Commonwealth Values and Citizenship

Reflect now on the words ‘citizen’ and ‘citizenship’. To be a citizen of a country is much more than having a passport. Citizenship is about being included in a society and participating in it, about equality of opportunity for all, and about rights and responsibilities that can be developed to ensure better economic, political and social conditions.

All of these are present in the principles that form Commonwealth values. The rights of citizens include the right to:

  • own property, marry etc., without discrimination
  • have freedom of opinion, speech, association, movement and assembly
  • choose who governs
  • vote and/or participate in electoral or governance processes
  • have a minimum standard of living
  • gain equal protection under the law
  • have the right to a fair trial before an independent court
  • have access to basic public services and primary education.

Citizens also have these responsibilities: to

  • pay taxes and other legally imposed levies
  • obey laws and behave in a socially acceptable manner
  • respect the needs and rights of others
  • uphold individual and group rights
  • protect the environment
  • play an active part in citizenship and service, both in the local community and wider society.

Commonwealth values and the concept of citizenship are intrinsically related. Therefore “the existence of citizens’ rights and responsibilities are a prerequisite for the achievement of Commonwealth values” (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2004).