Commonwealth Secretariat: Reform

Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 4th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Mendelsohn Lord Mendelsohn Labour

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the progress made in reforming the Commonwealth Secretariat.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State

At CHOGM 2015, Heads of Government mandated the Secretary-General to convene a high-level group (HLG) to review the full governance arrangements of the Commonwealth Secretariat to ensure that its governance is streamlined and integrated in order to improve oversight, efficiency and transparency. This mandate was reiterated by Heads at CHOGM 2018, who asked Foreign Ministers to make decisions in response to the HLG's findings. Reform and strengthening of the Commonwealth Secretariat is a priority for our period as Commonwealth Chair-in-Office. We have worked with member states and the Commonwealth Secretariat to support the fulfilment of the mandate set by Heads.

An HLG, convened by the Secretar- General, first met shortly before CHOGM 2018. Since then, the HLG has submitted two reports. The first - covering roles and responsibilities, funding, and arrangements for the appointment of Secretaries-General - was submitted in early September 2018, and discussed by Foreign Ministers when they met in the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York. At that meeting, Foreign Ministers instructed the Commonwealth Secretariat Board of Governors (of which the UK Commonwealth Envoy is a member) to agree recommendations in the light of that report by 30 November 2018. The Board fulfilled that instruction, unanimously agreeing a set of recommendations through a thorough, transparent and inclusive process. At the end of December 2019, the HLG produced a second report, focused on the Secretariat's collaboration with accredited Commonwealth organisations and other partners. Through a further thorough, transparent and inclusive process the Board of Governors unanimously agreed a set of recommendations in response to that second HLG report.

The Foreign Secretary, as current Chair of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers, has recommended that they adopt the recommendations. A few of them have some outstanding questions. We hope that those can be resolved, and the recommendations adopted, soon. Once implemented, they will make a significant difference to the effective governance and operation of the Commonwealth Secretariat and its collaboration with member states and Commonwealth organisations.

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