Perth, Oct 30: Taking a step-by-step approach to reforms, the Commonwealth today agreed to adopt one third of the 106 recommendations of an eminent persons group to make the grouping more relevant in current times, but virtually rejected the proposal for a human rights commissioner.
Faced with a tough task of ushering in reforms, leaders of the 54-nation bloc had asked their foreign ministers to work overnight on recommedations of the 11-member Eminent Persons Group (EPG), which had gone public with its criticism.
Both Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma sought to dub the three-day summit meeting a success and cited the reform of the Ministerial Group and strengthening management and delivery of Commonwealth programmes as cases in point.
On the much-talked about recommendations of the EPG, chaired by former Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, Gillard said that the CHOGM had agreed to a third of their suggestions, including having a charter of values.
“We have agreed there should be a charter of the Commonwealth to bring together the Commonwealth values, principles and aspirations in one clear and powerful statement,” Gillard said.
She said the leaders also decided to adopt without reservation 30 recommendations of the EPG and another 12 recommendations would be adopted subject to consideration of financial implications.
While leaders rejected 11 recommendations of the EPG, 43 others, including the proposal for a human rights commissioner, were sent to a taskforce of ministers for “detailed advice”.
India was represented at the meeting by Vice President Hamid Ansari.
A section of the delegates who attended the deliberations ruled out setting up of the commissioner and stressed on the development initiatives of the Commonwealth.
With many of the Commonwealth nations being low-lying islands, the CHOGM agreed on a slew of measures to promote action on climate change, including a push to find better ways to fund mitigation and adaptation projects.
Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed said a number of the EPG recommendations touched upon the issue of climate change and all have been accepted by the Heads.
“The issue of climate change is not of the future. It is happening now and we must deal with it now,” Nasheed, whose country faces one of the gravest threat from global warming, said.
He appreciated the Australian initiative to impose carbon tax as a measure to tackle climate change. “I think these are the kinds of measures that we would like to see from the rest of the developed world,” he said. Gillard has promised to take up Commonwealth issues at the G20 summit in Cannes next week.
The final CHOGM communique noted the “impasse” in the Doha round and urged the trade ministers' World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting in December to commit to make “substantive progress” as well as make a formal “anti-protectionist pledge”.
The communique also called for “accelerated efforts” to conclude negotiations on a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT).
It endorsed India's position that seeks a quick conclusion to the negotiations on the CCIT at the UN.
The leaders also agreed to reduce the cost of remittance transfers by removing barriers to remitting and encouraging greater competition in the transfer market, by endorsing the World Bank's General Principles for International Remittance Services.
They also agreed to improving gender equality and empowerment of women by supporting national programmes to this effect, including initiatives to eliminate gender-based violence.
The leaders agreed to intensify efforts to promote women's decision-making roles at all levels and continuing to improve advocacy for women's leadership and the empowerment of women as leaders.
The leaders also agreed to combat people smuggling and human trafficking by clamping down on illicit criminal organisations and bringing the perpetrators of these crimes to justice, while protecting and supporting the victims of trafficking.