Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Don McKinnon

Rt Hon Donald Charles McKinnon (born February 27, 1939) is a former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand. He is now the current Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.

Early life

McKinnon was born in London, but to New Zealand parents. He was educated in Nelson, New Zealand and in Washington, D.C before eventually undertaking study at Lincoln University, New Zealand. After leaving university, he became a farm manager, and later a farm management consultant. In 1974, he became a real estate agent. In his spare time, he also worked as a rehabilitation tutor in prisons.

New Zealand politics

In the elections of 1969 and 1972, McKinnon stood unsuccessfully as the National Party's candidate in the Birkenhead electorate, having previously served on two of the party's electorate committees. In the election of 1978, McKinnon won the newly established seat of Albany, which covered much of the same area.

In 1980, McKinnon was made the government's junior Whip. Two years later, he was made senior Whip. When Prime Minister Robert Muldoon called the snap election of 1984, and was defeated by David Lange's New Zealand Labour Party, McKinnon remained senior Whip for his party in Opposition. In September 1987, he became deputy leader of the National Party.

When National, now led by Jim Bolger, won the 1990 elections, McKinnon became Deputy Prime Minister. He also became Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Minister of Pacific Island Affairs. During his tenure in this latter role, he oversaw New Zealand's election to the UN Security Council, increased activity in the Commonwealth of Nations, and attempts to broker a truce on the island of Bougainville. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as a result of the Bougainville negotiations.

In 1996, the National Party required the support of the New Zealand First Party to form a government, and part of the coalition agreement gave the office of Deputy Prime Minister to New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. McKinnon kept his role as Minister of Foreign Affairs, however, and also became Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control. When the coalition with New Zealand First collapsed, McKinnon did not resume the Deputy Prime Minister's role (this being taken up by Wyatt Creech), although he did gain the minor responsibility of Minister in Charge of War Pensions. McKinnon retired from parliament at the 1999 elections.

Secretary-General of the Commonwealth

During his time as New Zealand's Minister of Foreign Affairs, McKinnon had been highly involved with the Commonwealth. At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Durban in November 1999, he was elected to the office of Secretary General. Since that time, he has had to deal with issues such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and George Speight's attempted nationalist coup in Fiji. McKinnon has also placed an emphasis on supporting "good governance".

In late 2003, New Zealand media reported that Zimbabwe was attempting to gather support from other Commonwealth members to remove McKinnon from the office of Secretary-General, presumably in retaliation for McKinnon's views about the issue of Zimbabwean democracy. The government of Zimbabwe denied that it was making any such efforts.

At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting opening in Nigeria on December 5, McKinnon was challenged for the position of Secretary-General by Lakshman Kadirgamar, a former Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka. However, McKinnon defeated Kadirgamar in a vote reported to be 40-11 in McKinnon's favour. McKinnon will therefore serve a second term.

Preceded by:
Chief Emeka Anyaoku
Commonwealth Secretaries-General Succeeded by:

External links