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Bourne, Richard (2012)
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: HRDS, POL
The Commonwealth is in danger of letting its commitments to both the agenda of democracy and rights, and\ud the agenda of development, become sterile and vacuous. The argument that has been raging over creating a\ud Commissioner for Democracy, the Rule of Law and Human Rights reflects a dysfunctional organisation, stuck in an outdated North-South stand-off, crying out for creative leadership. Here, Richard Bourne argues that the Commonwealth Secretariat must build consensus, and galvanise governments to take practical ownership of the values that, in the new Commonwealth Charter, they will be claiming to promote. When few leaders spend time thinking how to use their Commonwealth networks, it is the job of the Secretary General to show them.
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    • 1 See A Commonwealth of the People: Time for Urgent Reform, report of the Eminent Persons Group published by the Commonwealth Secretariat, London, 2011.
    • 2 See www.commonwealthadvisorybureau.org
    • 3 See Stuart Mole, 'Negotiating with apartheid: the mission of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group 1986', Round Table, vol. 101, issue 3, p. 253, June 2012.
    • 4 Total pledges to the CFTC in 2011-12 amounted to £29.64 million, down from £31.18 million in 2010-11 and £30.24 million in 2009-10.
    • 5 The principles on which the Secretariat subscriptions were based, not always compatible, were: capacity to pay, equitable burden-sharing, and shared ownership of and responsibility for the Secretariat. CFTC, as a voluntary fund, rests on pledges from governments; no government can obtain its assistance without making a contribution.
    • 6 The four 'developed' states in traditional Commonwealth terminology are: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK.
    • 7 An association of leading emerging economies. The term BRICS is an acronym of the membership, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
    • 8 The comparison between New Zealand and Singapore is remarkable. New Zealand has a population of 4.4 million and a gross national income (GNI) per head of $29,350; Singapore has a population of 5.1 million and a GNI per head of $42,930 (World Bank data for 2011). The core pledge of Singapore to CFTC is only £20,000 a year, amplified as it also pays half the cost of training Commonwealth nationals in the city state under an agreement with the Secretariat. Singapore's total contribution to CFTC in 2008-9 was £361,465 - so it appears to have dropped by over £200,000 in three years.
    • 9 Krishan Srinivasan, 'The development aid controversy', op. cit., p. 269.
    • 10 This quotation, much used in US politics, though with 'rapscallions' commonly substituted for 'rascals', is attributed to H.L. Mencken, the American social satirist and essayist.
    • 11 See www.un.org/millenniumgoals/bkgd.shtml/
    • 12 See www.earthsummit2012.org/conference/themes/ sdgoalsintro
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