanders, a scholar, writer, advocate for the Commonwealth, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and member of the International Advisory Board of The Round Table; he was until early 2015, High Commissioner to the UK for Antigua and Barbuda and has since been nominated by that government.

Baroness Scotland, life peer in the House of Lords. She has held numerous ministerial positions within the UK government, most notably being the first female to hold the position of Attorney General for England and Wales (2007-2010). She has been nominated by Dominica for the position.

The fourth candidate is Senator Bhoe Tewarie, an academic and politician. He is currently Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development for Trinidad and Tobago and has been nominated by the Republic. He is one of three Caribbean candidates and perhaps the least well-known internationally.

Interestingly, CARICOM, held at the beginning of this month, failed to arrive at a consensus on a single Caribbean candidate. This lack of agreement whilst creating debate and encouraging the candidates to actively engage with the member states and present a clear vision for the future of the Commonwealth, could potentially present a problem for the region if not resolved by CHOGM. For the Caribbean, such a selection of candidates offers them an opportunity to offer the best qualified candidate capable of leading and reinvigorating the Commonwealth.

With four months to go to the Heads of Government meeting and with no established process for identifying and recruiting potential candidates, it is unlikely that new nominations will emerge' .