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Submission to Senior Officials’ Meeting prior to the Committee of the Whole 2021



Overall Coordination

Nicholas Watts, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London (ICwS)


Governance and Rule of Law

Sneh Aurora, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

Jesse Sperling, The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN)



David Gomez, Ramphal Institute

Nicholas Watts, Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS)

Arif Zaman, Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network (CBWN)



Vajira Dissanayake, Commonwealth Medical Association (CMA), Commonwealth Health Practitioners’ Alliance (CHPA)

David Jones, Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work (COSW)



Helen Jones, Commonwealth Education Council (CEC)

Christian Nwosu, Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU)


Technology and Innovation

Godfred Boahen, Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work (COSW)

Arif Zaman, Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network (CBWN)


Education (additional chapter)

Beth Kreling, Commonwealth Consortium for Education (CCfE)

Peter Williams, Commonwealth Consortium for Education (CCfE)



Sneh Aurora, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

Judith Diment, The Commonwealth Rotary

Anna Guttman, The Commonwealth Association for Literature and Language Studies (ACLALS)

Clive Harridge, Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP)

David Jones, Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work (COSW)

Helen Jones, Council for Education in the Commonwealth (CEC)

Kathleen McCourt, Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation (CNMF)

Jackie Middleton, Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU)

Bishakha Mukherjee, The Commonwealth Association (COMASSOC)

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN)

(alternate: Jesse Sperling)

Ann Ramsden, Commonwealth Association of Museums (CAM)

            (alternate: Mrinalini Venkateswaran)

Victoria Rutter, Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Association (CPA)

Owen Tudor, Commonwealth Trade Union Group (CTUG)

Nicholas Watts , Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS)  (Chair)

Arif Zaman, Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network (CBWN)


In 2015, a reformed approach was adopted to the traditional interaction between accredited Commonwealth organisations and senior representatives of Commonwealth member governments.  This interaction occurs on the eve of the meeting of the Commonwealth's Committee of the Whole (CoW).

Instead of making individual submissions, as in the past, the accredited organisations decided to develop thematic papers collectively, reflecting their shared views and suggestions. This change was intended to strengthen the relevance of the contributions made by accredited organisations before the Communiqué of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is developed through intergovernmental discussion.

For the 2018 CHOGM in London, five short thematic papers, broadly reflecting the priority themes chosen for government leaders’ discussions at the CHOGM, were presented together as a single submission.

The five thematic papers dealt with issues related to:

·     A Fairer Future

·     A More Prosperous Future

·     A More Secure Future

·     A More Sustainable Future

·     Partnerships in the Commonwealth 


For the 2021 CHOGM in Kigali, Rwanda the five thematic papers deal with:

·         Governance and Rule of Law

·         Sustainability (Climate, Oceans, Trade and Economic Growth)

·         Health

·         Youth

·         Technology and Innovation, as well as a new chapter on

·         Education.

There are some 80-plus Commonwealth bodies in the ‘Commonwealth Organisations’ (CO) category, accredited through the Accreditation Committee of the Board of Governors of the Commonwealth Secretariat. This recognizes their contribution to the organizational life of the Commonwealth and their commitment to the values and principles outlined in the Commonwealth Charter. In 2018, at the meeting with senior representatives of member governments, a small number of representatives from accredited organisations introduced the thematic papers in their submission and responded to questions and comments.

There is a much longer history to relationships between Commonwealth organizations and the Commonwealth Secretariat; relationships that are still being worked out and which most would agree are sufficiently unsatisfactory to need more thought and investment.  Interest in this subject was especially strong at the beginning of the new millennium, when a Commonwealth Civil Society Project was initiated in 2002 at the now defunct Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit (CPSU), formerly part of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London.

Fortunately, some of the work of the Civil Society Project is still accessible through digital files.  For a rehearsal of the relevant background and ongoing issues, still unresolved, see:


Amanda Shah, Joining up the Commonwealth: A Response to Governmental Calls for Increased Coordination with Civil Society (London: Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, August 2002).


At the April 2018 CHOGM in London, Heads of Government mandated a High Level Group  (HLG) chaired by HE Anote Tong, former President of Kiribati to ‘update and clarify the governance arrangements of the Secretariat’, and the HLG produced two reports to Commonwealth Foreign Ministers. The second included focus on ‘(a) the arrangements for accreditation and partnerships for new stakeholders; [and] (b) the need for greater levels of collaboration among accredited organizations and between those organizations and the Commonwealth Secretariat.’ See to access the reports.


COs had already conducted a new mapping exercise (see ‘Mapping CO relevance to the Plan’, accessed via green text box at, identifying existing clusters of COs active in sectors including law, education, health, human rights and social justice, human settlements, natural environment, gender and women’s issues, governance and administration, sport, business and media. Subsequently, the IFCO has worked to develop new clusters of organisations on Cities and Human Settlements and on Culture. While the latter is in development, the former has recently launched a Call to Action on Sustainable Urbanisation Across the Commonwealth, which is likely to be a focus of the Kigali CHOGM.



The origins of the IFCO were at a chance meeting of its soon to be founder members, Nicholas Watts, then of the Commonwealth Human Ecology Council (CHEC), David White (then of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, CHRI, now at the UK High Commission in Delhi) and Arif Zaman (Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network – CBWN) at the Royal Society of Arts in London shortly after the 2015 Malta CHOGM. It took its impetus from the newly appointed Secretary General, HE Patricia Scotland QC’s promise to increase the frequency and quality of interaction with the Commonwealth accredited organisations (COs). The IFCO has been meeting regularly on a quarterly basis since early 2016 and has welcomed the precedent set for COs’ engagement in CHOGM.

Submission to Senior Officials’ Meeting prior to the Committee of the Whole 2018



Overall Coordination

     Nicholas Watts, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London



     David Jones and Godfred Boahen, Commonwealth Organization for Social Work


     Gemma Freedman, Commonwealth Trade Union Group


     David White, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative


     Clive Harridge, Commonwealth Association of Planners

     Peter Oborn, Commonwealth Association of Architects



     Lewis Brooks, Royal Commonwealth Society 

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