Commonwealth Secretariat Strategic Plan 2021/22 – 2024/25
Published on 29 September 2021 and officially coming into effect on 1 October 2021,
the Commonwealth Secretariat Strategic Plan 2021/22-2024/5 is a collaborative results framework publication drafted by the Commonwealth Secretariat. It is based on the principles of the Commonwealth Charter, the previous Strategic Plan (2017/18-2020/21), notes and recommendations from the Executive Committee and Board of Governors, internal and external documents such as the Forum of Small States, and mandates drafted during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings in the past decade. In consideration of the rapid changes taking place worldwide due to the short and long term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rapid digitalisation of the global economy and the increasingly prevalent effects of climate change, this document aims to devise comprehensive reforms to update the Secretariat’s decision making and management ecosystem as well as guidelines and plans of action in accordance with the changing needs and dynamics of member nations during this period of economic recovery.
This Strategic Plan is subsequently divided into four inter-related sections. The first section provides the context of the challenging but opportune environment in which this publication has been drafted; the second section conceptualises the organisational theory of change on which the new Strategic Plan is built; the third highlights four specific “strategic outcomes” and interlinked plans of action for the next decade; and the last section operationalises how the new Strategic Plan will monitor, evaluate and report on the progress of the outcomes set out and update existing guidelines and policies according to the new framework to ensure greater efficiency and transparency of the Secretariat’s operations.
Section 1: Context
The catastrophic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are a fundamental part of the contextual understanding behind the purpose of this document. The pandemic has gravely impacted economies in the short term and will continue to do so in the medium term. Unemployment, unpaid labour and loss of life are amongst the consequences that have also exposed social and economic inequalities stemming from fundamental flaws in member states’ policy frameworks and governance. The pandemic has burdened Commonwealth healthcare systems and government officials have lamented how inequality in the access and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, especially in the least developed countries (LDCs) and small island states, continues to jeopardise the health of their citizens and stagnate economic recovery. Furthermore, the pandemic has affected some demographics more so than others; women have been providing the bulk of the unpaid domestic labour whilst women who own small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and microenterprises (MSMEs) have been facing unemployment more so than men due to their employment in sectors such as tourism, hospitality, education and retail- all of which are amongst the most affected sectors. Female workers also comprise 70 per cent of the global healthcare workforce but their views have been severely undermined due to lack of representation in senior leadership roles. Women have also been exposed to rising gender-based violence resulting from the stress of lockdown and global restrictions. Older citizens have been at a greater risk to the virus and citizens with disabilities have also been further jeopardised due to the overloaded healthcare systems being unable to provide sufficient services and care. Young people have also been particularly and negatively impacted because of social distancing and lockdown measures disrupting their education and raising uncertainty for their future professional prospects.
Negative impacts notwithstanding, COVID-19 is accelerating the rate at which the world is progressing towards a digital age that will be shaped by big data and new-age technology including artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cyber-physical systems. These innovations, if harnessed properly, could be developed into robust and resilient digital infrastructure that will aid economic recovery whilst also providing potential new breakthroughs in science and medicine. Although many Commonwealth member states currently lack the resources, skills capacity and infrastructure required, such shortages can be swiftly actioned on by mobilising the younger “tech-savvy” generation that constitutes 60% of the Commonwealth population. If properly supported, the youth can fully maximise their potential and aid in enabling technological access for half of the global population still offline. Such technological advances could play a crucial role in the climate change emergency which has become the most prevalent crisis of contemporary history, especially in Commonwealth small island states that are the most privy to climatic disasters. Demographically, women and girls are the most vulnerable to climate change but due to their dependency on and practical knowledge of their lands, seas and natural resources they are also the most capable community to help lead the environmental sustainability campaigns and thus it has become a priority to empower them and increase their presence in policy and decision making. Likewise, it is equally important to increase youth participation in actions towards climate change especially due to their natural affinity towards technology.
