This week marks the anniversary of the Singapore Declaration of Commonwealth Principles, issued at the first Heads of Government Meeting in Singapore on January 22, 1971
This week marks the anniversary of the Singapore Declaration of Commonwealth Principles, issued at the first Heads of Government Meeting in Singapore on January 22, 1971.
Participants at the inaugural summit agreed on a set of ideals promoting peace, understanding and goodwill for all Commonwealth nations and people.
They underline the association’s commitment to democracy, independent governance, peace and an end to inequity through international co-operation.
The declaration’s first article describes the Commonwealth of Nations as a “voluntary association of independent sovereign states” that aims to promote “international understanding and world peace”.
The second explains the “rich variety of cultures, traditions and institutions” that make up the 52 members, representing “peoples of different races, languages and religions” at every stage of economic development.
Articles three and four emphasise that membership is compatible with the freedom of member governments regarding alignment or involvement with another grouping, association or alliance, but that all members should strive to hold certain principles in common for the benefit of mankind.
Articles five to ten observe specific principles to which member nations commit, with five committing to support the United Nations in influencing international peace and security, removing tensions between countries and encouraging global prosperity.
Article six supports the liberty and equal rights of all citizens, including the right to participate in social progress through free and democratic political processes, regardless of race, colour, creed or political belief.
Article seven condemns the practice of racial discrimination and prejudice, whilst article eight opposes all forms of racial oppression and colonial domination.
Wealth disparity is the focus of article nine, which documents the need to overcome poverty, ignorance and disease in order to raise living standards and close the gap in global wealth.
To this end, article ten discusses fair and equitable international trade, which takes the special requirements of developing countries into account: it encourages the flow of adequate governmental and private resources to these countries in a partnership conducive to sustained investment and growth.
Articles eleven and twelve summarise the role member nations have in using international co-operation to promote tolerance and secure development, whilst combatting injustice and the causes of war.
Article thirteen stresses the rejection of international coercion, before article fourteen provides a summary of the Commonwealth principles.
It reads: “These relationships we intend to foster and extend, for we believe that our multi-national association can expand human understanding and understanding among nations, assist in the elimination of discrimination based on differences of race, colour or creed, maintain and strengthen personal liberty, contribute to the enrichment of life for all, and provide a powerful influence for peace among nations.”
The part of the declaration deemed most controversial was article thirteen’s principle of `rejecting coercion as an instrument of policy’, which implied that the Commonwealth itself had no right to enforce its other core values on member nations.
This potential for conflict was resolved by the Harare Declaration and the Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme, which mandate the Commonwealth to concern itself with the internal situations of its members.
In April 2018, London is hosting the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, launched with the theme `Towards a Common Future’.
The summit was due to see Vanuatu host in 2017, but Cyclone Pam inflicted significant structural damage to the Pacific island nation and it became unable to do so.
Read More: Find out more about the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting from our published CHOGM reports