The Commonwealth Charter – a good idea

Charter of the Commonwealth
We the people of the Commonwealth:
Recognising that in an era of changing economic circumstances and uncertainty, new trade
and economic patterns, unprecedented threats to peace and security, and a surge in popular
demands for democracy, human rights and broadened economic opportunities, the potential of
and need for the Commonwealth – as a compelling force for good and as an effective network
for co-operation and for promoting development – has never been greater,
Recalling that the Commonwealth is a voluntary association of independent and equal
sovereign states, each responsible for its own policies, consulting and co-operating in the
common interests of our peoples and in the promotion of international understanding and
world peace, and influencing international society to the benefit of all through the pursuit of
common principles and values,
Affirming that the special strength of the Commonwealth lies in the combination of our
diversity and our shared inheritance in language, culture and the rule of law; and bound
together by shared history and tradition; by respect for all states and peoples; by shared
values and principles and by concern for the vulnerable,
Affirming that the Commonwealth way is to seek consensus through consultation and the
sharing of experience, especially through practical co-operation, and further affirming that the
Commonwealth is uniquely placed to serve as a model and as a catalyst for new forms of
friendship and co-operation in the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations,
Affirming the role of the Commonwealth as a recognised intergovernmental champion of small
states, advocating for their special needs; providing policy advice on political, economic and
social development issues; and delivering technical assistance,
Welcoming the valuable contribution of the network of the many intergovernmental,
parliamentary, professional and civil society bodies which support the Commonwealth and
which subscribe and adhere to its values and principles,
Affirming the validity of and our commitment to the values and principles of the Commonwealth
as defined and strengthened over the years including: the Singapore Declaration of
Commonwealth Principles, the Harare Commonwealth Declaration, the Langkawi Declaration
on the Environment, the Millbrook Action Programme, the Latimer House Principles, the
Aberdeen Agenda, the Trinidad and Tobago Affirmation of Commonwealth Values and
Principles, the Munyonyo Statement on Respect and Understanding, the Lake Victoria
Commonwealth Climate Change Action Plan, the Perth Declaration on Food Security
Principles, and the Commonwealth Declaration on Investing in Young People,
Affirming our core Commonwealth principles of consensus and common action, mutual
respect, inclusiveness, transparency, accountability, legitimacy, and responsiveness,
Reaffirming the core values and principles of the Commonwealth as declared by this Charter:
We recognise the inalienable right of individuals to participate in democratic processes, in
particular through free and fair elections in shaping the society in which they live.
Governments, political parties and civil society are responsible for upholding and promoting
democratic culture and practices and are accountable to the public in this regard.
Parliaments and representative local governments and other forms of local governance are
essential elements in the exercise of democratic governance.
We support the role of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to address promptly and
effectively all instances of serious or persistent violations of Commonwealth values without
any fear or favour.
We are committed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human
rights covenants and international instruments. We are committed to equality and respect for
the protection and promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including
the right to development, for all without discrimination on any grounds as the foundations of
peaceful, just and stable societies. We note that these rights are universal, indivisible,
interdependent and interrelated and cannot be implemented selectively.
We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race,
colour, creed, political belief or other grounds.
We firmly believe that international peace and security, sustainable economic growth and
development and the rule of law are essential to the progress and prosperity of all. We are
committed to an effective multilateral system based on inclusiveness, equity, justice and
international law as the best foundation for achieving consensus and progress on major global
challenges including piracy and terrorism.
We support international efforts for peace and disarmament at the United Nations and other
multilateral institutions. We will contribute to the promotion of international consensus on
major global political, economic and social issues. We will be guided by our commitment to
the security, development and prosperity of every member state.
We reiterate our absolute condemnation of all acts of terrorism in whatever form or
wherever they occur or by whomsoever perpetrated, with the consequent tragic loss of
human life and severe damage to political, economic and social stability. We reaffirm our
commitment to work together as a diverse community of nations, individually, and
collectively under the auspices and authority of the United Nations, to take concerted and
resolute action to eradicate terrorism.
We emphasise the need to promote tolerance, respect, understanding, moderation and
religious freedom which are essential to the development of free and democratic societies,
and recall that respect for the dignity of all human beings is critical to promoting peace and
We accept that diversity and understanding the richness of our multiple identities are
