Member states of the Commonwealth of Nations Information

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

The Commonwealth of Nations is a voluntary association of 54 sovereign states. Nearly all of them are former British colonies or dependencies of those colonies.

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 recognized 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 world 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 (from 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.

Current members

All dates below are provided by the Commonwealth of Nations Secretariat members list, and population figures are as of 1 February 2020. [8]

Country First Joined Region Population [9] System of government Notes [A]
Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda 1981-11-011 November 1981 West Indies 94,195 Unitary Commonwealth realm
Australia Australia 1931-12-1119 November 1926 Oceania ( Australasia) 25,215,000 Federal Commonwealth realm Australia was one of the original Dominions at the time of the Balfour Declaration of 1926 and the Statute of Westminster 1931, although the statute was not adopted in Australia until 1942 (with retroactive effect from 1939). [10] The Australia Act 1986 eliminated the remaining possibilities for the UK to legislate with effect in Australia, for the UK to be involved in Australian government, and for an appeal from any Australian court to a British court. [11]
The Bahamas The Bahamas 1973-07-1010 July 1973 West Indies 402,576 Unitary Commonwealth realm
Bangladesh Bangladesh 1972-04-1818 April 1972 [12] South Asia 165,867,307 Unitary Westminster republic Declared independence from Pakistan in 1971. [13]
Barbados Barbados 1966-11-3030 November 1966 West Indies 286,618 Unitary Commonwealth realm Barbados is set to remove Elizabeth II as its head of state and become a republic by 30 November 2021. [14]
Belize Belize 1981-09-2121 September 1981 Central America 379,636 Unitary Commonwealth realm
Botswana Botswana 1966-09-3030 September 1966 Southern Africa 2,377,831 Unitary parliamentary republic with an executive presidency
Brunei Brunei 1984-01-011 January 1984 Southeast Asia 439,022 Unitary Islamic absolute monarchy
Cameroon Cameroon 1995-11-1313 November 1995 [15] Central Africa 24,836,674 Unitary semi-presidential republic Most of the country was the formerly French mandate territory (later UN trust territory) of Cameroun, which gained independence from France on 1 January 1960. It united with the much smaller former British mandate/trust territory of Southern Cameroons, which gained independence from the United Kingdom on 1 October 1961.
Canada Canada 1931-12-1119 November 1926 Northern America 36,885,861 Federal Commonwealth realm Granted nominal independence ( Dominion status) on 1 July 1867. Canada was the first among the several original Dominions at the time of the Balfour Declaration of 1926 and the Statute of Westminster 1931. [16] Incorporated another original Dominion, Newfoundland, on 31 March 1949. [17] The Canada Act 1982 formally ended the "request and consent" provisions of the Statute of Westminster 1931 in relation to Canada, whereby the British parliament had a general power to pass laws extending to Canada at its own request.
Cyprus Cyprus [D] 1961-03-1313 March 1961 [18] Eurasia 1,197,667 Unitary presidential republic Gained independence from the United Kingdom on 16 August 1960.
Dominica Dominica 1978-11-033 November 1978 West Indies 72,975 Unitary Westminster republic
Eswatini Eswatini 1968-09-066 September 1968 Southern Africa 1,336,933 Unitary absolute monarchy Joined as Swaziland, subsequently changing its name to Eswatini on 19 April 2018.
Fiji Fiji [B] 1970-10-1010 October 1970 Oceania ( Melanesia) 909,024 Unitary parliamentary republic Left in 1987; rejoined in 1997; suspended on 6 June 2000; [19] suspension lifted on 20 December 2001; [20] again suspended on 8 December 2006 because of the 2006 Fijian coup d'état. [21] [22] Suspension lifted on 26 September 2014.
