The announcement by the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly earlier this month, that it has launched the recruitment process for the next secretary-general of the United Nations, is consistent with the recruitment and other practices of an organization with a long-standing history of transparent and established procedures. By contrast, the impending and imminent end of tenure of the Secretary General of the Caribbean Community remains a well-kept secret, unknown to the Caribbean national whose tax dollars keep the Caribbean Community Secretariat in business.
Given the decision of the Conference of Heads of Government, that the Secretary General of the Caribbean Community should be appointed for no more than two terms, ending in July 2021, and against a background where the recruitment process has been known to take up to a year, it would seem somewhat odd that the appointment of a new Secretary General was not included on the agenda of one of at least four meetings of the Conference of Heads of Government held between July and December 2020. Even more odd is the fact that, with just five months before the current Secretary General is expected to demit office, the inclusion of the item on the Agenda of the upcoming meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government appeared to have been prompted only by the lobby of a handful of the Community’s member states.
With just five months to go before the end of tenure of the Secretary General, the appointment of a new Secretary General cannot be business as usual. When the matter comes up for discussion at the Meeting of the Conference later this week therefore, the Conference should not feel constrained by previous inordinately long procedures which are ad hoc at best, and are not binding, but should employ the degree of pragmatism required to give the Caribbean Community Secretariat the fresh start which it deserves.
An issue of primary importance where the appointment of a new Secretary General is concerned, is the management of the Secretariat over the last few years, which has been indifferent at best. The facts need not be elaborated in detail, suffice it to say that the staff of the Secretariat has been demotivated by a leadership that is unappreciative of their value, is personal and vindictive. In 2019, for example, after 12 years without a salary increase, the staff of the Secretariat, following a peaceful demonstration and through their own initiative succeeded in making representation to the Community Council for short-term relief in the form of a half month’s salary. Having failed in his efforts to prevent the Community Council from hearing the Staff, the Secretary General, following the Community Council’s kind approval of the request, issued a Memorandum to staff in terms which reflected his annoyance and suggesting that what was a one off payment does not create a precedent for future payments.
The issuing of such a message to staff that they had no right to future relief was not only a slap in the face of every staff member, but a perfect example of a leadership which was entirely out of touch with a staff which has long disengaged.
That however is just a tip of the iceberg. The Secretariat’s Change Management programme has ebbed and flowed for a period of six years at great cost to the Region’s taxpayers with little to show for it. To have embarked on such an important initiative with a change team which lacked the requisite experience was always going to be a recipe for the disaster that it inevitably became, millions of dollars later. Some members of staff of the Change Office have now been gifted with contracts which extend well beyond the projected life of the Change Office in the expectation that they will assume permanent offices within the Secretariat, while the contracts of technical staff are being terminated – a clear conflict of interest.
The state of the Caribbean Community Secretariat is a relevant and pertinent consideration in any deliberation of the appointment of a new Secretary General. The advances made by the Community during the relevant period must also be given due consideration. At the end of the day however, the last ten years has not witnessed any remarkable achievements where the advancement of the Community is concerned and the management of the Secretariat has been ordinary.
The Conference is urged to appoint a new Secretary General in the shortest possible time.