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CHOGM leaders agree to a Charter to strengthen the Commonwealth

29 October 2011
Role of Commissioner for Democracy, Human Rights and Rule of Law under consideration

Commonwealth leaders have agreed to adopt the recommendation of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) for a Charter of the Commonwealth.

The Charter is to be approved by leaders following a meeting of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers in September 2012 after a process of consultation to ensure that the principles and aspirations of the 54 member association are fully reflected in the Charter.

The Charter is expected to draw together elements included in all agreements and declarations made by Commonwealth member states dating back to the Singapore Declaration of Commonwealth Principles of 1971, which forms the association's fundamental values and principles.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard made this announcement at a news conference in Perth, Australia, on 29 October 2011, on the second day of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

She also said that leaders will consider another recommendation by the EPG for the creation of a Commissioner for Democracy, Human Rights and Rule of Law. On the issue of a possible overlap of the Commissioner's role with that of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) which deals with serious or persistent violations of the association's fundamental values, and the role of the Secretary-General in diplomatic engagement to uphold these values, Ms Gillard said leaders have agreed that CMAG and the Secretary-General should further evaluate the proposal for a Commissioner, and report back to leaders in due course.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma, who also addressed the joint news conference, said: "The culture of democracy, human rights and rule of law has been lifted by leaders [in Perth] and the matching mechanism [for the Commissioner's role] has to be studied to meet the higher ambition level of the organisation. It has to be evaluated in totality, in a comprehensive and coherent way."

Leaders will convene tomorrow to consider other recommendations of the EPG.

At their retreat at Kings Park overlooking Perth, leaders agreed the Perth Declaration on Food Security Principles to address the volatility of global food markets which have resulted in humanitarian crises around the world affecting vulnerable developing countries, and to adopt measures for financial support to increase food production in African countries.