Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting Durban, South Africa 12-15 November 1999
THE DURBAN COMMUNIQUÉ
Review of the Role of the Commonwealth
- Commonwealth Heads of Government met in Durban from 12 to 15 November 1999. Of the 52 countries which attended the Meeting, 47 were represented by Heads of State or Prime Ministers. The Meeting was chaired by His Excellency Mr Thabo Mbeki, President of the Republic of South Africa.
- The Opening Session of the Meeting included an address by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth.
- Heads of Government believed that their Meeting was highly symbolic, being their first meeting on the soil of a democratic South Africa, and recalling in this context the leading role which the Commonwealth had played in the global campaign to eradicate apartheid. They deemed it particularly appropriate that their meeting in South Africa should also mark the 50th Anniversary of the modern Commonwealth. They recognised the significance of the Meeting as one which would launch the Commonwealth into the next millennium.
- They extended a warm welcome to President Olusegun Obasanjo as the democratically elected leader of Nigeria and expressed satisfaction at the full return of the country to the Commonwealth fold. They also welcomed Nauru's participation in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting for the first time following its accession to full Commonwealth membership.
- Heads of Government conveyed their appreciation for the excellent arrangements for their Meeting and the warm hospitality extended by the Government and people of South Africa, as well as for the Chairman's admirable stewardship.
- Heads of Government adopted the Fancourt Declaration on Globalisation and People-Centred Development.
- Heads of Government decided that a High-Level Group should be established to review the role of the Commonwealth and advise on how best it could respond to the challenges of the new century. The group would be chaired by the President of South Africa and include the Heads of Government of Australia, Fiji, India, Malta, Singapore, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom and Zimbabwe. It would report to the next CHOGM in Australia in 2001.
Fundamental Political Values
- Heads of Government believed that the Chairperson of each CHOGM should be able to play a representational role, especially in other intergovernmental organisations in the period between Heads of Government Meetings. Fifty Years of the Modern Commonwealth
- Heads of Government recalled that the modern Commonwealth traced its origin to the 1949 London Declaration. They celebrated the completion of 50 years since that landmark and believed that this Anniversary marked another important milestone in the history of the association. They noted that the sustained increase in the membership of the Commonwealth, including the return of old members and interest from aspiring members, was testimony to the growing strength and relevance of the association.
Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group's Report
- Heads of Government renewed their commitment to the Commonwealth's fundamental political values of democracy, human rights, the rule of law, independence of the judiciary and good governance. They reiterated that fundamental political values and sustainable development were interdependent and mutually reinforcing, and that economic and social progress worked to enhance the sustainability of democracy. They called for increased international co-operation to support democracies in achieving benefits for the poor.
- Heads of Government noted that the Commonwealth had made commendable progress in making democracy a way of life in the association and believed that it needed to be deepened. They felt that not only governments but all political parties, other organs of civil society and the public at large also had equal responsibility for upholding and promoting the democratic ethic. They recognised the parliaments and legislatures of the Commonwealth as essential elements in the exercise of democratic government, and endorsed the efforts of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association as the parliamentary partner of the Commonwealth's governmental and non-governmental sectors in advancing the democratic culture of the Commonwealth.
- Heads of Government commended the valuable contribution made by the Secretary-General's good offices role, at the request of the concerned member governments, to peace, democratic order and political stability, through the prevention and resolution of conflict situations in member countries. They also commended the effective use of Special Envoys by the Secretary-General in this context.
- Heads of Government reaffirmed gender equality as an essential component of human equality and basic human rights and as a particular Commonwealth challenge, urged member governments to take action for the promotion and advancement of women by strengthening their national machineries to implement gender mainstreaming for the acceleration of women's empowerment in political, economic and social activities in the 21st Century.
- Heads of Government received with appreciation the Report of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the Harare Commonwealth Declaration.
- Heads of Government expressed concern at the continued existence of the Schedule to Decree no. 89, which proscribes the political activities of certain political parties and individuals in The Gambia and urged its repeal. They welcomed an invitation extended by the President of The Gambia for CMAG to visit that country and assess first-hand The Gambia's compliance with the Harare Principles. They requested the Secretary-General to continue the provision of technical assistance to The Gambia to consolidate democratic processes and institutions.