Against this backdrop, the Commonwealth Secretariat has also faced a 27 per cent decline in voluntary contributions to its Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation (CTFC), the Secretariat’s principal source of funding for the delivery of development assistance. To offset this, the Secretariat has had to rely on extrabudgetary resources (ERBs) however such measures will not remain sustainable in the long term. This comes at a time when members struggling with the economic ramifications of the pandemic have decreased contributions to the CTFC though simultaneously demands for the Secretariat’s services have been steadily increasing. The Secretariat vows to leverage technology, innovation and partnerships- including further cooperation with the Commonwealth Foundation and Commonwealth of Learning- to continue to provide quality services and explore contingency planning in its budget to curtail financial expenses in the coming years. During the peak of the pandemic in 2020, the Commonwealth Secretariat underwent a rapid digital transformation to adapt to the growing relevancy of technology and plans to continue improving its digital infrastructure to deliver both online and on-the-ground services to aid member countries in reaching the objectives of the Commonwealth Charter and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). Furthermore, based on the learnings attained from the Mid Term Review and Strategic Plan 2017/2018, it was recommended that the Secretariat’s technical assistance portfolio be scaled down and focussed on areas the organisation can add the most value. In response, the Secretariat has consolidated actions in the areas of peacekeeping, democracy and governance and introduced strategic outcomes pertaining to climate action and robust post-pandemic recovery. Specifically for small and vulnerable member states, the Secretariat has agreed on a two-pronged approach to increase their financial and environmental resilience whilst providing a greater platform for their voices to be heard during international policymaking processes. The Secretariat has also vowed to prioritise gender mainstreaming as well as to adopt a mainstreaming approach for youth development, the latter of which is a new addition to the agenda.
Section 2: The Theory of Change
The Secretariat’s strategic focus will be cognizant of the objectives of the 2030 Global Agenda and will continue to focus on advancing the values of the Commonwealth Charter and the mandates of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGMs). Towards 2025, the strategic outcomes have been developed to measure progress in the following areas, with particular consideration given to the challenges of small and vulnerable member states:
- i) Galvanising good governance through the rule of law, democracy, peacebuilding, human rights, public institutions, electoral processes and value-based leadership
- ii) Ensuring inclusivity in sustainable economic and social development in trade, financial and debt management, oceans and natural resources management and, health and education systems
iii) Increasing intra-Commonwealth co-operation on sustainable ocean action and energy transition and increased mitigation and adaptation actions in response to climate and ocean emergencies; and,
- iv) Amplifying the voices of the small and other vulnerable states in global governance mechanisms to ensure their concerns are heard and economic durability is prioritised
In this edition of the Strategic Plan, the strategic focus has been bifurcated into a Commonwealth global focus and a member-centric focus. Through the global focus, the Secretariat endeavours to prioritise at least one global issue per strategic outcome, calling for joint advocacy and delivering solutions via an overarching consensus mechanism with the support of all Commonwealth organisations and contributions from member countries. Through the member-centric focus, members’ requests for help in the strategic outcomes areas will continue to be acted upon using existing resources with an added emphasis on the gaps remaining in member countries’ progress towards achieving SDG targets. Gender mainstreaming and vulnerable demographics’ empowerment will be incorporated into the design of all strategic outcome attainment efforts through systematic gender and social inclusion analyses and the impact of the policies will be measured consistently throughout Commonwealth communities. The accelerator in this plan is partnerships. Building on the partnership strategy and in the face of limited financial resources, the Secretariat will focus on strategic partnerships that provide additional resources to implement the Strategic Plan. We will broker partnerships that link member countries with development partners, who can provide technical assistance and increase resource flow to global issues of concern to the member countries. A stronger partnership with Commonwealth organisations in the delivery of the Strategic Plan will be fostered to increase programme reach in member countries.
The Strategic Plan is based upon the Strategic Results Framework (SRF) which is the core program planning mechanism used by the Commonwealth and is executed based on several crucial impact pathways that will be delivered physically as well as digitally depending on the conditions of the service required. The impact pathways are applied horizontally across all strategic outcomes, programmes and projects to guarantee opportunities for collaborating and learning throughout all policy areas, and can also be arranged vertically to provide a roadmap for measurable intervention if required. These impact pathways are listed as follows:
- i) Consensus Building, Thought Leadership and Advocacy: Convening member countries to build consensus and provide thought leadership on regional and global policies of Commonwealth interests.
