The Commonwealth is an association of 54 member countries, mainly former British colonies or territories, that have come together to promote cooperation and development in various areas, including political, economic, social, and cultural spheres. The Commonwealth realm, on the other hand, refers to the 16 member countries that share the same monarch, who is currently Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.
In this blog post, we will explore the history and significance of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth realm.
History of the Commonwealth
The Commonwealth was established in 1949
The Commonwealth was established in 1949 with the signing of the London Declaration, which proclaimed the “independent sovereign states” that were formerly part of the British Empire as “free and equal members of the Commonwealth of Nations”. The organization has since grown to include countries from all continents, with a total population of over 2.4 billion people. The Commonwealth Secretariat, which is the main intergovernmental body of the Commonwealth, is based in London, and is headed by a Secretary-General who is appointed by member countries for a term of four years.
Objectives of the Commonwealth
One of the main objectives of the Commonwealth is to promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. The organization also focuses on economic development, environmental sustainability, gender equality, and youth empowerment. The Commonwealth has been instrumental in supporting member countries in areas such as education, healthcare, and infrastructure development. It also provides a platform for member countries to discuss and address global issues such as climate change, poverty, and terrorism.
The Commonwealth is also known for its flagship event, the Commonwealth Games, which is a multi-sport event held every four years. The first Commonwealth Games were held in Hamilton, Canada, in 1930, and have since been held in different cities around the world. The most recent Commonwealth Games were held in Gold Coast, Australia, in 2018, and the next games are scheduled to be held in Birmingham, United Kingdom, in 2022.
Point-wise and timeline-wise history of the Commonwealth:
- 1867: The British North America Act creates the Dominion of Canada, a self-governing entity within the British Empire.
- 1887: The Imperial Federation League is founded in London, advocating for a more centralized British Empire.
- 1901: The Commonwealth of Australia is created, establishing a federal system of government.
- 1910: The Union of South Africa is formed, with a system of government modeled after that of the Dominion of Canada.
- 1926: The Balfour Declaration declares the British Dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Newfoundland) as autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status to each other and to the United Kingdom.
- 1931: The Statute of Westminster grants legislative independence to the Dominions, allowing them to make their own laws without approval from the British Parliament.
- 1949: Newfoundland becomes the tenth and final province of Canada.
- 1949: The Republic of Ireland leaves the Commonwealth, following its declaration of independence from the United Kingdom.
- 1952: The accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne marks the beginning of a new era in the Commonwealth.
- 1956: The Suez Crisis reveals divisions between the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth partners.
- 1961: The Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation is established, providing development assistance to member countries.
- 1965: The Gambia becomes the first Commonwealth country to declare itself a republic, but remains a member of the Commonwealth.
- 1971: The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is established as a forum for leaders of member countries to discuss issues of mutual concern.
- 1972: Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda withdraws from the Commonwealth.
- 1975: Papua New Guinea gains independence, becoming the first Commonwealth country in the Pacific.
- 1979: Zimbabwe gains independence from the United Kingdom, joining the Commonwealth as a republic.
- 1981: The Commonwealth Secretariat is established to provide administrative support to the Commonwealth.
- 1991: South Africa rejoins the Commonwealth following the end of apartheid.
- 1995: The Commonwealth adopts the Harare Declaration, which establishes principles for democracy and human rights among member countries.
- 2002: The Commonwealth Games are held in Manchester, UK, with athletes from 72 countries competing.
- 2011: The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia, agrees to a series of reforms aimed at strengthening the Commonwealth’s ability to promote democracy, human rights, and economic development.
- 2018: The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London focuses on issues such as trade, cybersecurity, and climate change.
- 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic forces the postponement of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which had been scheduled to take place in Kigali, Rwanda.
The history of the Commonwealth is a complex and evolving one, marked by both cooperation and division among member countries. Despite these challenges, the Commonwealth has remained a significant platform for promoting democracy, human rights, and economic development, as well as fostering a sense of shared identity and culture among member countries.
The 16 member countries
The Commonwealth realm refers to the 16 member countries of the Commonwealth that share the same monarch as their head of state. These countries are: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and the United Kingdom.
The concept of the Commonwealth realm
The concept of the Commonwealth realm dates back to the Statute of Westminster of 1931, which granted full legislative independence to the dominions of the British Empire, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ireland (which later left the Commonwealth). The Statute also recognized the Crown as the symbol of the association of the independent Commonwealth countries, and established that the British monarch would be the head of state of each of the dominions.
The role of the monarch
Today, the role of the monarch in the Commonwealth realm countries varies from symbolic to constitutional. In some countries, such as the United Kingdom and Canada, the monarch has a significant constitutional role, including the power to appoint the prime minister and to dissolve parliament. In other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, the monarch’s role is largely ceremonial, and the country is governed by an elected government.