- Heads of Government expressed their support for the Lomé Peace Agreement on Sierra Leone and called for its immediate, full and effective implementation. They deplored the recent violations of the Agreement and called upon all parties to fulfill their commitments, urging the co-operation of all groups with the process of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration. They commended the efforts of ECOWAS and its Monitoring Group, ECOMOG, in bringing peace and stability to Sierra Leone and upholding the legitimacy of the elected government. They expressed the Commonwealth's support for the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in its role of consolidating the Lomé Peace Agreement.
- Heads of Government requested CMAG to remain engaged with the post-conflict reconstruction and development and peace-building in Sierra Leone. They also requested the Secretary-General to continue his good offices role in consultation with the United Nations, and that the Commonwealth Secretariat should remain in close liaison with other members of the international community through the International Contact Group on Sierra Leone. They called on the international community to assist Sierra Leone in the task of national reconstruction within the framework of the Commonwealth Action Plan for Sierra Leone.
- Heads of Government condemned the unconstitutional overthrow of the democratically elected Government in Pakistan on 12 October 1999. They believed that no legitimacy should be accorded to the military regime and called for the restoration of civilian democratic rule without delay. They endorsed CMAG's decision to suspend the military regime in Pakistan from the councils of the Commonwealth, pending the restoration of democracy in that country.
- Heads of Government requested CMAG to keep the situation in Pakistan under review and be prepared to recommend further measures to be taken by the Commonwealth if progress to democracy is not made speedily.
- Recognising the unconstitutionality of the regime, Heads of Government urged that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and others detained with him be released immediately and that the rule of law in Pakistan be duly observed.
- Heads of Government commended the role played by CMAG as a custodian of the Harare Principles. They agreed that CMAG should continue to address serious or persistent violations of those Principles and that its future mandate should be considered further by the Commonwealth High-Level Group. They decided that, for the ensuing biennium, CMAG should consist of Ministers from Australia, Bangladesh, Barbados, Botswana, Canada, Malaysia, Nigeria and the United Kingdom. They further agreed that, beginning with the new membership of CMAG, no country should serve for more than two consecutive two-year terms.
- Heads of Government reaffirmed their support for the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus. They called for the implementation of United Nations Resolutions on Cyprus, and in particular Security Council Resolutions 365 (1974), 550 (1984), 1250 and 1251 (1999), and for the withdrawal of all Turkish forces and settlers, the return of the refugees to their homes, the restoration and respect for human rights of all Cypriots, and the accounting for all missing persons. They emphasised that the demand for recognition of a separate state in the occupied part of Cyprus is unacceptable.
- Reiterating their deep concern that continued efforts to achieve a just and lasting solution should at last bear fruit, they strongly endorsed the United Nations Security Council's request to the United Nations Secretary-General to invite the two communities on Cyprus to negotiations under his auspices before the end of 1999. They noted that these negotiations would be comprehensive and based on the four principles of: no preconditions, all issues being on the table, commitment in good faith to continue the negotiations until a settlement is reached, and full consideration of relevant United Nations Resolutions and Treaties. They pledged their full support for the United Nations Secretary-General in pursuit of this objective, and expressed their warm appreciation for the willingness of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus to respond positively to an invitation to negotiations based on the four principles endorsed by the United Nations Security Council.
- They requested the Secretary-General to convene the Commonwealth Action Group on Cyprus whenever appropriate.
- Heads of Government reaffirmed their support for the territorial integrity, security and sovereignty of Belize and expressed the hope for continued improvement in relations between Belize and Guatemala. They called for dialogue at the highest levels with a view to reaching a mutually beneficial and definitive solution. They mandated the Secretary-General to convene the Commonwealth Ministerial Committee on Belize whenever necessary.
- Heads of Government expressed their firm support for and solidarity with the Government and people of Guyana in the maintenance of their territorial integrity and sovereignty. They also commended the continued commitment to a peaceful settlement to the controversy between Guyana and Venezuela.
- Heads of Government took note that relations between the two countries had been conducted over recent years in an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect, and through the development of programmes of functional co-operation. They expressed the hope that both countries would resolve their differences on this matter peacefully, and welcomed the good offices process of the United Nations Secretary-General.
