The Commonwealth of Nations
is a voluntary association
of 54 sovereign state
s. 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 organization
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
, equality before the law
, free trade
, 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 1926 when the Balfour Declaration
of the Imperial Conference
recognized the full sovereignty of dominions. Known as the "British Commonwealth", the original members were the United Kingdom
, New Zealand
, South Africa
, Irish Free State
, and Newfoundland
. It was re-stated by the 1930 conference and incorporated in the Statute of Westminster
the following year (although Australia and New Zealand did not adopt the statute until 1942 and 1947 respectively). In 1949, the London Declaration
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 54 members have a combined population of 2.4 billion, almost a third of the Earth's
population, of whom 1.21 billion live in India
, and 95% live in Asia
Currently, sixteen of the 54 member states are Commonwealth realms
, with the Head of the Commonwealth
as their heads of state
, five others are monarchies
with their own individual monarchs (Brunei
), and the rest are republics. The Republic of Ireland
(as of 1949 according to the Commonwealth; 1936 according to Irish government) and Zimbabwe
(2003) are former members of the Commonwealth. South Africa
, The Gambia
, and the Maldives
left and later rejoined the Commonwealth, and Zimbabwe has formally applied to rejoin.
All dates below are provided by the Commonwealth of Nations Secretariat members list, and population figures are as of 1 February 2020.
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. Geopolitically part of Europe
, but geographically part of Asia
E. Constitutional monarchy that operates under a Westminster system. The monarch is not the British monarch
, hence making it not a Commonwealth realm.
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: Bahrain
Some countries and regions could also join the Commonwealth on the basis of having been part of the British Empire
, United Arab Emirates
and Hong Kong
* CANZUK International
a free movement and free trade initiative between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom
* Commonwealth of Nations membership criteria
* List of countries by English-speaking population
* List of countries where English is an official language
* List of viceregal representatives of Elizabeth II
Members by date joined
Category:History of the Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations