Secretary-General Scotland signs agreement with Foreign Minister Vella of Malta to establish the Small States Centre of Excellence in his country. (New York, September 2017).

Malta and us: Our new centre supports 31 small states

Joseph Muscat understands the needs of small states. He’s prime minister of one of the smallest, Malta. So he’s fully committed to the joint initiative we’ve embarked on with his country – the Commonwealth Small States Centre of Excellence, in Malta, which will be officially opened at CHOGM 2018.

The Secretariat and Malta government initially agreed to establish the new Centre, and jointly fund it, at CHOGM 2015 in Malta. Then, in September 2016, they signed an agreement to host it in that country.

The Secretariat supplied a Technical Adviser to the project. In collaboration with officials from the Government of Maltaand the Small States team, the Adviser has advanced work in the following areas for the Centre:

  • organisational design
  • tailoring Information and Communications Technology (ICT) platforms
  • engaging experts for capacity building solutions
  • fostering strategic partnerships.

This centre is going to provide the targeted assistance that Commonwealth small states require, when and where they need it.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat of Malta

The Small States Centre of Excellence will be formally launched at the Commonwealth Ministerial Meeting on Small States during CHOGM 2018.

Once up and running, the Centre will assist small member states in critical areas such as disaster preparedness, debt management and women’s economic empowerment. Experts at the Centre will oversee relevant research on small states and the sharing of best practice, including for the management of fishing and other ocean-related industries.

Together, Malta and the Commonwealth Secretariat are expected to contribute over €400,000 in the first three years of the project. The Government of Malta will provide premises and staffing for the Centre. It will also give €100,000 in its first year of operation, while the Secretariat has committed to at least £100,000 a year for the first three years.

Commenting on our partnership, Prime Minister Muscat said: “Often the challenges facing small states in the Commonwealth do not receive enough recognition in international forums. This makes us even more proud to be able to support such an important initiative. This centre is going to provide the targeted assistance that Commonwealth small states require, when and where they need it.”

After the signing, at the Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers’ Meeting in New York, the Secretary-General said:

“Thirty-one of our 53 members are small states, and many of them are constantly under threat from catastrophic natural events that are claiming lives and wiping out development progress. How do we help them prepare for and recover from disasters? We have countries who are in so much debt they are struggling to find the money to provide basic healthcare and education. How do we help create a long-term sustainable debt strategy that takes into account their vulnerability to climate change and global economic trends?”

She added: “The Small States Centre of Excellence will provide innovative solutions to these and other challenges facing developing Commonwealth countries. This is why we thought it was absolutely necessary to put up seed money to ensure it becomes a reality.”

Watch: Foreign Minister Vella of Malta talks about the importance of our joint project.

Francine Baron, Dominica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, praised the initiative, saying:

“Last month was the anniversary of one of the deadliest storms that Dominica has experienced in recent times. Despite the loss of US$483 million, equivalent to 90 percent of Dominica’s Gross Domestic Product, we had to find resources and the resilience to get up and start rebuilding. This will be a long process for us, but with the help of our international partners and friends, we will succeed.

“To have an initiative that supports us with disaster preparedness and management, a centre that is dedicated to the specific circumstances and challenges that small and vulnerable states like Dominica face, will be a lifeline and is the sort of partnership we all should encourage.”

Prime Minister Muscat also said: “We believe the Small States Centre of Excellence has the potential to serve as a life-line for developing small states, which are constantly having to manoeuvre multiple challenges in their endeavours towards achieving economic growth, and it shall aid in overcoming some of the hurdles they face in attaining their objectives for sustainable economic growth and development.”

Some of our other partnerships in 2015-2017


In 2016/17 we worked with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. Building on recent support to the Nauru Electoral Commission, we made recommendations to the country’s Electoral Task Force Committee on how Nauru could improve its electoral processes and institutions.

In 2015/16 we built tailored good offices strategies in close collaboration with SouthAfrica and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) with regard to Lesotho,

We shared information and analyses, and advocated for the follow-up of recommendations of electoral observers, with other organisations. Our observer missions cooperated and collaborated with AU, Organization of American States (OAS), Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), European Union (EU), South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), SADC and various citizen observer missions. This cooperation added value by increasing the scope and breadth of understanding of political developments and processes in member states, and led to powerfully communicated joint messaging.

As part of the Commonwealth Class collaboration with the British Council, special lesson plans have been prepared for teachers to introduce their students to the work of the Commonwealth. These are produced in partnership with First News, a newspaper for students aged 7-14. They link to the special monthly supplements it publishes on the Commonwealth.

