Our Values as Communities

Examples of individual or community values might include respect for elders, honesty in trade, kindness to strangers. These three tend to be general across many communities because they have been shown to enhance the quality and security of collective life. We are taught about values from many sources: our parents and elders, from teachers, from leaders and people we admire, from our religious communities, from our cultural traditions, and from our own experience of how values work in our own lives.

Young people in a group discussion at the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) Caribbean Regional Centre in Guyana. Values provide us with a sense of direction or judgement that we can apply to our actions; when we adhere to them they allow us to feel that we are ‘being true to ourselves’ and ‘doing the right thing’.

Some people distinguish ‘values’ from ‘principles’, where the former are seen as more abstract, and the latter as a more concrete or specific guide to action – like the difference between a ‘sense’ of morals or goals (values) and a written code of conduct or set of rules (principles). How you see this distinction is a personal decision. In this module, the terms ‘values’ and ‘principles’ will both be used collectively to refer to the ideals that the Commonwealth as an association tries to pursue and uphold.