The Commonwealth of Nations is a voluntary association of 53 sovereign states. Nearly all of them are former British colonies or dependencies of those colonies.

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.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4] In 1949, the London Declaration was signed and marked the birth of the modern Commonwealth and the adoption of its present name.[5] The newest member is Rwanda, which joined on 29 November 2009.[6] 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.[7]

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.

Current members

All dates below are provided by the Commonwealth of Nations Secretariat members list, and population figures are as of 1 January 2018.[8]

Country Joined Continent Population[9] Notes[A]
Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda[D] 1981-11-011 November 1981 Caribbean 94,195
Australia Australia[D] 1931-12-1111 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).[10] 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.[11]
The Bahamas Bahamas[D] 1973-07-1010 July 1973 Caribbean 402,576
Bangladesh Bangladesh 1972-04-1818 April 1972[12] Asia 165,867,307 Declared independence from Pakistan in 1971.[13]
Barbados Barbados[D] 1966-11-3030 November 1966 Caribbean 286,618
Belize Belize[D] 1981-09-2121 September 1981 North America 379,636
Botswana Botswana 1966-09-3030 September 1966 Africa 2,377,831
Brunei Brunei 1984-01-011 January 1984 Asia 439,022
Cameroon Cameroon 1995-11-1313 November 1995[14] 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 Canada[D] 1931-12-1111 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.[15] Incorporated another original Dominion, Newfoundland, on 31 March 1949.[16] 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 Cyprus[E] 1961-03-1313 March 1961[17] Eurasia 1,197,667 Gained independence from the United Kingdom on 16 August 1960.
Dominica Dominica 1978-11-033 November 1978 Caribbean 72,975
Fiji Fiji[B] 1970-10-1010 October 1970 Oceania 909,024 Left in 1987; rejoined in 1997; suspended on 6 June 2000;[18] suspension lifted on 20 December 2001;[19] again suspended on 8 December 2006 because of the 2006 Fijian coup d'état.[20][21] Suspension lifted on 26 September 2014.
The Gambia The Gambia 1965-02-1818 February 1965 Africa 2,155,958 Withdrew on 3 October 2013 citing "neo-colonialism".[22][23] 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,[24] and rejoined on 8 February 2018.[25]
Ghana Ghana 1957-03-066 March 1957 Africa 29,088,849
Grenada Grenada[D] 1974-02-077 February 1974 Caribbean 107,894
Guyana Guyana 1966-05-2626 May 1966 South America 773,808
India India 1947-08-1515 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 Jamaica[D] 1962-08-066 August 1962 Caribbean 2,819,888
Kenya Kenya 1963-12-1212 December 1963 Africa 49,167,382
Kiribati Kiribati 1979-07-1212 July 1979 Oceania 117,636
Lesotho Lesotho 1966-10-044 October 1966 Africa 2,199,492
Malawi Malawi 1964-07-066 July 1964 Africa 18,558,768
Malaysia Malaysia 1957-08-3131 August 1957[26][27] 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.[28]
Malta Malta 1964-09-2121 September 1964 Europe 422,212
Mauritius Mauritius 1968-03-1212 March 1968 Africa 1,286,240
Mozambique Mozambique 1995-11-1313 November 1995[29] 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.[30]
Namibia Namibia 1990-03-2121 March 1990 Africa 2,600,857 Gained independence from South Africa.[31] Includes Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands transferred by South Africa at midnight 28 February 1994.
Nauru Nauru[B] 1968-11-01†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,[32] before reverting to special status in January 2006.[33] A full member again since June 2011.[34]
New Zealand New Zealand[D] 1931-12-1111 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.[35] Removed final links with the British Parliament in 1986.
Nigeria Nigeria 1960-10-011 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.[36]
Pakistan Pakistan 1947-08-1414 August 1947[C] 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.[13] Left Commonwealth in 1972, rejoined 1989; suspended in 1999, suspension lifted in 2004; again suspended in 2007,[37] suspension lifted in 2008.[38]
Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea[D] 1975-09-1616 September 1975 Australia 8,034,630 Gained independence from Australia.
Rwanda Rwanda 2009-11-2929 November 2009[6] 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.[30] Unlike Mozambique, has adopted English as an official language since joining.
Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Kitts and Nevis[B][D] 1983-09-1919 September 1983 Caribbean 56,632
Saint Lucia Saint Lucia[D] 1979-02-2222 February 1979 Caribbean 189,000
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Saint Vincent and the Grenadines[D] 1979-10-2727 October 1979 Caribbean 109,501 A special member from 27 October 1979 until 1 June 1985.
Samoa Samoa[B] 1970-08-2828 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.[39]
Seychelles Seychelles 1976-06-2929 June 1976 Africa 98,248
Sierra Leone Sierra Leone 1961-04-2727 April 1961 Africa 6,818,117
Singapore Singapore[B] 1965-10-15†9 August 1966 (effective from 9 August 1965)[40] 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.[41]
Solomon Islands Solomon Islands[D] 1978-07-077 July 1978 Oceania 614,497
South Africa South Africa 1931-12-1111 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.[42]
Sri Lanka Sri Lanka 1948-02-044 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 Swaziland 1968-09-066 September 1968 Africa 1,336,933
Tanzania Tanzania 1961-12-099 December 1961 Africa 57,790,062 Joined as Tanganyika and later Zanzibar, which subsequently merged to form Tanzania on 26 April 1964.[43]
Tonga Tonga 1970-06-044 June 1970 Oceania 107,228
Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago 1962-08-3131 August 1962 Caribbean 1,376,801
Tuvalu Tuvalu[B][D] 1978-10-011 October 1978 Oceania 10,116 A special member from 1 October 1978 until 1 September 2000.[44]
Uganda Uganda 1962-10-099 October 1962 Africa 42,288,962
United Kingdom United Kingdom 1931-12-1111 December 1931 Europe 65,746,853 The Parliament of the United Kingdom enacted the Statute of Westminster 1931.
Vanuatu Vanuatu[B] 1980-07-3030 July 1980 Oceania 279,953 Gained independence from joint rule of France and United Kingdom.
Zambia Zambia 1964-10-2424 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.

