Government ministers and legal advisers from across the Commonwealth are meeting to lay the foundation for a global network of parliamentary champions of human rights.
The national representatives are in London for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference on the Rule of Law and Human Rights.
The conference was jointly organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK, the UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.
Its aim is to help parliamentarians in Commonwealth countries to collaborate and share successful strategies and policies to promote and protect human rights.
Opening the three-day conference yesterday, the Secretary-General pointed to the Commonwealth Charter which speaks eloquently of the shared commitment to member countries, to rule of law and human rights.
She said: “By understanding that we all have something to contribute, and recognising the richness that each can bring, we have learnt that more is achieved by consensus rather than confrontation. Our Commonwealth way is always to see the bigger picture, and to share concern for the welfare of others – particularly the vulnerable and marginalised.”
Secretary-General Scotland urged ministers to celebrate the 2017 Commonwealth theme ‘A Peace-building Commonwealth’ with practical actions to end discrimination and inequality.
Participants will spend the rest of the conference in the Houses of Parliament examining the effectiveness of strategies such as specialised human rights committees.
Speaking at a reception for high commissioners and conference delegates, Baroness Anelay, UK Minister of State for the Commonwealth, and Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Dr Josephine Ojiambo commended the work of parliamentarians and civil society. They stressed the importance of rule of law and cross-party collaboration in protecting human rights.
Dr Ojiambo reiterated the Commonwealth’s commitment to supporting parliamentary champions of human rights. The Commonwealth has already established regional networks for parliamentarians in the Pacific, Africa and Asia. Its capacity-building seminars in these areas have resulted in landmark declarations and commitments on human rights, which, she said, are already having a positive impact.
Ministers participating in this week’s conference are expected to issue a joint statement with specific commitments to advance the human rights agenda.