The Gambia The Gambia 1965-02-1818 February 1965 West Africa 2,155,958 Unitary presidential republic Withdrew on 3 October 2013 citing " neocolonialism". [23] [24] Following the election of Adama Barrow as President of Gambia in 2016, it submitted an application to rejoin the Commonwealth on 22 January 2018, [25] and rejoined on 8 February 2018. [26]
Ghana Ghana 1957-03-066 March 1957 West Africa 29,088,849 Unitary presidential republic
Grenada Grenada 1974-02-077 February 1974 West Indies 107,894 Unitary Commonwealth realm
Guyana Guyana 1966-05-2626 May 1966 South America 773,808 Unitary presidential republic
India India 1947-08-1515 August 1947 South Asia 1,353,014,094 Federal Westminster republic Incorporated former French India ( Chandannagar from 2 May 1950 and Puducherry, Karaikal, Yanam and Mahé from 1 November 1954), former Portuguese India ( Goa, Daman and Diu from 19 December 1961 and Dadra and Nagar Haveli formally from 1961) and Sikkim (from 16 May 1975).
Jamaica Jamaica 1962-08-066 August 1962 West Indies 2,819,888 Unitary Commonwealth realm
Kenya Kenya 1963-12-1212 December 1963 East Africa 49,167,382 Unitary presidential republic
Kiribati Kiribati 1979-07-1212 July 1979 Oceania ( Micronesia) 117,636 Unitary parliamentary republic with an executive presidency
Lesotho Lesotho 1966-10-044 October 1966 Southern Africa 2,199,492 Unitary Westminster monarchy [E]
Malawi Malawi 1964-07-066 July 1964 East Africa 18,558,768 Unitary presidential republic with an executive presidency
Malaysia Malaysia 1957-08-3131 August 1957 [27] [28] Southeast Asia 31,505,208 Federal Westminster monarchy [E] Joined as the Federation of Malaya in 1957; reformed as Malaysia on 16 September 1963 with its federation with Singapore (which became a separate state on 9 August 1965), North Borneo, and Sarawak. [29]
Maldives Maldives 1982-07-099 July 1982 South Asia 515,696 Unitary presidential republic Gained independence from the United Kingdom on 26 July 1965. [30] A special member from 9 July 1982 until 20 July 1985. [31] Withdrew on 13 October 2016. [32] [33] Rejoined on 1 February 2020. [34]
Malta Malta 1964-09-2121 September 1964 Southern Europe 422,212 Unitary Westminster republic Gained independence from the United Kingdom on 21 September 1964.
Mauritius Mauritius 1968-03-1212 March 1968 East Africa 1,286,240 Unitary Westminster republic
Mozambique Mozambique 1995-11-1313 November 1995 [35] East Africa 29,977,238 Unitary semi-presidential republic Gained independence from Portugal on 25 June 1975. The first country to be admitted to the Commonwealth without any former colonial or constitutional links with the United Kingdom. [36]
Namibia Namibia 1990-03-2121 March 1990 Southern Africa 2,600,857 Unitary semi-presidential republic Gained independence from South Africa. [37] Includes Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands transferred by South Africa at midnight 28 February 1994.
Nauru Nauru [B] 1968-11-01†1 November 1968 Oceania ( Micronesia) 10,387 Unitary parliamentary republic with an executive presidency Gained independence on 31 January 1968 from joint trusteeship of Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom. A special member from 1 November 1968 until 1 May 1999, when it became a full member, [38] before reverting to special status in January 2006. [39] A full member again since June 2011. [40]
New Zealand New Zealand 1931-12-1119 November 1926 Oceania ( Australasia) 4,609,755 Unitary Commonwealth realm Granted nominal independence ( Dominion status) on 26 September 1907. One of the original Dominions at the time of the Balfour Declaration of 1926 and the Statute of Westminster 1931, although the Statute was not adopted in New Zealand until 1947. [41] Removed final links with the British Parliament in 1986. Removed the final link with the British legal system ( Judicial Committee of the Privy Council) in 2003.
Nigeria Nigeria 1960-10-011 October 1960 West Africa 194,615,054 Federal presidential republic Incorporated the former British mandate/trust territory of Northern Cameroons on 31 May 1961. Suspended in 1995, suspension lifted in 1999. [42]
