Commonwealth says no to human rights commissioner

Perth: Taking a step-by-step approach to reforms, the Commonwealth today agreed to adopt some of the recommendations of an eminent persons group to make it 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 106 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.