What is the Commonwealth? When was it established, what is its purpose, nations, and what is the Queen's role?

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The Commonwealth is made up over over 50 countries and territories, and has existed in some form for over a century

The Commonwealth Games take place later this month, a sporting event which celebrates nations of the Commonwealth.

You might have seen the world Commonwealth around Birmingham a lot in recent weeks, and with the countdown to the games well and truly on you will likely hear it a lot more between now and the middle of August.

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So what is the Commonwealth, you might be asking? If you are, here’s an explanation of what the Commonwealth is, what its role is in the 21st century, and which nations and territories are part of it.

When was the Commonwealth created?

The opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting on 24 June 2022The opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting on 24 June 2022
The opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting on 24 June 2022

The Commonwealth has been a part of international relations for over 100 years.

In 1887, Britain and the Commonwealth colonies first gathered for a consultation committee meeting.

At a conference in 1926, Britain and the Dominions agreed that they were all equal members of a community within the British Empire.

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They all owed allegiance to the British king or queen, but the United Kingdom did not rule over them.

This community was called the British Commonwealth of Nations or just the Commonwealth.

Five years later Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa joined the Commonwealth which has continued to grow almost ever since.

The latest nation to join the Commonwealth was The Maldives who rejoined in 2020 after leaving the Commonwealth in 2016.

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In 2022, there are 54 countries and territories that make up the Commonwealth.

What is the purpose of the Commonwealth?

According to the official website of The Commonwealth, the organisation: “is an association of 54 countries working towards shared goals of prosperity, democracy and peace.”

The Commonwealth Secretariat is the intergovernmental organisation which co-ordinates and carries out much of the Commonwealth’s work.

This work involves:

  • Protecting the environment
  • Boosting trade links
  • Develop society and young people
  • Supporting democracy
  • Support small states

Which countries are in the Commonwealth?

The 54 nations and territories of the Commonwealth come from almost every continent on the globe.

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Listed below are all of these nations in alphabetical order, including the most recent nation to join the Commonwealth with is The Maldives.

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • Bahamas
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Botswana
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Cameroon
  • Canada
  • Cyprus
  • Dominica
  • eSwatini
  • Fiji
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • India
  • Jamaica
  • Kenya
  • Kiribati
  • Lesotho
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Malta
  • Mauritius
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nauru
  • New Zealand
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Rwanda
  • Saint Lucia
  • Samoa
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • Singapore
  • Solomon Islands
  • South Africa
  • Sri Lanka
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Vincent and The Grenadines
  • Tanzania
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tuvalu
  • Uganda
  • United Kingdom
  • Vanuatu

What is the Queen’s role in The Commonwealth?

The Queen is Sovereign of 14 Commonwealth realms in addition to the UK. She is also Head of the Commonwealth itself, a voluntary association of 54 independent countries.

A Royal Family spokepserson said: “This is an important symbolic and unifying role. As Head, The Queen personally reinforces the links by which the Commonwealth joins people together from around the world.

“One of the ways of strengthening these connections is through regular Commonwealth visits.

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“During her reign, The Queen has visited every country in the Commonwealth (with the exception of Cameroon, which joined in 1995 and Rwanda which joined in 2009) and made many repeat visits. One third of The Queen’s total overseas visits have been to Commonwealth countries.”

They added: “The Queen keeps in touch with Commonwealth developments through regular contact with the Commonwealth Secretary General and her Secretariat. This is the Commonwealth’s central organisation.

“Based in London, it co-ordinates many Commonwealth activities. Her Majesty also has regular meetings with Heads of Government from Commonwealth countries.”

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