Pakistan Pakistan 1947-08-1414 August 1947 [C] South Asia 199,031,265 Federal Westminster republic Includes the city of Gwadar, transferred from Muscat and Oman on 8 September 1958. Included Bangladesh (then known as East Pakistan) until 1971. [13] Left Commonwealth in 1972, rejoined 1989; suspended in 1999, suspension lifted in 2004; again suspended in 2007, [43] suspension lifted in 2008. [44]
Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea 1975-09-1616 September 1975 Oceania ( Melanesia) 8,034,630 Unitary Commonwealth realm Gained independence from Australia.
Rwanda Rwanda 2009-11-2929 November 2009 [6] East Africa 12,322,920 Unitary presidential republic Gained independence from Belgium on 1 July 1962. The second country (after Mozambique) to be admitted to the Commonwealth without any former colonial or constitutional links with the United Kingdom. [36] Unlike Mozambique, has adopted English as an official language since joining.
Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Kitts and Nevis [B] 1983-09-1919 September 1983 West Indies 56,632 Federal Commonwealth realm
Saint Lucia Saint Lucia 1979-02-2222 February 1979 West Indies 189,000 Unitary Commonwealth realm
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1979-10-2727 October 1979 West Indies 109,501 Unitary Commonwealth realm A special member from 27 October 1979 until 1 June 1985.
Samoa Samoa [B] 1970-08-2828 August 1970 Oceania ( Polynesia) 196,954 Unitary parliamentary republic Gained independence from New Zealand on 1 January 1962. Joined as Western Samoa, subsequently changing its name to Samoa on 4 July 1997. [45]
Seychelles Seychelles 1976-06-2929 June 1976 East Africa 98,248 Unitary presidential republic
Sierra Leone Sierra Leone 1961-04-2727 April 1961 West Africa 6,818,117 Unitary presidential republic
Singapore Singapore [B] 1965-10-15†9 August 1966 (effective from 9 August 1965) [46] Southeast Asia 5,889,117 Unitary Westminster republic Gained independence from the United Kingdom and joined Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963. Became independent on 9 August 1965. [47]
Solomon Islands Solomon Islands 1978-07-077 July 1978 Oceania ( Melanesia) 614,497 Unitary Commonwealth realm
South Africa South Africa 1931-12-1119 November 1926 Southern Africa 56,007,479 Unitary parliamentary republic with an executive presidency Granted nominal independence ( Dominion status) on 31 May 1910. One of the original Dominions at the time of the Balfour Declaration of 1926 and Statute of Westminster 1931. Left on 31 May 1961; rejoined 1 June 1994. [48]
Sri Lanka Sri Lanka 1948-02-044 February 1948 South Asia 20,979,811 Unitary semi-presidential republic Joined as the Dominion of Ceylon, subsequently changing its name in 1972. Became a republic in 1972
Tanzania Tanzania 1961-12-099 December 1961 East Africa 57,790,062 Unitary presidential republic Joined as Tanganyika and later Zanzibar, which subsequently merged to form Tanzania on 26 April 1964. [49]
Tonga Tonga 1970-06-044 June 1970 Oceania ( Polynesia) 107,228 Unitary Westminster monarchy [E]
Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago 1962-08-3131 August 1962 West Indies 1,376,801 Unitary Westminster republic Granted nominal independence ( Dominion status) on 31 August 1962. Became a republic within the Commonwealth on 1 August, 1976 under the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Constitution Act 1976, passed by the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago.
Tuvalu Tuvalu [B] 1978-10-011 October 1978 Oceania ( Polynesia) 10,116 Unitary Commonwealth realm A special member from 1 October 1978 until 1 September 2000. [50]
Uganda Uganda 1962-10-099 October 1962 East Africa 42,288,962 Unitary presidential republic
United Kingdom United Kingdom 1931-12-1119 November 1926 Northern Europe 65,746,853 Unitary Commonwealth realm Balfour Declaration of 1926 and the Parliament of the United Kingdom enacted the Statute of Westminster 1931.
Vanuatu Vanuatu [B] 1980-07-3030 July 1980 Oceania ( Melanesia) 279,953 Unitary Westminster republic Gained independence from joint rule ( Condominium) of France and United Kingdom.
Zambia Zambia 1964-10-2424 October 1964 Southern Africa 17,470,471 Unitary presidential republic

