Draft Commonwealth Charter – Call for submissions

LGBTI rights omitted, no mechanism for human rights enforcement

Deadline for submissions – 23 March 2012


The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) is inviting comments and amendments regarding the new Draft Charter of the Commonwealth. The deadline for submissions is Friday 23 March 2012.

Submissions can be made on any issue: human rights / LGBTI rights, disarmament, the environment, aid and trade, economic and social justice and so on.

The RCS has agreed to accept submissions from individuals and organisations in any Commonwealth member state.

Read the Draft Charter here:

“The Commonwealth has the potential to promote LGBTI human rights among its 54 member states and to challenge those countries that persecute their citizens on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Disappointingly, it is not living up to this potential,” noted human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights advocacy organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

“The new Draft Charter of the Commonwealth includes a general commitment to uphold all human rights, and specific commitments to oppose discrimination based on “race, ethnicity, creed or gender.” However, it includes no explicit commitment to support LGBTI equality and to oppose homophobic and transphobic persecution.

“The Draft Charter sets out no mechanisms for the enforcement of human rights and for dealing with member states that perpetrate abuses. Without effective means for the promotion and enforcement of human rights, the Charter will remain little more than a wish-list of commendable, but largely symbolic, ideals and objectives. It will result in continued LGBTI human rights violations in Commonwealth countries like Uganda, Cameroon, Malawi, Nigeria and Pakistan.

“The Commonwealth Secretary General and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group need stronger, more proactive powers to deal with human rights-abusing member states. The Charter needs to specify these powers and how they will be enforced.

“The Charter should include more explicit and comprehensive commitments to equal rights and non-discrimination, including on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, national or social origin, ethnicity, gender, opinion or belief, age, disability, medical condition, language, genetic inheritance and marital or birth status.

“I urge LGBTI individuals and organisations throughout the Commonwealth to join me in submitting amendments to the Draft Charter. This is a rare opportunity for grassroots LGBTI movements to give input into a document that will guide the Commonwealth for many years to come.

The key human rights clauses of the current version of the Draft Charter state:

5. We believe in universal human rights and that they are applicable to all persons throughout the Commonwealth in accordance with the principles of international law:

5.2 We believe that equality and respect for the protection and promotion of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights for all, without discrimination on any grounds, are foundations for the creation and maintenance of a peaceful, just and stable society;

11. We believe in human diversity and human dignity and we oppose all forms of discrimination whether it be based in race, ethnicity, creed or gender or other like cause

According to the Royal Commonwealth Society:

The Charter of the Commonwealth is one of the recommendations made by the Eminent Persons Group and agreed by Commonwealth leaders at the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia.

The draft is derived from declarations of Commonwealth values and principles made by Heads of Government since 1970 and re-affirms the values of gender equality, human rights, rule of law, good governance and tolerance and respect. It calls for a commitment to a Commonwealth that is “unafraid to evolve and to adapt itself constantly to changing times and fresh challenges”.

The draft Charter envisages a stronger role for the Secretary-General and the Secretariat in upholding Commonwealth values, as well as for the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to be empowered to prevent violations of these values and to be able to respond promptly and effectively to violations when they occur.

It also includes support for small and independent states, protection of the environment, recognition of the vital role of a free media and civil society; plus a commitment to providing access to shelter, health care and education for all its citizens.

Civil society organisations and individuals are invited to comment on the draft Charter, and to propose amendments. These will be considered, finalised, agreed and then signed by Commonwealth Heads of Government.

How to make submissions:


Submissions will be accepted from within the UK and also from individuals and organisations in any Commonwealth member state.

Written responses can be brief emails, or longer submissions, but no more than three pages.

Email submissions can be made to Ashley Johnson: [email protected]

Written submissions can be made by post to: Ashley Johnson, Draft Commonwealth Charter, Royal Commonwealth Society, 25 Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5AP, UK.

Deadline for submissions – 23 March 2012

Submissions will be accepted until Friday 23 March, 2012.

More information about the RCS: