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. The Secretariat is currently working on a new Strategic Plan which should take effect in mid-2013.
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:
- 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.