- Heads of Government mandated the Commonwealth Secretary-General to establish a ministerial group on Guyana to monitor further developments in respect of the existing controversy.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
- Heads of Government acknowledged the contribution of Commonwealth countries, at the request of concerned member governments, to conflict resolution and the promotion of democracy not only within member countries but also in their respective regions. They acknowledged the contribution of Commonwealth and other countries to the success achieved by INTERFET, the multinational force led by Australia under a UN mandate, in restoring peace and security in East Timor and in facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance. They thanked the wide range of Commonwealth members including Canada, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom and other countries who contributed contingents to the multinational force or other resources. They welcomed the current discussions with the Fiji Islands and Mozambique about possible contributions from those members.
- Heads of Government welcomed the establishment of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) and looked forward to the early transition from INTERFET to a United Nations peacekeeping force. They noted the significant scale of international assistance required for reconstruction in East Timor and called for further contributions to this effort from Commonwealth and other countries. They also urged all parties in East Timor to work strenuously towards reconciliation.
- Heads of Government welcomed the signing of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement on the DRC and urged all the parties to the conflict to strictly adhere to the letter and spirit of the agreement. They appealed to the international community to extend the necessary support to the Organisation of African Unity and the Joint Military Commission to enable them to carry out their mandate without further delay. They further urged the United Nations to speedily deploy a peacekeeping force in the DRC in accordance with the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement. They encouraged the Congolese people to expedite the national dialogue.
- Heads of Government expressed their grave concern over the continuing suffering of the people of Angola due to UNITA's non-compliance with the Lusaka Protocol and the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions on Angola. In this respect, they urged the international community to increase, as a matter of urgency, the humanitarian assistance, especially to the displaced persons. Recognising that UNITA is largely responsible for the breakdown of the peace process they urged the international community to fully support and respect the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Sanctions imposed on UNITA. They further called upon the international community to support the work of the United Nations Security Council Sanctions Committee on Angola.
Children and Armed Conflict
- Heads of Government reaffirmed their strongest condemnation of acts of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, which destabilise the political, economic and social order of sovereign states. They reiterated their determination to promote international and regional co-operation and to strengthen the international legal framework to ensure that terrorists do not find safe haven in any part of the world. They welcomed the adoption of the Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings as the latest in the series of United Nations enactments on this subject and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1269 of 19 October 1999. They called for the adoption at the current session of the United Nations General Assembly, of the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Terrorist Financing, and welcomed the agreement on elaborating, on a priority basis, a Comprehensive Convention Against International Terrorism. Recognising the linkages between terrorism, illegal trafficking in drugs, arms, and of persons, and money laundering, they further called on all states to enact laws to prevent financing of terrorists and terrorist organisations. They also called for firm deterrent measures by the United Nations Security Council against states, entities and organisations which harbour and train terrorists or promote international terrorism.
- Heads of Government expressed grave concern at the harmful and widespread impact of armed conflict on children and the long-term consequences of this for peace, security and development. They strongly condemned the targeting and abuse of children in situations of armed conflict and the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict in violation of international law, calling on all parties concerned to put an end to such practices. They welcomed United Nations Security Council Resolution 1261 of 25 August 1999, and the current efforts to draft an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Involvement of Children in Armed Conflicts and encouraged efforts by all relevant actors at the national and international level to develop more coherent and effective approaches to the issue of children and armed conflict.
- In the same context, Heads of Government also welcomed the adoption in June 1999 by the International Labour Organisation of the Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. They noted that a large number of Commonwealth countries had signed the Convention and urged its ratification by as many member governments as possible.
Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
- Heads of Government expressed concern at the destabilising accumulation and proliferation of small arms, ammunition, and light weapons, which had contributed to the intensity and duration of armed conflicts as well as to international terrorism. They noted that many Commonwealth governments were adversely affected by the excessive and destabilising accumulation, and the uncontrolled flows of these lethal weapons. They believed that the challenge posed by the proliferation of small arms involved security, humanitarian and development dimensions. They welcomed the Statement made by the President of the United Nations Security Council on this subject on 29 September 1999 and emphasised the need for urgent action by the international community to curb and prevent illicit production and trafficking. They urged member countries to support and encourage the initiatives underway globally and regionally, and particularly in the United Nations on this complex problem, including the international conference scheduled to be held in 2001.
