commonwealth-of-nations

The Commonwealth of Nations, generally known simply as the Commonwealth is a political association of 54 member states, mostly former territories of the British Empire.

The chief institutions of the organisation are the Commonwealth Secretariat, which focuses on intergovernmental aspects, and the Commonwealth Foundation, which focuses on non-governmental relations between member states.

Background:

  • It was originally created as the British Commonwealth of Nations through the Balfour Declaration at the 1926 Imperial Conference, and formalised by the United Kingdom through the Statute of Westminster in 1931. 
  • In the Balfour Declaration at the 1926 Imperial Conference, Britain and its dominions agreed they were "equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations"
  • The current Commonwealth of Nations was formally constituted by the London Declaration in 1949, which modernised the community and established the member states as "free and equal".
  • Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of the Commonwealth and the monarch of 16 members of the Commonwealth, known as Commonwealth realms.
  • Member states have no legal obligation to one another.
  • They are united by language, history, culture and their shared values of democracy, free speech, human rights, and the rule of law. 
  • All members have an equal voice, regardless of size or economic stature. 
  • In non-Commonwealth countries in which their own country is not represented, Commonwealth citizens may seek consular assistance at the British embassy.
  • The first member to be admitted without having any link to the British Empire was Mozambique followed by Rwanda in 2009. 

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting:

  • The main decision-making forum of the organisation is the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), where Commonwealth heads of government, including (amongst others) prime ministers and presidents, assemble for several days to discuss matters of mutual interest.
  • The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is a biennial summit meeting of the heads of government from all Commonwealth nations.

Commonwealth Secretariat:

  • The Commonwealth Secretariat, established in 1965, is the main intergovernmental agency of the Commonwealth, facilitating consultation and co-operation among member governments and countries. It is responsible to member governments collectively. 
  • The Commonwealth of Nations is represented in the United Nations General Assembly by the secretariat as an observer.
  •  The secretariat organises Commonwealth summits, meetings of ministers, consultative meetings and technical discussions; it assists policy development and provides policy advice, and facilitates multilateral communication among the member governments. 

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) :

  • The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an independent, non-partisan, international nongovernmental organization, headquartered in New Delhi.  
  • The organization works for the practical realization of human rights across the Commonwealth.  In 1987, several Commonwealth associations founded CHRI as a response to South Africa‟s policy of racism.
  • CHRI's objectives are to promote awareness of and adherence to the Harare Commonwealth Declaration, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other internationally recognized human rights instruments, as well as domestic instruments supporting human rights in member states.

Recent Developments - The Maldives has recently re-joined the Commonwealth as 54th member, reversing its earlier policy of isolation.

The island nation was  readmitted after showing evidence of functioning democratic processes and popular support for being part of the family of nations.