Commonwealth of Nations

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Commonwealth of Nations

Commonwealth of Nations flag

Commonwealth Membership Map
English name Commonwealth of Nations
Seat of the organs Marlborough House , London , United Kingdom
United KingdomUnited Kingdom 
Chair United KingdomUnited Kingdom Elizabeth II (head)
Member States


Official and working languages


founding December 11, 1931
( Statute of Westminster )

April 28, 1949
( London Declaration )

The Commonwealth of Nations (until 1947 British Commonwealth of Nations ) is a loose association of sovereign states , which is primarily formed by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and its former colonies . The foundation goes back to the year 1931. The Commonwealth Games , which take place every four years, are major sporting events in the Commonwealth .


The Commonwealth of Nations is an association of independent states that can be seen today as the successor to the British Empire . The institutionalization of the British Commonwealth of Nations at the beginning of the 20th century was a reaction of the United Kingdom to the attempts at autonomy of its Dominions ( Canada , South Africa , Australia and New Zealand ) and was intended to tie them to the Empire.

The Balfour Report of November 18, 1926 established that the Dominions are autonomous communities within the British Empire. All have the same rights, are in no way subordinate to others, but as members of the Commonwealth they are bound by their loyalty to the Crown (“ autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth ") . The status of the member states was rewritten on December 11, 1931 in the Statute of Westminster . In the Commonwealth there was no set statute or constitution. Constitutionally, the only link between the United Kingdom and the Dominions was allegiance to the Crown.

With the accession of India (1947), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) (1948) and Pakistan (1949), which belonged to British India before independence , the modern Commonwealth ( New Commonwealth ) emerged . These changes were recorded in the London Declaration of April 28, 1949. In 1952, the previous Dominions were renamed Commonwealth Realms . In 1957, with the former British colony of Gold Coast / Ghana , a Central African country joined the Commonwealth for the first time.

The Commonwealth eventually became a "catch basin" for the former British colonies, although since the proclamation of the republic in India in 1950 it is no longer mandatory for a member state to recognize the British King or Queen as its own head of state. Within a few years the number of members doubled. In 1955 the organization still had eight members, in 1964 there were already 20. As a result of this expansion, the Commonwealth Secretariat was founded in 1965 . In the course of this development, the Commonwealth of Nations became the multiethnic and multicultural organization it is today. Since the accession of Mozambique (1995) and Rwanda (2009), countries that never belonged to the British Empire, but were Portuguese or Belgian colony , have also been represented.

Until 1962, Commonwealth citizens were generally considered to be British subjects and were therefore also entitled to immigrate to Great Britain. That right ended with the Commonwealth Immigration Act in 1962.

Commonwealth today

The Commonwealth of Nations comprises 54  member states , 15 of which (the so-called Commonwealth Realms ) are linked in personal union (as of November 2021). Formally, the crowns of the 15 Commonwealth Realms are separate, but the British monarchy is the most prominent. To emphasize one's own sovereignty, however, since the 1970s z. B. in Canada , Australia and New Zealand with reference to their own head of state no longer spoken by the British Queen, but officially by the Queen of Canada, Queen of Australia, Queen of New Zealand .

Today 29.4 percent of the world population (around two billion people) live in member states of the Commonwealth : India is by far the most populous member with over 1.2 billion people. Even Pakistan , Bangladesh and Nigeria each have a population of over 100 million people. But also states like the island chain Tuvalu , on which only about 11,500 people live, belong to the federal government.

If a Commonwealth member state decides to become a republic, it is formally withdrawing from the federal government. This state then submits an application for readmission, which is granted automatically. The Republic of Ireland waived after their exit from the Commonwealth - which on 18 April 1949 in Ireland Act 1949 was accepted - on to apply for a resumption.


The Commonwealth Office in London is the headquarters of this sui generis association of states . Similar to the UN in New York, each member state sends a representative there so that a constant exchange of information can take place. In addition, the heads of state and government of the Commonwealth countries meet every two years for a week-long summit. Important political and economic questions as well as the world situation are discussed. Even sanctions against individual states, such as in 2001 against Zimbabwe be decided here. On November 22nd, 2007, a committee of foreign ministers decided to exclude Pakistan from the meetings until democracy was restored and the law was back in the country. On September 1, 2009, Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma announced the expulsion of Fiji after its government had previously refused to return to democracy after the 2006 coup. The Fiji Islands had already been suspended from the meeting in June 2000 for similar reasons.

