No one government in the Commonwealth exercises power over the others, as is the case in a political union. Rather, the Commonwealth is an international organisation in which countries with diverse social, political, and economic backgrounds are regarded as equal in status, and cooperate within a framework of common values and goals, as outlined in the Singapore Declaration issued in 1971. Such common values and goals include the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, the rule of law, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, multilateralism, and world peace, which are promoted through multilateral projects and meetings, such as the Commonwealth Games, held once every four years.
The symbol of this free association is Queen Elizabeth II, who serves as the Head of the Commonwealth. This position, however, does not imbue her with any political or executive power over any Commonwealth member states; the position is purely symbolic, and it is the Commonwealth Secretary-General who is the chief executive of the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth was first officially formed in 1931 when the Statute of Westminster gave legal recognition to the sovereignty of dominions. Known as the "British Commonwealth", the original members were the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, and Newfoundland, although Australia and New Zealand did not adopt the statute until 1942 and 1947 respectively. In 1949, the London Declaration was signed and marked the birth of the modern Commonwealth and the adoption of its present name. The newest member is Rwanda, which joined on 29 November 2009. The most recent departure was the Maldives, which severed its connection with the Commonwealth on 13 October 2016.
As at April 2017, of the states that are members of the Commonwealth of Nations, three are in Europe, twelve in North America and the Caribbean, one in South America, nineteen in Africa, seven in Asia, and eleven in Oceania. There are seven former members, four of which no longer exist as independent entities (but form part of current member states). The members have a combined population of 2.4 billion, almost a third of the world population, of whom 1.21 billion live in India, and 95% live in Asia and Africa combined.
Currently sixteen of the member states are Commonwealth realms, with the Head of the Commonwealth as their head of state. Five others are monarchies with their own individual monarchs (Brunei, Lesotho, Malaysia, Swaziland, Tonga) and the rest are republics. Republic of Ireland (from 1949), Zimbabwe (2003), and Maldives (2016) are former members of the Commonwealth. South Africa, Pakistan and The Gambia left and later rejoined the Commonwealth.
All dates below are provided by the Commonwealth of Nations Secretariat members list, and population figures are as of 1 January 2018.
|Antigua and Barbuda[D]||1 November 1981||Caribbean||94,195|
|Australia[D]||11 December 1931||Australia||24,772,247||Granted nominal independence (Dominion status) on 1 January 1901. Australia was one of the original Dominions at the time of the Statute of Westminster 1931, although the statute was not adopted in Australia until 1942 (with retroactive effect from 1939). The Australia Act 1986 established specifically, only the State Premier could now advise the Queen on appointment or removal of a State Governor. Nonetheless, the Queen could still exercise any of her powers with respect to the State if she was "personally present" in the State.|
|Bahamas[D]||10 July 1973||Caribbean||402,576|
|Bangladesh||18 April 1972||Asia||165,867,307||Declared independence from Pakistan in 1971.|
|Barbados[D]||30 November 1966||Caribbean||286,618|
|Belize[D]||21 September 1981||North America||379,636|
|Botswana||30 September 1966||Africa||2,377,831|
|Brunei||1 January 1984||Asia||439,022|
|Cameroon||13 November 1995||Africa||24,836,674||Most of the country was the formerly French mandate territory (later UN trust territory) of Cameroun and gained independence from France on 1 January 1960, uniting with the much smaller former British mandate/trust territory of Southern Cameroons on its gaining independence from the United Kingdom on 1 October 1961.|
|Canada[D]||11 December 1931||North America||36,885,861||Granted nominal independence (Dominion status) on 1 July 1867. Canada was the first among the several original Dominions at the time of the Statute of Westminster 1931. Incorporated another original Dominion, Newfoundland, on 31 March 1949. The Canada Act 1982 formally ended the "request and consent" provisions of the Statute of Westminster 1931 in relation to Canada, whereby the British parliament had a general power to pass laws extending to Canada at its own request.|
