The two years covered here, from July 2013 to June 2015, were a period of transformation for the Commonwealth Secretariat as we worked to translate into practical action our Strategic Plan from 2013/14 to 2016/17. The Plan is a clearly signposted roadmap, following implementation of the most fundamental reforms for a generation, both of the work we do and of the way we do it.
The Secretariat provided policy advice and technical support to member countries in order to strengthen policy and regulatory frameworks for health and education. Expertise deployed for analysing policies and developing strategies helped bridge gaps between the formulation and implementation of policies to realise national health and education goals.
In-depth research and analysis of policies commissioned by the Secretariat, and documentation of Commonwealth practices, informed ministerial meetings and related forums. The Secretariat focused particularly on the implications of the Post-2015 Development Agenda for member countries.
As part of the current reforms, the Commonwealth Secretariat launched an electronic hub to facilitate Commonwealth-wide communication on education. Between 2013 and 2015, the Commonwealth Secretariat made significant contributions to global health debates through its convening power and networks, thought leadership and high-level advocacy on issues relevant to member countries.
The theme of the annual Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting in 2015 in Geneva was ‘Universal health coverage, with an emphasis on ageing and good health’. The meeting highlighted the centrality of universal health coverage in the Post- 2015 Development Agenda while recognising the challenge of an ageing population and the need to promote preventive health care, particularly in the face of increasing non-communicable diseases.
While acknowledging the need for a life-course approach to health care, ministers noted the importance of ensuring the ‘unfinished business’ of the Millennium Development Goals, such as the need to reduce maternal, new-born and child mortality. Health ministers reviewed presentations from across the Commonwealth on best practices in improving access to quality, affordable health care.
In collaboration with Public Health England, the Commonwealth Secretariat facilitated twinning arrangements and provided technical support to strengthen the capacity of public health laboratories in Seychelles and Sierra Leone. In 2014, Public Health England formally committed to providing both funding and technical expertise. In Sierra Leone, Public Health England assisted with drafting a national public health strategy and improving laboratory systems