What you need to know:
- The distinguished diplomat is the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, a role she recently took up after heading the Defence as well as Foreign Affairs dockets.
- This impactful public servant has also served as a principal secretary, lecturer and researcher.
The Commonwealth is home to 2.4 billion people spread across 54 nations of varying political, economic and social fortunes whose members work together to promote peace, democracy and prosperity. Another of its key objectives is to amplify the voice of small states, protect the environment and tackle emergent global challenges, such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
In its charter, the Commonwealth recognises the uncertainty and changing dynamics of global trade and commerce and unprecedented threats to peace and security. The organisation of voluntary members seeks to position itself as a compelling force to galvanise members around an agenda for a shared prosperity, democracy and human rights.
To this noble agenda, one might add the urgent need to address climate change and look at governance structures within international organisations with a view to making them climate-responsive. Most of the 32 small countries in the Commonwealth are island nations, to whom climate change is an existential threat.
Before looking outward to organisations like the UN Security Council, for climate-alignment, the Commonwealth must be more engaged in this life-and-death matter. These are often contested and delicate matters that require nations to talk to one another rather than at each other.
This is the canvas on which the next secretary-general of the Commonwealth will be weaving the answers to these vexing issues as he or she seeks consensus among members around sustainable solutions. The SG will also be looking to work with the academia and scientists on strategies to mine data and deploy machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to procure answers to some of these delicate issues.
Without a doubt, this is the ideal setting for Kenya to present a candidate for the post. Little wonder then that President Uhuru Kenya put forward the name of Dr Monica Juma. The distinguished diplomat is the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, a role she recently took up after heading the Defence as well as Foreign Affairs dockets. This impactful public servant has also served as a principal secretary, lecturer and researcher.
Recalibrate the Commonwealth
I do not wish to dwell on my colleague’s outstanding credentials; that is a matter of public record. Representation of Africa in international organisations that have the potential to impact lives on the continent and other developing nations is where she comes in.
Few developing countries have experienced the full impact of threats to peace and security in neighbouring states the way Kenya has and Dr Juma, as a former Defence CS, understands the dynamics at play. Kenya presents a candidate who shall bring practical solutions to the discussion table. She will deploy her best in terms of diplomacy and intellect to bring positive change to the organisation. A consensus builder, she is firm yet diplomatic and a public servant who leads with integrity.
Known to build consensus around complex issues, a skill she demonstrated when she served as Ambassador Extra-Ordinary and Plenipotentiary of Kenya to Ethiopia and Djibouti, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the African Union, The inter-Governmental Authority on Development and the United Nations Commission for Africa (UNECA) between 2010 and 2013. Her strong advocacy skills on multilateralism in the context of uncertainties such as climate change and terrorism is a skill much needed in tackling the complex waves of change that continue to define international relations.
The two issues present the Commonwealth with the opportunity to lead the rest of the world; for that, it requires strategic but diplomatic leadership — like that of Dr Juma, a high achiever with a global perspective and a career and experience tailor-made to address the issues that confront the Commonwealth.
Kenya’s nominee has the ability to recalibrate the Commonwealth in a post-Covid world and rally member states around the urgency of all the issues that require countries to stand together as one. She is a great mentor and will be looking to engage young people and deploy their youthful energy in the pursuit of a more equal world and exploit the many opportunities presented by the internet, disruptive technologies, Big Data analytics and AI to solve today’s challenges.
The Commonwealth is, indeed, ready for a dynamic leader and Kenya has presented that candidate in Monica Juma.
Ms Karoney is the Cabinet Secretary for Lands. mailto:[email protected]