Commonwealth Values in the World

In the 1990s, the United Nations organised a series of major world conferences on urgent global issues such as education, the environment and sustainable development, human rights, population growth, social development, gender equality, urbanisation, food security – most of these themes are central to the Harare Commonwealth Declaration.

The same values have been embraced by other international bodies. In 1995, for example, the report of the World Commission on Culture and Development calls for the acceptance of a new ‘global ethics’ i.e. a set of common rights, standards and responsibilities for all peoples and governments. They suggest that the foundations of global ethics are human rights, democracy, pluralism and the protection of minorities, a commitment to peaceful conflict resolution, and equity within and between generations.

You can also see Commonwealth values being reflected in many new global movements, such as the ‘anti-globalisation’ protests that have been dogging meetings of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and other events. The roots of these protests on the current international economic order include:

  • a desire, even a demand, that the benefits of economic growth must be shared more widely
  • an assertion of the injustice of growth strategies that result in small pockets of enormous wealth, while 40 per cent of the world’s inhabitants live on less than $1 per day
  • a call for the cancellation of long-term debt, to stop the negative resource flow from developing to developed countries
  • a call to support and strengthen cultural and economic diversity through local enterprise, local job-creation, and local products, rather than promoting or standing by in the face of the globalisation of one small set of multinational brands and images.

Commonwealth Heads of Government have raised many of these same concerns in their own meetings, and during their deliberations within international trade bodies and UN agencies. (We will go on to look in more detail at these universal values in Units 2 and 3.)

We conclude this unit with a section which provides some examples of the mechanisms that help the Commonwealth put these principles and values into action.