The 2005 Commonwealth
Human Rights Forum
Coordinator Strategic Planning and Programmes, CHRI
With only six
months to go until the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
(CHOGM), our minds are turning to Malta and ways to take forward
the human rights agenda. CHOGM sets the policy of the Commonwealth
and as such is a crucial target for any organisation seeking to
influence the future directions and programmes of the association.
It is important, though, to also remember that an association
is the sum of its parts – and the government in your home country
could be a key ally in taking forward your concerns. Now is the
time to be knocking on those doors!
While the Commonwealth
has been traditionally seen as an inter-governmental organisation,
there is increasing recognition of the integral role of the People’s
Commonwealth as well. The Commonwealth People’s Forum, to be held
in Malta from November 21st to 25th, is organised by the Commonwealth
Foundation and the theme this year is Networking Commonwealth
People. It is an important opportunity for civil society voices
to be raised – let us hope that governments will be listening.
While CHRI will
be active in Malta on a number of fronts – including launching
a pan-Commonwealth report on accountability of the police – a
major event will be the Commonwealth Human Rights Forum (CHRF).
It will bring together human rights activists from across the
Commonwealth and the focus of discussions will be on ‘Civil Society
first CHRF was held in Nigeria in 2003 immediately before the last
CHOGM. Participants have maintained contact through the Commonwealth
Human Rights Network, a network of civil society activists that
aims to increase human rights advocacy in the Commonwealth. The
success of the 2003 CHRF - combined with feedback from participants
and demand from CHRN members as well through communiqués of international
human rights meetings - has provided the impetus to hold another
Commonwealth Human Rights Forum.
theme of both CHOGM and the Commonwealth People’s Forum relate to
networking. A crucial part to networking in order to promote, protect
and fulfill human rights is having the ‘space’ in which to do so,
as an individual or an organisation. The theme of the CHRF will
therefore be on civil society space, and the agenda will include
discussions related to restrictions to such space including related
to: registration of NGOs, limitations on freedom of association
and expression, security and anti-terror measures. There will be
case studies from around the Commonwealth, as well as a focus on
sharing advocacy strategies and successes in resisting restriction
main objectives of the 2005 CHRF are to:
- Raise the profile of human rights
issues and concerns in the Commonwealth, particularly related
to space for effective functioning of civil society and Human
- Advocate common human rights
concerns to Commonwealth government delegations.
- Provide a platform for sharing
not only human rights concerns but also, actions and good practice
across the Commonwealth from a civil society perspective.
- Provide a space for interaction
between civil society groups and National Human Rights Commissions.
- Build skills for advocating on
human rights, particularly within the Commonwealth system.
- Enable consolidation and growth
of the CHRN.
looks forward to working with diverse Commonwealth groups during
the Forum. Let our Networking at the CHRF and wider CHOGM events
be for the human rights of all across the Commonwealth