London, 19 December 2012 – Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma and Commonwealth Chair-in-Office Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia today announced the adoption of an historic Charter for the Commonwealth, as part of a wide-ranging package of reforms to the 54-member association.
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 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. The Charter also acknowledges the role of civil society in supporting the goals and values of the Commonwealth.
Heads of Government endorsed the Charter after broad consultations among member governments, civil society and the public.
Mr 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.
Prime Minister 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.
Heads of Government have now agreed to adopt 85 per cent of the EPG recommendations.
Over the past 12 months, the Commonwealth Secretariat has focused on incorporating these reforms into its work programmes and its new Strategic Plan 2013-17.
The Commonwealth response to all EPG recommendations is summarised at:
Commonwealth response to all EPG recommendations
Charter of the Commonwealth