At a meeting of the EPG, Justice Kirby proposed the drafting of a Charter of the Commonwealth as an urgent priority. Everyone agreed in principle. But they considered that there was insufficient time to settle the draft and to get it approved by the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth. Travelling back to Australia on the long plane journey, Michael Kirby prepared a draft of possible text of the Charter , using airline paper napkins to record his thoughts. When these were typed up and distributed, there was consensus in the EPG that his text should be included in the report, so as to give an impetus to gaining approval. Eventually the EPG report was released (not without resistance) at the CHOGM in Perth in 2011. The final shape of the Charter was approved by officials who used the Kirby draft. In the result, on Commonwealth Day 2013, Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II signed the Charter and it came into effect with the approval of all Commonwealth countries.
This lecture described the unpromising origins of the Commonwealth Charter, its contents and prospects. Strengths and weaknesses of a soft power document of this kind were explored. It is Kirby's belief that, if the future of the Commonwealth is to be assured, it must rest on universally endorsed values that can be enforced and influential, rather than on purely historical considerations that are bound to be even more controversial.
See also Justice Michael Kirby's interview for the "Oral History of the modern Commonwealth 1965-2012" project.
This keynote lecture was part of the Soft Power in the Contemporary Commonwealth: Approaches, Opportunities and Challenges Conference.