The Commonwealth of Nations, also known as the British Commonwealth, is a free association of 53 mostly former British crown dependencies and colonies. The Commonwealth, as it is commonly known, brings together countries on every continent and encompasses nearly 2 billion citizens. The Commonwealth does not have a constitution; instead it is governed by a set of core beliefs, espoused by declarations or statements made at meetings of the Commonwealth. These fundamental beliefs are encapsulated by the 1st major Commonwealth statement in 1971.
1971 Declaration of Commonwealth Principles:
- International peace and security;
- Liberty of the individual and equal rights for all;
- The importance of eradicating poverty, ignorance and disease;
- It opposes all forms of racial discrimination.
The activities of the Commonwealth as a whole are coordinated by the Commonwealth Secretariat, the main intergovernmental authority of the Commonwealth and is tasked to facilitate communication between member states.
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) allows these nations to discuss common issues and to improve bi-lateral relations between member states. Synonymous with the Commonwealth is the Commonwealth Games, an event held every 4 years and similar in nature to the Olympics.
The Commonwealth was formerly known as the British Commonwealth and before that the British Empire. The evolution of its title has been indicative of the status of its members and the function of the organisation. From a colonial empire to a modern collective of free states, the Commonwealth has mirrored the major political changes of the 20th Century.
The current membership of the Commonwealth includes:
1 Fiji’s military regime was suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth on December 8, 2006. Pakistan was suspended from November 22, 2007 to May 22, 2008.
2 Mozambique is the only current member of the Commonwealth that was not originally part of the British Empire; it had been a Portuguese colony until it gained its independence in 1975.
Commonwealth Family refers to several intergovernmental organisations which are affiliated to the Commonwealth of Nations. Some of the member organisations of the Commonwealth Family are: