Member states of the Commonwealth of Nations

The Commonwealth of Nations is a voluntary association of 54 sovereign states. Most of them were British colonies or dependencies of those colonies.

Current Commonwealth members (dark blue), former members (orange), and the British Overseas Territories and Crown dependencies (light blue)

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.[1] 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, 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 1926 when the Balfour Declaration of the Imperial Conference recognised the full sovereignty of dominions. Known as the "British Commonwealth", the original members were the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, 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).[4] In 1949, the London Declaration 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 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 and Africa combined.[7]

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, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malaysia and Tonga), 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, Pakistan, The Gambia, and the Maldives left and later rejoined the Commonwealth, and Zimbabwe has formally applied to rejoin.