CHOGM in Perth in October 2011 will create a new ‘Commission for Good’ to concentrate on human rights, governance, the rule of law and democracy across the 54 Commonwealth nations around the globe. The move is recommended by an eminent persons group which has spent the past year analysing how to try to boost the moral and ethical credentials of the Commonwealth, and give the largely symbolic body a semblance of international muscle.
CHOGM to choose ‘Commissioner for Good
Australia is likely to sign on to a new Commonwealth initiative – a Commission for Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights – when 50-plus heads of state from the red bits of the globe meet in Perth, Australia, from 28-30 October 2011.
The proposed catch-all commission for governance and liberties is meant to address the silence and toothlessness of the Commonwealth for decades on human rights issues.
In recent years, the Commonwealth’s impotency has been most pronounced over the violation of a country’s prosperity and its people as in Zimbabwe, and the death of democracy as in Fiji.
The proposed "Commissioner for Good" is a recommendation from an Eminent Person’s Group (EPG), which was conceived at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Trinidad and Tobago in 2009.
Since July 2010, the EPG has met four times in London and once in Kuala Lumpur. Its brief is to advise the 2011 CHOGM in Australia on how to improve the Commonwealth’s institutions to make them stronger and more effective, particularly on how to create a “stronger, more resilient and progressive [organisation] founded on enduring values and principles,” according to EPG member and former Australian High Court judge, Michael Kirby (see speech).
Kirby, in fact, may be proposed as the first "Commissioner for Good" – he has all the qualifications, being a former top national judge, with extensive and recent mediation experience internationally, and having a second-to-none record as a human rights campaigner, particularly on homosexual matters. However, whether African Commonwealth countries will agree to a homosexual as the "Good Commissioner" is doubtful: in some of those countries, the human rights of homosexuals are about where the rights of African slaves were 200 years ago.
Word is that the EPG recommends the “Good Commissioner” holding office for four-to-five years: he or she would be a distinguished Commonwealth citizen such as a retired judge, and would report directly to the Commonwealth Ministerial Advisory Group. Other recommendations to be considered by CHOGM include improved development assistance, climate change, and the rights of women and girls. It is believed there is also a concise "Values Paper", contained to a handful of pages, which CHOGM is being asked to endorse.
The EPG report is likely to be released publically at the end of September.
Eminent Persons Group established by CHOGM in 2009: http://www.thecommonwealth.org/Internal/228488/228491/what_is_the_epg/ )
Members of the EPG are:
- Dr. Emmanuel O. Akwetey (Ghana)
- Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Malaysia, Chairperson)
- Ms Patricia Francis (Jamaica)
- Dr Asma Jahangir (Pakistan)
- Mr Samuel Kavuma (Uganda) – (Commonwealth Youth Caucus)
- The Hon Michael Kirby (Australia)
- Dr Graca Machel (Mozambique)
- Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind (UK)
- Sir Ronald Sanders (Guyana)
- Senator Hugh Segal (Canada)
- Sir Ieremia Tabai (Kiribati)