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Volume 12 Number 2
New Delhi, Summer 2005

The 2005 Commonwealth Human Rights Forum

Clare Doube
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 Space’.

The 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.

The 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 of space.

The 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 Rights Defenders.
  • 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.

CHRI 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

CHRI Newsletter, Summer 2005

Editors: Vaishali Mishra & Clare Doube, CHRI;
Print: Anshu Tejpal,
Web Developer: Swayam Mohanty, CHRI.
Acknowledgement: Many thanks to all contributors

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The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an independent international NGO mandated to ensure the practical realisation of human rights in the Commonwealth.