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1991 - Mr Major’s Comments on the Harare Declaration

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on the Harare Declaration, made in an interview in Harare on Monday 21st October 1991.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if different countries have different definitions of democracy and if that would be a problem].

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I do not think there is a real problem, we have elaborated in the Harare Declaration what we mean by good government, you can call it good government, you can call it sound administration, you can call it just and honest government. We have set out a string of criteria in the Harare Declaration, everyone has accepted that, we have collectively accepted the Harare Declaration. But that is a remarkable move forward, I do not believe it is a declaration that could have been agreed at previous Commonwealth conferences.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked how it would work without sanctions or enforcement].

PRIME MINISTER:

We are not a punitive organisation, the Commonwealth, we operate by example and we operate by peer pressure. If over time people sign up to principles that they do not adopt then the Commonwealth will have to decide how it responds to those particular members. But at the moment there is no reason to suppose that will happen, no-one has been dragged kicking and screaming into signing this declaration, they have signed it willingly and there has been a very good natured and good humoured discussions about it all. So we have no reason to suppose at the moment that people will not honour those commitments to which they have agreed this week.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if in the future membership of the Commonwealth would be conditional on these requirements].

PRIME MINISTER:

If I may say so, you are raising the question on a false premise. People have willingly signed up to the matter this week, if they do not honour it then we can decide what to do about it. For the moment there is no reason to doubt that people mean to achieve what they have set out in the Harare Declaration.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if previous declarations twenty years ago had been similar].

PRIME MINISTER:

The Singapore declaration did not cover and was not as specific as the points that are in the Harare Declaration. The Harare Declaration sets out a clear elaboration of what we actually mean by good government and it makes specific reference to human rights, specific reference to democracy, and I think you will find the Commonwealth will go in the direction that the declaration has set out.