Aso Rock Commonwealth Declaration on Development and Democracy: Partnership for Peace and Prosperity, 8 December 2003 (Excerpts)

1. We, the Heads of Government of the Commonwealth of Nations , meeting at Abuja , Nigeria from 5 to 8 December 2003 , commit ourselves to strengthen development and democracy, through partnership for peace and prosperity. Building on the landmark Declarations in Singapore , Harare and Fancourt, we are committed to democracy, good governance, human rights, gender equality and a more equitable sharing of the benefits of globalisation.

2. We recognise that the Governments of the Commonwealth are partners sharing a fundamental responsibility for the development, security and well-being of their people. W acknowledge their central role in guaranteeing stability, good economic management and governance in promoting sustainable growth and development.

3. We welcome the Report of the Commonwealth Expert Group on Development and Democracy which was constituted following the 2002 Coolum CHOGM. We have noted its key recommendations for Commonwealth actions, focusing on how democracies can best be supported in combating poverty.

4. We believe that efforts aimed at eradicating poverty and improving governance are essential for greater international equity and global peace and security. We recognise that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have mobilised governments, international institutions and civil society to reduce poverty with renewed vigour and commitment.

5. We recognise that globalisation has significant potential benefits for all. However, the world is characterised by uneven development, and we therefore stress that globalization must provide real opportunities for developing countries to transform their economies and societies through diversification for the benefit of their people. It is the strategic goal of the Commonwealth to help their pre- industrial members to transition into skilled working- and middle-class societies, recognising that their domestic policies must be conducive to such transitions .

6. We further recognise that while development and democracy are goals each in its own right, they must be mutually reinforcing, with a clear 'democratic dividend', in terms of delivering tangible benefits to people. We are convinced that broad-based prosperity creates the stability conducive to the promotion of democracy; and that strong democratic institutions better promote development.

7. Accordingly, we commit ourselves to make democracy work better for pro-poor development by implementing sustainable development programmes and enhancing democratic institutions and processes in all human endeavours. We recognise that building democracy is a constantly evolving process. It must also be uncomplicated and take into account national circumstances. Among the objectives we seek to promote are the following:

i. a participatory democracy characterised by free and fair elections and representative legislatures

ii. an independent judiciary

iii. a well-trained public service

iv. a transparent and accountable public accounts system

v. machinery to protect human rights

vi. the right to information

vii. active participation of civil society, including women and youth

viii. substantially increased and more effective financial resources

ix. adherence to the internationally agreed targets of 0.7 percent of GNP for development assistance

x. financing and realisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

xi. increased democracy at the global level, including enhanced participation and transparency in international institutions

Partnership for Peace and Prosperity

20. We strongly reaffirm our commitment to multilateralism, international cooperation, partnership, and productive working relationships between government and civil society organisations. We also reaffirm our commitment to enhance global democracy, by ensuring that international institutions reflect the voice of their developing country members and are themselves models of good practice in democratic accountability, participation and transparency. We recognise that the Commonwealth as an association has distinctive strengths and comparative advantages that could be effectively utilised for the mutual benefit of member states. We therefore urge greater partnership within our community.

21. Furthermore we urge all countries to implement their commitments under the Monterrey Consensus and the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

22. We commend the African Union for taking the bold step to address development and good governance through the New Partnership for Africa 's Development (NEPAD). In this regard, we support the Commonwealth Secretariat's activities in developing a comprehensive programme of assistance to support the efforts of Commonwealth countries in Africa .

23. We recognise that conflict and instability erode the prospects of development. We are therefore committed to help mobilise international support and resources for conflict prevention, resolution and management. We also commit ourselves to efforts to curb illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and to support prompt response in providing international assistance to conflict areas.


24. We urge the Commonwealth Secretary-General to direct resources to support the priorities identified in this Declaration. We also urge relevant Commonwealth Ministerial Meetings to give additional momentum to these priorities, and request the Secretary-General to provide a report on progress made to the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Aso Rock, Abuja, 7/8 December 2003.