The Commonwealth Secretariat
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- What is the Commonwealth Secretariat?
The Commonwealth Secretariat is the civil service of the Commonwealth – an equal association of 54 countries. This intergovernmental organisation implements decisions agreed by Commonwealth Heads of Government through advocacy and other means, coalition–building, information sharing, analysis, technical assistance, capacity-building, and advice and policy development.
- What exactly does the Commonwealth Secretariat do?
Our work falls into three main categories: technical assistance, advisory services and policy development.
We are a geographically and economically diverse association with direct access to policy-makers and governments. This makes the Commonwealth uniquely able to facilitate projects, programmes and meetings. It also allows for the sharing of best practice between members who are often facing similar issues. Commonwealth membership provides countries with the platform for duplicating successful programmes or policies.
- The Commonwealth also works together with other international organisations, like the UN, in order to help us deliver on the mandates from Heads of member governments. This prevents duplication of projects and means that our resources can be responsibly used in areas where we have specialist expertise and a proven track record.
- How many members of staff are employed by the Commonwealth Secretariat?
304 from 39 countries.
- How many divisions and units are there in the Secretariat?
There are ten divisions. They are: Communications and Public Affairs Division; Corporate Services Division; Economic Affairs Division; Governance and Institutional Development Division; Legal and Constitutional Affairs Division; Political Affairs Division; Social Transformation Programmes Division; Special Advisory Services Division; Strategic Planning and Evaluation Division; and Youth Affairs Division.
There is one unit: Human Rights Unit.
- How is the Secretariat funded?
The Secretariat and its work are financed by three separate budgets or funds.
1.) All member countries contribute to the Commonwealth Secretariat on an agreed scale based on capacity to pay. The UN scales are used as a broad guide. The approved budget for the Secretariat in 2009/10 is £14,995,745.
2.) The Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation (CFTC) is financed by voluntary contributions. The approved budget for CFTC in 2009/10 is £29,168,723.
3.) The Commonwealth Youth Programme budget is now based on assessment using an agreed scale. The approved budget for Commonwealth Youth Programme in 2009/10 is £2,815,018
Some member countries’ overseas territories and associated states also contribute. In addition members, non-Commonwealth members and other organisations contribute to various special projects.
- What is the difference between the Commonwealth Secretariat and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office?
Whilst the Commonwealth Secretariat is an intergovernmental organisation where 54 independent countries are equal members, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is the British government department responsible for overseas relations and foreign affairs.
- Does the Secretariat organise visas for those visiting the UK from other member countries?
No. For all visa applications please contact the UK’s High Commission in your country.
- What is the Commonwealth Foundation?
The Commonwealth Foundation is an intergovernmental organisation which aims to strengthen and support civil society across the Commonwealth. Visit website.
- What is the Commonwealth of Learning?
The Commonwealth of Learning is an intergovernmental organisation which helps governments and institutions expand the scope, scale and quality of learning by using new approaches. Visit website.
- What does intergovernmental mean?
Involving the governments of different countries.
- How many organisations and associations are there with the word ‘Commonwealth’ in their title?
Nearly 90. An exact figure cannot be given because there may be some associations that the Secretariat is not aware of. There are also some organisations and associations which do not have the word ‘Commonwealth’ in the title but do work in some way to promote the Commonwealth’s goals (See The Commonwealth Family).
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