Commonwealth Secretariat is the main intergovernmental agency and
central institution of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is responsible
for facilitating co-operation between members; organising meetings,
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM);
assisting and advising on policy development; and providing assistance
to countries in implementing the decisions and policies of the
The Secretariat has observer status in the United Nations General
Assembly. It is located at
Marlborough House in London, the United
Kingdom, a former royal residence that was given by Queen Elizabeth
II, Head of the Commonwealth.
4 See also
6 External links
The Secretariat was established by Heads of Government in 1965, taking
over many of the functions of the United Kingdom Government's
Commonwealth Relations Office, as part of a major shake-up of the
organisation of the Commonwealth. At the same time, the United Kingdom
succeeded in advocating the creation of the Secretariat's sister
Commonwealth Foundation was founded to foster
non-governmental relations and the promotion of the Commonwealth
Family network of civil societies. Other attempts by members to
create similar central bodies, such as a medical conference (proposed
by New Zealand), a development bank (Jamaica), and an institution for
satellite communications (Canada) failed.
The creation of the Secretariat itself was a contentious issue. The
United Kingdom and other long-established countries had hoped to slow
the tide of expansion of Commonwealth membership to prevent the
dilution of their traditional power within the Commonwealth
(particularly after the admission of Cyprus). This may have
involved a dual-tiered Commonwealth, requiring the continuation of the
organisation of Commonwealth co-operation by meetings, rather than a
central administration. However, the new African members were keener
to create an independent inter-governmental 'central clearing house'
Kwame Nkrumah described it) to remove power from the older
Milton Obote of
Uganda was the first to propose a
specifically titled 'secretariat', which was then formally proposed by
Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago, who wished to see it based upon
the secretariats of the OAS, EEC, and OAU.
Earlier attempts at the formation of a central secretariat had been
made and failed. Australia had proposed the establishment four times
(in 1907, 1924, 1932, and 1944), whilst
New Zealand had also made
proposals in 1909 and 1956.
The chief executive of the Secretariat, and of the Commonwealth as a
whole, is the Commonwealth Secretary-General. All Secretariat staff
report to the secretary-general, who is also responsible for spending
the Secretariat's budget, which is granted by the Heads of Government.
It is the secretary-general, and not the ceremonial Head of the
Commonwealth, that represents the Commonwealth publicly. The
secretary-general is elected by the Heads of Government at the
Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings for terms of four years;
previously, until 2000, a term was five years. The current
Secretary-General is Dominica's Patricia Scotland, who replaced
Kamalesh Sharma as Secretary-General on 1 April 2016.
The secretary-general is assisted by three deputy secretaries-general:
one responsible for economic affairs (currently Deodat Maharaj), one
for political affairs (Josephine Ojiambo), and one for corporate
affairs (Gary Dunn). The secretary-general may appoint junior staff at
his own discretion, provided the Secretariat can afford it, whilst the
more senior staff may be appointed only from a shortlist of
nominations from the Heads of Government. In practice, the
secretary-general has more power than this; member governments consult
the secretary-general on nominations, and the secretary-general has
also at times submitted nominations of his own.
All members of staff are exempt from income tax, under the
International Organisations Act 2005, which redefined the legal status
of the Secretariat.
The Secretariat is headquartered at Marlborough House, in London, the
Marlborough House is located on Pall Mall,
Westminster, next to St. James's Palace, which is formally the
location of the British Royal Court.
Marlborough House was previously
a royal residence in its own right, but was given by Queen Elizabeth
II, the Head of the Commonwealth, to the British government in
September 1959 for use for Commonwealth purposes. This was first
realised three years later. Another three years later, in 1965, the
building passed to the Secretariat upon its foundation. The
building itself was designed by
Sir Christopher Wren
Sir Christopher Wren and served as the
London residence of the dukes of Marlborough until it was given to
Princess Charlotte in 1817.
Commonwealth Secretariat Act 1966, which applied retroactively
from the establishment of the Secretariat in 1965, first granted the
organisation full diplomatic immunity. This has been subjected to a
number of lawsuits challenging this, including Mohsin v Commonwealth
Secretariat, and in 2005, Sumukan Limited v Commonwealth Secretariat.
The 1966 Act had been interpreted by English courts as allowing the
courts to exercise supervisory jurisdiction under the Arbitration Act
1996 over the Commonwealth's arbitration tribunal, which had been
envisaged as the sole organ to arbitrate on matters related to the
Secretariat's operations in the United Kingdom. In light of this
Commonwealth Secretariat Act was amended by the
International Organisations Act 2005, which gave the Commonwealth
Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal the same legal immunity as the
Secretariat itself, guaranteeing independence of the English
Commonwealth Youth Programme
^ "Commonwealth Secretariat". Commonwealth Secretariat. Archived from
the original on 19 August 2007. Retrieved 27 July 2007.
^ a b c d e f McIntyre, W. David (October 1998). "Canada and the
creation of the Commonwealth Secretariat". International Journal. 53
(4): 753–777. doi:10.2307/40203725. JSTOR 40203725.
^ "Profile: The Commonwealth". BBC News. Retrieved 16 June 2008.
^ "'Together we are so much stronger' says Scotland as she becomes new
Secretary-General". Commonwealth Secretariat. Retrieved 1 April
^ a b Doxey, Margaret (January 1979). "The Commonwealth
Secretary-General: Limits of Leadership". International Affairs. 55
(1): 67–83. doi:10.2307/2617133.
^ a b c "The History of Marlborough House". Commonwealth Secretariat.
Archived from the original on 24 June 2008. Retrieved 16 June
^ a b "International Organisations Bill". Parliament of the United
Kingdom. Retrieved 16 June 2008.
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