The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 countries that work together toward shared goals in democracy and development. These member states range from large countries such as Canada to small islands such as Jamaica.
The mandate of the Commonwealth is to serve the needs of its member governments and their citizens in political, economic and social development and to provide a forum for deliberation, problem solving, consensus decision-making, and action on matters of importance to the organization.
Canada joined the Commonwealth in 1931 and has played an important role in its evolution, from the days of the British Empire before the Second World War through its transition into the modern Commonwealth of today—a worldwide, multicultural association of sovereign and equal states. The Commonwealth includes three inter-governmental organizations:
Canada is an engaged and committed partner in the Commonwealth Secretariat's development work. The Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation (CFTC) is the main development arm of the Secretariat, and Canada is its second largest donor, providing about one quarter of its annual funding.
Canada contributes to several Commonwealth election observation missions.
Headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) was created in 1987 to encourage the development and sharing of education, knowledge, resources, and technologies to help developing nations improve access to quality education and training. DFATD provides about one third of its annual funding making Canada its largest donor.
Canada is a member of the governing boards of these organizations.
The Commonwealth Secretariat's goals include strengthening peace and democracy in member countries and improving economic growth to benefit the poor. These goals align closely with two of Canada's priority themes for international development, namely stimulating sustainable economic growth and securing the future of children and youth, and the crosscutting theme of democratic governance.
The Secretariat's focus on helping member countries strengthen their public policy and management capacities to achieve economic growth makes it a key multilateral partner for Canada in formulating, negotiating and implementing trade policies, diversifying export bases, strengthening debt management, and attracting new investment.
The Secretariat supports member country efforts to secure a future for children and youth by providing technical expertise in vocational education for youth, education and teaching tools for professional development, fostering vibrant youth networks, and promoting youth enterprises.
The Secretariat promotes peace and democracy by helping to strengthen democratic institutions and processes in member countries, including improving election processes, strengthening the rule of law, adopting and implementing human rights standards, and implementing measures to prevent and combat corruption.
Canada's international development work with the Commonwealth focuses on three strategic objectives:
In 2011, with the support of Canada and other donors, the Commonwealth and its institutions:
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