^ A. Unless otherwise noted, independence was gained from the United Kingdom on the date (shown in column 2) of joining the Commonwealth.
^ B. Not a member of the Commonwealth Foundation.
^ C. Though Pakistan celebrates 14 August 1947 as its independence day, independence was officially granted at midnight, 15 August 1947. Therefore, its date of joining the Commonwealth would be 15 August 1947.
^ D. Geopolitically part of Europe, but geographically part of Asia.
^ E. Constitutional monarchy that operates under a Westminster system. The monarch is not the British monarch, hence making it not a Commonwealth realm.

Former members

Country Joined Continent Left Notes
Republic of Ireland Republic of Ireland 1931-12-1119 November 1926 Europe 1949-04-1818 April 1949 One of the original Dominions at the time of the Balfour Declaration of 1926 and the Statute of Westminster 1931. [17] Withdrew after passing the Republic of Ireland Act in 1948, accepted by the United Kingdom in 1949 Ireland Act 1949. [13]
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe 1980-10-011 October 1980 Africa 2003-12-077 December 2003 Suspended on 19 March 2002. [20] Withdrew voluntarily on 7 December 2003. [51]

On 15 May 2018, President Emmerson Mnangagwa submitted an application to rejoin the Commonwealth.

Dissolved members

Former country Joined Continent Dissolved Rejoined as part of Notes
Federation of Malaya Malaya 1957-08-3131 August 1957 Asia/Oceania 1963-07-3131 July 1963 [28] Malaysia Malaysia Reformed as the Federation of Malaysia with Singapore (became a separate member in 1965), Sabah, and Sarawak.
Dominion of Newfoundland Newfoundland 1931-12-1119 November 1926 North America 1934-02-1631 March 1949 Canada Canada One of the original Dominions at the time of the Balfour Declaration of 1926 and the Statute of Westminster 1931. Government suspended on 16 February 1934, merged into Canada on 31 March 1949. [17]
Tanganyika Tanganyika 1961-12-099 December 1961 Africa 1964-04-2626 April 1964 Tanzania Tanzania The two countries merged to form Tanzania on 26 April 1964. [49]
Zanzibar 1963-12-1010 December 1963

Prospective members

Country Applied Continent Population Notes
Somaliland Somaliland 2009 (as an observer) [52] Africa ~3,500,000 [F] Somaliland is an unrecognised self-declared sovereign state internationally recognised as part of Somalia. It has applied to join the Commonwealth under observer status. [52] Its borders approximate to those of British Somaliland, which was a protectorate from 1884 to 1960.
South Sudan South Sudan 2011 [53] Africa 13,670,642 Gained independence from Britain as part of Sudan in 1956. Gained independence from Sudan in 2011. [54]
Suriname Suriname [55] 2012 South America 555,934 English colony of Willoughbyland from 1650 to 1667 and controlled by the British from 1799 to 1816. Subsequently, a Dutch colony. In 2012, Suriname announced plans to join the Commonwealth [56] and the British government has made it a priority to provide guidance to Suriname in applying for Commonwealth membership. [57]
Burundi Burundi [58] 2013 Africa 10,524,117
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe 2018 [59] Africa 16,150,362 In recent years, under the presidency of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe has dominated Commonwealth affairs, creating acrimonious splits in the organisation. Zimbabwe was suspended in 2002 for breaching the Harare Declaration. In 2003, when the Commonwealth refused to lift the suspension, Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth. Since then, the Commonwealth has played a major part in trying to end the political impasse and return Zimbabwe to a state of normality. On 15 May 2018, President Mnangagwa submitted an application to rejoin the Commonwealth.

^ F. The population figure is based on 2014 estimates.

Other candidates

The Commonwealth of Nations currently has 54 members. Current Commonwealth members (dark blue), overseas territories, associated states and crown dependencies (light blue), suspended members (orange), former members (red), former members applying to rejoin (violet), applicants without historical links to the UK (pink), other states with historical links to the UK (green), and applicants with historical links to the UK ( chartreuse)

Other states which have expressed an interest in joining the Commonwealth over the years or states which may be eligible to join the Commonwealth include: Bahrain, [60] Cambodia, [60] Egypt, [60] Israel, [61] Libya, [60] Nepal, [62] [63] Palestine, [60] United States [60] and Yemen. [64] [65]

Some countries and regions could also join the Commonwealth on the basis of having been part of the British Empire including: Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Myanmar, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong. [66]

See also

References

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  28. ^ a b Malaysia Act 1963
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External links