- ii) Policy and Legislative Development: Providing technical expertise and advisory services for national and regional legislation and policymaking to promote good governance and sustainability.
iii) Institutional and Capacity Development: Providing technical training and resources to leaders, technical officials, institutions and their system actors to improve their capacity and effectiveness for good governance and sustainable development goals.
- iv) Connectivity and Networks: Facilitating and establishing connections for the exchange of knowledge, ideas and innovations between member nations to improve Commonwealth action networks and co-creative joint action systems.
- v) Organisational Performance Enablers: Expediting actions on issues via results-based and risk-informed partnerships, innovation and technology.
To maximise the potential of the Secretariat in delivering these impact pathways, several organisational enables have been promulgated in the Strategic Plan. The organisation will capitalise on its position as a trusted convener of affairs to help reach consensus on prioritised agendas and galvanise partnerships and deals aimed at increasing the transfer of resources between member states, physically as well as digitally. The Secretariat must make tough strategic calls on financial and resource investment decisions due to constraints on the CFTC; it must focus on topics and issues within the Commonwealth wherein it can add the most value, with special due consideration given to small and vulnerable states. To ensure optimal service delivery, the Secretariat will employ risk-conscious and evidence data-driven digital toolkits to deliver its services and also to design monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) modus operandi to adapt, course-correct and improve knowledge sharing during this phase of change.
Section 3: Outcomes; Strategic, Intermediate, Cross-cutting and Organisational Enablers
The theory of change is a direct translation of the Commonwealth Charter in the form of programmes and action plans. As mentioned previously, the theory was drafted to complement the Strategic Results Framework (SRF) which directly translates the theory into strategic outcome statements. Since the Strategic Plan was drafted in 2013, the Secretariat has been working towards amalgamating its outcomes and action programmes into a smaller number per developmental area resulting in better prioritisation of service delivery and increasing collaboration with Commonwealth partners. Preceding the Strategic Plan of 2013, there were 149 drafted programme outcomes which were then condensed down to 22 programme outcomes put under 6 strategic outcomes. These were further reduced under the Strategic Plan 2016-2017 down to 17 programmes under 5 outcomes and now this Strategic Plan of 2021 proposes 12 intermediate outcomes and 2 “cross-cutting” outcomes to be put under 4 strategic outcomes: Democracy and Governance; Sustainable Development; Resilience and Climate Action; and discourse on needs of Small and Vulnerable States’ in global governance.
3.1 Democracy and Governance
Under this strategic outcome, the Secretariat aims for member states to fully standby the Commonwealth values and principles advancing good governance whereby member states conduct fair, free and inclusive elections and monitor their public institutions to ensure constant improvement of access to justice, protection of human rights, robust execution of the rule of law and good governance.
The Commonwealth Secretariat relies on mechanisms including the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), the Secretary-General’s Good Offices and projects such as Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). Based on evaluations and lessons learnt from previous Strategic Plans and Trade Reviews, the Secretariat will rely on new initiatives such as the CVE Cadre of Experts (created at the CHOGM 2018 meeting) and will further youth and gender inclusivity initiatives through engagement with women and youth groups as well as civil society organisations (CSOs). Such facilitation of knowledge and skills will result in research, campaigns and networks dedicated to solving the plights of these demographics. Meanwhile, the Good Offices of the Secretary-General will continue their role in conflict resolution of political disputes and supporting Commonwealth organisations involved in researching and finding evidence to encourage peacebuilding and conflict prevention.
To promote Commonwealth values and principles, the Secretariat will consult member states and relevant institutions to develop a leadership framework based upon the principles of the Charter, to create guidelines for leadership skills and characteristics requirements for Commonwealth leadership positions as well as training and capacity building programmes for members to fulfil them. In accordance with the Conduct of Election Observation adopted at CHOGM’18, and the Commonwealth Election Professionals Initiative Phase 3, the Secretariat will continue to advance democracy and support the implementation of free democratic elections via peer-to-peer learning, observer missions and consultation for electoral reforms where required. The Secretariat will also examine ways to include data provision and social media analytics before, during and after elections to facilitate a more democratic outcome. Furthermore, as recommended by the Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Meetings, the Secretariat will distribute knowledge products and capacity building guidelines to advance female political leadership and inclusivity in elections.
