The Commonwealth Secretariat this year celebrates 50 years since it was established, and on 25 June will mark the 50th anniversary of the day in 1965 on which Arnold Smith assumed office as the first Secretary-General.
The decision to establish the Secretariat had been taken a year before at a meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in London to carry forward the innovative suggestion of setting up an impartial, independent, intergovernmental ‘central clearing house.’
It was to be ‘a visible symbol of the spirit of co-operation which animates the Commonwealth’ with core values of commitment to racial equality, individual liberty, democratic self-determination, eradication of economic inequality, world peace and international cooperation.
Kamalesh Sharma, who currently holds office as the fifth Secretary-General said: "Since its inception, the Commonwealth Secretariat has had its eyes on the horizon, practical toolkits in hand, and a determination to make a positive difference in the lives of Commonwealth citizens and to add global value.
"In 2015, such vision and collaboration are even more greatly needed with a larger membership and pressing global challenges. As a diverse and increasingly connected global network, the Commonwealth brings fresh thinking and practical initiatives. Through cooperation and mutual trust, we are able to sustain and advance yet further the principles around which the Commonwealth unites, and the values we share and seek to uphold now set out with fresh clarity in the Commonwealth Charter."
Today, as the Commonwealth’s principal intergovernmental body, the Secretariat provides support on policy-making, technical assistance and advisory services to its 53 member states.
With a staff drawn from across the Commonwealth, based at Marlborough House in London, with support offices for small states in New York and Geneva, the Secretariat supports member states individually and collectively in advancing democracy, rule of law, human rights, good governance, social and economic development, and respect for diversity within the values and principles-based approach reflected in the Commonwealth Charter.
Over coming months, Secretariat staff will be joined by member states and associates from the wider Commonwealth family of civil society and professional organisations to mark, in a variety of ways and at a series of events, the achievements of the Secretariat in its first 50 years.