·Sur Journal – Abstract

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The Commonwealth of Nations: Intergovernmental and Nongovernmental Strategies for the Protection of Human Rights in a Post-colonial Association

Is there a role for machinery to promote and protect human rights which is neither universal, nor regional? The case of the Commonwealth of Nations, which originated in the British Empire but where the majority of members are now developing states, offers an insight into possibilities at both intergovernmental and nongovernmental levels. This article focuses on the way in which rules of membership for the Commonwealth have come to play a decisive part in defining it as an association of democracies and, more cautiously, as committed to human rights guarantees for citizens. The progress has been uneven, driven by political crises, and limited by the small resources available to an intergovernmental Secretariat. Simultaneously, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, a strong nongovernmental body, based in New Delhi and initially launched as a coalition of London-based Commonwealth associations, has been coordinating international pressure on Commonwealth governments to live up to their declarations. It has also been running programmes of its own for the right to information, and accountable policing.

Original in English.

Submitted in 2008. Accepted in July 2010.