The Royal Commonwealth Society panel discussion “The Commonwealth and Human Rights; Priorities from Colombo to Valletta,” focussed on a number of minority rights issues, which are indeed important areas of attention globally and are matters which are underscored in our Commonwealth values and principles as found in the Charter.

In addition to the rights issues which were under discussion, we are mindful of a wider spectrum of human rights protection issues in the Commonwealth which also deserve attention, such as the right to development; the rights of indigenous peoples; the right to freedom of religion or belief; and transitional justice and reconciliation.

Our approach at The Commonwealth Secretariat regarding human rights issues, is to build sustainable national traction in a climate of trust and mutual respect, especially in supporting the establishment, operationalization and strengthening of national human rights institutions, a key component of a national human rights protection system. In regard to equality and non-discrimination, we have been working with national human rights institutions, parliamentarians and young people on how to better advance the national debate.  

Under our reform and renewal processes as mandated by the 2011 CHOGM, and aligned to our new 4 year strategic plan cycle, the human rights programme has been enhanced: Its budget has more than doubled, both in regard to programming and staffing. Its total budget currently stands at £1,522k with its programme budget having increased from £300k to £924k [representing an increase of 208%]. Its staff structure has increased from 5 to 12 positions, including 2 members of the team based at our Small States Office in Geneva [this represents an increase of 140%).

We welcome evidence-based discussions on the progress made and challenges which remain in regard to human rights protection and promotion in The Commonwealth, that aim to be objective in taking forward better rights protection . We also encourage interlocutors to speak with our human rights team, as many human rights defenders and others continue to do, in order to gain a better understanding of our work and how we work.  

Read the report here.