Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Commonwealth Advisory Bureau

Last night I attended the UK Launch of the Commonwealth Advisory Bureau's Policy Briefing for the 2011 Commonwealth Summit and Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), to be held in Perth, Western Australia in October this year.

The Commonwealth Advisory Bureau, based at the Institute of COmmonwealth Studies is the new name for what was known as the Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit, and is is the independent think-tank and advisory service for the modern Commonwealth of fifty-four nations and nearly two billion citizens. The Ccommonwealth Advisory Bureau (CA/B) specialise in issues of Commonwealth policy including globalisation, democracy, civil society and human rights and runs projects in numerous countries across the Commonwealth; produces quality research-based reports and briefings to inform and influence policy makers in over a quarter of the world’s countries; and seeks to put the policy choices before the Commonwealth into sharper focus, exploring options and suggesting new directions. CA/B also offers confidential and impartial advice to countries interested in applying to join the Commonwealth, and can help existing member countries make the most of Commonwealth membership for maximum impact at home and abroad.

The CA/B Briefing for the 2011 Commonwealth Summit is available online and  presents chapters on key issues for discussion and debate within the Commonwealth meetings that will take place at and around the Commonwealth Summit. Chapters include an alternative (sustainable) vision for mining, a challenge to the economic model of consumerist culture; discussions of the situation in Zimbabwe and the Commonwealth relationship with that nation; a call for a more open, inclusive, transparent and meritocratic selection of the next Commonwealth Secretary General; and an interview with Albie Sachs on the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the South Africa experience of protection against unfair discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Albie Sachs spoke at the launch of South Africa's experiences and lessons and of the role of lesbians and gay men in the apartheid struggle, stressing the importance of debate and mutual respect in the dabates that it is hoped will continue at the Commonwealth Summit. In the chapter in the briefing is acknowledged the work of the Commonwealth Human Rights Institute and Commonwealth Lawyers' Association in highlighting the issue of LGBT rights in the Commonwealrth arena.

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