The Secretariat will prioritise member states’ access to justice, the rule of law, human rights and good governance. It will aid core public institutions of the Commonwealth via context-sensitive technical assistance in legislation and policy development, capacity building and networking. This includes galvanising co-operation frameworks to counter cybercrime attacks under the Commonwealth Cyber Declaration and tackle corruption through the Commonwealth Anti-Corruption Benchmarks once it has been finalised in the upcoming CHOGM 2022. Similarly, the Secretariat will develop model laws and toolkits and deliver legal expertise when requested. With regards to inclusive injustice, the Secretariat will keep up the implementation of the Commonwealth law Ministers Declaration on Equal Access to Justice, once it too has been endorsed at CHOGM’22. Aside from existing initiatives, the Secretariat will evaluate new action plans including testing out the digitalisation of justice systems in certain member countries and the setting up of pro bono legal services centres for small and vulnerable states. It is also considering hosting a Commonwealth Moot Court Competition designed to engage youth to strengthen their legal education. For the protection of human rights, the Secretariat will continue its support of member countries’ participation and engagement in international human rights mechanisms including the UN Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and utilise its Small States Offices in Geneva and New York to help improve small states’ participation in international treaty body mechanisms.
3.2 Sustainable Development
Under this second strategic outcome, it is crucial for the Commonwealth Secretariat to ensure that member states’ economic and social development is inclusive and sustainable. It hopes to achieve this outcome through effective trade policies that increase both co-operation and competitiveness in intra-bloc trade as endeavoured under the Connectivity Agenda. Public finance and debt management must be conducted in a sustainable manner. Marine and other natural resources management are also to be improved and member countries’ education and health systems must be fortified and made more inclusive, especially so women and other vulnerable groups.
According to the Commonwealth Trade Review 2021, an estimated US$345 billion worth of trade was lost in 2020 with the small and least developed economies being amongst the most affected. The pandemic has also expedited trends towards the reconfiguration of supply chains, Industry 4.0 and rapid digitalisation of many aspects of the economy. As such trade recovery will rely on the diversification of exports, sustainable markets, UN SDG goals, and robust connectivity amongst member states and their global partners to “build back better”. It is pertinent for small states and vulnerable states to be facilitated in their transition towards sustainable markets, particularly through the promotion of circular economy principles and leveraging of cross-divisional experts and technology to fortify regional and local supply chains. As such, the Secretariat aims to leverage the Commonwealth Trade Finance Facility to allow more access to finance for small states. Interestingly, it has been found that trade policies have a substantial impact on gender equality and as such due consideration must be given to ensuring that trade recovery involves comprehensive gender analyses. Through the Intra-Commonwealth SME Association and the She Trades Initiative in collaboration with the International Trade Centre, the Secretariat will support women and youth participation in intra-Commonwealth micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and improve inclusivity in business and investment environments.
Advisers from the Commonwealth Small States Office in Geneva will be employed to assist small and other vulnerable states in multilateral/regional trade negotiations for both new and existing trade agreements. Relatedly, the Secretariat will keep encouraging member states to deliver CHOGM mandates on the Clusters of the Connectivity Agenda on Trade and Investment and keep member states updated on emerging trade issues, SGDs progress and post COVID recovery pathway and resilience building through its Trade Review and other such knowledge products. To reduce financial risks and strengthen market infrastructures and institutions against future regional or global shocks, sustainable public debt management is of utmost importance, especially as the global COVID-19 pandemic has plunged many Commonwealth members, particularly small states most vulnerable to climate and economic shocks, into debt distress. To solve these critical issues, the Secretariat will assist these countries in strengthening their capacity to meet their financial needs and debt repayments through advocacy for systemic solutions and developing legal and institutional frameworks for public finance and debt management. To do so effectively, the Secretariat will update its CS Debt Recording and Management System (DRMS) and Commonwealth Meridian software to provide accurate time-sensitive data. The Secretariat will also consider the establishment of a Debt Statistics Hub to enhance the transparency of policy decisions and official technical analyses. The organisation plans to monitor and support member states’ sustainable development and use of marine and other natural resources through regulatory policy reforms and legal, commercial and environmental frameworks plus fiscal regimes to attract more sustainable investment. Additionally, the Secretariat will also spearhead initiatives to increase the protection and conservation of ocean resources and the blue economy for climate shock-resilient economic growth.
