The Commonwealth of Nations is an association of independent states, which includes Great Britain and many of its former dominions, colonies and protectorates. Countries in this union do not have political power over each other. The foundation was laid in 1887, in 1926 the Balfour Declaration was adopted, and the status of the Commonwealth was fixed on December 11, 1931 (Westminster Statute). After which the Commonwealth resembled a certain union of countries united with Great Britain by a personal unity.
How it all started
The foundation was laid back in the 19th century, and in the early thirties of the 20th century a statute was adopted defining the rights of a member state of the organization. According to the 1931 document, the monarch of Great Britain is the head of every country that recognizes the Westminster Statute and is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
At the same time, the document established the legal status of the dominions, and also enforced the decisions of the conferences of 1926 and 1930. As a result, dominions were recognized as virtually independent states, completely equal with Britain, and the laws of England could not apply to them without their consent.
In 1947, the situation changed: with the transformation of India into a republican country and the consequent refusal to recognize the British monarch as head of state, it was necessary to radically revise the foundations of unification. The name and goals of the organization changed - humanitarian missions, educational projects, etc. became priority.
Currently, the countries of the Commonwealth of Nations (number 53) demonstrate a different approach to government. Of these, only 16 are the Kingdom of the Commonwealth, recognizing Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain as head of state.
The path to the situation in the 21st century was a long one. The states joined and left the union, suspended their membership and renewed it (the example of Fiji, the membership of which was suspended by the union due to problems with democracy in the country) is especially indicative.
However, the process is still ongoing, shaping and changing the modern Commonwealth of Nations. The list of countries is given according to the information on the official website:
- Antigua and Barbuda;
- Fiji (reinstated as a full member since September 26, 2014);
- Solomon islands;
- Saint Kitts and Nevis;
- Saint Lucia;
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa;
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines;
- Trinidad and Tobago;
- Great Britain;
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand;
- Papua New Guinea;
- Sri Lanka;
The countries of the Commonwealth of Nations are united not only by treaties and acts, but also culturally and linguistically: in 11 countries, English is one of the official languages, and in the other 11 - the only official language.
As indicated on the official website, this is a voluntary association of countries with common values. Queen Elizabeth II formally leads the British Commonwealth of Nations (one of the largest countries in the world), while the current administrative management is carried out by the Secretariat.
According to the form of governance within the union, the distribution is as follows: 32 states are republics, 5 are national monarchies, and 16 recognize the head of the British Queen, represented in each country by the Governor General. However, she does not perform any formal functions or duties.
The list of countries making up the Commonwealth of Nations is impressive - states are divided into four different categories according to the World Bank classification (the rating is updated annually, reflects gross national income per capita for the previous year). Of these, 11 are high-income, 14 are above-average income, 18 are below average, and 10 are with low GNI.
Union countries lead in many industries around the world: among examples are mining of precious stones and metals, information technology, and tourism.
The first countries, members of the association, were Great Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa. They joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1931. Pakistan and India joined the alliance in 1947. Sri Lanka - in 1948. Together, they form a list of states - the oldest members of the association.
In 1957, Ghana joined them.
In the sixties, the British Commonwealth of Nations received a new replenishment: Nigeria (1960), Sierra Leone and Tanzania (1961), Uganda (1962), Kenya (1963), Zambia (1964) joined the union. ) Next - Guyana, Botswana and Lesotho (1966), Swaziland (1968)
Bangladesh joined the association in 1972, Papua New Guinea in 1975.
And finally, it completes the list of countries of Namibia (1990), Mozambique and Cameroon (1995), Rwanda (2009)
In terms of population, the Commonwealth of Nations has 2.2 billion people. Expectedly leading India - 1236.7 million. Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh, located at approximately the same level, are far behind - 179.2 million, 168.8 million and 154.7 million, respectively. The fourth place, oddly enough, is Great Britain (all numbers and data are taken from the official website of the Commonwealth) - its population according to the latest data is 62.8 million people.