The summit takes place in a different member state each time and is traditionally opened by the British monarch , most recently Elizabeth II, as head of the Commonwealth. However, their role is purely symbolic, which is why the day-to-day political work in the leadership of the Commonwealth is carried out by a Secretary General who is elected by the heads of government of the member states . Currently this is Patricia Scotland . There is also an incumbent chairman of the international community. The head of government of the country in which the summit is taking place acts as such; his term of office runs until the next summit. Boris Johnson , Prime Minister of the United Kingdom , has held this position since 2019 .


General Secretaries

Surname Home state Taking office Term expires
Arnold Smith CanadaCanada Canada July 1, 1965 June 30, 1975
Shridath Ramphal GuyanaGuyana Guyana July 1, 1975 June 30, 1990
Emeka Anyaoku NigeriaNigeria Nigeria July 1, 1990 March 31, 2000
Don McKinnon New ZealandNew Zealand New Zealand April 1, 2000 March 31, 2008
Kamalesh Sharma IndiaIndia India April 1, 2008 March 31, 2016
Patricia Scotland, Baroness Scotland of Asthal DominicaDominica Dominica / United Kingdom
United KingdomUnited Kingdom 
April 1, 2016 officiating


Surname Home state Taking office Term expires
Thabo Mbeki South AfricaSouth Africa South Africa November 12, 1999 March 2, 2002
John Howard AustraliaAustralia Australia March 2, 2002 March 5, 2003
Olusegun Obasanjo NigeriaNigeria Nigeria December 5, 2003 November 25, 2005
Lawrence Gonzi MaltaMalta Malta November 25, 2005 November 23, 2007
Yoweri Museveni UgandaUganda Uganda November 23, 2007 November 27, 2009
Patrick Manning Trinidad and TobagoTrinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago November 27, 2009 May 25, 2010
Kamla Persad-Bissessar Trinidad and TobagoTrinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago May 26, 2010 October 28, 2011
Julia Gillard AustraliaAustralia Australia October 28, 2011 June 27, 2013
Kevin Rudd AustraliaAustralia Australia June 27, 2013 18th September 2013
Tony Abbott AustraliaAustralia Australia 18th September 2013 November 15, 2013
Mahinda Rajapaksa Sri LankaSri Lanka Sri Lanka November 15, 2013 January 9, 2015
Maithripala Sirisena Sri LankaSri Lanka Sri Lanka January 9, 2015 November 27, 2015
Joseph Muscat MaltaMalta Malta November 27, 2015 April 19, 2018
Theresa May United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom April 19, 2018 July 24, 2019
Boris Johnson United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom July 24, 2019 officiating


Commonwealth Realms
monarchies with a different head of state

54 countries are currently members of the Commonwealth of Nations (the years indicate the year of accession). Among them, a distinction is made between Commonwealth Realms, which have the British monarch as head of state, and other members:

Commonwealth Realms

Other members

  • BangladeshBangladesh Bangladesh (1972)
  • BarbadosBarbados Barbados (1966)
  • BotswanaBotswana Botswana (1966)
  • BruneiBrunei Brunei (1984)
  • DominicaDominica Dominica (1978)
  • EswatiniEswatini Eswatini (1968) - Joined as Swaziland, changing its name to Eswatini on April 19, 2018.
  • FijiFiji Fiji (1970) - left 1987, re-entered 1997, suspension from 2000 to 2001, renewed suspension from September 2009 to 2014
  • GambiaGambia Gambia (1965) - left in 2013, re-entered in 2018
  • GhanaGhana Ghana (1957)
  • GuyanaGuyana Guyana (1966)
  • IndiaIndia India (1947)
  • CameroonCameroon Cameroon (1995) - is a member, although until 1916 it was a German colony or Eastern Cameroon from 1919 a French mandate / trust area. However, the smaller West Cameroon was British mandate / trust territory.
  • KenyaKenya Kenya (1963)
  • KiribatiKiribati Kiribati (1979)
  • LesothoLesotho Lesotho (1966)
  • MalawiMalawi Malawi (1964)
  • MalaysiaMalaysia Malaysia (1957)
  • MaldivesMaldives Maldives (1982) - originally entered in 1982, exited on October 13, 2016, and re-entered on February 1, 2020.
  • MaltaMalta Malta (1964)
  • MauritiusMauritius Mauritius (1968)
  • MozambiqueMozambique Mozambique (1995) - As a former Portuguese colony, Mozambique is the only Member State besides Rwanda that has never - even partially - been part of the British colonial empire.
  • NamibiaNamibia Namibia (1990) - was a German colony until 1919 and was then under South African administration. Only the Walvis Bay area was part of the British colonial empire.
  • NauruNauru Nauru (1999) - British owned until 1886. German colony from 1886 to 1919. Subsequently under Australian administration.
  • NigeriaNigeria Nigeria (1960) - Suspension (after the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwas and 8 other civil rights activists) from 1995 to 1999
  • PakistanPakistan Pakistan (1947) - left 1972, re-entered 1989, suspension from 1999 to 2004, renewed suspension on November 22, 2007, resumption on May 12, 2008.
  • RwandaRwanda Rwanda (2009) - As a former German colony or, after the First World War, a Belgian mandate / trust territory, Rwanda is the only Member State besides Mozambique that was never - even partially - part of the British colonial empire.
  • ZambiaZambia Zambia (1964)
  • SamoaSamoa Samoa (1970)
  • SeychellesSeychelles Seychelles (1976)
  • Sierra LeoneSierra Leone Sierra Leone (1961)
  • SingaporeSingapore Singapore (1965)
  • Sri LankaSri Lanka Sri Lanka (1948)
  • South AfricaSouth Africa South Africa (1931) - left in 1961, re-entered in 1994
  • TanzaniaTanzania Tanzania (1961) - Tanganyika was part of German East Africa's German colony until 1919 and only became a British mandate / trust area in 1919.
  • TongaTonga Tonga (1970)
  • Trinidad and TobagoTrinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago (1962)
  • UgandaUganda Uganda (1962)
  • VanuatuVanuatu Vanuatu (1980)
  • Cyprus RepublicRepublic of cyprus Cyprus (1961)

