The Com­mon­wealth – an over­view

Southasia - - COVER STORY -

• The Com­mon­wealth is one of the world’s old­est po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions. • The term 'Com­mon­wealth' was first used by Bri­tish Lib­eral politi­cian Lord Rose­bery in Ade­laide, Aus­tralia, in 1884. Dur­ing a fa­mous speech, he re­ferred to the Bri­tish Em­pire as 'a Com­mon­wealth of Na­tions'. • It is an as­so­ci­a­tion of 54 in­de­pen­dent coun­tries. • Its roots go back to the Bri­tish Em­pire when some coun­tries were ruled, di­rectly or in­di­rectly, by Bri­tain. In the course of time, some of these coun­tries be­came self-gov­ern­ing but chose to re­tain Bri­tain’s monarch as their head of state. They formed the Bri­tish Com­mon­wealth of Na­tions. • The Com­mon­wealth, in its cur­rent form, came into be­ing in 1949. In that year, the In­dian Con­stituent Assem­bly adopted the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion and In­dia be­came a repub­lic. How­ever, it still wished to re­main a mem­ber of the as­so­ci­a­tion. To ac­com­mo­date the coun­try, Com­mon­wealth lead­ers agreed that mem­ber­ship did not have to be based on al­le­giance to the Bri­tish Crown. As a re­sult, the Lon­don Dec­la­ra­tion of 1940 came into force that de­clared that Com­mon­wealth mem­bers were “free and equal mem­bers of the Com­mon­wealth of Na­tions, freely co­op­er­at­ing in the pur­suit of peace, lib­erty and progress.” Since then, in­de­pen­dent coun­tries from Africa, the Amer­i­cas, Asia, Europe and the Pa­cific have joined The Com­mon­wealth. • The last two coun­tries to join The Com­mon­wealth – Rwanda and Mozam­bique – have no his­tor­i­cal ties to the Bri­tish Em­pire. • Fifty-four coun­tries are mem­bers of The Com­mon­wealth and they are amongst the world’s largest, small­est, rich­est and poor­est coun­tries. • Thirty-two of the mem­bers are clas­si­fied as small states – coun­tries with a pop­u­la­tion size of 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple or less – many of them is­land na­tions.

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