Staying engaged – promoting and fostering the Commonwealth

Who we are

The Commonwealth Association is the staff alumni association of the Commonwealth. This network of skills and influence draws its members from those who have previously served in the Commonwealth Secretariat or Commonwealth Foundation, or in any other Commonwealth organisation in a salaried post. It was established in London in 2001 not only as a means of keeping in touch with former colleagues socially (meeting from time to time in the Commonwealth’s Headquarters, Marlborough House) but also as a way of supporting the Commonwealth in a variety of practical ways.

The Commonwealth Association’s founder and first Chair was Patsy Robertson (from Jamaica) who was one of the first staff members to be recruited by Canadian diplomat Arnold Smith, the Commonwealth’s first Commonwealth Secretary-General, when he set about creating the Commonwealth Secretariat after 1965. Previously, the Commonwealth had been administered by the UK Government (through the Commonwealth Relations Office) but, by the early 1960s, there was growing pressure from member governments for an independent intergovernmental organisation which would serve Commonwealth members equally and impartially. The Commonwealth Foundation, which is also an intergovernmental body, was founded at the same time but with the task of developing the Commonwealth’s extensive non-governmental and cultural linkages.

Members of the Commonwealth Association can now be found in all walks of life and many Commonwealth countries. A number are Ministers, Members of Parliament, diplomats or government officials while others are academics, lawyers, doctors and journalists, among other callings. All share a common commitment. Each has served the Commonwealth in some capacity or other and in doing so has been asked to leave his or her nationality at the door and to be loyal to the Commonwealth, first and foremost. This is a bond which endures, and Association members often go on to work for the Commonwealth in other ways, in either a professional or voluntary capacity. This might be in the field of development and international affairs in major inter-governmental Commonwealth organisations, non-governmental and professional bodies, and in civil society. They have considerable experience in legal, economic, political, diplomatic, technical assistance, gender and youth affairs, education, health and communication matters. The Association sees this skills network as an important resource available to the Commonwealth.