Marlborough HouseA recent meeting convened by the Royal Commonwealth Society drew attention to an important, but largely unrecognised, Commonwealth event. In November, as part of a broader agenda, the Heads of Member States will consider candidates to succeed HE Kamalesh Sharma as Secretary General. It is surprising that whilst this succession is widely discussed amongst the London-based diplomatic community, there is barely a ripple of interest in the capitals and centres of government around the Commonwealth, and yet it is the Heads of Government who bear the responsibility for the appointment. An obvious consequence of the low profile surrounding the appointment and the associated process is that only a small number of candidates have to date declared an interest.

It seems to be a broadly held view that the Commonwealth would benefit from the appointment of a particularly energetic and visionary leader with an appetite for change to take on the baton from the predecessor. It also seems to be the case that this person needs to be someone with international profile as well as the ability to achieve cohesion within the organisation. Interestingly, the notion of global relevance and influence feature prominently in the Commonwealth Charter and this quality must surely feature in the criteria for the appointment.

Consultation by the Royal Commonwealth Society has revealed that many feel Heads of Government should make a specification for the appointment, and that a proactive search to enrich the field should be undertaken, perhaps led by a working party convened for the purpose. In any event, we will, in the months leading up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, report on progress and offer a platform for candidates to present their vision and intentions for the office. In an interesting parallel, the election of the President of the Commonwealth Games Federation has become established as a model for the power of sport to enrich the lives of citizens, for affordability and for offering host cities the opportunity for popular development as a long-term investment. Many observers feel that the Games, in addition to being a periodic celebration of high-level sport and fraternity, offer an opportunity for sport to take a more proactive role in the broader development of Commonwealth enterprise and values. Clearly, the incumbent President will play a key role in encouraging this theme and we will be interested to see who takes the Chair.

The Royal Commonwealth Society would welcome your thoughts on these forthcoming appointments.

Photo credit: Charlie Dave