Traditions and institutions
The Commonwealth realm countries also share certain traditions and institutions, such as the Westminster system of parliamentary government, common law, and the English language. These similarities have facilitated cooperation and exchange between the countries, and have contributed to a sense of shared identity and culture.
Significance of the Commonwealth and Commonwealth Realm
Landscape of the world
The Commonwealth and Commonwealth realm have played a significant role in shaping the political, economic, and cultural landscape of the world. The Commonwealth has been instrumental in promoting democracy, human rights, and economic development, and has provided a forum for member countries to engage in dialogue and cooperation.
A unique platform
The Commonwealth realm, in particular, has provided a unique platform for member countries to maintain close ties and exchange ideas, despite their geographical and cultural differences. The shared heritage and traditions of the realm countries have also contributed to a sense of camaraderie and mutual understanding.
The monarchy, as the symbolic head of state of the Commonwealth realm countries, has also played a unifying role. The Queen has visited all 16 Commonwealth realm countries during her reign, and has been instrumental in promoting dialogue and cooperation among them. The monarch’s role in these countries also helps to provide stability and continuity, and can serve as a source of national pride and identity.
The Commonwealth and Commonwealth realm
In addition, the Commonwealth and Commonwealth realm have provided opportunities for member countries to showcase their cultures and achievements on a global stage. The Commonwealth Games, for example, have become a major sporting event, attracting athletes and spectators from around the world. The Commonwealth also sponsors cultural exchanges and artistic collaborations, which have helped to promote greater understanding and appreciation of the diverse cultures of member countries.
Some key differences between the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth Realm:
- Definition: The Commonwealth is a political organization comprising 54 member countries, most of which are former territories of the British Empire. The Commonwealth Realm, on the other hand, refers specifically to the 16 member countries that have the British monarch as their head of state.
- Membership: All Commonwealth Realm countries are also members of the Commonwealth, but not all Commonwealth countries are part of the Commonwealth Realm.
- Head of State: In the Commonwealth Realm, the head of state is the British monarch, who acts as a ceremonial figurehead with limited powers. In other Commonwealth countries, the head of state is usually a president or a governor-general, who represents the monarch as the symbolic head of the Commonwealth.
- Role of the Monarchy: The monarchy plays a more significant role in the Commonwealth Realm, where the British monarch is the ultimate authority in matters of state. In other Commonwealth countries, the role of the monarchy is largely ceremonial, with real power vested in elected officials.
- Constitutional Status: The Commonwealth Realm countries have a constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom, which is defined by a combination of statute law, common law, and convention. In other Commonwealth countries, the constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom is more limited, with many countries having their own written constitutions.
- Shared Culture: While all Commonwealth countries share a common history and heritage, the Commonwealth Realm countries have closer cultural ties to the United Kingdom, owing to their shared status as former British colonies. Other Commonwealth countries have a more diverse range of cultural influences, reflecting their histories as colonies of other European powers or as independent states.
- Role in the Commonwealth: The Commonwealth Realm countries are some of the most active members of the Commonwealth, participating in a range of programs and initiatives aimed at promoting democracy, human rights, and economic development. Other Commonwealth countries also play a significant role in the organization, but their relationship with the Commonwealth may be less central to their national identity.
Overall, while there are some significant differences between the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth Realm, both organizations share a commitment to promoting international cooperation, shared values, and cultural exchange among member countries.
A list of the 54 member countries of the Commonwealth and the 16 member countries of the Commonwealth Realm:
Commonwealth Member Countries:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- Brunei Darussalam
- Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)
- The Gambia
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Sierra Leone
- Solomon Islands
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Kingdom
Commonwealth Realm Member Countries:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Solomon Islands
- United Kingdom (which includes its overseas territories and Crown dependencies)
The Commonwealth and Commonwealth realm have played important roles in promoting democracy, human rights, and economic development, as well as fostering a sense of shared identity and culture among member countries. The shared heritage and traditions of the Commonwealth realm countries have also facilitated close ties and cooperation, despite their geographical and cultural differences. As the world continues to face complex challenges, the Commonwealth and Commonwealth realm are likely to remain important platforms for dialogue and cooperation among member countries.
