The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs has been charting what became the modern Commonwealth since 1910. During the lockdown summer of 2020, the current Journal Editor, Venkat Iyer, worked on a project to to look at the contemporary Commonwealth through the eyes of its former secretaries-general.

In this series, we will provide video interviews with four secretaries-general.

Journal Editor, Venkat Iyer writes:

One of the exciting projects that The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs decided to undertake during the enforced confinement induced by the Covid-19 related lockdown was to conduct a series of interviews with the four surviving former Secretaries-General of the Commonwealth, Sir Shridath (‘Sonny’) Ramphal (1975-1990), Chief Emeka Anyaoku (1990-2000), Sir Donald McKinnon (2000-2008) and Mr Kamalesh Sharma (2008-2016).  We saw this as, among other things, an exercise in public education about the history and evolution of the Commonwealth.  These venerable gentlemen, now ranging in age between 78 and 91, readily and graciously agreed to our request.  The interviews were arranged on Zoom, at fairly short notice, and were conducted by Rita Payne, the former Asia Editor, BBC World TV’, who is also a member of The Round Table’s editorial board, on 11 & 12 August 2020 from London.  The interviewees were based in their homes in Barbados, Nigeria, New Zealand and India respectively.

The initial idea for the interviews came from Nicholas Watts, one of the leading lights of the Independent Forum of Commonwealth Organisations (IFCO) during a conversation I was having with him about a month ago, and The Round Table therefore owes a debt of gratitude to him and to IFCO. 

I hope you will find these interviews both interesting and instructive.  We had to conduct them under some constraints, so if there are any technical or other deficiencies, please accept our apologies.  My colleagues and I are quite keen to receive feedback on our efforts, and I would encourage you to write to us after you have had a chance to view all the interviews. 

Round Table Web Editor, Debbie Ransome, writes: “This video interview with Chief Emeka Anyaoku looked at taking over from Shridath Ramphal, his attempts to give teeth to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), his relations with Nigeria, China’s role in Africa and the future of the Commonwealth in a post-COVID world. The videos are available on the Round Table’s YouTube channel which also includes previous Round Table events on video.”

Related videos:

Round Table interview with Sir Shridath Ramphal

Round Table interview with Don McKinnon

Round Table interview with Kamalesh Sharma