|Cyprus[E]||13 March 1961||Eurasia||1,197,667||Gained independence from the United Kingdom on 16 August 1960.|
|Dominica||3 November 1978||Caribbean||72,975|
|Fiji[B]||10 October 1970||Oceania||909,024||Left in 1987; rejoined in 1997; suspended on 6 June 2000; suspension lifted on 20 December 2001; again suspended on 8 December 2006 because of the 2006 Fijian coup d'état. Suspension lifted on 26 September 2014.|
|The Gambia||18 February 1965||Africa||2,155,958||Withdrew on 3 October 2013 citing "neo-colonialism". Following the election of Adama Barrow as President of Gambia in 2016, it submitted an application to re-join the Commonwealth on 22 January 2018, and rejoined on 8 February 2018.|
|Ghana||6 March 1957||Africa||29,088,849|
|Grenada[D]||7 February 1974||Caribbean||107,894|
|Guyana||26 May 1966||South America||773,808|
|India||15 August 1947||Asia||1,353,014,094||Incorporated former French India (Chandannagar from 2 May 1950 and Puducherry, Karaikal, Yanam and Mahé from 1 November 1954), former Portuguese India (Goa, Daman and Diu from 19 December 1961 and Dadra and Nagar Haveli formally from 1961) and Sikkim (from 16 May 1975).|
|Jamaica[D]||6 August 1962||Caribbean||2,819,888|
|Kenya||12 December 1963||Africa||49,167,382|
|Kiribati||12 July 1979||Oceania||117,636|
|Lesotho||4 October 1966||Africa||2,199,492|
|Malawi||6 July 1964||Africa||18,558,768|
|Malaysia||31 August 1957||Asia||31,505,208||Joined as the Federation of Malaya in 1957; reformed as Malaysia on 16 September 1963 with its federation with Singapore (which became a separate state on 9 August 1965), North Borneo, and Sarawak.|
|Malta||21 September 1964||Europe||422,212|
|Mauritius||12 March 1968||Africa||1,286,240|
|Mozambique||13 November 1995||Africa||29,977,238||Gained independence from Portugal on 26 June 1975. The first country to be admitted to the Commonwealth without any former colonial or constitutional links with the United Kingdom.|
|Namibia||21 March 1990||Africa||2,600,857||Gained independence from South Africa. Includes Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands transferred by South Africa at midnight 28 February 1994.|
|Nauru[B]||1 November 1968||Oceania||10,387||Gained independence on 31 January 1968 from joint trusteeship of Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom. A special member from 1 November 1968 until 1 May 1999, when it became a full member, before reverting to special status in January 2006. A full member again since June 2011.|
|New Zealand[D]||11 December 1931||Oceania||4,609,755||Granted nominal independence (Dominion status) on 26 September 1907. One of the original Dominions at the time of the Statute of Westminster 1931, although the Statute was not adopted in New Zealand until 1947. Removed final links with the British Parliament in 1986.|
|Nigeria||1 October 1960||Africa||194,615,054||Incorporated the former British mandate/trust territory of Northern Cameroons on 31 May 1961. Suspended in 1995, suspension lifted in 1999.|
|Pakistan||[C]14 August 1947||Asia||199,031,265||Includes the city of Gwadar, transferred from Muscat and Oman on 8 September 1958. Included Bangladesh (then known as East Pakistan) until 1971. Left Commonwealth in 1972, rejoined 1989; suspended in 1999, suspension lifted in 2004; again suspended in 2007, suspension lifted in 2008.|
|Papua New Guinea[D]||16 September 1975||Australia||8,034,630||Gained independence from Australia.|
|Rwanda||29 November 2009||Africa||12,322,920||Gained independence from Belgium on 1 July 1962. The second country (after Mozambique) to be admitted to the Commonwealth without any former colonial or constitutional links with the United Kingdom. Unlike Mozambique, has adopted English as an official language since joining.|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis[B][D]||19 September 1983||Caribbean||56,632|
|Saint Lucia[D]||22 February 1979||Caribbean||189,000|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines[D]||27 October 1979||Caribbean||109,501||A special member from 27 October 1979 until 1 June 1985.|
|Samoa[B]||28 August 1970||Oceania||196,954||Gained independence from New Zealand on 1 January 1962. Joined as Western Samoa, subsequently changing its name to Samoa on 4 July 1997.|
|Seychelles||29 June 1976||Africa||98,248|
|Sierra Leone||27 April 1961||Africa||6,818,117|
|Singapore[B]||9 August 1966 (effective from 9 August 1965)||Asia||5,889,117||Gained independence from the United Kingdom and joined Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963. Became independent on 9 August 1965.|