Former members

Country Joined Continent Left Notes
Republic of Ireland Ireland 1931-12-1111 December 1931 Europe 1949-04-1818 April 1949 One of the original Dominions at the time of the Statute of Westminster 1931.[16] Withdrew after passing the Republic of Ireland Act in 1949,[13] since republics were not permitted membership at the time.[45]
Maldives Maldives 1982-07-099 July 1982 Asia 2016-10-1313 October 2016 Gained independence from the United Kingdom on 26 July 1965.[46] A special member from 9 July 1982 until 20 July 1985.[47] Announced on 13 October 2016 that it has withdrawn from the Commonwealth.[48][49]
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe 1980-10-011 October 1980 Africa 2003-12-077 December 2003 Suspended on 19 March 2002.[19] Withdrew voluntarily on 7 December 2003.[50]

Dissolved members

Former country Joined Continent Dissolved Rejoined as part of Notes
Federation of Malaya Malaya 1957-08-3131 August 1957 Asia 1963-07-3131 July 1963[27] Malaysia Malaysia Reformed as the Federation of Malaysia with Singapore (became a separate member in 1965), Sabah, and Sarawak.
Dominion of Newfoundland Newfoundland 1931-12-1111 December 1931 North America 1934-02-1631 March 1949 Canada 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.[16]
Tanganyika Tanganyika 1961-12-099 December 1961 Africa 1964-04-2626 April 1964 Tanzania Tanzania The two countries merged to form Tanzania on 26 April 1964.[43]
Zanzibar 1963-12-1010 December 1963

Prospective members

Country Applied Continent Population Notes
Somaliland Somaliland 2009[51] 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.[51] Its borders approximate to those of British Somaliland, which was a protectorate from 1884 to 1960.
South Sudan South Sudan 2011[52] Africa 13,670,642 Gained independence from Britain as part of Sudan in 1956. Gained independence from Sudan in 2011.[53]
Sudan Sudan 2009[54] 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.[55]
Suriname Suriname[56] 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[57] and the British government has made it a priority to provide guidance to Suriname in applying for Commonwealth membership.[58]

^ 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[55], Cambodia, Egypt[55], Eritrea[55], Israel[59], Libya[55], Madagascar, Palestine, United States[55] and Yemen.[60][61]

