The Government of Jamaica nominated Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade for the post of Secretary General of the Commonwealth. A decision on appointment to that leadership position will be made collectively by Heads of State and Government at their meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda in the week of 20th June 2022.
The nomination was put forward in a context where a change of leadership was clearly deemed desirable by Member States across regions. In fact, over time, two Member States (Kenya and Tuvalu) announced candidatures for the post of Secretary-General, signalling the pursuit of change by two regions (Africa and the Pacific). Kenya’s candidature was recently withdrawn, with an expressed hope that another candidate would come forward.
Jamaica’s final decision to put forward the candidature of its Foreign Minister, Senator Johnson Smith was made in this context, and on the strength of the Government’s confidence that she has the full range of competencies to effectively lead the Commonwealth agenda, at this time.
In recent weeks, Minister Johnson Smith has engaged with high-level leadership across five Commonwealth regions. She has been greatly encouraged by quiet and public expressions of support, as well as discussions, not only on the priorities of the family of Commonwealth nations but also the confidence, demonstrated in her readiness to lead this unique association of states in a visionary, innovative, transparent and accountable manner.
In the process of wide engagement across the Commonwealth, several countries have asked about the existence of two CARICOM candidates, as well as a new narrative regarding there being “no vacancy” in the office. We, therefore, consider it important to underscore the following:
- The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC) of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) aspires toward coordination of foreign policy, including candidatures for positions in external forums, as far as practicable. It does not mandate harmonization and acknowledges, therefore, the sovereign decisions of member states. Jamaica’s decision was made not only within the latitude in the CARICOM treaty but more importantly, by virtue of its conviction that the leadership being offered would be in the interest of the Commonwealth.
- CARICOM Heads and Foreign Ministers have had several discussions on the bid of the incumbent, Baroness Patricia Scotland to remain in office for a second term. Although the most recent Communique of Heads reflected the language of ‘overwhelming’ support for Baroness Scotland, she was the sole candidate at that time, but even then, her bid for re-appointment for a second term of four years was not collectively endorsed. In fact, it has never been endorsed, as there was never consensus. The absence of unanimity is beyond contention.
- In a context where the CHOGM initially scheduled for June 2020 was postponed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a CARICOM country put forward a written request for the immediate re-appointment of the incumbent for a second term of office when her initial contract was at an end. The Commonwealth Chairman-in-Office, Prime Minister of the UK, consulted all Member States on that proposal and reported in writing that a significant and diverse number of states rejected the proposal.
- In further consultation with all Member States, Baroness Scotland was ultimately offered an extension of her existing contract, until such time as the next CHOGM could be convened in Kigali when a decision would be made about the appointment of a Secretary-General for the ensuing 4-year term of office.
- Baroness Scotland accepted the terms of that offer of an extension of her first contract, in writing, also acknowledging that a decision on the next term of office would be decided at the time when Member States can meet face to face. The period of extension accepted by the Secretary-General clearly did not constitute appointment for a second term of office, which was already rejected by Heads.
- The dates for the CHOGM to be convened in Kigali are now firmly set. Accordingly, the incumbent’s extended term of office will expire at the end of that Summit. In her capacity as the Dominican candidate, she remains eligible for consideration by Heads, as do the candidates from Tuvalu and Jamaica.
The Government of Jamaica continues to stand behind its submission of Jamaica’s candidature for the consideration of Commonwealth Heads in Kigali, where they will make their decision on the next 4-year term. Senator Johnson Smith will continue to engage in a dignified campaign process, with full respect for other candidates and the views of Member States.