Feb 7, 2023

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JOHNSON-SMITH: I will take the Commonwealth agenda further as it evolves into a stronger entity

Jamaica’s Secretary of State, Kamina Johnson-Smith, a candidate for Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, spoke with Berna Namata of The EastAfrican.

Why do you think you are the best candidate for the post of Commonwealth Secretary-General?

The Commonwealth can do much more if than it has done so far. Now is an opportune time for the international community, with shared values ​​and goals, to evolve into a stronger entity for the economic and social development of its member states.

I bring extensive leadership experience and strong relationships with member states. I propose to adopt a visionary, innovative and transparent approach to work within a results-based framework.

I have successfully held leadership positions at both regional and international levels and have served as President of the OACPS Council of Ministers. Chair of CARIFORUM and CARICOM Council on Trade and Economic Development. Jamaica has also served as the ACP coordinator at the World Trade Organization since 2019. The coordination is managed by me and my team in Geneva. I was the first Jamaican foreign minister to be invited to G7 and G20 ministerial meetings.

What are your priorities for the Commonwealth when you Get a seat?

My vision for the Commonwealth is based on the concerns of the member countries. This includes promoting robust efforts towards the Sustainable Development Goals as part of the recovery from the pandemic. Strategic priorities include promoting gender equality and youth empowerment while increasing engagement on climate action, climate finance and resilience, and reinvesting in the Secretariat’s capacity to provide key technical assistance to Member States.


Critics say the Commonwealth is largely a forum for discussion and is outdated due to its British Empire origins. What reforms are needed to make the group effective and relevant?

The Commonwealth is diverse, encompassing countries in five regions of the world, each at different stages of development but above all united there are peoples who share a common desire for peace and prosperity and draw on their connectedness. My candidacy underscores the value and principles of the Commonwealth – as an opportunity for all member states, large and small, evolving and evolving, to play a leadership role in the common pursuit of their Sustainable Development Goals.

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What do you think of the Commonwealth’s work on issues such as the separation of powers, the rule of law and human rights?

< p>Since its inception, the Commonwealth has had human rights at its core Value and guiding principle made. The Commonwealth remains committed to equality and respect for the protection and promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development for all, without discrimination on any ground, as these are the foundations of peace, justice and stability Societies.

What needs to be done to strengthen Commonwealth oversight and oversight mechanisms such as the Ministerial Action Group?

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) was formed to assess breaches of values ​​and recommend action to restore democracy and constitutional order.

In my first days in office, after Based on the work done by CMAG, I hope to be able to play a more supportive role as a good office, particularly where the intersection of social and political issues impacts the development process se that are vital to the lives of the people of the Commonwealth.

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Some commentators say the Commonwealth has done nothing useful in the past decade did. How do you see this criticism?

Even if it was certainly less well known in the past, the fact that 54 states have joined together in one association speaks for itself. A unique entity is the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation, which provides targeted support in areas where the Commonwealth has a competitive advantage. Admittedly we need to generate reinvestment in the fund as it is one of the prime examples of effective Commonwealth cooperation.

With Brexit, there is speculation that the UK could turn the Commonwealth back into a trading bloc?

The Commonwealth offers the UK an opportunity to develop robust trading relationships with member countries. Together we can examine areas for possible partnerships. With the increase in countries ratifying the AfCFTA, there are other options.

You have visited several African countries. How can the Commonwealth encourage South-South cooperation?

During my visit to Africa, I met with representatives from eight member states. South-South cooperation promotes integration and synergies between developing and some emerging economies to mitigate difficulties. It offers countries opportunities to exchange best practices and forges trade, investment and financing links. We can use the Commonwealth to further these opportunities.



Kamina Johnson -Smith is an attorney and has been in private practice for 17 years, including 13 years with Cable & Wireless Jamaica.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the University of the West Indies and a Bachelors of Laws degree also from the University of the West Indies.

She completed postgraduate studies at Norman Manley Law School and obtained a Masters Law Degree in Commercial Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She speaks French as a foreign language.