A Guide to the Contemporary Commonwealth

By W. David McIntyre | Go to book overview

15
The Secretariat and the CFTC

For all its ivory tower isolation in Queen Anne splendour, behind high walls and security guards off Pall Mall, the Secretariat is the hub of the contemporary Commonwealth. The first three Secretaries-General from 1965 to 2000, each, in his own manner, made particular contributions to the Secretariat’s evolution while serving the Heads of Government collectively. The profusion of Commonwealth meetings, from the Chogms to the ad hoc groups and taskforces, are coordinated from Marlborough House. However one responds to the architectural and regal symbolism of the venue, understanding ComSec (to use the argot) is essential to any appreciation of the contemporary Commonwealth.

We have seen how the agreed memorandum on its establishment enjoined modest beginnings, but permitted pragmatic growth. Funding was to be by assessed contributions calculated according to the UN model. Initially, Britain paid 30 per cent, followed by Canada 28.8 per cent, India 11.4 per cent, Australia 10.4 per cent, New Zealand 2.5 per cent and Pakistan 2.4 per cent and the rest of the original 21 paid 1.5 per cent. The ABC members – Australia, Britain, Canada – would together always pay more than half. Arnold Smith appointed two deputy secretaries-general (Political and Economic) and began with three divisions, Administrative, Economic and International Relations. The expenditure for the first year was a mere £175,000 and 41 staff were appointed.

An early task required by the Heads of Government was a comprehensive review of existing intra-Commonwealth organisations concerned with economic and related affairs to determine whether there was any overlapping with other agencies and to decide what should be absorbed into the Secretariat. A group of eight senior officials under

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