Another Commonwealth Class partnership was with the Commonwealth Science Conference that took place in Singapore in June 2017. The Royal Society produced high quality films for “Commonwealth Science Class” and made special learning resources available for school children

Public institutions

In 2016/17 we partnered with Ghana’s Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, as well as traditional chiefs and Queen Mothers in the rural north of the country. This resulted in a draft Memorandum of Understanding and agreement to undertake a joint programme to eliminate CEFM.

In 2015/16, we collaborated with the CFNHRI, in particular the Chair, Northern Ireland, who spearheaded the adoption of the first CFNHRI Strategic Plan.

Supporting inter-regional collaboration of parliamentarians on human rights is a key area of Commonwealth comparative advantage. In delivering this strand of work, the Secretariat partnered closely with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), and this period also saw deeper involvement with Parliamentarians for Global Action.

The advancement of the Latimer House principles has been enriched through close collaboration and sharing of expertise with the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA), the Latimer House Working Group, the Commonwealth Legal Forum, the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, and the Caribbean Association of Judicial Officers.

The Secretariat worked in partnership with Queen Mary University and King’s College University of London to draft legal policy papers for the upcoming meeting of Senior Officials of Commonwealth Law Ministers in October 2016.

The Secretariat worked with the British Red Cross to organise the “Law, Humanity and Commonwealth” seminar in June.

Collaboration with the World Bank and Transparency International has been vital in providing timely access to relevant technical expertise for the CAACC’s training programmes and conducting anti-corruption related research in Commonwealth Africa.

Social Development

In 2016/17, highlights included momentum leveraged at the Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting (Geneva, May 2017 – see page 23), and the finalisation of a successful pilot of the Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) Framework. We developed them in partnership with the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC), in Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

2015/16 saw the development of some significant external partnerships. Expert collaboration with Public Health England, Public Health Wales and the United Kingdom National Health Service made the Health Framework and Toolkit possible. Also, the HCC was crucial to developing the NCD Framework.

Meanwhile, the technical expert in Sierra Leone worked in partnership with the World Health Organisation to establish and systematise improved standard operating procedures for infectious disease early warning systems. The expert also supported the Ministry to be more strategic in its partnerships with the many donor stakeholders currently operating in the country.


2016/17 highlights include the launch of the pilot Commonwealth Young Women’s Mentorship Scheme. The scheme aims to empower future young women leaders and will be delivered in partnership with the Commonwealth Youth Council, the Commonwealth Youth Gender and Equality Network and Rotary groups in Canadaand the Caribbean.

In 2015/16 the Secretariat worked with ILO, WHO, World Bank, OECD, African Union, SPC and CARICOM to agree the methodology and data for the 2016 Global YDI, which was published in September 2016. This expertise has made the YDI a more robust tool.

Youth policy monitoring and evaluation workshops in the Caribbean and Pacific engaged senior officials from national Youth Ministries, Statistics Offices, and youth leaders. This ensured both buy-in by key stakeholders, and the relevance of outputs in aligning to the SDGs and National and Regional Development Plans.

We delivered the 2nd Commonwealth Youth Work Conference in partnership with the Government of South Africa.Importantly, substantive partnerships are increasing between the Secretariat / external partners, and the Commonwealth Youth Networks, which will continue to grow as they become more robust and established (e.g. Secretariat with CYC for 10th Commonwealth Youth Forum, CARICOM with CRYC for a Caribbean Region Youth Development Conference).


In 2015/16, we established a partnership (and have been granted observer status) with the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds, which provides a platform to officials of petroleum ministries.

The Secretariat partnered with the World Bank on an assessment of the status of the Blue Economy in the Caribbean, a precursor for broader collaboration for technical assistance in the region.

Climate Financing

In 2015/16 to ensure the success of our Climate Finance Access Hub, the Secretariat strengthened its partnerships with the governments of Australia and Mauritius.

In addition, key development partners have been consulted during three scoping missions to the AfricanCaribbean and Pacific regions including three partners of the Climate Resilient Islands Partnership (SPREP, Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) and Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs).

We strengthened our collaboration with the Readiness Coordination Mechanism (RCM) Group of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to raise the profile of the Hub and ensure that there is not a duplication in efforts. In addition to UN organisations, key members of the RCM include the World Resources Institute, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the African Development Bank (AfDB), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Global Economic Facility and the Adaptation Fund.

The Commonwealth’s participation in the RCM has led to a proposed partnership with the GCF, AfDB and GIZ on using the Hub to deliver a training of trainers programme.

There has also been continued engagement with the parties involved in the proposed resource mobilisation arrangements for the Hub. Engagements with the EU, la Francophonie and the ACP Secretariat have resulted in a proposed four-way partnership that will be central to developing programme documents and frameworks in line with all partners’ expectations and to access resources under the intra- ACP funding stream of the 11th EDF.