South African’s National Liberation Movement

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The Harare Commonwealth Declaration

20 October 1991

  1. The Heads of Government of the countries of the Commonwealth, meeting in
    Harare, reaffirm their confidence in the Commonwealth as a voluntary association
    of sovereign independent states, each responsible for its own policies,
    consulting and co-operating in the interests of their peoples and in the
    promotion of international understanding and world peace.
  2. Members of the Commonwealth include people of many different races and
    origins, encompass every state of economic development, and comprise a
    rich variety of cultures, traditions and institutions.
  3. The special strength of the Commonwealth lies in the combination of the
    diversity of its members with their shared inheritance in language, culture
    and the rule of law. The Commonwealth way is to seek consensus through
    consultation and the sharing of experience. It is uniquely placed to serve
    as a model and as a catalyst for new forms of friendship and co-operation
    to all in the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations.
  4. Its members also share a commitment to certain fundamental principles.
    These were set out in a Declaration of Commonwealth Principles agreed by
    our predecessors at their Meeting in Singapore in 1971. Those principles
    have stood the test of time, and we reaffirm our full and continuing commitment
    to them today. In particular, no less today than 20 years ago:
  • we believe that international peace and order, global economic development
    and the rule of international law are essential to the security and prosperity
    of mankind;
  • we believe in the liberty of the individual under the law, in equal rights
    for all citizens regardless of gender, race, colour, creed or political
    belief, and in the individual’s inalienable right to participate by means
    of free and democratic political processes in framing the society in which
    he or she lives;
  • we recognise racial prejudice and intolerance as a dangerous sickness and
    a threat to healthy development, and racial discrimination as an unmitigated
  • we oppose all forms of racial oppression, and we are committed to the principles
    of human dignity and equality;
  • we recognise the importance and urgency of economic and social development
    to satisfy the basic needs and aspirations of the vast majority of the
    peoples of the world, and seek the progressive removal of the wide disparities
    in living standards amongst our members.
  • In Harare, our purpose has been to apply those principles in the contemporary
    situation as the Commonwealth prepares to face the challenges of the 1990s
    and beyond.
  • Internationally, the world is no longer locked in the iron grip of the
    Cold War. Totalitarianism is giving way to democracy and justice in many
    parts of the world. Decolonisation is largely complete. Significant changes
    are at last under way in South Africa. These changes, so desirable and
    heartening in themselves, present the world and the Commonwealth with new
    tasks and challenges.
  • In the last twenty years, several Commonwealth countries have made significant
    progress in economic and social development. There is increasing recognition
    that commitment to market principles and openness to international trade
    and investment can promote economic progress and improve living standards.
    Many Commonwealth countries are poor and face acute problems, including
    excessive population growth, crushing poverty, debt burdens and environmental
    degradation. More than half our member states are particularly vulnerable
    because of their very small societies.
  • Only sound and sustainable development can offer these millions the prospect
    of betterment. Achieving this will require a flow of public and private
    resources from the developed to the developing world, and domestic and
    international regimes conducive to the realisation of these goals. Development
    facilitates the task of tackling a range of problems which affect the whole
    global community such as environmental degradation, the problems of migration
    and refugees, the fight against communicable diseases, and drug production
    and trafficking.
  • Having reaffirmed the principles to which the Commonwealth is committed,
    and reviewed the problems and challenges which the world, and the Commonwealth
    as part of it, face, we pledge the Commonwealth and our countries to work
    with renewed vigour, concentrating especially in the following areas:
  • the protection and promotion of the fundamental political values of the
    • democracy, democratic processes and institutions which reflect national
      circumstances, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, just
      and honest government;
    • fundamental human rights, including equal rights and opportunities for
      all citizens regardless of race, colour, creed or political belief;
  • equality for women, so that they may exercise their full and equal rights;
  • provision of universal access to education for the population of our countries;
  • continuing action to bring about the end of apartheid and the establishment
    of a free, democratic, non-racial and prosperous South Africa;
  • the promotion of sustainable development and the alleviation of poverty
    in the countries of the Commonwealth through:
    • a stable international economic framework within which growth can be achieved;
    • sound economic management recognising the central role of the market economy;
    • effective population policies and programmes;
    • sound management of technological change;
    • the freest possible flow of multilateral trade on terms fair and equitable
      to all, taking account of the special requirements of developing countries;
    • an adequate flow of resources from the developed to developing countries,
      and action to alleviate the debt burdens of developing countries most in
    • the development of human resources, in particular through education, training,
      health, culture, sport and programmes for strengthening family and community
      support, paying special attention to the needs of women, youth and children;
    • effective and increasing programmes of bilateral and multilateral co-operation
      aimed at raising living standards;
  • extending the benefits of development within a framework of respect for
    human rights;
  • the protection of the environment through respect for the principles of
    sustainable development which we enunciated at Langkawi;
  • action to combat drug trafficking and abuse and communicable diseases;
  • help for small Commonwealth states in tackling their particular economic
    and security problems;
  • support of the United Nations and other international institutions in the
    world’s search for peace, disarmament and effective arms control; and in
    the promotion of international consensus on major global political, economic
    and social issues.
  • To give weight and effectiveness to our commitments we intend to focus
    and improve Commonwealth co-operation in these areas. This would include
    strengthening the capacity of the Commonwealth to respond to requests from
    members for assistance in entrenching the practices of democracy, accountable
    administration and the rule of law.
  • We call on all the intergovernmental institutions of the Commonwealth to
    seize the opportunities presented by these challenges. We pledge ourselves
    to assist them to develop programmes which harness our shared historical,
    professional, cultural and linguistic heritage and which complement the
    work of other international and regional organisations.
  • We invite the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and non-governmental
    Commonwealth organisations to play their full part in promoting these objectives,
    in a spirit of co-operation and mutual support.
  • In reaffirming the principles of the Commonwealth and in committing ourselves
    to pursue them in policy and action in response to the challenges of the
    1990s, in areas where we believe that the Commonwealth has a distinctive
    contribution to offer, we the Heads of Government express our determination
    to renew and enhance the value and importance of the Commonwealth as an
    institution which can and should strengthen and enrich the lives not only
    of its own members and their peoples but also of the wider community of
    peoples of which they are a part.