The global coronavirus pandemic has reversed 20 years of efforts in human and social development gains including improvements in health and education systems. Therefore, the Secretariat will renew its focus on sustainable and inclusive development to counter the effects. One standout solution has been identified through research on the interconnectedness of health, education and sport due to which the Secretariat will enhance the use of sports as an enabler of UN SDGs 3, 4, 5 and 16 as stipulated under the Commonwealth Consensus Statement on Promoting Human rights through sports as well as the Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting that took place in September 2020. Pertaining to health systems, the Secretariat will promote the Universal Health Coverage program and support member states on policy frameworks to tackle issues related to non-communicable diseases and women’s vulnerability to diseases such as cervical cancer. One of the main lessons of the pandemic has been the dire need for equity in access to and distribution of vaccines and other vital medicines which the Commonwealth shall prioritise and also work on creating a price-sharing mechanism to increase affordability. Mental health and promotion of healthy lifestyles remain a priority and the Secretariat will continue making progress on raising awareness of the importance of physical activity, rest, hydration and nutrition through Commonwealth Moves and similar health focussed initiatives.
3.3 Resilience and Climate Action
As climate and ocean emergencies increase in frequency and scale of impact, climate-resilient and low-carbon development must be made a top priority at all costs. To do so, intra-Commonwealth unity on sustainable ocean action and transition to green energy is critical, as is improved and equitable access to resources, technology and infrastructure to adapt to and prevent further effects of climate change.
The Commonwealth Blue Charter, which is an agreement on member countries’ commitment to environmental and ocean sustainability as mandated under CHOGM’18, and its champion-led Action Groups have been actively working on tackling challenges and environmental hazards to protect oceans from the effects of climate change, pollution and unsustainable fishing practices. The Secretariat will work closely with these groups to help build their operations capacity and work towards a proposed action group fund to help enhance their work. Alongside this, the Secretariat will facilitate member countries in adopting the principles of the Blue Charter and aid their participation in innovative and scalable multilateral projects to address their implementation gap. Another important initiative mandated under CHOGM’18 is the Commonwealth Sustainable Energy Transition (CSET) agenda for expediting the transition of member countries to sustainable energy objectives stipulated under UN SDG 7 and developing member-led action groups to construct enabling frameworks for close collaboration on inclusive development of technology and innovation projects, as promulgated under the Commonwealth Sustainable Energy Forum (CSEF).
One of the direst global predicaments is climate change. It is an incredible challenge for all countries but more so for small island developing states. In terms of demographics, women and girls are the most vulnerable to the effect of climate change as they make up 75 per cent of the population displaced due to its effects and their survival is the most dependent on natural resources that too are being significantly affected by the effects of climate change. Simultaneously, their reliance on natural resources lends them indispensable knowledge and intimate understanding that must be utilised for sustainable and climate change resilient economic recovery. The Secretariat will take forward capacity development for member states to promote consensus building on policies and mechanisms focussed on the protection of women and other vulnerable demographics and their inclusion into climate change programmes on adaptation and mitigation. Cognizant of the shifting climate finance landscape and the need for increased funding, the Secretariat will navigate potential new regional partnerships and financial instruments to assist member countries to meet their commitments under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement. Additionally, the Secretariat will expand the role of the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access HUB (CCFAH) to enable members to build technical capacities to aid in the development of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) investment schemes and bankable mitigation/adaptation projects as agreed upon under the Paris Agreement. The Secretariat will also consider cross-directorate initiatives on debt management, value chain resilience and marine trade infrastructure, particularly through the use of innovative technology including earth observation, artificial intelligence, agritech and blockchain wherever applicable.
3.4 Small and Other Vulnerable States
Small and vulnerable states’ needs and concerns must be addressed in global governance mechanisms to protect them from further shocks and financial instability, and policy positions favourable to their infrastructure development and access to financing must be advanced in international forums.
