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CHOGM 2011: "Eminent Persons Group outlines case for reform"
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CHOGM 2011: "Eminent Persons Group outlines case for reform"

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 from Queensland, reports from a press conference with members of the Eminent Persons Group, a body of leading figures that have put forward radical new proposals for Commonwealth reform.

Following their presentation to the Heads of Government Executive Session earlier today, the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) spoke to reporters about their proposed package of reforms to the Commonwealth Council.

The EPG doubt that their reform package will receive the same positive response given to yesterday’s recommendations put forth by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).

The EPG’s recent report ‘A Commonwealth of the People: Time for Urgent Reform’ outlines 106 recommendations for the consideration of the Commonwealth Council. These include the appointment of a senior officer responsible for Democracy, the Rule of Law and Human Rights and further ways for dealing with developing country debt, climate change and public health issues. The report arrives after 16 months of study undertaken by the EPG.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a member of the EPG, cautioned that the Commonwealth was in danger of becoming irrelevant if these reforms were not adopted. ‘The commitment to enforce the values for which it stands is becoming ambiguous in the eyes of many of the member states and many of the peoples of the commonwealth,’ he said.

Sir Rifkind and others in the EPG spoke of the importance of appointing a Commissioner for Democracy, the Rule of Law and Human Rights. They described the Commonwealth’s reaction to some human rights violations as ‘very poor’, and point to the Secretary General’s office as an area for reform.

Members of the group expressed concern about the present inability of the Secretary General’s office to speak out about human rights concerns as soon as they occur, given that it requires the express mandate of the Commonwealth member states. They said that the proposed Commissioner role should be independent of the Secretary General’s office.

Although the Commonwealth Council has unanimously agreed to endorse CMAG recommendations, the EPG feel that this is not enough for Commonwealth reform.

In their presentation to Commonwealth Heads of State this morning, EPG Chairman Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badaw said that the reform arrangements of CMAG ‘will not fill the gap’. The urgent adoption of the proposed Commissioner role is based on the belief that it ‘would be of significant assistance to CMAG and the Secretary General’.

The EPG also expressed concern that in the middle of CHOGM, their report had not been deemed appropriate to publish. While some nations, including Australia, are keen to publish the document, other Commonwealth members have not given their approval.

With official CHOGM proceedings wrapping up tomorrow, attention will focus on whether the Commonwealth chooses to adopt the EPG’s recommendations or postpone decisive action.

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About me:

“I’m a student based in Brisbane, Australia. I am currently in my final year of undergraduate study at the University of Queensland, studying Development, Journalism and International Relations and will be commencing a Masters of International Studies in 2012.

“Aside from my study commitments, I lead a hectic life! I’m passionate about aid and development and am involved with World Vision Australia’s national youth movement ‘Vision Generation’. I also work part time in the travel industry (which might explain my love of travel) and when I have spare time, you can find me playing my piano.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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