CHOGM - Good Luck "Deputy Don"
New Zealand Foreign Minister Don McKinnon - and former Deputy Prime Minister under Jim Bolger - is expected to be named later today as the new Secretary-General at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit meeting in Durban, South Africa. John Howard reports.
Commonwealth heads of government are gathering to name a replacement secretary-general for Emeka Anyaoku of Nigeria who ends his term at this summit. McKinnon is expected to be named as his successor.
The fifty-three leaders, four-day summit, will also focus on Pakistan's political upheaval, globalisation and debt relief for the world's poorest countries. Ironically, much the same agenda as the Socialist International conference which ended in Paris on Wednesday.
Queen Elizabeth II, as the organisation's head, will open the summit amid worries that Asian countries will now see Australia as less aligned to them because of the recent referendum result to stay with the Monarchy instead of a Republic.
Pakistan's suspension from the organisation last month is likely to dominate the summit, which will hear a report from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) on its recent mission to that country.
CMAG - the organisation's democracy watchdog - suspended the government of Pakistani military ruler, General Perevez Musharraf on October 18, days after he overthrew prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a coup.
Despite its suspension from all meetings of the Commonwealth, Pakistan's flag will still fly at the Durban summit, according to a spokesman for the organisation.
However, India is expected to press for formal, permanent suspension of its Asian rival. India will demand the implementation of the 1995 "Melbrook Principle" which seeks suspension of a country for the unconstitutional overthrow of a democratically elected government, a senior government official said.
The Commonwealth is expected to shrug aside charges that it is nothing more than a paper tiger which can do little to defend democracy, pointing to a report commissioned by its secretariat from an independent London think-tank which urges tougher measures against states with dubious democratic credentials.
The report of the Foreign Policy Centre, which will be discussed at the summit, cites Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya and Sri Lanka as examples of such states.
The report said the Commonwealth should establish an "at risk" register to protect weak democracies and ensure members take action on issues like fair elections in Zambia, free association in Zimbabwe, minority rights in Kenya and press freedom in Sri Lanka.
In contrast to Pakistan, Nigeria is likely to be feted on its return to the fold following the lifting last May of its suspension which lasted four years. Nigeria was readmitted to the Commonwealth when the country returned to democracy after 15 years of military rule.
Scoop readers will recall the populous west African state had been suspended after its former military government executed minority rights activist and writer Ken Saro-Wira and eight colleagues on November 10, 1995, during the summit meeting in New Zealand.
Among other matters on the agenda are discussions for developing countries' demands for improved access to first world markets through the World Trade Organisation which meets at the end of the month in Seattle for a summit that will be used to launch a new round of world trade talks.
In all likelihood our Don McKinnon will be elected new Secretary-General but he will have to march to the beat of a much different drum in his future leadership role.
From all at Scoop, good-luck, "Deputy Don."