All three candidates for Commonwealth Secretary-General agreed that the rights of LGBTI people are a key issue facing the Commonwealth, in an historic session with civil society. In repsonse to a question raised by Kenita Placide, Co-Executive Director of United & Strong in St Lucia and member of the Commonwealth Equality Network, candidates agreed, that while the rights of LGBTI people remain a contentious issue for some member states, there is a role for the Commonwealth in bringing stakeholders together to facilitate change.
Baroness Scotland stated that:
We cannot force anyone to change their law, however we can do more to help them to better understand the consequences for development [of these laws] . . . We cannot deny our individual citizens the right to explore the delights of their real character. I hope what we will do will have a real converation where we acknowldege the humanity of each other and bring out the best that there can be.
Sir Ronald Sanders stated:
In the Commonwealth we believe in diversity, we have said so in our Charter . . . Do I or you have right to stop someone from loving someone else? The answer is no. If my child had someone they loved and wanted to spend their life with, would I deprive them of that opportunity? I dont think so. If we can make these decisions for ourselves, we can make them for our countries. We have to educate people, we can't make people change their laws, but we can encourage them to. It is not a problem we can leave alone, it is a problem that we have to address.
Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba, former Deputy Secretary-General stated:
We are representing a divided house, the Commonwealth itself does not have a uniform position . . . What strikes me is that the arguments used to support segregation in the United States - that the time is not right, that it is against our culture, that it will complicate our lives - these sentiment are echoed over and over again when the challenging issues of human rights are raised. Concrete and concerted efforts overturned apartheid, looking at what are the issues, whatare the fears and what needs to be done. I do not believe that all hope is lost.
The successful candidate will be announced on the 27th of November.