The ‘Evaluation of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Small States’ is a report of which’s preliminary findings point to a multi-pronged approach being the best method to address these countries’ developmental needs and highlights the Secretariat’s role of “influencer” and “power broker” in the international fora as being crucial to projecting the vulnerable states’ voice and requests for assistance in improving their economic viability and sustainability through these international platforms such as the G7, G20, the UN, the World Bank, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) amongst notable others. The Forum of Small States (FOSS) will inform the Secretariat’s actions towards post-COVID economic recovery and the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting and the Commonwealth Ministerial Meeting on Small States shall be capitalised for co-ordinating common positions on the proposed Commonwealth Universal Vulnerability Index (CUVI) which is being drafted through the joint Commonwealth- UN Small States Advocacy Strategy and related avenues. The Secretariat will also provide fintech support to diversify existing financial resources using its fintech ecosystem development assistance, the disaster risk finance portal and diaspora investment assistance projects, with special care for the inclusion of women and young people. The Commonwealth organisation will improve internal co-ordination on all knowledge products on contemporary and emerging issues for small and vulnerable states and will consider the creation of a Virtual Centre for Small States (VCSS) to develop a central information hub for data and services made available to these states to further improve the work delivered via the Commonwealth Centre of Excellence in Malta.
3.5 Cross-cutting Outcomes
Cross-cutting outcomes are strategic objectives that must be reflected across all 4 strategic outcomes and all areas of the Secretariat’s work. This Strategic Plan has two cross-cutting themes pertaining to youth empowerment and gender equality for which two intersecting programmes will be created, each with three key components. The first component will be assigned to convening gender-and-youth-related variables and outputs in all the intermediate outcomes, the second section will map out dedicated work for the advancement of gender parity and youth development nationally and across the Commonwealth, and the third component will draft blueprints for mainstreaming actions and inclusive capacity development for the staff of the Secretariat and its fellow Commonwealth institutional partner to incorporate into their outputs across their portfolios.
Priorities identified by the Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers, once processed and approved during the CHOGM’22, will be delivered by the Secretariat; these priorities include economic empowerment for women, ending gender-based violence, and lifting women in leadership and tackling climate change based vulnerabilities faced by women. The Secretariat vows to consult and involve women in needs assessments, initiatives planning and decision-making processes to evaluate and monitor gender equality and climate-based projects to guarantee their perspectives are integrated into all services and programmes of the Commonwealth. In regards to youth empowerment, the organisation will focus on increasing the involvement of youth in politics, the economy and evidence-based developmental projects through the Youth Development Index as a means to promote the professionalisation of youth work.
Focused work on youth empowerment will continue to prioritise strengthening youth engagement and participation in political, economic and social life, promoting equal opportunities for young people, promoting the professionalisation of youth work and promoting evidence-based development policy, including through the use of the Youth Development Index. To promote and advance gender equality across the membership, the Secretariat will deliver focused projects taking forward priorities identified by Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers once these have been approved by CHOGM. Priority areas are women’s economic empowerment; women in leadership; ending violence against women and girls, and gender and climate change. The Secretariat is committing to consulting with women in all their diversity and involving them in needs assessments, decision-making, and planning of initiatives, as well as in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of projects, to ensure that gender perspectives will be integrated into all aspects of the Commonwealth’s work, as a strategy to achieve the goal of gender equality.
3.6 Organisational Enablers
Based upon the context of COVID-19, trends of digitalisation in the post-pandemic recovery as highlighted in Section 1 and recommendations of past Strategic Plans, Mid Term Reviews and CHOGM mandates, the Secretariat has vowed to enhance the use of technology, innovation and digitalisation in their service provisions and daily operations. Since 2016, the Secretariat’s ICT infrastructure has upgraded its on-premises cloud architecture and improved its capabilities in data analysis, cyber security, data processing and management and automation. The robustness of its digital infrastructure has allowed the Secretariat to provide better core ICT support and consultative services to the Commonwealth Foundation, Climate
Finance Advisers, Commonwealth Small States Offices, the Commonwealth
Association of Tax Administrators (CATA) and the Commonwealth Secretariat
Arbitral Tribunal (CSAT).
