Civil society has held an integral place in the Commonwealth's machinery of consultation and collaboration since the early days of the modern Commonwealth, providing a special place for professional, technical and other voluntary bodies at the heart of the Commonwealth.
This point was made by Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma at the opening of the three-day Commonwealth People's Forum (CPF) in Perth, Australia, on 25 October 2011. He noted the natural kinship and affinity in the Commonwealth comes from striving together in our shared ambition for the future.
"The Commonwealth is truly about democracy, development and diversity," said the Secretary-General. "We triangulate the Commonwealth on those three chords. I like to think that the strength of our association lies in our triangulation on those three chords nationally, regionally and globally. This People's Forum gives expression to all three 'D's, but significantly to our diversity, to inclusiveness in the range of Commonwealth engagement and participation. This has a special bearing on human rights. The 2009 Affirmation of Commonwealth Values and Principles includes a clear commitment to tolerance, respect and understanding. This means we embrace difference and that includes sexual identity. Discrimination and criminalisation on grounds of sexual orientation is at odds with our values."
Mr Sharma stated that the Commonwealth's determination to find ways of realising our ambitions, of seeing words translated into action, drives the continuing process of reform and positive evolution which is captured by the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting's theme this year - 'Building National Resilience, Building Global Resilience'. He said this summit of Commonwealth leaders will consider reports from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group and the Eminent Persons Group which will pave the way for the association's renewal. The Secretary-General added that the Commonwealth's vision, as well as its consensus approach in expanding the scope of the association, is the hallmark of its wisdom and leadership - which other organisations can emulate.
Mr Sharma urged delegates at the CPF to use the new internet platform, Commonwealth Connects, to communicate and exchange ideas and views.
"It is the Commonwealth's new shared workplace where we can learn best practice, collaborate, transact and experience a new form of partnership. The work you start at this Forum can continue to work together on Driving Change for a Dynamic Commonwealth through this giant gateway."