Strategic Initiatives Programme
The Strategic Initiatives Programme (SIP) monitors, researches and advocates on various human rights issues that affect the peoples of the Commonwealth.
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Prior to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), held every two years, CHRI releases a report on a specific human rights-related theme in the Commonwealth. CHRI's latest CHOGM report focuses on the relationship between national human rights institutions and civil society, and calls for increased collaboration between them as a vehicle for improving human rights promotion and protection in the Commonwealth. Past reports have looked at human rights defenders, anti-terrorism legislation, police reform, the right to information in the Commonwealth, to name a few. Past CHOGM reports can be found here.
SIP also targets its advocacy at various Commonwealth bodies, most prominently the Commonwealth Secretariat and its Human Rights Unit. When egregious and systemic human rights violations take place in a Commonwealth country, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) is mandated to act. SIP has made numerous submissions to CMAG to encourage it to take decisive action in the wake of such abuses. When Cameroon applied for entry to the Commonwealth in 1995 and Rwanda applied in 2009, CHRI released reports on their eligibility compared to the Commonwealth’s fundamental values.
SIP also made a number of submissions to the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group (EPG) as it deliberated reforms through which the Commonwealth could be made more relevant and effective in the 21st century. Many of SIP's recommendations were taken up in the final EPG report, which can be found here.
SIP regularly monitors the performance of Commonwealth countries at the UN Human Rights Council. The results of that monitoring are periodically compiled into a series of publications called Easier Said Than Done, which critically analyse the performance of Commonwealth countries at the Council in relation to their pre-election pledges. SIP also closely followed the Human Rights Council review process, which culminated in early 2011, and was part of a large group of civil society organisations that made submissions with an eye to improving the Council, and its affiliated mechanisms.
SIP’s work on the UN Human Rights Council extends to the Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism, which reviews the human rights situation of each UN Member State on a cyclical basis. Civil society is invited to make submissions on States under review and SIP did so for thirteen Commonwealth countries during the first cycle of the UPR. SIP has also acted as a training resource to enable local and national human rights groups to understand and access the UPR process.