We contribute to both local and international initiatives to prevent and resolve conflict and support member countries’ ability to adhere to the Commonwealth’s fundamental values.
The focus of our engagements has primarily been on:
Strengthening a country’s ability to govern democratically, respecting human rights and the rule of law. For example, we have worked with the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) on judicial reforms in The Gambia, including the placement of Commonwealth judges to enhance court administration and the delivery of justice.
Providing a framework for peace and stability through constitutional development processes. For example, we supported constitutional and legislative reform processes in Maldives through promotion of political dialogue and appropriate technical assistance.
Our good offices work aims to help our member governments that are or could be affected by conflicts. It therefore impacts on the citizens of the countries concerned. It also contributes to enhancing regional stability in some cases.
We work closely with the African Union (AU), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), European Union (EU), Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and the United Nations (UN) as well as sub-regional organisations and, where warranted, other member and non-member governments.
National non-governmental bodies that we work with are mainly the Civil Society groups including Human Rights Institutions (for example, the Human Rights Commission for Cameroon) and national NGOs.
Our work in different countries involves collaborating with different organisations. In Fiji Islands, for example, we are currently working with the PIF, the EU and the UN to support domestic initiatives aimed at returning Fiji to full democracy, whilst in The Gambia we are working with DFID, the UN and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on judiciary and penal reforms.
Our ‘Good Offices’ work in Commonwealth countries always follows an invitation from a member government.
At their meeting in Australia in 2002, Commonwealth Heads of Government agreed on a general procedure to deal with situations where a complete derogation of democracy and constitutional rule by military intervention or otherwise had not occurred, but where serious or persistent violations of the Harare Principles had taken place.
Where a member government or the Commonwealth Chairperson-in-Office is concerned that such a situation has arisen, or may be about to arise, these concerns are generally brought to the attention of the Secretary-General highlighting if action may be required. The Secretary-General would then share any such concerns with the country in which problems have been reported, and allow the government an opportunity to respond to the issues raised.
Should the Secretary-General decide it necessary, she/he would then apply his/her ‘Good Offices’, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Chairperson-in-Office, where warranted, to encourage the country concerned to return to full compliance with the Harare Principles. If such Good Offices engagements do not resolve the dispute, then the situation in question may be referred to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).