Serving the Commonwealth in diplomacy and development:

Carolyn McMaster (Commonwealth Scholar from Canada, MPhil International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science, 1969-1971) grew up in a household interested in international affairs.

From an early age I participated in dinner table discussions about both Canadian and world events. My brother (who also joined the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) after five years with CUSO, Canada’s equivalent of VSO, and ended his career as Canadian Ambassador to the Ivory Coast. So, a job which would allow me to work abroad was a logical choice after university.

Carolyn found her time at the LSE both benefitted her academically and broadened her world view. She gained theoretical insights into international relations and Africa which were invaluable in her subsequent career.

Equally importantly, I met students from around the world, learned of their beliefs, interests and political views, and formed lasting friendships.

After university, Carolyn joined the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and was later seconded to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) in 1990. There, she was Deputy Chairperson of the Southern Africa Task Force, set up to manage Canada’s relations with South Africa and the Southern Africa region during the transition from apartheid.

Despite having held a variety of posts, including serving as Deputy High Commissioner to New Zealand, Carolyn feels that the five years she spent in South Africa from 1995-2000 were her biggest challenge.

Canada had played an active role in the campaign to end apartheid and the development of the new constitution. With the advent of a first multi-racial government in 1994, it was time to develop a wide range of political, economic, cultural, development and academic relations.

A particularly important moment was when South Africa hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 1999, a cause for great Commonwealth celebration given the role of the Commonwealth in fighting apartheid. However, Carolyn remembers being most inspired and humbled watching elderly South Africans wait patiently in the blazing sun to vote in the 1994 elections.

Carolyn has found it rewarding to have worked in different areas of foreign policy.

I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work in both the development and political/economic fields of our diplomatic service. Each provides a different perspective on both Canadian policies and interests, and the issues facing the countries to which I was posted or accredited.

The experiences gained during her Commonwealth Scholarship have left Carolyn with an appreciation of the importance of international scholarships in facilitating international linkages.

I believe that the value of international exchanges lies as much in the exposure to different cultures and views as in the strict academic experience. Long may the CSC continue!