Here are some resources and web links for further reading about the Commonwealth and Commonwealth realm:
- Commonwealth Secretariat: https://thecommonwealth.org/
- Commonwealth Games Federation: https://thecgf.com/
- Royal Family website: https://www.royal.uk/
- Commonwealth Realms website: https://www.commonwealthrealms.org/
- BBC News article on the Commonwealth: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-15391515
- The Guardian article on the Commonwealth realm: https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/apr/29/commonwealth-realm-royal-wedding
- The Economist article on the future of the Commonwealth: https://www.economist.com/briefing/2018/04/19/the-future-of-the-commonwealth
- Commonwealth Youth Programme: https://www.youthaffairs.gov.tt/Programmes/International/Programme-Information/Commonwealth-Youth-Programme.aspx
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Burkina-faso : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/07/discover-the-country-of-the-burkina-faso/
Botswanas : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/07/exploring-botswanas-unique-cultural-traditions-and-diverse-wildlife-in-the-heart-of-southern-africa/
Benin : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/07/discovering-the-rich-cultural-heritage-of-benin/
Angolas : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/07/angolas-natural-beauty-showcased-in-stunning-beaches-and-national-parks/
Algeria : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/06/exploring-the-rich-cultural-heritage-of-algeria/
Cape verde : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/07/cape-verde-sustainable-tourism-destinations-in-the-world/
Central African Republic: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/07/exploring-the-beauty-and-challenges-of-the-central-african-republic/
Chad : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/08/high-rates-of-poverty-malnutrition-and-infant-mortality-plague-the-country-chad/
Comoros : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/08/exploring-an-archipelago-country-in-the-indian-ocean-comoros/
Djibouti : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/08/djibouti-located-in-the-horn-of-africa/
DR Congo : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/09/exploring-the-natural-wonders-of-the-democratic-republic-of-congo/
Egypt : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/09/a-journey-through-its-ancient-history-uncovering-the-treasures-egypt/
Gabon : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/20/discovering-the-rich-culture-and-heritage-of-the-gabon/
Eswatini : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/20/discovering-vibrant-culture-of-the-eswatini-festivals-celebrations/
Equatorial Guinea : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/20/discovering-equatorial-guinea-a-hidden-gem-in-west-africa/
The Gambia: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/04/01/exploring-the-vibrant-culture-and-natural-beauty-of-the-gambia-your-ultimate-travel-guide/
Ivory Coast: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/04/09/rich-history-culture-and-cuisine-of-the-ivory-coast/
The Republic of the Congo: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/04/16/discovering-culture-cuisine-and-challenges-of-the-republic-of-congo/
The Reunion Island: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/04/16/discovering-the-culture-and-beauty-of-the-reunion-island/
Sierra Leone: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/04/29/sierra-leone-a-comprehensive-guide-to-history-culture-and-more/
South Africa: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/04/30/discover-vibrant-culture-and-natural-beauty-of-south-africa/
The Sudan: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/04/30/the-sudan-a-country-rich-in-culture-resources-and-challenges/
The Malawi: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/04/30/discovering-the-vibrant-culture-and-challenges-of-malawi/
South Sudan: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/04/30/exploring-the-rich-history-and-cultural-diversity-of-south-sudan/
Rwanda : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/04/30/discovering-the-rich-history-vibrant-culture-of-rwanda/
Western Sahara: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/05/01/exploring-the-rich-culture-and-resources-of-western-sahara/
Hong Kong: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/05/06/discovering-the-unique-identity-of-the-hong-kong/
Newspapers : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/06/how-newspapers-are-adapting-to-the-digital-age/
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UN and EU : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/07/list-of-member-countries-under-un-and-eu/
Official Website : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/07/official-website-of-234-countries/
Relationships between Countries on the Global Stage:
International NGOs : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/08/international-ngos-promoting-positive-change-in-the-world/
Peaceful Conflict Resolution : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/08/the-need-to-avoid-bloodshed-peaceful-conflict-resolution/
The United Nations : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/08/exploring-the-role-of-the-united-nations-in-international-peace-and-security/
World War I (1914-1918): https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/09/explore-the-technological-advances-and-human-cost-of-the-great-war/
Key Events of the Korean War : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/18/from-invasion-to-armistice-key-events-of-the-korean-war/
Bilateral Relations : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/22/exploring-impact-of-the-global-bilateral-relations/
Free Trade Agreements : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/22/free-trade-agreements-promoting-global-economic-growth/
Multilateral Relations : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/22/the-importance-of-multilateral-relations-in-a-globalized-world/
Causes of World War II : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/22/causes-of-world-war-ii-understanding-the-roots-of-conflict/
Strategic Partnerships : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/22/building-successful-strategic-partnerships-best-practices-and-case-studies/
Espionage : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/29/the-cold-war-and-beyond-how-espionage-changed-the-world/
The Yemen Civil War : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/03/31/untold-suffering-for-the-yemeni-people-the-yemeni-crisis/
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/04/09/the-israeli-palestinian-conflict-is-one-of-the-most-complex-and-long-standing-conflicts/
The Golan Heights: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/04/15/what-is-the-golan-heights-why-is-center-of-conflict/
Sudan’s Strategic Significance: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/04/19/sudans-strategic-significance-a-closer-look-at-the-countrys-importance/
Amnesty International: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/04/22/the-amnesty-international-advancing-human-rights-for-over-60-years/
Doctors Without Borders: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/04/23/providing-medical-assistance-to-those-in-need/
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) : https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/04/29/protecting-our-planet-the-role-of-the-world-wildlife-fund/
Future of the World: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/04/30/future-of-the-world-trends-and-insights-from-think-tanks/
The Nagorno-Karabakh: https://theglobe.today/index.php/2023/05/06/the-nagorno-karabakh-a-territorial-conflict/