See also


  1. ^ "FAQs". Commonwealth Secretariat. Archived from the original on 14 May 2008. Retrieved 16 June 2008. 
  2. ^ "Singapore Declaration of Commonwealth Principles 1971". Commonwealth Secretariat. Archived from the original on 11 May 2008. Retrieved 12 June 2008. 
  3. ^ "Head of the Commonwealth". Commonwealth Secretariat. Archived from the original on 30 September 2006. Retrieved 16 June 2008. 
  4. ^ "The Commonwealth–History–Dominion Status". Commonwealth of Nations. Retrieved 16 June 2008. 
  5. ^ "The Commonwealth–History–Modern Commonwealth". Commonwealth Secretariat. Archived from the original on 11 May 2008. Retrieved 16 June 2008. 
  6. ^ a b Josh Kron (29 November 2009). "Rwanda Joins British Commonwealth". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 November 2009. 
  7. ^ "Country Comparisons – Population". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 19 March 2009. Retrieved 22 March 2009. 
  8. ^ "Members". Commonwealth Secretariat. Retrieved 15 February 2008. 
  9. ^ "World population - Countrymeters". Retrieved 6 March 2018. 
  10. ^ "Australia". Commonwealth Secretariat. Archived from the original on 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2008-02-15. 
  11. ^ There is no equivalent provision as to the Commonwealth. However, for both the Commonwealth and the States, constitutional convention effectively excludes the monarch from any personal exercise of governmental power. The 1986 proclamation was an exception, approved by Australian ministers.
  12. ^ Kohen, Marcelo G. (2006). Secession. London: Cambridge University Press. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-521-84928-9. 
  13. ^ a b c "Wind of Change". Commonwealth of Nations. 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-15. 
  14. ^ Pondi, Jean-Emmanuel (October 1997). "Cameroon and the Commonwealth of Nations". The Round Table. 86 (344): 563–570. doi:10.1080/00358539708454389. 
  15. ^ "Canada – History". Commonwealth Secretariat. Archived from the original on 18 April 2008. Retrieved 15 February 2008. 
  16. ^ a b c "Dominion Status". Commonwealth of Nations. 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-15. 
  17. ^ McIntyre, W. David (January 2000). "Britain and the creation of the Commonwealth Secretariat". Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. 28 (1): 135–158. doi:10.1080/03086530008583082. 
  18. ^ Ingram, Derek (July 2000). "Commonwealth Update". The Round Table. 89 (355): 311–55. doi:10.1080/00358530050083406. 
  19. ^ a b Ingram, Derek (April 2002). "Commonwealth Update". The Round Table. 91 (364): 131–59. doi:10.1080/00358530220144148. 
  20. ^ Ingram, Derek; Soal, Judith (February 2007). "Commonwealth Update". The Round Table. 96 (388): 2–28. doi:10.1080/00358530701189734. 
  21. ^ Fiji suspended from the Commonwealth Archived 2011-04-29 at the Wayback Machine.. Commonwealth Secretariat, 1 September 2009; retrieved 11 April 2011.
  22. ^ "Statement by Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma on The Gambia". The Commonwealth. 4 October 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  23. ^ "Gambia quits the Commonwealth". The Guardian. 2 October 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2013. 
  24. ^ "The Gambia presents formal application to re-join the Commonwealth" (Media Release). The Commonwealth. 23 January 2018. Retrieved 24 January 2018. 
  25. ^ "The Gambia rejoins the Commonwealth". Commonwealth Secretariat. 8 February 2018. 
  26. ^ Federation of Malaya Independence Act 1957
  27. ^ a b Malaysia Act 1963
  28. ^ "Malaysia – History". Commonwealth Secretariat. Archived from the original on 3 February 2008. Retrieved 15 February 2008. 
  29. ^ Ingram, Derek (April 1996). "Commonwealth Update". The Round Table. 85 (338): 153–165. doi:10.1080/00358539608454302. 
  30. ^ a b "Rwanda becomes a member of the Commonwealth". BBC News. 29 November 2009. Retrieved 29 November 2009. 
  31. ^ Chronology of Namibian Independence
  32. ^ "Nauru Accedes to Full Membership of the Commonwealth". Commonwealth Secretariat. 12 April 1999. Archived from the original on 26 April 2009. Retrieved 30 January 2009. 
  33. ^ "Nauru–History". Commonwealth Secretariat. Archived from the original on 3 September 2008. Retrieved 15 February 2008. 
  34. ^ "Nauru back as full Commonwealth member". Radio New Zealand International. 26 June 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2011. 
