- Governance Arrangements
- Strategic Plan
- A force for peace, democracy, equality and good governance
- A catalyst for global consensus-building, and
- A source of assistance for sustainable development and poverty eradication
- United Kingdom
- Australia (Chair)
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- Brunei Darussalam
- Vanuatu (Vice-Chair)
- Solomon Islands
- The Commonwealth
- Commonwealth Membership
- Head of the Commonwealth
- Commonwealth Secretariat
- The Commonwealth Charter
- History of the Commonwealth
- Eminent Persons Group
- Commonwealth Day
- The Commonwealth Games
The Commonwealth Secretariat, established in 1965, is the main intergovernmental agency of the Commonwealth, facilitating consultation and co-operation among member governments and countries. It is responsible to member governments collectively.
Based in London, UK, the Secretariat organises Commonwealth summits, meetings of ministers, consultative meetings and technical discussions; it assists policy development and provides policy advice, and facilitates multilateral communication among the member governments. It also provides technical assistance to help governments in the social and economic development of their countries and in support of the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values.
The Secretariat is headed by the Commonwealth Secretary-General who is elected by Heads of Government for no more than two four-year terms. Deputy Secretaries-General serve for a maximum of two three-year terms, and support the Secretary-General in the management and executive direction of the Secretariat. The present Secretary-General is Kamalesh Sharma, from India, who took office on 1 April 2008, succeeding Sir Donald McKinnon of New Zealand (2000-2008). He is currently in his second term, which began in April 2012. The first Secretary-General was Arnold Smith of Canada (1965-1975), followed by Sir Shridath Ramphal of Guyana (1975-1990) and Chief Emeka Anyaoku (1990-2000).
The Secretariat has its headquarters at Marlborough House, built in 1709 by Sarah Churchill, first Duchess of Marlborough, on the site given to her by Queen Anne. This royal palace was made available to the Commonwealth by Queen Elizabeth II in 1959. Marlborough House also houses the Commonwealth Foundation, and it and nearby Lancaster House have been the venue of many important Commonwealth conferences.
Funds and finances
The Secretariat and its work are funded by three separate budgets or funds – namely, the Commonwealth Secretariat Fund, the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) Fund, and the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation (CFTC). The Secretariat and CYP budgets are financed by assessed contributions from member governments. The assessed contributions are primarily based on capacity to pay. The CFTC budget is financed by voluntary contributions from member governments. For 2012/13 the Secretariat’s budget is UK£16.14 million, the CFTC budget is UK£29.73 million and the CYP budget is UK£3.48 million.
Funding the CFTC
All contributions to the CFTC are voluntary. The top eight contributors (by receipts) over the last six financial years (to 2011/12) are: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Nigeria, Brunei Darussalam and Kenya. Some member countries’ overseas territories and associated states also contribute. For various special CFTC projects, contributions have been received from non-Commonwealth governments and voluntary organisations.
We work as a trusted partner for all Commonwealth people as:
The Commonwealth Secretariat is headed by the Commonwealth Secretary-General. The Secretary-General is elected by Heads of Government for a maximum of two four-year terms. Deputy Secretaries-General – serving for a maximum of two three-year terms – support the Secretary-General in the management and executive direction of the Secretariat. Around two-thirds of the 53 member countries (34 countries, at the end of 2013) are currently represented among the staff – 260 permanent staff as well as 18 members of staff on temporary contracts (this does not include agency temps) – of the Secretariat (as at the end of 2013).
The work undertaken by the Secretariat is implemented through a framework of Programmes. Responsibility for Programme implementation rests with specific divisions and units. This framework approach allows the Secretariat to be ‘programme driven’ but ‘division-led’, creating the necessary governance mechanisms to fulfil the priorities of the Commonwealth established in the Harare Declaration in 1991. There is a four-year Strategic Plan for the period mid-2013 to mid-2017 (see below).
