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The Commonwealth protects and promotes human rights by establishing and strengthening national human rights institutions, providing training and building networks of mutual support

Building capacity to protect human rights

The challenge

Many people around the world are unable to claim their basic human rights and, as a result, fail to reach their full potential. This is often because of poor governance or a lack of institutions to promote and protect human rights. Poverty, poor education and harmful traditional practices can also represent barriers to the enjoyment of human rights for people in the Commonwealth.

Child marriage, for example, affects millions of girls worldwide who are prevented from enjoying the kind of life that others take for granted. By 2020, it is estimated that 140 million girls under the age of 18 will be forced to marry – half of whom live in the Commonwealth. Helping children to delay marriage, finish school, and learn productive skills is a priority for many of our governments.

Commonwealth action

The Commonwealth supports national institutions and structures responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights so they are empowered to help member countries comply with international obligations.

We work closely with national human rights institutions to build their capacity and strengthen them, to ensure that they are both independent and effective in line with the Paris Principles, a set of internationally agreed standards. Where national human rights institutions do not exist, we help member countries to establish them.

Working in co-operation with civil society organisations, we help to strengthen the role of parliaments and parliamentarians while creating awareness and capacity within government to safeguard human rights.

Global value

Our work with governments, parliamentarians, and traditional leaders helps the Commonwealth move from aspiration to action on human rights.

By engaging parliamentarians, the Commonwealth has helped to place human rights within the realm of law-making and parliamentary oversight. This helped lead to the Pipitea Declaration in the Pacific and the Mahé Declaration in Africa, in which parliamentarians committed to promote human rights in the legislature.

More recently, in 2015, Commonwealth national human rights institutions adopted the Commonwealth Kigali Declaration, a commitment to accelerate the elimination and prevention of child, early and forced marriage.

By focusing on enhancing national capacity and helping to share good practices, the Commonwealth helps to deliver genuine progress in human rights promotion and protection.