Commonwealth of Nations/Addendum

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This addendum is a continuation of the article Commonwealth of Nations.

The London Declaration of 1949

The Governments of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan and Ceylon, whose countries are united as Members of the British Commonwealth of Nations and owe a common allegiance to the Crown, which is also the symbol of their free association, have considered the impending constitutional changes in India. The Government of India have informed the other Governments of the Commonwealth of the intention of the Indian people that under the new constitution which is about to be adopted India shall become a sovereign independent republic. The Government of India have however declared and affirmed India’s desire to continue her full membership of the Commonwealth of Nations and her acceptance of The King as the symbol of the free association of its independent member nations and as such the Head of the Commonwealth. The Governments of the other countries of the Commonwealth, the basis of whose membership of the Commonwealth is not hereby changed, accept and recognise India’s continuing membership in accordance with the terms of this declaration. Accordingly the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan and Ceylon hereby declare that they remain united as free and equal members of the Commonwealth of Nations, freely co-operating in the pursuit of peace, liberty and progress.

Membership criteria

(Extract from the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting: Final communiqué)

(a) an applicant country should, as a general rule, have had a historic constitutional association with an existing Commonwealth member, save in exceptional circumstances;
(b) in exceptional circumstances, applications should be considered on a case-by-case basis;
(c) an applicant country should accept and comply with Commonwealth fundamental values, principles, and priorities as set out in the 1971 Declaration of Commonwealth Principles and contained in other subsequent Declarations;
(d) an applicant country must demonstrate commitment to: democracy and democratic processes, including free and fair elections and representative legislatures; the rule of law and independence of the judiciary; good governance, including a well-trained public service and transparent public accounts; and protection of human rights, freedom of expression, and equality of opportunity;
(e) an applicant country should accept Commonwealth norms and conventions, such as the use of the English language as the medium of inter-Commonwealth relations, and acknowledge Queen Elizabeth II as the Head of the Commonwealth; and
(f) new members should be encouraged to join the Commonwealth Foundation, and to promote vigorous civil society and business organisations within their countries, and to foster participatory democracy through regular civil society consultations

The Harare Commonwealth Declaration

Issued by Heads of Government in Harare, Zimbabwe on 20 October 1991

1.The Heads of Government of the countries of the Commonwealth, meeting in Harare, reaffirm their confidence in the Commonwealth as a voluntary association of sovereign independent states, each responsible for its own policies, consulting and co-operating in the interests of their peoples and in the promotion of international understanding and world peace.

2.Members of the Commonwealth include people of many different races and origins, encompass every state of economic development, and comprise a rich variety of cultures, traditions and institutions.

3.The special strength of the Commonwealth lies in the combination of the diversity of its members with their shared inheritance in language, culture and the rule of law. The Commonwealth way is to seek consensus through consultation and the sharing of experience. It is uniquely placed to serve as a model and as a catalyst for new forms of friendship and co-operation to all in the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations.

4.Its members also share a commitment to certain fundamental principles. These were set out in a Declaration of Commonwealth Principles agreed by our predecessors at their Meeting in Singapore in 1971[1]. Those principles have stood the test of time, and we reaffirm our full and continuing commitment to them today. In particular, no less today than 20 years ago:

  • we believe that international peace and order, global economic development and the rule of international law are essential to the security and prosperity of mankind;
  • we believe in the liberty of the individual under the law, in equal rights for all citizens regardless of gender, race, colour, creed or political belief, and in the individual's inalienable right to participate by means of free and democratic political processes in framing the society in which he or she lives;
  • we recognise racial prejudice and intolerance as a dangerous sickness and a threat to healthy development, and racial discrimination as an unmitigated evil;
  • we oppose all forms of racial oppression, and we are committed to the principles of human dignity and equality;
  • we recognise the importance and urgency of economic and social development to satisfy the basic needs and aspirations of the vast majority of the peoples of the world, and seek the progressive removal of the wide disparities in living standards amongst our members.

5.In Harare, our purpose has been to apply those principles in the contemporary situation as the Commonwealth prepares to face the challenges of the 1990s and beyond.

6.Internationally, the world is no longer locked in the iron grip of the Cold War. Totalitarianism is giving way to democracy and justice in many parts of the world. Decolonisation is largely complete. Significant changes are at last under way in South Africa. These changes, so desirable and heartening in themselves, present the world and the Commonwealth with new tasks and challenges.