Following CHOGM 2002, the Secretariat has a Board of Governors and an Executive Committee. The Chair of the Board of Governors, as well as the CHOGM Chair-in-Office, are considered ex-officio members of the Committee. All member governments are represented on the Board of Governors, and a 16-member Executive Committee was constituted by the Board in June 2002.
These arrangements were intended to further improve efficiency and transparency, as well as to strengthen governments’ direction and oversight of the total resources they contribute to Commonwealth activities. The Board of Governors meets annually, and provides strategic direction and reviews the Secretariat’s implementation of mandates from Heads of Government as well as approving strategic plans, work programmes and budgets.
The Executive Committee, which is a sub-committee of the Board of Governors, meets every four months, and makes policy recommendations to the Board and oversees budgets and audit functions. The Committee includes the eight largest contributors to the Secretariat’s total resources: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, India, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa and the UK.
Other member countries are elected to the Executive Committee on a regional basis, to serve two-year terms.
Membership of the Executive Committee 2014 to 2015
The eight largest contributors are:
Regional representatives (first year of two-year term)
The regional representatives are:
Regional representatives (final year of two-year term)
The regional representatives are:
The Executive Committee also has a subcommittee called the Accreditation Committee, which deals with matters related to accreditation to the Commonwealth. Its members are drawn from the Executive Committee and serve one-year terms. The current membership includes: Australia, Dominica, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Sri Lanka (Chair), United Kingdom and Vanuatu. The Commonwealth Foundation participates as an observer.
In Perth, Australia at the end of 2011, Commonwealth Heads of Government mandated the Secretary-General to develop a new, more focused Strategic Plan for the Commonwealth Secretariat to run from 2013/14–2016/17.
The plan focuses acutely on those areas where the Secretariat has a comparative advantage vis-à-vis other international actors, and where it can make distinct, practical and measurable contributions to the membership. It also takes into account the need to plan, monitor, report on and evaluate projects in accordance with results-based management principles.
The plan takes into account agreed recommendations of the 2011 report of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG). It also includes the orientation to a strategy to collaborate with Commonwealth organisations. The plan reflects the shared priorities of member governments. These include 3 longer term goals for the next 8 to 10 years, and 6 strategic outcomes to be pursued during the next 4 years.
The 3 goals are:
1. Strong democracy, rule of law, promotion and protection of human rights, and respect for diversity
2. Inclusive growth and sustainable development
3. A well-connected and networked Commonwealth
The plan is based on a Strategic Results Framework (SRF), which provides intermediate outcomes and indicators to support these six strategic outcomes:
1. Democracy: greater adherence to Commonwealth political values and principles
2. Public institutions: more effective, efficient and equitable public governance
3. Social Development: enhanced positive impact of social development
4. Youth: youth more integrated and valued in political and development processes
5. Development: pan-Commonwealth – more effective frameworks for inclusive economic growth and social and sustainable development
6. Development: small states and vulnerable states – strengthened resilience of small states and vulnerable states
In addition to the strategic and intermediate outcomes, the SRF also has three enabling outcomes and four internal result areas. The enabling outcomes are those results that underpin the intermediate outcomes. The internal outcomes, on the other hand, will ensure an efficiently run organisation that promotes the delivery of the enabling and intermediate results. Indicators are provided against which the impact of the Secretariat’s work can be measured. The plan is to be delivered under a results-based management (RBM) approach.
A Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting (ME&R) Framework complements the SRF to help the Secretariat monitor and evaluate results, as well as report on progress in achieving the agreed outcomes. The plan will be the subject of a mid-term review in 2015.
The plan envisages a reduction in the number of activities currently undertaken by the Secretariat. It also envisages a number of fundamental changes in the way that the Secretariat delivers its work, including greater use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), strategic partnerships, promotion of collaboration between member states and brokerage of assistance from elsewhere when the Secretariat itself is unable to provide this.
The plan assumes a continued ‘zero real growth’ financial climate and is based on the 2012/13 budget. The Plan was rolled out on 1 July 2013. The first six months of the 2013/14 financial year were used as a time of transition to give effect to the significant reductions, narrowing of focus and other changes that are envisaged.