Human rights are key to development, says Commonwealth Secretary-General
10 December 2003
Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon today issued the following statement to mark Human Rights Day:
Human Rights Day on 10 December is an opportunity to remind ourselves that we all share an interest in the respect for human rights, everywhere in the world. When a person is jailed because of his or her political or religious beliefs, it is an indictment of the government in their country, and it demeans our common humanity.
Human rights, whether civil and political or economic and social, should also be of concern to all of us because they play a key role in development and the fight against poverty. The close connection between human rights, democracy and development was one of the central issues addressed by Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting in Abuja earlier this week.
In the Aso Rock Declaration, issued at the close of the meeting, Commonwealth leaders recognised that "while development and democracy are goals each in its own right, they must be mutually reinforcing, with a clear 'democratic dividend', in terms of delivering tangible benefits to people. We are convinced that broad-based prosperity creates the stability conducive to the promotion of democracy; and that strong democratic institutions better promote development."
Democracy and human rights are the bedrock of any stable and just society. A country cannot achieve long-term growth if its citizens are not free to play their full part in the democratic process. Businesses are more likely to invest in a stable society which empowers all citizens to achieve their full potential.
The Commonwealth's capacity to promote respect for the fundamental rights of children, women and men throughout the Commonwealth was reinforced last year by the reorganisation of the Commonwealth Secretariat's Human Rights Unit as a stand-alone entity reporting to a Deputy Secretary-General. We work hand-in-hand with member governments to help strengthen national human rights institutions.
Not only does the Commonwealth promote respect for human rights, it also lives up to its principles. Indeed, it is the only international organisation which suspends member countries when serious and persistent violations of its fundamental political principles occur.
Today, we reiterate our commitment to promote respect for human rights and human dignity in every way we can, in order to improve the lives of Commonwealth citizens and help them build strong, prosperous and tolerant societies.