The Declaration of Commonwealth Principles, Harare Declaration and Millbrook Programme have provided the basis for Commonwealth action. However, the summit statements of position and action have long been a feature of the Commonwealth association.
In 1944, during the Second World War, Commonwealth Prime Ministers used their summit as the occasion on which to announce commitment to the establishment, after the war, of a ‘world organisation’ to prevent further conflict. This organisation, the United Nations, has since come into existence, and has always had strong Commonwealth backing. At the Commonwealth summit of 1951, leaders made a pledge to peace, and announced that the achievement of true peace depended on resolving problems of poverty. This was a pioneering statement of commitment to development co-operation and assistance to poor countries. In 1961, Commonwealth prime ministers pledged to work towards total global disarmament. Ten years later, the Declaration of Commonwealth Principles was issued. As can be seen from the statements previously issued, the Declaration of Principles was the codification in six clear points of the ethical standards which were already developing as central to the Commonwealth.
Statements or declarations issued at Heads of Government Meetings from the time of the Singapore declaration are as follows:
Declaration of Commonwealth Principles
Singapore, 1971: The core Commonwealth beliefs
Statement on Nuclear Weapon Tests
Ottawa, Canada, 1973: Issued during the intense arms-race phase of the Cold War, this statement affirms the unfailing support of Commonwealth governments for the international Treaty banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water. It appeals, furthermore, to the international community for a total ban on nuclear weapon tests in any environment.
Commonwealth Statement on Apartheid in Sport
Gleneagles, Scotland, UK, 1977: This famous statement, which became widely known as the Gleneagles Agreement, or the Commonwealth boycott of apartheid sport, was the first international move in the global campaign to isolate South Africa (then under a white racist government) from world sport. Agreed some six months before a parallel UN boycott, it was powerfully effective, and its success may have led the way to sanctions in cultural and economic areas. All sanctions against South Africa have, of course, been lifted since the end of apartheid.
Lusaka Declaration on Racism and Racial Prejudice
Lusaka, Zambia, 1979: The central Commonwealth statement of its abhorrence of all forms of racism, including in members’ own societies.
Melbourne, Australia, 1981: This announcement clarifies and extends the Commonwealth commitment to a fair international economic and financial system, and support for struggling poor countries.
Goa Declaration on International Security
Fort Aguada, Goa, India, 1983: Here, Commonwealth leaders denounce the Cold War and the extension of nuclear arsenals, and call for the transferral of resources from weaponry to partnership in development.
New Delhi Statement on Economic Action
New Delhi, India, 1983: This statement outlines a programme of co-operation to strengthen development in poor countries.
Nassau Declaration on World Order
Nassau, The Bahamas, 1985: Here, leaders outline their commitment to international co-operation through the United Nations system.
Commonwealth Accord on Southern Africa
Nassau, The Bahamas, 1985: This provides a detailed programme to increase pressure, through sanctions and other measures, to force an end of apartheid.
Vancouver Declaration on World Trade
Vancouver, Canada, 1987: This adds to the Melbourne Declaration and New Delhi Statement with a strong attack on protectionism in world trade, and calls for strengthening of liberalisation through the GATT system.
Okanagan Statement and Programme of Action on Southern Africa
Okanagan, Canada, 1987: Here, stronger measures than those of the 1985 Accord are announced.
Statement on Fiji
Vancouver, Canada, 1987: This short statement announces the departure of Fiji Islands, which had recently become a republic and so was required to reapply for membership, and whose military government had enacted racist measures unacceptable to the association, from the Commonwealth.
Langkawi Declaration on Environment
Langkawi, Malaysia, 1989: This is the first Commonwealth statement specifically to include environmental protection as a vital factor in development.
Southern Africa: The Way Ahead (The Kuala Lumpur Statement)
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 1989: This brought about further strengthening of the Commonwealth attack on racism in South Africa, while also boosting Commonwealth support for the majority-ruled Southern African countries then subject to military destabilisation by South Africa.
Ottawa Declaration on Women and Structural Adjustment
Harare, Zimbabwe, 1991: This declaration, first prepared and submitted by Ministers responsible for Women’s Affairs at their meeting in Ottawa, Canada, in October 1990 and endorsed by Heads of Government meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, expresses concern at the damage to women and the family by structural adjustment measures affecting peasant agriculture, food prices, health and education, and asks for such measures to be redrawn to avoid damage to the most vulnerable sectors of society.
Harare Commonwealth Declaration
Harare, Zimbabwe, 1991: The Commonwealth’s second general statement of beliefs, this declaration, issued 20 years after the Declaration of Commonwealth Principles, reinforces the earlier declaration, updates it where necessary, and defines the core values to take the Commonwealth into the 21st century and beyond. It also outlines a programme of action, placing priority on areas where the Commonwealth is particularly well placed to operate, such as in strengthening democracy, human rights and the rights of women.
