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Building peace as a trusted partner

The challenge

Commonwealth member governments have pledged to uphold and advance shared political values including democracy, the rule of law, human rights and good governance. Governments have also pledged to adhere to shared principles that reflect the way the Commonwealth works, such as transparency, accountability, mutual respect and inclusiveness.

Although these values and principles are reflected in the Commonwealth Charter to which all member governments have committed themselves on behalf of their citizens, sometimes they can come under strain. Seen as a trusted and impartial partner, the Commonwealth can be called upon to use its influence and to provide practical assistance when states are going through troubled times.

Since 1991, 12 Commonwealth member countries have moved to multi-party democracy from military or one-party rule.

Commonwealth action

The Commonwealth Secretary-General has a unique role, offering support and advice to member countries to encourage the settlement of political tension and disagreements and encourage national action that reflects Commonwealth values and principles.

This ‘Good Offices for Peace’ role involves working primarily with leaders and aims to support the development of independent democratic institutions that reflect the Commonwealth’s commitment to civilian constitutional democratic rule and the separation of government powers between the executive, parliament and the judiciary.

This work may involve the appointment of representatives, or envoys, including former Heads of Government and Ministers. Other interested domestic parties are usually drawn into the process of achieving sustainable solutions to deep-rooted tension. This usually requires time and patience to open channels of communication, in order to find common ground and agreement. This work may be conducted ‘beneath the radar’ – an approach which often enables progress on sensitive and seemingly intractable issues.

Global value

The Secretary-General’s Good Offices put Commonwealth principles into action by fostering a climate of mutual respect, including all relevant parties in achieving solutions to national political challenges. In particular, by working on challenges over the long term, with a high premium paid to discretion and trust, the Commonwealth has helped member states to strengthen democracy, expand freedoms and enhance human rights.

Since 1991, 12 of the Commonwealth’s member countries have moved to multi-party democracy from military or one-party rule. They were assisted along the way with behind-the-scenes diplomacy from the Secretary-General and his envoys, along with practical institution-building support provided by the Commonwealth Secretariat. We have also provided forums for lessons learned in truth and reconciliation to be shared among all our member states.