Commonwealth Summit Ends with Modest Human Rights Gains

Posted October 30th, 2011 at 8:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Dozens of nations once linked to the former British empire have failed to find consensus on several human rights concerns.

The three-day Commonwealth Summit wrapped up Sunday in Perth, Australia. Leaders said they had made modest progress on implementing reforms, but the steps fell short of what some member countries had said they were hoping for.

For instance, the 54-nation group postponed its decision on whether to create a new Commissioner for Democracy, the Rule of Law and Human Rights. The official would track human rights abuses among member nations and propose possible sanctions against any country persistently committing abuses.

Countries opposed to creating the commissioner position included India, South Africa, and Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is slated to host the next summit, set for 2013. But Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper says he will boycott the meeting unless the Sri Lankan government investigates allegations its army committed war crimes during the final months of its civil war.

The Commonwealth leaders also discussed such issues as climate change, the high rates of child brides in many Commonwealth nations, and laws that criminalize homosexuality.

On the sidelines of the meeting, the member nations approved a historic agreement to repeal a centuries-old rule that favors sons over daughters to take the royal throne, even if the daughter is the first born.