former members

Comparable organizations


  • Claire Auplat: Les ONG du Commonwealth contemporain. Rôles, bilans et perspectives . L'Harmattan, Paris 2003, ISBN 2-7475-5513-5 .
  • John Gareth Darwin : A Third British Empire? The Dominion Idea in Imperial Politics . In: Wm. Roger Louis (Ed.): The Oxford History of the British Empire . tape 4 : Judith M. Brown, Wm. Roger Louis (Eds.): The Twentieth Century . Oxford University Press, Oxford et al. 1999, ISBN 0-19-820564-3 , pp. 64-87 .
  • Hessel Duncan Hall: Commonwealth. A history of the British Commonwealth of Nations . Van Nostrand Reinhold, London et al. 1971, ISBN 0-442-02201-8 .
  • William B. Hamilton, Kenneth Robinson, Craufurd DW Goodwin (Eds.): A Decade of the Commonwealth. 1955–1964 (=  Commonwealth Studies Center. Publication . Volume 25 ). Duke University Press, Durham NC 1966.
  • Denis Judd, Peter Slinn: The Evolution of the Modern Commonwealth 1902–1980 . Macmillan, London et al. 1982, ISBN 0-333-30840-9 .
  • Nicolas Mansergh: The British Commonwealth. Origin - history - structure . Kindler, Zurich 1969.
  • Alex May (Ed.): Britain, the Commonwealth and Europe. The Commonwealth and Britain's applications to join the European Communities . Palgrave, Basingstoke, et al. 2001, ISBN 0-333-80013-3 .
  • Kenneth C. Wheare: The Constitutional Structure of the Commonwealth . Clarendon Press, Oxford 1960.
  • Gerhard Altmann: Farewell to the Empire. The internal decolonization of Great Britain 1945–1985 (=  Modern Times . Volume 8 ). Wallstein, Göttingen 2005, ISBN 3-89244-870-1 (At the same time: Freiburg (Breisgau), University, dissertation, 2003: Farewell to the Empire. ).

See also

Portal: British Empire  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of British Empire

Web links

Commons : Commonwealth of Nations  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Commonwealth excludes Zimbabwe for one year. In: Handelsblatt . March 19, 2002. Retrieved November 29, 2009 .
  2. Commonwealth excludes Pakistan. In: Welt Online . November 22, 2007. Retrieved November 29, 2009 .
  3. Get out of the club . In: The mirror . No. 37 , 2009 ( online ).
  4. Commonwealth excludes Fiji from meetings. Handelsblatt , June 6, 2000, accessed on November 29, 2009 .
  5. Member countries. Commonwealth Secretariat, accessed February 27, 2018 .
  6. Gambia leaves the Commonwealth. In: October 3, 2013, accessed December 20, 2014 .
  7. ^ Maldives leaves Commonwealth amid democracy row. In: BBC News. October 13, 2016, accessed January 14, 2017 .
  8. Maldives are back in the Commonwealth. In: ORF News. February 1, 2020, accessed November 15, 2021 .