Commonwealth Chairperson-in-Office

Commonwealth Chairperson-in-Office
Chairperson-in-Office of the
Julia Gillard

since 28 October 2011
Term length 2 years
Inaugural holder Thabo Mbeki
Formation 12 November 1999

The Commonwealth Chairperson-in-Office (CIO) is the Chairperson-in-Office of the Commonwealth of Nations, and is one of the main leadership positions in the Commonwealth. It is held by the host chairperson of the previous Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), and is maintained until the next CHOGM.

The primary responsibility of the Chairperson-in-Office is to host the CHOGM, but their roles can be expanded. For example, after the 2002 CHOGM, the incumbent, previous, and next Chairpersons-in-Office formed a troika in an attempt to resolve the ongoing dispute over Zimbabwe's membership of the Commonwealth.[1]

The position was created after the 1999 CHOGM, with Thabo Mbeki becoming the first Chairperson-in-Office. However, Mbeki did very little to develop the position, leaving it virtually vacant until the next CHOGM, in 2002, when the troika was created.[1] Even after John Howard became Chairperson, the troika's first meeting was in London, in the presence of the Commonwealth Secretary-General, whose office drafted the troika's statement: leaving little role for the troika itself, but potentially increasing the power of the Secretary-General.[1] The third Chairperson, Olusegun Obasanjo, did more to revive the role of the position after taking over in 2003.[2]

Perhaps the most active Chairpersons have been the Prime Ministers of Trinidad and Tobago, Patrick Manning and Kamla Persad-Bissessar. For the first time, a single country produced two chairpersons for a single CHOGM, after Manning lost a snap general election he called more than two years before polls were due.

Since the assumption of the role at the 2009 CHOGM, representatives from Trinidad and Tobago, including the Prime Ministers, have attended Commonwealth meetings, including 2011 Commonwealth Day celebrations where Persad-Bissessar, the first female to chair the Commonwealth, gave the keynote address. Trinidad and Tobago is also slated to host the much anticipated Commonwealth Economic Forum in 2011.

As Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard succeeded Persad-Bissessar as the second female Chairman at the 2011 CHOGM.

List of Chairpersons-in-Office

Name Country Title CHOGM Start End
1st Thabo Mbeki  South Africa President 1999 12 November 1999 2 March 2002
2nd John Howard  Australia Prime Minister 2002 2 March 2002 5 December 2003
3rd Olusegun Obasanjo  Nigeria President 2003 5 December 2003 25 November 2005
4th Lawrence Gonzi  Malta Prime Minister 2005 25 November 2005 23 November 2007
5th Yoweri Museveni  Uganda President 2007 23 November 2007 27 November 2009
6th Patrick Manning[3]  Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister 2009 27 November 2009 25 May 2010[3]
7th Kamla Persad-Bissessar[4] None[4] 26 May 2010[4] 28 October 2011
8th Julia Gillard  Australia Prime Minister 2011 28 October 2011 Incumbent


  1. ^ a b c "The Commonwealth at and immediately after the Coolum CHOGM". The Round Table 91 (364): pp. 125–9. April 2002. doi:10.1080/00358530220144139. 
  2. ^ Ingram, Derek (January 2004). "Abuja Notebook". The Round Table 93 (373): pp. 7–10. doi:10.1080/0035853042000188157. 
  3. ^ a b Staff writer (28 May 2010). "Former Trinidad PM Manning resigns as political leader". CaribbeanNetNews. Retrieved 29 May 2010. "Trinidad and Tobago's former prime minister Patrick Manning has handed in his resignation as political leader of the People's National Movement (PNM), three days after being defeated at the polls." 
  4. ^ a b c Staff writer (29 May 2010). "Kamla now Commonwealth Chair". Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.,121594.html. Retrieved 29 May 2010. "The position she has inherited from former prime minister Patrick Manning following the nation’s hosting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in November, 2009. In a statement issued yesterday, the Royal Commonwealth Society congratulated Persad-Bissessar on her appointment as Prime Minister and also praised the conduct of her election campaign." 

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