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A Decade of the Commonwealth Charter: Where to Now?

Jump to Speakers
Dr Linda Yueh
The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG
Nondumiso 'Noni' Hlophe
Dr Lady Phyll Opoku-Gyimah
Date & Time
5:30pm, 16 March 2023 - 8:00pm, 16 March 2023
South African High Commission, Trafalgar Sq, London WC2N 5DP, UK
About the event

Ten years ago, Member States signed the Commonwealth Charter – a document setting out the principles, values and aspirations that would unite the Commonwealth and guide its work.

The Charter begins with the words ‘We the people…’. It was seen as the Commonwealth’s statement of its place, its purpose and long-term commitment to the values of peace, democracy, the rule of law, human rights, gender equality, economic development, and freedom of expression. The Charter was a symbol of the Commonwealth’s modernisation and its wish to be at the forefront of international cooperation.

While much has been done to advance the principles and values of the Charter, many of its core tenets are under threat and many questions remain. Critics say the Commonwealth is now merely an association of political convenience as opposed to one built on a determination to embody and uphold shared ideals and values. The Commonwealth’s 1.5 billion young peoplewhose attitude to the association will surely determine its relevance in the futureare rightly asking whether the Commonwealth is fit to address modern-day threats to democracy, peace, and the health of our planet. 

Why should I join this event?

The tenth anniversary of the signing of the Commonwealth Charter provides an opportunity for the people of the Commonwealth to come together to talk frankly and openly about the challenges that lie ahead. This is an opportunity to recommit to the political values and aspirations of the Charter that can—and must—guide us into the future. This in-person Critical Conversation event will also seek the answer the following questions:

  • What difference has the Charter made?
  • Does the Charter matter, and why? How can we turn the political aspirations and values in the Charter into concrete action?
  • How can civil society use the Charter to hold governments to account on issues that really matter to the people? What are the challenges and opportunities ahead?
  • How can—or should—the Charter be used by Commonwealth Member States? What might this look like?
  • How do these questions relate more broadly to questions around the identity and purpose of the Commonwealth? What role might the Charter play in shaping that identity?
  • What is our trajectory? Where would we want the Commonwealth to be in ten years’ time and how might we try and get there?

The event will be co-hosted by the High Commission of South Africa in London. A moderated three-person conversation will be followed by a reception.

The evening will also include:

Dr Linda Yueh Moderator
The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG Panellist
Nondumiso 'Noni' Hlophe Panellist
Dr Lady Phyll Opoku-Gyimah Panellist
Dr Linda Yueh

Dr Linda Yueh is Executive Chair of the Royal Commonwealth Society. She is Fellow in Economics at St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford; Adjunct Professor of Economics at London Business School; and Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has written/edited 10 books; the latest is The Great Economists: How Their Ideas Can Help Us Today, which was a Best Business Book of the Year selected by The Times.

The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG

The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG is an Australian jurist and academic who served as the former Justice of the High Court of Australia from 1996 to 2009. 

Prior to his appointment to the High Court, Justice Kirby held many legal roles, notably: Deputy President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission (1975-83); Chairman of the Australian Law Reform Commission (1975-84); Judge of the Federal Court of Australia (1983-4); President of the New South Wales Court of Appeal (1984-96); and President of the Court of Appeal of Solomon Islands (1995-96). 

In 1982 he was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) for his services to Law. In 1991, he was awarded the Human Rights Medal, along with receiving Australia’s highest civil honour when he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC). He was named Laurette of the UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education in 1998, and co-winner of the Gruber Justice Prize in 2010. In 2011 he received the inaugural Australian Privacy Medal.

Justice Kirby has undertaken many international activities for the United Nations, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the OECD and the Global Fund Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. He was also a member of the Eminent Persons Group that was tasked with advising on potential reform within the Commonwealth. 

Justice Kirby continues to be active in international human rights; in May 2013 he was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to lead an inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea.

Nondumiso 'Noni' Hlophe

Noni received the Queen’s Young Leader award, for her contribution in leadership and social impact in 2015. She is from eSwatini and was selected by the World Economic Forum as Founding Curator of Global Shapers Community: Mbabane Hub – a network of young people driving dialogue, action and change. Noni is an advisor to the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.

Dr Lady Phyll Opoku-Gyimah

Phyll Opoku-Gyimah is the executive director of Kaleidoscope Trust, the charity working to uphold the human rights of LGBT+ people across the Commonwealth. She is also the co-founder and executive director of UK Black Pride, Europe’s largest pride celebration for LGBT+ people of colour. Phyll is an experienced community builder and organiser; an Albert Kennedy Trust patron, and a writer and public speaker focusing on race, gender, sexuality and class.

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South African High Commission, Trafalgar Sq, London WC2N 5DP, UK
Event Partner
The South African High Commission in London

The South African High Commission in London represents the interests of the Government and People of South Africa in the United Kingdom.

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