fundamental to the Commonwealth’s principles and approach.
We are committed to peaceful, open dialogue and the free flow of information, including
through a free and responsible media, and to enhancing democratic traditions and
strengthening democratic processes.
We recognise the importance of maintaining the integrity of the roles of the Legislature,
Executive and Judiciary. These are the guarantors in their respective spheres of the rule of
law, the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights and adherence to good
We believe in the rule of law as an essential protection for the people of the Commonwealth
and as an assurance of limited and accountable government. In particular we support an
independent, impartial, honest and competent judiciary and recognise that an independent,
effective and competent legal system is integral to upholding the rule of law, engendering
public confidence and dispensing justice.
We reiterate our commitment to promote good governance through the rule of law, to ensure
transparency and accountability and to root out, both at national and international levels,
systemic and systematic corruption.
We recognise that sustainable development can help to eradicate poverty by pursuing
inclusive growth whilst preserving and conserving natural ecosystems and promoting
social equity.
We stress the importance of sustainable economic and social transformation to eliminate
poverty and meet the basic needs of the vast majority of the people of the world and
reiterate that economic and social progress enhances the sustainability of democracy.
We are committed to removing wide disparities and unequal living standards as guided by
internationally agreed development goals. We are also committed to building economic
resilience and promoting social equity, and we reiterate the value in technical assistance,
capacity building and practical cooperation in promoting development.
We are committed to an effective, equitable, rules-based multilateral trading system, the
freest possible flow of multilateral trade on terms fair and equitable to all, while taking into
account the special requirements of small states and developing countries.
We also recognise the importance of information and communication technologies as
powerful instruments of development; delivering savings, efficiencies and growth in our
economies, as well as promoting education, learning and the sharing of culture. We are
committed to strengthening its use while enhancing its security, for the purpose of
advancing our societies.
We recognise the importance of the protection and conservation of our natural ecosystems
and affirm that sustainable management of the natural environment is the key to sustained
human development. We recognise the importance of multilateral cooperation, sustained
commitment and collective action, in particular by addressing the adaptation and mitigation
challenges of climate change and facilitating the development, diffusion and deployment of
affordable environmentally friendly technologies and renewable energy, and the prevention of
illicit dumping of toxic and hazardous waste as well as the prevention and mitigation of erosion
and desertification.
We recognise the necessity of access to affordable health care, education, clean drinking
water, sanitation and housing for all citizens and emphasise the importance of promoting
health and well-being in combating communicable and non-communicable diseases.
We recognise the right of everyone to have access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food,
consistent with the progressive realisation of the right to adequate food in the context of
national food security.
We recognise that gender equality and women’s empowerment are essential components of
human development and basic human rights. The advancement of women’s rights and
the education of girls are critical preconditions for effective and sustainable development.
We recognise the positive and active role and contributions of young people in promoting
development, peace, democracy and in protecting and promoting other Commonwealth
values, such as tolerance and understanding, including respect for other cultures. The future
success of the Commonwealth rests with the continued commitment and contributions of
young people in promoting and sustaining the Commonwealth and its values and principles,
and we commit to investing in and promoting their development, particularly through the
creation of opportunities for youth employment and entrepreneurship.
We are committed to assisting small and developing states in the Commonwealth, including
the particular needs of small island developing states, in tackling their particular economic,
energy, climate change and security challenges, and in building their resilience for the future.
We are committed to collaborating to find ways to provide immediate help to the poorest and
most vulnerable including least developed countries, and to develop responses to protect the
people most at risk.
We recognise the important role that civil society plays in our communities and countries as
partners in promoting and supporting Commonwealth values and principles, including the
freedom of association and peaceful assembly, and in achieving development goals.
We are committed to ensuring that the Commonwealth is an effective association, responsive to members’ needs, and capable of addressing the significant global challenges of the future.

We aspire to a Commonwealth that is a strong and respected voice in the world, speaking out on major issues; that strengthens and enlarges its networks; that has a global relevance and profile; and that is devoted to improving the lives of all peoples of the Commonwealth.

Dated this 14th day of December 2012


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