7.In the last twenty years, several Commonwealth countries have made significant progress in economic and social development. There is increasing recognition that commitment to market principles and openness to international trade and investment can promote economic progress and improve living standards. Many Commonwealth countries are poor and face acute problems, including excessive population growth, crushing poverty, debt burdens and environmental degradation. More than half our member states are particularly vulnerable because of their very small societies.

8.Only sound and sustainable development can offer these millions the prospect of betterment. Achieving this will require a flow of public and private resources from the developed to the developing world, and domestic and international regimes conducive to the realisation of these goals. Development facilitates the task of tackling a range of problems which affect the whole global community such as environmental degradation, the problems of migration and refugees, the fight against communicable diseases, and drug production and trafficking.

9.Having reaffirmed the principles to which the Commonwealth is committed, and reviewed the problems and challenges which the world, and the Commonwealth as part of it, face, we pledge the Commonwealth and our countries to work with renewed vigour, concentrating especially in the following areas:

  • the protection and promotion of the fundamental political values of the Commonwealth:
  • democracy, democratic processes and institutions which reflect national circumstances, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, just and honest government;
  • fundamental human rights, including equal rights and opportunities for all citizens regardless of race, colour, creed or political belief;
  • equality for women, so that they may exercise their full and equal rights;
  • provision of universal access to education for the population of our countries;
  • continuing action to bring about the end of apartheid and the establishment of a free, democratic, non-racial and prosperous South Africa;
  • the promotion of sustainable development and the alleviation of poverty in the countries of the Commonwealth through:
  • a stable international economic framework within which growth can be achieved;
  • sound economic management recognising the central role of the market economy;
  • effective population policies and programmes;
  • sound management of technological change;
  • the freest possible flow of multilateral trade on terms fair and equitable to all, taking account of the special requirements of developing countries;
  • an adequate flow of resources from the developed to developing countries, and action to alleviate the debt burdens of developing countries most in need;
  • the development of human resources, in particular through education, training, health, culture, sport and programmes for strengthening family and community support, paying special attention to the needs of women, youth and children;
  • effective and increasing programmes of bilateral and multilateral co-operation aimed at raising living standards;
  • extending the benefits of development within a framework of respect for human rights;
  • the protection of the environment through respect for the principles of sustainable development which we enunciated at Langkawi;
  • action to combat drug trafficking and abuse and communicable diseases;
  • help for small Commonwealth states in tackling their particular economic and security problems;
  • support of the United Nations and other international institutions in the world's search for peace, disarmament and effective arms control; and in the promotion of international consensus on major global political, economic and social issues.

10.To give weight and effectiveness to our commitments we intend to focus and improve Commonwealth co-operation in these areas. This would include strengthening the capacity of the Commonwealth to respond to requests from members for assistance in entrenching the practices of democracy, accountable administration and the rule of law.

11.We call on all the intergovernmental institutions of the Commonwealth to seize the opportunities presented by these challenges. We pledge ourselves to assist them to develop programmes which harness our shared historical, professional, cultural and linguistic heritage and which complement the work of other international and regional organisations.

12.We invite the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and non-governmental Commonwealth organisations to play their full part in promoting these objectives, in a spirit of co-operation and mutual support.

13.In reaffirming the principles of the Commonwealth and in committing ourselves to pursue them in policy and action in response to the challenges of the 1990s, in areas where we believe that the Commonwealth has a distinctive contribution to offer, we the Heads of Government express our determination to renew and enhance the value and importance of the Commonwealth as an institution which can and should strengthen and enrich the lives not only of its own members and their peoples but also of the wider community of peoples of which they are a part.

The Latimer House Principles

(as endorsed by paragraph 8 of the Abuja Communiqué of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2003)

I) The Three Branches of Government
Each Commonwealth country’s Parliaments, Executives and Judiciaries are the guarantors in their respective spheres of the rule of law, the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights and the entrenchment of good governance based on the highest standards of honesty, probity and accountability.

II) Parliament and the Judiciary
(a) Relations between parliament and the judiciary should be governed by respect for parliament’s primary responsibility for law making on the one hand and for the judiciary’s responsibility for the interpretation and application of the law on the other hand.
(b) Judiciaries and parliaments should fulfill their respective but critical roles in the promotion of the rule of law in a complementary and constructive manner.

III) Independence of Parliamentarians
(a) Parliamentarians must be able to carry out their legislative and constitutional functions in accordance with the Constitution, free from unlawful interference.
(b) Criminal and defamation laws should not be used to restrict legitimate criticism of Parliament; the offence of contempt of parliament should be narrowly drawn and reporting of the proceedings of parliament should not be unduly restricted by narrow application of the defence of qualified privilege.