- Heads of Government expressed their deep concern at the targeting of civilians, especially women and children, including recent attacks on humanitarian personnel, noting that these acts which violate international law are often undertaken with impunity. Recognising the negative impact this can have on the building of durable peace, reconciliation and sustainable development, they encouraged all Commonwealth countries to promote compliance with international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law.
Good Governance and the Elimination of Corruption
- Heads of Government stressed that the Commonwealth should continue to be a driving force in international efforts to secure a lasting exit from debt for the poorest and most indebted countries in the world. They welcomed the enhanced HIPC initiative, agreed at the autumn 1999 meetings of the Interim and Development Committees. They reiterated the Commonwealth commitment to support the swift implementation of the recent agreements to provide deeper, wider and faster debt relief, with the overarching aim of reducing poverty in HIPC countries. It is important that the procedures relating to the poverty reduction strategies should not delay access to timely debt relief.
- To this end, they called for the enhanced HIPC framework to be financed in a way that provided additional resources and also avoided adverse effects on other poor developing countries. They emphasised the need for adequate debt relief and technical assistance from the international community to reinforce poverty reduction strategies in debtor countries and help them achieve internationally agreed poverty reduction and development targets by 2015.
- They also requested that consideration be given to strengthening of the focus on the fiscal burden of debt in assessing sustainability and the shortening of the required track record of reform of up to six years.
- Heads of Government emphasised that corruption has become global in reach and that it must be tackled comprehensively through action at both national and international levels. They welcomed the report of the Commonwealth Expert Group on Good Governance, and endorsed the Framework for Principles for Promoting Good Governance and Combating Corruption, proposed by the Group, as the basis for pursuing concerted strategies based on zero tolerance for all types of corruption at national and global levels. They underscored that the Commonwealth commitment and work in promoting good governance and preventing corruption must be credible, tangible and visible. They instructed the Secretary-General to formulate strategies to facilitate the implementation of the Framework and for reviews of its progress to be reported at regular intervals.
- Heads of Government declared that people-centred development implied that people must be directly involved in the decision-making process and in the implementation of development plans and programmes through their own organisations. They noted the significance of civil society in empowering people to benefit from globalisation, in contributing towards the goals of poverty elimination, equal opportunity and fair distribution of resources and in helping to deal more effectively with ethnic, racial and religious conflicts. They acknowledged the need to enable capacity-building efforts of local and regional non-governmental organisations. They noted the report of the Commonwealth Foundation on Citizens and Governance and the Communiqué of the Third Commonwealth NGO Forum and asked Senior Officials at their next meeting to study the issue of the Forum presenting its views to the next CHOGM.
Environment and Development
- Heads of Government affirmed the right of member countries to compete in the international financial markets, through the provision of both onshore and offshore financial services. They recognised the substantial importance of financial services to the economies of certain member countries. They also recognised the need for improvements in the existing framework to regulate international financial transactions and markets, given their increasing volume, size and complexity occasioned by globalisation. They requested the Secretariat to offer assistance to member countries to improve, where appropriate, their operating practices and regulatory standards relating to this activity, in order to safeguard the international banking and financial system and to prevent financial crime, notably money laundering.
Commonwealth Business Council
- Heads of Government agreed that the Commonwealth should continue to help to build consensus and strengthen international co-operation towards the conservation of biological diversity to avert existing and new threats to the global environment especially to small island and other vulnerable states from the impact of climate change. They emphasised the need to resolve outstanding issues and to bring the Kyoto Protocol into force as soon as possible. They expressed concern about the effects of deforestation and called upon the Commonwealth Secretariat and other international organisations, upon request by member states, to initiate studies to increase the availability of alternative, sustainable and affordable sources of energy especially in Africa south of the Sahara
- They called for the adoption of a balanced and effective Biosafety Protocol under the Convention on Biological Diversity at the resumed Extraordinary Conference of the Parties (ExCOP) which takes place from 24 to 28 January 2000.
- Heads of Government warmly commended the efforts of the Commonwealth Business Council and received the report of the Commonwealth Business Forum, held in Johannesburg from 9 to11 November 1999. They recognised the essential role of the private sector as a partner in shaping globalisation with equity. They noted the Forum's recommendations on trade, investment, ethics, corruption and corporate governance, infrastructure development and Commonwealth-CBC co-operation. Heads of Government expressed support for the work of the Commonwealth Business Council and for the proposed Commonwealth guidelines on corporate governance developed by the Commonwealth Association for Corporate Governance.
