Games and good governance: What is the Commonwealth?

Games and good governance: What is the Commonwealth?

The Commonwealth, which holds its heads of government meeting in Kigali this week, spans much of the globe, looping in a third of the world's population and a fifth of its landmass.

Established more than 70 years ago, it has the stated aim of upholding democracy, rule of law and good governance around the world.

Here are a few key things to know about it:

Key facts

Full name: Commonwealth of Nations

Member states: 54

Head of the Commonwealth: Queen Elizabeth II (since 1952)

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Secretary-General: Patricia Scotland (since 2016)

Population: 2.5 billion

Area: 30 million square kilometres

Foundation of modern Commonwealth: 1949

Headquarters: Marlborough House, London

Focus: Development, democracy, climate change

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Landmark events

1926: Balfour Declaration. Declared the UK and the dominions as equal in status as members of "the British Commonwealth of Nations".

1931: Statute of Westminster. Established legislative independence for the dominions and set the basis for the relationship between Commonwealth realms and the crown.

1949: London Declaration. Birth of the modern Commonwealth. Allowed republics as members, to allow independent India's continued membership. "British" dropped from title.

1971: First Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Singapore.

1991: Harare Declaration. Sets out Commonwealth's core values.

2020: The Maldives becomes the Commonwealth's 54th member after application for re-admission was approved.

Population, area, GDP

Countries drawn from: Africa (19), Caribbean and Americas (13), Pacific (11), Asia (8), Europe (3).

Biggest country by population: India (1.4 billion).

Smallest country by population: Tuvalu (11,000).

Biggest country by area: Canada (9,984,670 square kilometres).

Smallest country by area: Nauru (21 square kilometres).

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Biggest GDP: UK, India, Canada, Australia, Nigeria.

Smallest GDP: Tuvalu, Kiribati, Tonga, Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines.


Criteria: Historic association with an existing member; compliance with Commonwealth principles; commitment to democracy, rule of law and good governance.

Members in 1949: Australia, Canada, Ceylon, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, United Kingdom.

Latest first-time members: Rwanda (2009), Mozambique (1995) Cameroon (1995), Namibia (1990), Brunei (1984).

Countries that left and re-joined: South Africa (1961-1994), Pakistan (1972-1989), Fiji (1987-1997), The Gambia (2013-2018), The Maldives (2016-2020).

Countries that left and never returned: Ireland (1949), Zimbabwe (2003).

Main events

Summit: The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, CHOGM, is held every two years. The event has not been hosted since 2018 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Commonwealth Games: The Olympics-style multi-sport event is held every four years.

The last event was held on Australia's Gold Coast in 2018, with the next scheduled for the English city of Birmingham in 2022.

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© Agence France-Presse

Source: AFP

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