IV) Independence of the Judiciary
An independent, impartial, honest and competent judiciary is integral to upholding the rule of law, engendering public confidence and dispensing justice.The function of the judiciary is to interpret and apply national constitutions and legislation, consistent with international human rights conventions and international law, to the extent permitted by the domestic law of each Commonwealth country. To secure these aims:
(a) Judicial appointments should be made on the basis of clearly defined criteria and by a publicly declared process.The process should ensure: equality of opportunity for all who are eligible for judicial office; appointment on merit; and that appropriate consideration is given to the need for the progressive attainment of gender equity and the removal of other historic factors of discrimination;
(b) Arrangements for appropriate security of tenure and protection of levels of remuneration must be in place;
(c) Adequate resources should be provided for the judicial system to operate effectively without any undue constraints which may hamper the independence sought;
(d) Interaction, if any, between the executive and the judiciary should not compromise judicial independence. Judges should be subject to suspension or removal only for reasons of incapacity or misbehaviour that clearly renders them unfit to discharge their duties. Court proceedings should, unless the law or overriding public interest otherwise dictates, be open to the public. Superior Court decisions should be published and accessible to the public and be given in a timely manner.

V) Public Office Holders
(a) Merit and proven integrity, should be the criteria of eligibility for appointment to public office;
(b) Subject to (a), measures may be taken, where possible and appropriate, to ensure that the holders of all public offices generally reflect the composition of the community in terms of gender, ethnicity, social and religious groups and regional balance.

VI) Ethical Governance
Ministers, Members of Parliament, judicial officers and public office holders in each jurisdiction should respectively develop, adopt and periodically review appropriate guidelines for ethical conduct.These should address the issue of conflict of interest, whether actual or perceived, with a view to enhancing transparency, accountability and public confidence.

VII) Accountability Mechanisms
(a) Executive Accountability to Parliament
Parliaments and governments should maintain high standards of accountability, transparency and responsibility in the conduct of all public business.Parliamentary procedures should provide adequate mechanisms to enforce the accountability of the executive to Parliament.
(b) Judicial Accountability
Judges are accountable to the Constitution and to the law which they must apply honestly, independently and with integrity.The principles of judicial accountability and independence underpin public confidence in the judicial system and the importance of the judiciary as one of the three pillars upon which a responsible In addition to providing proper procedures for the removal of judges on grounds of incapacity or misbehaviour that are required to support the principle of independence of the judiciary, any disciplinary procedures should be fairly and objectively administered. Disciplinary proceedings which might lead to the removal of a judicial officer should include appropriate safeguards to ensure fairness. The criminal law and contempt proceedings should not be used to restrict legitimate criticism of the performance of judicial functions.
(c) Judicial review
Best democratic principles require that the actions of governments are open to scrutiny by the courts, to ensure that decisions taken comply with the Constitution, with relevant statutes and other law, including the law relating to the principles of natural justice'

VIII) The law-making process
In order to enhance the effectiveness of law making as an essential element of the good governance agenda: There should be adequate parliamentary examination of proposed legislation; Where appropriate, opportunity should be given for public input into the legislative process; Parliaments should, where relevant, be given the opportunity to consider international instruments or regional conventions agreed to by governments.

IX) Oversight of Government
The promotion of zero-tolerance for corruption is vital to good governance. A transparent and accountable government, together with freedom of expression, encourages the full participation of its citizens in the democratic process.
Steps which may be taken to encourage public sector accountability include:
(a) The establishment of scrutiny bodies and mechanisms to oversee Government, enhances public confidence in the integrity and acceptability of government’s activities. Independent bodies such as Public Accounts Committees, Ombudsmen, Human Rights Commissions, Auditors-General, Anti-corruption commissions, Information Commissioners and similar oversight institutions can play a key role in enhancing public awareness of good governance and rule of law issues. Governments are encouraged to establish or enhance appropriate oversight bodies in accordance with national circumstances,
(b) Government’s transparency and accountability is promoted by an independent and vibrant media which is responsible, objective and impartial andwhich is protected by law in its freedom to report and comment upon public affairs.

X) Civil Society
Parliaments and governments should recognise the role that civil society plays in the implementation of the Commonwealth’s fundamental values and should strive for a constructive relationship with civil society to ensure that there is broader opportunity for lawful participation in the democratic process.