Hot on the heels of Canada’s threat to pull funding for the Commonwealth Secretariat for its role in allowing Sri Lanka to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo next month, reports have surfaced that Britain has also imposed budget cuts on the 53 member body.
The British Government has pulled funds over concerns about the Commonwealth’s leadership and performance, the UK Telegraph newspaper reports.
The UK is the Commonwealth’s top funder, making Canada the second largest with 10 million sterling pounds per year.
Concerns over the Commonwealth’s direction after the organisation decided to go through with CHOGM in Sri Lanka against whom there are mounting concerns about human rights violations, have seen major donors scale back contributions to its budget, the newspaper said.
“Whitehall has imposed cuts of £3 million over two years from its grant to the Commonwealth Secretariat. Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, provoked fears of a funding crisis this week by warning that Ottawa was looking at the scale of its own “financing”,” the Telegraph reported.
The newspaper quotes a senior former official at the Commonwealth Secretariat, which is based at Marlborough House on Pall Mall, who said Commonwealth Members were increasingly unhappy with Kamalesh Sharma, the secretary-general.
“William Hague has recently conceded to critics of the Commonwealth leadership that a change would be desirable,” the source said. “It is a pity but Mr Sharma is the wrong man for the job. The Commonwealth has a big job to do helping to improve official work in its member states but Mr Sharma is not interested.” A spokesman for Mr Sharma refused to return calls for comment on criticism of its secretariat from its members.
The UK based newspaper reported sources as saying Whitehall had imposed annual cuts of £1.5 million from a portion of the grant it gives the Commonwealth to spend on improving government standards in its member states.