The Commonwealth Values

The Commonwealth values, which include the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, the rule of law, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, multilateralism and world peace, emerged in independence movements and the struggles for self-government.

In the immediate post-war period, the Commonwealth served as a kind of facilitator and forum for decolonisation, helping independence to be achieved in the former British colonies in a comparatively peaceful and friendly manner. As a result, most of the newly independent states opted to join the association. The first Commonwealth Secretary-General, Mr Arnold Smith, described this decision as at once pragmatic and forward-looking:

When statesmen who have led their nations to independence have decided to seek membership in the Commonwealth, they have not appeared to be motivated by sentimentality about the past, but by a constructive vision of the future and by realistic assessments about their country’s national interest. For many of them the past included memories of racial discrimination, political struggle and jail. The decision was taken because these leaders saw practical value for their countries and for humanity, in retaining and building on the positive aspects of an association that linked races and continents, and in surmounting past inequities, rather than in using unpleasant memories and resentments for nation building based on the perpetuation of suspicions and divisions, as lesser politicians have so often done.

Annual Report of the Commonwealth Secretary-General, (1966)
Commonwealth Secretariat

Mahatma Ghandi’s non-violent struggle for independence in India inspired a generation of great, visionary, indigenous leaders like Nelson Mandela. Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said  “Nelson Mandela represents the highest values and ideals of humanity – freedom, equality, tolerance, compassion, and putting society above self.” Nelson Mandela famously said: “The Commonwealth makes the world safe for diversity.”