  35. ^ "New Zealand – History". Commonwealth Secretariat. Archived from the original on 2 March 2008. Retrieved 15 February 2008. 
  36. ^ "Nigeria The Commonwealth". thecommonwealth.org. Retrieved 2017-06-05. 
  37. ^ "Pakistan suspended from the Commonwealth". Commonwealth Secretariat. 22 November 2007. Archived from the original on 25 August 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2008. 
  38. ^ "Commonwealth lifts Pakistan suspension". Commonwealth Secretariat. 12 May 2008. Archived from the original on 20 January 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2008. 
  39. ^ "Constitution Amendment Act (No 2) 1997". Retrieved 27 November 2007. 
  40. ^ Singapore Act 1966
  41. ^ "Road to Independence". AsiaOne. Archived from the original on 13 October 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2006. 
  42. ^ "South Africa". Commonwealth Secretariat. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  43. ^ a b "Tanzania – History". Commonwealth Secretariat. Archived from the original on 3 September 2008. Retrieved 15 February 2008. 
  44. ^ "Tuvalu Accedes to Full Membership of the Commonwealth". Commonwealth Secretariat. 14 August 2000. Archived from the original on 11 October 2008. Retrieved 30 January 2009. 
  45. ^ See London Declaration
  46. ^ "Maldives – History". Commonwealth Secretariat. Archived from the original on 5 July 2008. Retrieved 15 February 2008. 
  47. ^ "The Maldives and the Commonwealth". Republic of Maldives. Retrieved 30 January 2009. 
  48. ^ "Commonwealth Secretariat". 2016-10-13. Retrieved 2016-10-13. 
  49. ^ "Maldives quits Commonwealth over alleged rights abuses". The Guardian. 13 October 2016. "The Maldives has announced it will leave the Commonwealth after mounting pressure from the 53-nation group over corruption and deteriorating human rights in the Indian Ocean state. The country’s government, which has been fending off rumours of an impending coup and allegations of money laundering, said the decision on Thursday to cancel its membership was 'difficult but inevitable'. Its foreign ministry said in a statement it had been treated 'unjustly and unfairly' by the organisation’s Commonwealth ministerial action group (CMAG), which has been scrutinising the government since the former president, Mohamed Nasheed, was ousted in 2012 in what his supporters say was a coup. 'The CMAG and the Commonwealth secretariat seem to be convinced that the Maldives, because of the high and favourable reputation that the country enjoys internationally, and also perhaps because it is a small state that lacks material power, would be an easy object that can be used,' the statement said. It added that it was being targeted 'in the name of democracy promotion, to increase the [Commonwealth’s] own relevance and leverage in international politics'."
  50. ^ "Editorial: CHOGM 2003, Abuja, Nigeria". The Round Table. 93 (373): 3–6. January 2004. doi:10.1080/0035853042000188139. 
  51. ^ a b Somaliland on verge of observer status in the Commonwealth. Qaran News, 16 November 2009
  52. ^ "South Sudan Launches Bid to Join Commonwealth". gurtong.net. 
  53. ^ South Sudan on Track to Join Commonwealth.
  54. ^ Howden, Daniel (26 November 2009). "The Big Question: What is the Commonwealth's role, and is it relevant to global politics?". The Independent. London. 
  55. ^ a b c d e f te Velde-Ashworth, Victoria (10 October 2005). "The future of the modern Commonwealth: Widening vs. deepening?". Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit. Archived from the original (doc) on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 16 September 2006. 
  56. ^ "Welcome to Allvoices". allvoices.com. Archived from the original on 2013-06-25. 
  57. ^ Staff Writer. "Suriname eying membership of Commonwealth". Stabroek News. 
  58. ^ "Strengthening Guyana's participation in the Commonwealth and providing guidance to Suriname as it considers applying for membership". www.gov.uk. 
  59. ^ "Israelis and Palestinians could join Commonwealth". The Telegraph. 17 December 2006. 
  60. ^ Howden, Daniel (26 November 2009). "The Big Question: What is the Commonwealth's role, and is it relevant to global politics?". The Independent. London. 
  61. ^ Osike, Felix (24 November 2007). "Rwanda membership delayed". New Vision. Archived from the original on 23 January 2013. Retrieved 29 November 2009. 

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