Scholar Profile - luzzell

luzzell
scholar, Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution

Tocqueville would later make a similar observation about the superior bounty of Northern farms.  He pointed out that the land and growing conditions just north and south of the Ohio River were identical in all respects except that the latter is cultivated by slaves.  The farms in Ohio, he claimed, were far more productive than those of Kentucky.  He argued that the existence of slavery demolishes the work ethic and impoverishes the population as a whole.

Posted on December 08, 2014

References to the Langkawi Declaration on the Environment and the Lake Victoria Commonwealth Climate Change Action Plan are examples of one of the most recent values adopted by the Commonwealth: Sustainability.  This goal has recently been brought to bear on the Commonwealth Games – a competition that brings together sports teams from the Commonwealth members and other territories every four years.  Pressure has been mounting to make the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, at least as committed to the goal of sustainability as the London Olympics of 2012.

Posted on September 05, 2013

The Charter’s emphasis on political, social, and economic development merged well with the theme of the 2013 Commonwealth Day: “Opportunity through Enterprise – Unlocking potential with innovation and excellence.”  

Posted on September 05, 2013
Originally, only former members of the British Empire – those who had been directly ruled by Britain or who were linked constitutionally with another Commonwealth country – were eligible for membership.  This shared history is supposed to contribute to the members’ shared values and principles.  In recent years, the membership criteria has been relaxed twice.  In 1995 Mozambique joined the Commonwealth, and in 2007 Rwanda joined.  Membership still requires that applicants share core “values and principles.”  
Posted on September 05, 2013
There is a potential tension within the two leading characteristics for the Commonwealth of Nations that may court much of the criticism that has been aimed at it.  On the one hand, members of the commonwealth are sovereign states, which means that they are not subject to the coercive force of any external body (such as the Commonwealth of Nations).  On the other hand, they are expected to be committed to “common principles and values.”  Therefore, if a member state fails to live up to the latter criterion, then the former criterion prevents any punitive measures which would bring the erring state into line. The impotency of the Commonwealth has led to criticisms that many of its actions, such as this very Charter, are hollow.  Bruce Cheadle of the Canadian Press faulted the Charter even before it was completed.  He accused the panels of merely stating values without enforcing them: “But the promised Charter can’t paper over the group’s failure to act on more crucial reforms for tackling human rights and democratic abuses by member states.” As if to illustrate this point, the spokesman for the Senate of Nigeria, Enyinnaya Abaribe, denied that, if a recognition of homosexual rights were inserted into the Charter, it would have any effect on his country: “I am not aware that the Commonwealth of Nations is making laws for Nigeria.  Nigeria, as a Federal Republic, is an independent country.  Our association with the Commonwealth is voluntary.”   To address this perceived impotence, the Commonwealth Heads of Government created the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) in 1995.  The purpose CMAG is to assess alleged violations of the Commonwealth’s core principles and values.  Its only real authority, however, is to suspend offending members from the association.  Currently, the only suspended member is Fiji. 
Posted on September 05, 2013
The decision to draft a Charter of the Commonwealth came out of an October, 2011, gathering in Perth, Australia: The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).  The meeting brought together about 3,000 delegates from the Commonwealth’s 54 member states.  Together they issued a report with numerous recommendations for meeting the challenges in the 21st Century, including the recommendation “to uphold the organisations [sic] values, through establishing a ‘Charter of the Commonwealth.’”  The Charter was formally adopted by the 53 participating members (Fiji’s membership has been suspended) in December of 2012 and signed by Queen Elizabeth II on March 11, 2013.  On the occasion of the Queen’s signing, Australian High Commissioner Greg Wilcock celebrated the achievement with a speech to the Commonwealth Society of Bangladesh, saying: “The Commonwealth has never before had a single consolidated document that embodies our shared values.”
Posted on September 05, 2013
This paragraph emphasizes the two “broad pillars” of the Commonwealth: Democracy and Development.  This paragraph, combined with the several introductory paragraphs that follow, give at least a nod to the Commonwealth’s eight declared programs: Good Offices for Peace, Democracy and Consensus-Building, Rule of Law, Human Rights, Public Sector Development, Economic Development, Environmentally Sustainable Development, and Human Development. The 16 values named later in this Charter either expand on or add to the original 8 programs.
Posted on September 05, 2013
The Commonwealth’s declared commitment to shared values such as human rights and the rule of law is frequently belied by the active participation of countries that do not live up to this commitment.  In 2013, there has been growing criticism of the decision to hold November’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka.  That country’s known human rights abuses would appear to make it an unfit choice for the honor, and Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has faced mounting criticism for his determination to host the meeting and to represent the Commonwealth as its chair for two years.  One member of the Commonwealth’s Eminent Persons Group (EPG), Sir Ronald Sanders, has called on other member nations to insist on a new venue for the 2013 meeting. An editorial in The Tamil Guardian likewise censured the Sri Lankan choice, arguing: “The Charter of the Commonwealth, as with the previous declarations, makes an admirable read but it is meaningless without tangible implementation.”   Some critics merely want to change the venue for the 2013 meeting; others go so far as to call for a suspension of Sri Lanka's membership in the Commonwealth.
Posted on September 05, 2013

One impetus for the call to write a Commonwealth Charter was the perceived need to address the laws against homosexuality that exist in a large majority of the member countries.  In some cases, these laws prohibiting homosexual acts are enforced with the harshest of punishments.  The wording of this paragraph, which concludes by announcing an implacable opposition to discrimination based on “other grounds” – avoiding the topic of gay rights altogether – demonstrates how difficult it was to reach a consensus of value among a group of countries as diverse as those in this alliance.

Posted on September 05, 2013

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