Limassol Statement on the Uruguay Round
Limassol, Cyprus, 1993: This deals with the global trade negotiations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and calls for agreements which will genuinely allow the products of poor countries access to world markets and, where necessary, give preference to them.
Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme on the Harare Declaration
Millbrook, New Zealand, 1995: This provides an operating structure for the two central declarations: the Declaration of Commonwealth Principles and the Harare Commonwealth Declaration. It also defines the Commonwealth’s role in global and national affairs. The Millbrook Programme covers democratic and humane government, co-operation for development, and Commonwealth partnership on agreed positions in international forums. One of its measures was to set up the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.
Edinburgh Commonwealth Economic Declaration
Edinburgh, UK, 1997: This recognises that the Commonwealth, with its shared traditions and global reach, is uniquely placed to play a key role in promoting trade and investment, eradicating poverty, and protecting the environment, to the mutual benefit of its members.
Fancourt Commonwealth Declaration on Globalisation and People-Centred Development
Fancourt, South Africa, 1999: The declaration expresses the concern of Commonwealth leaders at the 1999 summit in South Africa that, while globalisation offers unprecedented opportunities for wealth creation and for the improvement of the human condition, its benefits are not shared equitably.
Coolum Declaration on the Commonwealth in the 21st Century: Continuity and Renewal
Coolum, Australia, 2002: At the outset of the new century, Commonwealth Heads of Government addressed the role of the association, and renewed their enduring commitment to shared values and principles.
Aso Rock Commonwealth Declaration on Development and Democracy: Partnership for Peace and Prosperity
Aso Rock, Abuja, Nigeria, 2003: Building on the landmark declarations in Singapore, Harare and Fancourt, Heads of Government committed themselves to strengthen development and democracy, through partnership for peace and prosperity. Heads also issued a separate Aso Rock Statement on Multilateral Trade, annexed to this declaration.
Valletta Statement on Multilateral Trade
Valletta, Malta, 2005: Commonwealth leaders urged the WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong, 13-18 December 2005, to agree that all forms of export subsidies be eliminated by 2010.
Malta Declaration on Networking the Commonwealth for Development
Valletta, Malta, 2005: This declaration affirms the importance of harnessing new technologies and strengthening networks to bridge the digital divide and accelerate economic development in the Commonwealth.
Gozo Statement on Vulnerable Small States
Gozo, Malta, 2005: Commonwealth leaders recognised the particular challenges of small states which make up 32 of the members of the association.
Lake Victoria Commonwealth Climate Change Action Plan
Kampala, Uganda, 2007: Building on the 1989 Langkawi Declaration on Environment, this action plan indicates the level of Commonwealth political commitment to the UN process aimed at developing a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.
Munyonyo Statement on Respect and Understanding
Kampala, Uganda, 2007: Heads of Government endorsed the report of the Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding, Civil Paths to Peace, and in responding to its recommendations identified priority fields of action.
Kampala Declaration on Transforming Societies to Achieve Political, Economic and Human Development
Kampala, Uganda, 2007: This declaration calls for the inclusiveness of transformation, to involve citizens at every level, and to be as much a democratic transformation as an economic one.
Port of Spain Climate Change Consensus: The Commonwealth Climate Change Declaration
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, 2009: Commonwealth leaders in this declaration called for continued implementation of all six elements of the 2007 Lake Victoria Commonwealth Climate Change Action Plan, and stressed that a global climate change solution was central to the survival of peoples, the promotion of development and facilitation of a global transition to a low emission development path.
Trinidad and Tobago Affirmation of Commonwealth Values and Principles
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, 2009: In the 60th anniversary year of the modern Commonwealth, Heads of Government reiterated their strong and abiding commitment to the association’s fundamental values and principles. Heads also agreed that consideration be given to strengthening the role of CMAG.
The Declaration of Port of Spain: Partnering for a More Equitable and Sustainable Future
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, 2009: The declaration affirmed the key role of partnerships in forging a more sustainable and equitable future for all people, recognising that to effectively address the unprecedented combination of social, economic and environmental challenges facing the world would require international co-operation, sustained commitment and collective action.
A Declaration on Young People: ‘Investing in Young People‘
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, 2009: In this declaration Heads of Government acknowledge the role and active contributions of young people in promoting development, peace and democracy, and recognise that the future successes of the Commonwealth rest with young people.
Commonwealth Statement on Action to Combat Non Communicable Diseases
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, 2009: Here, concerned that non-communicable diseases account for over half of all deaths worldwide and noting international co-operation is critical in addressing this emerging health crisis, Commonwealth leaders call for a UN summit to be held in 2011 in order to develop strategic responses to these diseases and their repercussions.