With the implementation of this new Strategic Plan, the Secretariat will supplement its traditional services with context-sensitive technology such as the use of citizen and location-based data use for in-country election observation, satellite and remote sensing data in climate change monitoring systems for early response mechanisms and big data analyses and e-sharing systems for technical assistance in trade, debt management and social development. The Secretariat will explore both new and existing pathways for digital advisory services for small and vulnerable states to improve their access to digital skills, expand inclusive digital skills training projects for youth, and also arrange for collaboration on sharing good practices and insights from member countries. Furthermore, the Commonwealth Innovation Hub, a digital platform for collaboration on innovative technology amongst member states inaugurated during CHOGM’18, will remain important for the development of interactive resources that are being built upon by the Secretariat as well as Commonwealth organisations including the Legal
Knowledge Portal, Commonwealth Coronavirus Response Centre, COVID-19
data dashboard and vaccination tracker, the Local Governance Knowledge Hub,
and the Teach 2030 E-Learning Course, as well as the SDGs Data Portal, SDG
Tracker and an SDG Data Explorer. Another important initiative is the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Innovation for Sustainable Development Awards to acknowledge and celebrate innovators, with special consideration for frugal innovation and technological developments for small states, of the Commonwealth member states that are working on unprecedented initiatives to help their communities in achieving UN SDGs.
In the past 5 years of the Secretariat’s operations, partnerships with member states have been of utmost importance in the delivery of services and programmes and member countries have been primary stakeholders that have upheld their leadership roles and commitments to the Commonwealth through the delivery of CHOGM mandates. In 2018, the Secretariat introduced the Partnerships Strategy through which more than 50 partnerships agreements were penned with multilateral, regional, civil society, philanthropic and private sector organisations compatible with the Commonwealth’s objectives, capacity and area of impact. Notable partnerships include those with the UN, African Development Bank, CARICOM Secretariat and Bloomberg Philanthropies all of which have improved the impact of the Secretariat and accredited organisations’ services. Building upon the success of these partnerships, the Secretariat will increase collaboration and forge new joint ventures in finance and technology and will explore the possibilities for a resource mobilisation strategy as well as national and transnational private sector engagement policies. The Secretariat’s annual Delivery Plan will further map out the pathways for galvanising these partnerships to ensure the complete and effective execution of this Strategic Plan. Another existing initiative of the Secretariat that will be broadened under this Strategic Plan is the risk policy and strategy that was drafted in 2011 and integrated into the Secretariat’s service execution systems between 2013 and 2016. This strategy has had an immensely positive impact on the progress of the Secretariat’s risk maturity which has elevated from Fragmented Awareness (Level 1 Foundation) to General Awareness (Level 3 Established) and during the period of the new Strategic Plan the goal is to achieve a further improved stage of risk management.
Section 4: Operationalisation of the New Strategic Plan
Through the Secretariat’s annual delivery planning and budgeting, the Strategic Plan will be operationalised and periodic progress reports on the progress of its strategic outcomes will be made available on the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) website. During this phase, the Programme Management and Information System (PMIS) will continue updating and upscaling facilities for the development of projects aimed at the delivery of intermediate outcomes and further assimilation of the Secretariat’s processes with its online systems, and the information on these projects and their designs will be available in the annual delivery plans. The management (Senior Management Group and Senior Management Committee) and governance mechanisms (Board of Governors, Executive Committee, Accreditation Committee) will carry on monitoring and providing requisite guidance for the Strategic Plan that will undergo a full evaluation of its implementation and initial impact during its final year, along with a midterm evaluation of its implementation and initial impact.
For the Commonwealth Secretariat, its staff is the most crucial resource for delivering the organisation’s services to all member states and their citizens. As such the senior staff of the organisation will push to realise their teams’ full potential through the celebration of workplace diversity and inclusivity, up-gradation of their management and leadership capabilities, and embedding results-focussed monitoring and evaluation to guarantee that every action taken by the Secretariat translates into positive impact in member countries. In this new Strategic Plan, the organisation will address recommendations of past evaluations, audits and mediums of feedback in efforts for more joined-up working and silo-breaking, and more robust data and evidence gathering systems. All efforts will be fostered through a culture of transparency and accountability via consistent reporting and releases of programme analyses. In regards to portfolio management, evaluation and learning, the Secretariat will seek out opportunities for better efficiency, accountability and agility to streamline the measurement of progress, especially through system integration and digitalisation across the portfolio.