New Zealand politician and diplomat, secretary-general of the Commonwealth 2000–08. A former foreign minister 1990–2000 and deputy prime minister 1990–96 in New Zealand's conservative National Party government, he was nominated in 1998 for the Nobel Prize for Peace for his role in resolving the bloody conflict between the Papua New Guinean government and secessionist Bougaineville island. As Commonwealth secretary-general he had to deal with the challenges posed by Robert Mugabe's autocratic regime in Zimbabwe and a nationalist coup in Fiji.
The son of a New Zealand former army chief, McKinnon was born in London, England, and educated in the USA and UK. In New Zealand he worked as a farm manager and farm management consultant. After two unsuccessful bids, in 1969 andn 1972, he was elected to New Zealand's parliament in 1978, representing the National Party in the Albany constituency. In 1987 he became the National Party's deputy leader and so became deputy prime minister, and foreign minister, when Jim Bolger led the party to success at the 1990 general election.
As well as serving as foreign minister, he was minister for disarmament and Pacific Islands' affairs. He successfully lobbied for New Zealand's place on the United Nations Security Council 1993–94. He continued as foreign minister after the 1996 general election, but lost his position as deputy prime minister, which went to Winston Peters, leaders of the New Zealand First Party, with which the National Party had to form a coalition.