What you need to know about Kenya’s bid for Commonwealth Secretary General

By Philip Githiora
On 1 December 2021 at 11:45

A family of 54 nations brought together by a shared heritage and values that define our collective ambitions, the Commonwealth was founded in 1949 and is arguably one of the most dynamic organizations in the world. It represents almost one-third of the world’s population. The diverse political, economic and social fortunes in the Commonwealth’s membership present both opportunities and challenges. Mitigating the challenges and harnessing the opportunities is key in delivering on the organization’s immense potential.

The Commonwealth has played an important role in providing linkages and boosting trade within Member States. In its Charter, the Commonwealth acknowledges the uncertainty and changing dynamics of global trade and commerce. It is also alive to the essence of connectivity across regions and amongst factors of production as a driver of economic prosperity.

In line with this, the Commonwealth has identified five key areas of connectivity to drive this agenda namely; digital, physical, regulatory, supply side and business to business connectivity. It is estimated that by the year 2030, intra-Commonwealth trade will amount to USD 2 trillion. In this regard, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) launched the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda for Trade and Investment in 2018.

The ever-evolving threats to peace and security, the urgency to address climate change and to press for realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are also at the top of the Commonwealth agenda. About 32 Member States of the Commonwealth are Small Island Nations to which climate change is an existential threat.
The challenges facing the Commonwealth call for solutions both immediate and anticipatory, to ensure today’s challenges are met while future threats are identified in time and strategies put in place to mitigate them. In this regard, the Commonwealth needs at its helm a dynamic and agile Secretary General to address the technical issues and leadership needs of the Commonwealth, all anchored on consensus.

Election of the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, who also serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the organization takes place during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, CHOGM 2021 which was to take place in Kigali, Rwanda was postponed.

The COVID-19 pandemic which continues to unsettle the world, is also compounding other pressures the world is facing from the adverse effects of climate change, violent conflict, terrorism, economic disruptions, the quest to realize the SDGs and high-stake geostrategic competitions. Majority of these pressures already impact the Commonwealth family, directly and indirectly.
Kenya has been a steadfast member of the Commonwealth since independence in 1963. Kenya believes in the strength of the Commonwealth to address current challenges facing Member States as well as on its ability to forge ahead and shape the solutions based on emerging trends and the forecast on salient issues. Implementation of decisions based on the common aspirations of Member States and optimally delivering on the needs of its Member States (both present and future) remain central yardsticks of measuring the success and relevance of the Commonwealth.

Kenya remains committed to multilateralism and ensuring that the Commonwealth realizes its immense potential for all its people. To this end, Kenya believes that the leadership of the Commonwealth Secretariat is crucial in delivering on the goals, priorities and aspirations of its Member States and has proffered the candidature of Amb. Dr Monica Juma for this role.

The choice of the candidate by Kenya is informed by the conviction that Dr. Juma’s visionary, transformative, agile and consensus-building approach speaks to the needs of the Commonwealth. Kenya also seeks to bring on board Dr. Juma’s vast diplomatic experience and expertise in key technical issues that also resonate with the core mandate and business of the Commonwealth.

Dr. Juma has served with distinction within the international and national civil service where she served as a distinguished Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Principal Secretary and Cabinet Secretary (Minister) in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence and currently the Ministry of Energy. Through her visionary leadership, Dr. Juma has steered a transformative agenda in the Ministries she has led. Dr. Juma is also a researcher and an academic. She has a track-record of excellence in strategic management, policy-making and analysis in international affairs, development, peace, security, governance and humanitarian affairs.

In the face of socio-economic and political effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the quest for recovery, climate change challenges and the opportunities within the blue economy, emerging peace and security threats and the question of leveraging on the youth dividend around the world and specifically within the Commonwealth, it is imperative that the Commonwealth has a leadership that technically and institutionally addresses these pressing demands. And this fundamental duality is what Dr. Juma brings on board.
While the principality of these competencies cannot be overemphasized, Dr. Juma has underscored her clarion call to build consensus among Member States, which she notes as critical in addressing existing gaps, emerging challenges and harnessing available opportunities within the Commonwealth family.

Her rich diplomatic background, coupled with strong negotiation and advocacy skills on multilateralism will ensure a global perspective in addressing issues and in nurturing inclusivity in decision-making. Dr. Juma served as Ambassador Extra-Ordinary and Plenipotentiary of Kenya to Ethiopia and Djibouti, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the African Union (AU), the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) between 2010 and 2013.

In the pursuit of a more equal world, a world that addresses pressing issues urgently, a world that seeks to thrive on consensus-building and a world that embraces innovation to find solutions, there is no doubt that Dr. Monica Juma is fit-for-purpose to be the next Secretary General of the Commonwealth.

Dr. Monica Juma (Oxon) is Kenya’s candidate for the position of Secretary General of the Commonwealth.