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Global Issue 15

network Interview commonwealth Press Briefing at the conclusion of the 23rd meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the Harare Declaration, Marlborough House, London, 21-22 May 2004 were able to achieve a much higher status change,” he argues. “You don’t have to turn for small states within the World Bank. That an organisation upside down more than translated through to many other organisations once every ten years, but between those also prepared to see them differently.” major shake-ups you need to have constant He adds: “One of the greatest challenges smaller changes to ensure people are facing small states is the loss of good and qualified people. The developed states, being recipients, never felt much guilt about this, unfortunately.” On the Commonwealth Secretariat, how important was shaking up the organisation and its budgets? “Many changes had to take place, particularly getting a greater turnover of senior staff,” he replies. “When I arrived I never felt that there was much energy in the place and I was able to prove, after three years, that a constant renewal of senior staff brought in new enthusiasm, new ideas and innovation. That soon began to trickle down to other staff. Also, overall expenditure was running ahead of income by three to four per cent a year, accommodated working to their optimum. The issues with only by constant staff reductions. staff could not have been avoided, given That was totally unsustainable.” the magnitude of the changes ultimately But could some of the bruising clashes proposed and adopted. You can’t make an with staff have been avoided? “My experience, omelette without breaking eggs!” and not only in the Secretariat, tells McKinnon believes that strong leadership me that people do not readily embrace is critical to the success of the Commonwealth. 80 l www.global -br ief ing.org thi rd quar ter 2013 global “The role of Head of the Commonwealth is, and will always remain, not just titular. The mere presence of the Queen will always have a profound effect on those political participants at CHOGMs.” He is less sure about the Chair-in-Office. “It is still very immature. It is important that the Secretary-General ensures that the Chair knows exactly what his or her role should be.” But could member governments themselves do more? “In my experience, I found most Heads of Government ready to admit that they did not make the most of their Commonwealth membership,” he concedes. Finally, how does he see the future of the Commonwealth? He is upbeat. “It will remain important and useful as long as all its members are prepared to participate. It must remain relevant to the issues it addresses and to the solutions it proposes.” He finishes: “Whatever it does, it must have credibility in the eyes of Secretariat staff, member governments, Commonwealth taxpayers and international organisations. Though not necessarily in that order.” One of the greatest challenges facing small states is the loss of good and qualified people. The developed states, being recipients, never felt much guilt about this, unfortunately 


Global Issue 15
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