The Commonwealth Secretariat will open the doors to its new office for its small states in Geneva, Switzerland, on 17 January 2011.
The Commonwealth Small States Office will provide subsidised office space for diplomatic missions of Commonwealth small states, as well as a business centre for tenants and visiting small states delegations attending multilateral meetings in Geneva.
Maldives, The Bahamas, Solomon Islands, the Organisation for Eastern Caribbean States and Seychelles have already confirmed their tenancy in the new office.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, said: “We are delighted to open this new office to assist our small states that could not otherwise afford the full cost of a Permanent Mission in Geneva. The office will allow these countries to establish a diplomatic presence in the region for bilateral accreditation in Europe and to the many multilateral organisations in Geneva. It will also act as a global hub for small states to work with other countries on issues such as trade, private investment, human rights, health and labour.
“To this end, I gratefully acknowledge the generous support from our member states, which have been key in getting this project off the ground. A special word of thanks also to the Swiss for their contribution to the project.”
At the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala, Uganda, leaders asked the Secretariat to explore the possibility of establishing an office in Geneva. Before the establishment of the office, The Bahamas, Solomon Islands and Seychelles did not have any offices in Geneva.
Situated at 15 Chemin Louis Dunant, the new office is within walking distance from the offices of the UN and other international organisations in Geneva, and very close to the World Trade Organization. It includes spacious and well equipped conference and business facilities. While rent will be subsidised, there is the possibility of further subsidy for Least Developed Countries from the Canton of Geneva - the westernmost state of Switzerland. Subsidised utilities and service costs will be funded through donor contributions.
The Geneva office can also be used by Commonwealth Secretariat staff and experts assisting member states in areas of work that take place in Geneva, including trade, human rights, health and labour. Member states that take up tenancy at the new office will also have access to a resident technical expert on trade and human rights, provided at no extra cost by the Commonwealth Secretariat.