Canada's vast territory is inhabited by only 34.8 million, and mainland Australia owns 23.1 million people.
Health and Life Expectancy
But in the field of health and well-being, everything is quite expected - the largest average life expectancy in Australia and Singapore (82 years), Canada and New Zealand (81 years), in the UK, Cyprus and Malta (80 years). In last place, Sierra Leone is only 45 years old (according to 2012 data).
The same country leads in the mortality rate of children and newborns, as well as mothers (according to data for 2010-2012). Moreover, Sierra Leone is a state with one of the highest birth rates in the Commonwealth.
Mozambique and Rwanda
For decades, various acts have been adopted and other documents have been drafted regulating the actions of the association, what is possible and what is impossible in it. There is no single document, like the constitution. The basis for entry is a relationship with the UK - the road to membership in the Commonwealth is open to former colonies, protectorates and dominions. There were, however, two exceptions to this rule: Mozambique, the former colony of Portugal, and Rwanda, the former colony of Belgium and Germany.
The first of them is one of the poorest countries in the world. Mozambique is a state that is part of the Commonwealth of Nations "not by right, but by grace." He got into the composition after all the neighboring members of the association expressed a request for the accession of Mozambique (this is one of the theories).
The background is as follows: after gaining independence in 1975, serious reforms were carried out and most Portuguese settlers were expelled. The civil war began, accompanied by serious casualties among the population and the migration of a large number of refugees.
The war ended only in 1992 - it is not surprising that the country was in decline. Membership in the Commonwealth is generally beneficial for the state - this statement is also true for Rwanda, which also managed to survive difficult times (including genocide).
Role and goals towards their members
Today, the countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations conduct their activities in two directions - the dissemination of the principles and norms of democracy and the promotion of development. This is the second largest, after the UN, international union. English plays a very important unifying role, especially since now this language has become one of the ways of business communication.
Great Britain and other developed countries carry out various humanitarian missions within the framework of the union, and provide support in the economic and other fields. Although formally all member countries of the Commonwealth are independent, such assistance contributes to the impact of those who render it on those who need it.
UK role within the union
Throughout history, beginning with the formation of the union and beyond, the role and attitude of Great Britain towards this alliance has changed. In the first half of the 20th century, it was mentioned only as the British Empire. Over time, the priorities of politicians shifted towards the European Union, which looked very promising. However, in light of the latest trends in the EU, the idea of strengthening and developing ties may look more attractive, given how extensive the list of states is forming the Commonwealth of Nations.
In support of this course can be interpreted and the behavior of the UK towards Australia. In this country, supporters of the republican form of government have very strong positions, and talk about leaving the Commonwealth is heard regularly.
Visits to Australia by members of the British royal family, as well as the wedding in 2011 of Prince William and Kate Middleton, played a role in enhancing the prestige of the Windsor dynasty. According to the statements made by British diplomats in 2011, these visits nullified the possibility of turning Australia into a republic in the near future.
A visit to Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William, as well as the royal wedding, fueled the interest of the Australians, however, officials also said that Australian society will in the long run seek to get out of the Queen’s power, even if this power is only symbolic.
The statement by the British Foreign Ministry indicated that demographic changes in the country lead to a reduction in the number of citizens who somehow feel their connection with England. At the same time, a large percentage of the population believes that the creation of the republic is an integral stage in the formation of the state.
Some other countries that are members of the Commonwealth of Nations, however, support the idea of closer cooperation. Similar proposals have already been made, but have not received the support of the majority because of fears of British imperial ambitions.
The likelihood of integration is still low - a too different level of development does not contribute to the complementarity of the products produced, rather, countries at a lower level compete because they produce the same or similar products. Nevertheless, they benefit from the support of the more developed. A serious drawback of the Commonwealth, however, is that it does not have strong mechanisms to influence its members - the only option is to suspend membership in the organization.