The Commonwealth, often known as the Commonwealth of Nations, is a free association of sovereign nations comprised of the United Kingdom and a number of its former dependents that have decided to continue goodwill and practical cooperation and who recognize the British Commonwealth of Nations. The organization has its headquarters in London.
It consists of 19 countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Canada, Chile, India, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United Kingdom. England, Scotland, and Wales are separate countries within the Union but they are also members of the Commonwealth; thus the organization contains 53 states. In addition, Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales, is head of the Commonwealth with Queen Elizabeth II as his vice-regal representative. However, neither position is legally binding.
In 2009, the heads of state or government of the 53 Commonwealth countries signed a treaty at a meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, committing them to work together on issues including education, climate change, and trade. Although not part of the treaty, representatives of the governments of the independent states of Antarctica join their Commonwealth counterparts in discussing matters such as science and technology, security, and human rights.
The Commonwealth was founded in 1948 by the leaders of Britain, India, and other countries then under British rule or influence.
The Commonwealth of Nations is a non-profit organization comprised of 54 sovereign nations. The founding members of the "British Commonwealth" were the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Irish Free State, and Newfoundland. India and Pakistan joined later as two of the six remaining members.
The Australian Constitution establishes the Commonwealth of Australia. It is not mentioned in the document, but it is generally accepted that this means that Australia is a constitutional monarchy with a monarch who is also the head of state of each of its states. The position of monarch is defined by the Canadian Constitution, which states that the monarch shall be the Queen of Canada. In practice, however, the role of the monarch in Canada is largely symbolic.
In New Zealand, the Monarch is referred to as the Head of State, but he or she has no official role in government. Instead, the Monarch is the highest ranking member of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) who can create military commissions under certain circumstances. If the Monarch were to die, then his or her successor would become Emperor or Queen according to their gender. Currently, there is only one living monarch: the current Queen of New Zealand is Elizabeth II. She has not changed her mind about becoming the Queen of Australia, even though she has dual citizenship with Australia and New Zealand.
The Commonwealth of Nations, formerly known as the British Commonwealth of Nations, has its origins in colonialism and the British Empire. The Commonwealth may not be well-known in the United States, but it has been a force in international affairs for more than a century in other parts of the world. It is believed that the first meeting of all the nations involved in today's Commonwealth took place in London in 1867.
In the years following the end of World War II, several countries including India, Pakistan, and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) became free countries. Many others were still ruled by colonial powers. In 1948, representatives from these countries met in London to discuss how they could work together to become more independent.
Today, there are members of the Commonwealth in almost every part of the world. There are also members who are not considered countries but rather provinces or states within countries. These include Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Another group that is not considered a country but does have rights under the Commonwealth are the monarchies. These include the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Although they are not required to join, most of them do so voluntarily.
India and Pakistan both wanted to join but were not allowed to by the other members of the Commonwealth. However, both of them joined another organization called SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).