In addition to funding commitments, several events were held on the fringes of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which brought together ministers and experts to discuss a range of human rights issues.
The first saw the UK Minister of State for the Commonwealth, Lord Ahmad, announce that the British government will provide GBP £2.9m for human rights work. The funding will support member states, regional organisations and national institutions to promote standards across the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Secretariat will receive funding to provide technical human rights assistance to small states through the Commonwealth Small States Office in Geneva.
The announcement was made at the biennial meeting of the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (CFNHRI), which the UK’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission is set to chair for the next two years.
Following the announcement, Head of the Commonwealth’s Human Rights Unit, Karen McKenzie, said, “The UK funding contribution will give impetus to the Commonwealth’s work with small states in Geneva, strengthening their voices in international human rights discourse. Small states currently face particular challenges in engaging with the Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review and Treaty Bodies”
She added, “This funding will therefore help to strengthen national institutions to engage with these international mechanisms; increase the number of small state champions on the Council; and place small state challenges at the centre of relevant debates. Ultimately, it will translate into better understanding and implementation of human rights promotion and protection for all citizens.”
The event also saw the adoption of the ‘London Declaration’ on sport and human rights, which reaffirmed the commitments set out in the Commonwealth Charter, as well as those outlined in the communique that followed the recent Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting.
Speaking after the event, the Commonwealth’s Head of Sport for Development and Peace, Oliver Dudfield, said, “The commitment of national human rights institutions to work with governments and sporting organisations in sport represents an important milestone in the promotion of human rights, both in and through sport.
“National human rights institutions and other accountability mechanisms offer a valuable asset for sporting stakeholders and public authorities to harness their efforts to address discrimination, inequality and non-accidental abuse in sport and, in doing so, maximise the potential for sport to contribute to transformative change in communities across the Commonwealth.”
He added, “It also reflects the unique ability of the Commonwealth to mobilise key actors, in this case bringing together the Commonwealth Secretariat, CFNHRI and Commonwealth Games Federation to advance our joint commitment to use sport as a means for promoting human rights.”
The week-long CHOGM was held in London last month, bringing together the leaders of all 53 member countries of the Commonwealth.
Later in the week, parliamentarians, business leaders and human rights defenders attended a reception in the House of Lords, hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBTI Rights (APPG), the Commonwealth Secretariat, Open for Business and OUTstanding. Guests were addressed by the APPG’s Vice Chair, Lord Cashman, in addition to Senator Valerie Woods of Belize and Josh Graff, UK Country Manager and Vice President at LinkedIn.
The day before the official opening of CHOGM, at which Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland pledged further support for human rights work across the Commonwealth, a panel discussion was held at the Palace of Westminster, supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the CFNHRI. Panellists considered the mapping of the relationship between NHRIs, parliamentarians and the business sector in identifying entry points for national dialogue on LGBTI inclusion. Panellists included Dr Deepika Udagama, Chair of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka; Agostinho Neto, former Kenyan parliamentarian; Kagwiria Mbogori, Chair of the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights; Senator Valerie Woods, Belize parliamentarian; Caleb Orozco, human rights defender from Belize; and Jon Miller from Open for Business.