Sharing Discussing Understanding

Commonwealth Journalists' Association

World leaders are in Perth on the west coast of Australia this week to take part in the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

Steph Carter, 20, a Commonwealth Correspondent and aspiring journalist from Queensland, reports on the adoption of a raft of measures to overhaul a key body, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.

At the close of day one at CHOGM 2011, the Commonwealth has taken a first step to embrace change and reform.

In a joint press conference earlier today, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma announced that the Commonwealth Council has chosen to adopt all 30 recommendations put forth by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).

Prior to CHOGM 2011, CMAG was directed to consider the ways in which its role may be strengthened in dealing with violations of Commonwealth human rights values. The group’s recent report, ‘Strengthening the Role of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group’, gives context to the recommendations that were put forth today to Commonwealth Heads of State.

The adoption of these 30 recommendations will lead to a revision of CMAG’s mandate and political function.

As indicated by His Excellency Sharma, the core changes to CMAG’s mandate will be the acceptance of several indicators detailing the “types of situations that might be regarded as constituting a serious and consistent violation of Commonwealth values.”

These violations include the prevention of lawful functioning of parliament and democratic institutions, postponement of mass elections and the systematic denial of political space. Ms Gillard also spoke of the planned reform recommendations, saying that today’s decision to adopt the recommendations was a “significant step forward” for the Commonwealth.

‘These recommendations now adopted also detail a set of graduated measures that CMAG can take in response to situations of concern, with a clear path and timelines for escalation.”

It is unclear as to whether a separate package of reforms proposed by the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) will be received as wholeheartedly by the Commonwealth Council. Ms Gillard indicated that a decision is yet to be reached regarding the EPG’s recommendations. “The Eminent Persons Group report is going to be the subject of discussions by leaders over the course of the weekend during the retreat,” she said.

In remarks made to earlier today, Justice Michael Kirby, a member of the EPG, expressed doubts about the Commonwealth Council adopting the recommendations.

The Commonwealth Council will resume discussions tomorrow on Commonwealth reform and other issues of global importance, including climate change and the current state of the eurozone.


Julia Gillard and Kamalesh Sharma
Julia Gillard and Kamalesh Sharma