|Solomon Islands[D]||7 July 1978||Oceania||614,497|
|South Africa||11 December 1931||Africa||56,007,479||Granted nominal independence (Dominion status) on 31 May 1910. One of the original Dominions at the time of the Statute of Westminster 1931. Left on 31 May 1961; rejoined 1 June 1994.|
|Sri Lanka||4 February 1948||Asia||20,979,811||Joined as the Dominion of Ceylon, subsequently changing its name in 1972. Became a republic in 1972 and severed final ties with Britain.|
|Swaziland||6 September 1968||Africa||1,336,933|
|Tanzania||9 December 1961||Africa||57,790,062||Joined as Tanganyika and later Zanzibar, which subsequently merged to form Tanzania on 26 April 1964.|
|Tonga||4 June 1970||Oceania||107,228|
|Trinidad and Tobago||31 August 1962||Caribbean||1,376,801|
|Tuvalu[B][D]||1 October 1978||Oceania||10,116||A special member from 1 October 1978 until 1 September 2000.|
|Uganda||9 October 1962||Africa||42,288,962|
|United Kingdom||11 December 1931||Europe||65,746,853||The Parliament of the United Kingdom enacted the Statute of Westminster 1931.|
|Vanuatu[B]||30 July 1980||Oceania||279,953||Gained independence from joint rule of France and United Kingdom.|
|Zambia||24 October 1964||Africa||17,470,471|
^ A. Unless otherwise noted, independence was gained from the United Kingdom on the date (shown in column 2) of joining the Commonwealth.
^ B. Not a member of the Commonwealth Foundation.
^ C. Though Pakistan celebrates 14 August 1947 as its independence day, independence was officially granted at midnight, 15 August 1947. Therefore, its date of joining the Commonwealth would be 15 August 1947.
^ D. Commonwealth realms, recognising Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state since the day of their independence, distinctly from her being the sovereign of the United Kingdom.
^ E. Geopolitically part of Europe, but geographically part of Asia.
|Ireland||11 December 1931||Europe||18 April 1949||One of the original Dominions at the time of the Statute of Westminster 1931. Withdrew after passing the Republic of Ireland Act in 1949, since republics were not permitted membership at the time.|
|Maldives||9 July 1982||Asia||13 October 2016||Gained independence from the United Kingdom on 26 July 1965. A special member from 9 July 1982 until 20 July 1985. Announced on 13 October 2016 that it has withdrawn from the Commonwealth.|
|Zimbabwe||1 October 1980||Africa||7 December 2003||Suspended on 19 March 2002. Withdrew voluntarily on 7 December 2003.|
|Former country||Joined||Continent||Dissolved||Rejoined as part of||Notes|
|Malaya||31 August 1957||Asia||31 July 1963||Malaysia||Reformed as the Federation of Malaysia with Singapore (became a separate member in 1965), Sabah, and Sarawak.|
|Newfoundland||11 December 1931||North America||31 March 1949||Canada||One of the original Dominions at the time of the Statute of Westminster 1931. Government suspended on 16 February 1934, merged into Canada on 31 March 1949.|
|Tanganyika||9 December 1961||Africa||26 April 1964||Tanzania||The two countries merged to form Tanzania on 26 April 1964.|
|Zanzibar||10 December 1963|
|Somaliland||2009||Africa||~3,500,000[F]||Somaliland is an unrecognised self-declared sovereign state internationally recognised as part of Somalia. It has applied to join the Commonwealth under observer status. Its borders approximate to those of British Somaliland, which was a protectorate from 1884 to 1960.|
|South Sudan||2011||Africa||13,670,642||Gained independence from Britain as part of Sudan in 1956. Gained independence from Sudan in 2011.|
|Sudan||2009||Africa||42,425,989||Sudan was a condominium of the United Kingdom and Egypt known as Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, but in practice the structure of the Condominium ensured full British control over the Sudan until its independence in 1956. Sudan has expressed an interest in joining the Commonwealth.|
|Suriname||2012||South America||555,934||English colony of Willoughbyland from 1650 to 1667 and controlled by the British from 1799 to 1816. Subsequently, a Dutch colony. In 2012 Suriname announced plans to join the Commonwealth and the British government has made it a priority to provide guidance to Suriname in applying for Commonwealth membership.|
^ F. The population figure is based on 2014 estimates.
Other states which have expressed an interest in joining the Commonwealth over the years or states which may be eligible to join the Commonwealth include Algeria, Bahrain, Cambodia, Egypt, Eritrea, Israel, Libya, Madagascar, Palestine, United States and Yemen.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Commonwealth of Nations.|
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|