CHOGM 2013 Controversy

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Colombo in 2013 was attended by fewer than half the number of Heads of Government. In part, this situation was due to the controversy that surrounded the hosting of the Meeting by the Sri Lankan government over its human rights record, but that is not the full explanation. In recent years, a North-South divide has crept into way that governments perceive the Commonwealth and its purposes.

The 23rd Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from 15 to 17 November 2013. But this meeting will be remembered more for divisions over Sri Lanka’s human rights record. The inter-governmental Commonwealth is experiencing troubling times.

Sri Lanka, which was originally slated to host the summit in 2011, was accused of committing atrocities during the Sri Lankan civil war and the summit was instead held in Perth, Australia. Colombo was given the 2013 summit instead. The leaders of Canada, Mauritius, and India boycotted the summit, citing alleged human rights violations by Sri Lanka against its Tamil minority. However, the meeting was overshadowed by controversy over Sri Lanka’s human rights record and the alleged war crimes during the final stages of the civil war. This was the first time in 40 years that the Head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II, was not present at the CHOGM.

The final communique was issued as the Colombo Declaration on Sustainable, Inclusive and Equitable Development and agreed that eradicating poverty and climate change are major challenges for all countries. The 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, was the lowest point in the history of the association so far.