Multilateral Trade Issues
- Heads of Government received with appreciation the attached Report of the Chairperson of the Ministerial Group on Small States.
- Heads of Government recognised the vulnerability of small states and the development needs they face. They called for the Commonwealth to continue to take a leading role in promoting the interests of small states. They welcomed the Interim Report of the Commonwealth Secretariat/World Bank Task Force, 'Small States: Meeting Challenges in the Global Economy', as a landmark document that confirmed these special problems, vulnerabilities and needs. They noted the areas identified in the Interim Report for further work, including the criteria for the classification of small states and called on the Joint Task Force to complete its report in time for the meeting of the Development Committee of the World Bank and the IMF in Spring 2000 after the fullest consultations with governments of small states, and key multilateral agencies.
- They agreed that members of the Ministerial Mission should continue to act as a monitoring mechanism and play an advisory role until completion of the work of the Task Force and its final report, and that implementation of the final report's recommendations be similarly tracked.
- Heads of Government underscored the need for the Secretary-General to continue the Commonwealth's collaborative efforts with all partner organisations to ensure the implementation of the Report.
- Heads of Government urged the next WTO Ministerial Meeting in Seattle to consider special measures, including special and differential treatment, for vulnerable small states.
- Recalling their Fancourt Declaration on Globalisation and People-Centred Development, Heads requested the Secretariat to continue its support of multilateral trade issues to Commonwealth developing countries, especially small states, in building their capacities for negotiating, updating legislation and strengthening domestic trade policy institutions. They welcomed the contribution which the Trade and Investment Access Facility has made to providing this support, and hoped to expand its resources. In addition, they called on the Secretariat to work with other multilateral bodies and bilateral donors to give practical effect to pledges in international fora and to co-ordinate with others in developing effective, practical programmes of capacity-building for trade, for example by extending the principles of the Integrated Framework more widely.
- They also requested the Secretary-General to increase the contribution of the Commonwealth to multilateral trade negotiations through the use of expert groups and other methods to explore issues and promote consensus; and to consult Commonwealth governments about convening a meeting of Commonwealth ministers responsible for international trade at an appropriate time to promote progress in WTO negotiations.
- Heads of Government recognised the importance for a large number of Commonwealth countries of ACP-EU negotiations on post-Lomé-IV arrangements, and urged during a transitional period that the historical benefits upon which ACP countries depend for access to EU markets be retained.
- Heads of Government expressed grave concern over the devastating social and economic impact of HIV/AIDS, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. They agreed that this constituted a Global Emergency, and pledged personally to lead the fight against HIV/AIDS within their countries and internationally. They urged all sectors in government, international agencies and the private sector to co-operate in increased efforts to tackle the problem, with greater priority given to research into new methods of prevention, the development of an effective vaccine and effective ways of making affordable drugs for the treatment of HIV/AIDs accessible to the affected population.
Commonwealth Functional Co-operation
- Heads of Government reaffirmed their commitment to education and training as essential foundations of human development and emphasised their central importance in equipping people with the knowledge and skills to meet the challenges of development and to take advantage of the opportunities presented by globalisation. They recognised the contribution of the Commonwealth of Learning in supporting the efforts of Commonwealth developing countries to benefit fully from the new information and communication technologies in developing their human potential through distance education.
- Heads of Government considered various aspects of Commonwealth functional co-operation, which they reaffirmed as essential for translating the benefits of membership, particularly to developing member states. They approved the attached Report of the Committee of the Whole. They requested the Secretariat to intensify its efforts to establish priorities in its areas of responsibility based on the Commonwealth's comparative advantage.
- Heads of Government unanimously elected Mr Don McKinnon to succeed Chief Anyaoku as Commonwealth Secretary-General for a four-year term beginning 1 April 2000. They paid warm tribute to Chief Emeka Anyaoku for his exceptional services to the Commonwealth as Secretary-General over the last ten years and during his near 34 years of service to the Commonwealth. They believed that his contribution to the strengthening of the Commonwealth would be long remembered.
- Heads of Government reaffirmed their earlier decision to accept the kind offer of the Government of Australia to host their next Meeting in 2001.