Singapore meeting should demand that the Commonwealth
keep up with the times
Commonwealth’s leading human rights group, the Commonwealth Human
Rights Initiative (CHRI) has called for Monday’s Singapore meeting
of the Commonwealth’s High Level Review Group to grasp the chance
to make the Commonwealth more relevant to its people and to ensure
its future in the global arena.
High Level Review Group is a group of leaders of 10 Commonwealth
nations which was set up in 1999 at the Commonwealth Heads of
Government Meeting (CHOGM) in South Africa. Their mandate is to
‘review the role of the Commonwealth and advise how best it could
respond the challenges of the new Century’.
group, which includes Singapore, India, Australia, South Africa
and the United Kingdom, has been meeting regularly for close to
a year and their next meeting is Singapore on Monday and Tuesday
(9th and 10th July). They will be reporting to the next CHOGM,
which will take place in Brisbane, Australia in October.
“This meeting is part of a long review process and it should be
obvious by now that it’s time to break from the image of the Commonwealth
as a comfortable club of leaders”, says Maja Daruwala, director
of the CHRI in New Delhi.
Daruwala says the reasons why change is urgently needed are clear.
The Commonwealth is essentially an organisation of the poor. Eighty-five
percent of Commonwealth people live in developing countries and
60% are amongst the poorest in the world.
the Commonwealth mentions development and poverty in its official
rhetoric and makes pledges on realising human rights, CHRI believes
much more could be done.
has made two key recommendations to the review group for the Singapore
meeting. First, given the extensive human rights violations taking
place in Commonwealth countries, human rights must be central
to all the polices, practices and activities of the Commonwealth.
of the many ways to achieve this is to expand the responsibilities
of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) which is mandated
to look into serious and persistent violations of human rights”,
said Ms Daruwala.
second recommendation is to create more bridges between Commonwealth
people, who make up a third of the world’s population, and the
organisation’s leaders and bureaucrats.
Commonwealth could follow the United Nation’s lead and start listening
to the issues that are important to the people”, says Maja Daruwala.
they listened then they would find that people are talking about,
for example, climbing out of poverty, human rights, and education”,
she says, “these are all areas where the Commonwealth could be
representing its people on the global stage and at the same time
building credibility and relevance for the future”.
interviews or more information:
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
Commonwealth News Information Service (CNIS), Issue 30, 21 March