By Ronald Musoke
The Commonwealth has adopted an historic charter as part of a wide-ranging package of reforms for the 54-member association that brings together mostly nations and territories of former British colonies and protectorates.
While publicizing the new charter on Dec. 19, the Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma and the Chair-in-Office, Julia Gillard, Australia’s Premier said the charter acknowledges the role of civil society in supporting the goals and values of the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth’s Heads of Government endorsed the Charter after broad consultations among member governments, civil society and the public last year.
The Charter brings together the values and aspirations which unite the Commonwealth – democracy, human rights and the rule of law – in a single, accessible document.
The Charter expresses the commitment of the 54 member states to the development of free and democratic societies and the promotion of peace and prosperity to improve the lives of all peoples of the Commonwealth.
Sharma introduced the Charter as a defining document for an inclusive and accountable Commonwealth.
“We are now better placed to respond to the needs of our citizens,” he said.
Gillard said the Charter would belong as much to the people of the Commonwealth as it did to member governments.
The Charter was a key recommendation of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group (EPG) in their 2011 report ‘A Commonwealth of the People: Time for Urgent Reform’.
The ten-member group was tasked with advising the Commonwealth on building a stronger, more resilient and progressive association. Its 106 recommendations were presented to Heads of Government meeting in Perth, Australia last October.
Thirty recommendations of the EPG report were adopted in Perth and a process established to consider others.