Commonwealth Heads of Government established the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) in 1995 to act as the custodian of the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values, addressing country situations where serious or persistent violations of Commonwealth values have occurred. Leaders agreed on a series of measures that the Group should take in response to such violations, aimed at the swift restoration of democracy and constitutional rule. As such, CMAG has supported the strengthening of democracy in member countries and has enhanced the Commonwealth’s profile on the international stage.
By 2009, Commonwealth leaders recognised that the bar needed to be raised further – both in defining the Commonwealth’s core values and in achieving adherence to them. At the CHOGM in 2009 in Trinidad and Tobago, leaders adopted the ‘Affirmation of Commonwealth Values and Principles’ as our new template, for which CMAG is now the guardian.
Leaders also recognised in 2009 that CMAG needed to play a more constructive and proactive role in assisting member countries to uphold our shared political values, and thus that the mandate and working practices of the Group would require review and further elaboration.
The adoption by Heads of Government at the 2011 Perth CHOGM of CMAG’s recommendations on strengthening its role was a critical and timely step forward for the Commonwealth in its promotion of the values of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. CMAG’s review has also demonstrated that Commonwealth governments have listened carefully to the voices of those Commonwealth citizens who have called for a more effective and engaged CMAG.
I am delighted that this review has been completed successfully. CMAG, sixteen years on from its inception, is now a stronger and potentially more effective body.
During the process of inter-governmental deliberation and decision, this report on the reform of CMAG, in accordance with established practice, was classified as ‘Restricted.’ Now that its recommendations have been endorsed by Heads of Government, and given the importance of this report for the Commonwealth, the public interest in its recommendations, and the importance of transparency, I have authorised its public release.
It was my privilege to assist the members of the Group in their deliberations and producing these recommendations. I extend my sincere appreciation to the Chair and members of CMAG 2007-2009,1 which recommended to leaders that a review of CMAG’s role should be undertaken; and to the Chair and members of CMAG 2009-20112, which developed the recommendations in this report.
I am confident that CMAG’s strengthened role will enable the Commonwealth to further enhance its effectiveness as an organisation of member states that not only believes in the importance of respecting and adhering to its core values, but also lives up to them.
The Third Biennial Conference on Small States takes place from 26 to 27 March 2014 on the Caribbean island of St Lucia