Commonwealth of Nations

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Commonwealth of Nations,

voluntary association of Great Britain and its dependencies, certain former British dependencies that are now sovereign states and their dependencies, and the associated states (states with full internal government but whose external relations are governed by Britain); Mozambique and Rwanda are the only members never to have been under British authority even in part. At its foundation under the Statute of Westminster (see Westminster, Statutes ofWestminster, Statutes of,
in medieval English history, legislative promulgations made by Edward I in Parliament at Westminster. Westminster I (1275) practically constitutes a code of law; it covers a wide range, incorporating much unwritten law into the written code, and is a
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) in 1931, the Commonwealth was composed of Great Britain, the Irish Free State (now the Republic of Ireland), Canada, Newfoundland (since 1949 part of Canada), Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Other sovereign members (with date of entry) are or have been: India (1947), Pakistan (1947), Sri Lanka (as Ceylon, 1948), Ghana (1957), Malaysia (as Federation of Malaya, 1957), Nigeria (1960), Cyprus (1961), Sierra Leone (1961), Tanzania (as Tanganyika, 1961), Jamaica (1962), Trinidad and Tobago (1962), Uganda (1962), Kenya (1963), Malawi (1964), Zambia (1964), Malta (1964), The Gambia (1965), Singapore (1965), Guyana (1966), Botswana (1966), Lesotho (1966), Barbados (1966), Antigua and Barbuda (1967), Dominica (1967), Saint Kitts and Nevis (1967), Saint Lucia (1967), Nauru (1968), Mauritius (1968), Swaziland (1968), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (1969), Samoa (1970), Tonga (1970), Bangladesh (1972), Bahamas (1973), Grenada (1974), Papua New Guinea (1975), Seychelles (1976), Solomon Islands (1978), Tuvalu (1978), Kiribati (1979), Vanuatu (1980), Zimbabwe (1980), Belize (1981), Brunei (1984), Maldives (1985), Namibia (1990), Cameroon (1995), Mozambique (1995), and Rwanda (2009). Ireland, South Africa, Pakistan, Fiji, Zimbabwe, The Gambia, and Maldives all withdrew at different times, but South Africa, Pakistan, and Fiji have rejoined. In addition, Nigeria's membership was suspended (1995–99) because of the country's human-rights abuses; Sierra Leone was suspended (1997–98) when it was under military rule; Pakistan was suspended (1999–2004) following a military coup and (2007–8) following the imposition of emergency rule; Zimbabwe was suspended for a year following the widely criticized presidential election of 2002, and when the suspension was extended in 2003, Zimbabwe withdrew; and Fiji has been suspended several times following coups, most recently from 2009 (partially suspended from 2006) to 2014.

The purpose of the Commonwealth is consultation and cooperation. The sovereign members retain full authority in all domestic and foreign affairs, although Britain generally enjoys a traditional position of leadership in certain matters of mutual interest. There are economic ties in the fields of trade, investment, and development programs for new nations. A set of trade agreements (begun at the Ottawa Conference in 1932) between Britain and the other members gave preferential tariff treatment to many raw materials and manufactured goods that the Commonwealth nations sell in Britain, but the system of preferential tariffs was abandoned after Britain's entry into the European Community (now the European UnionEuropean Union
(EU), name given since the ratification (Nov., 1993) of the Treaty of European Union, or Maastricht Treaty, to the European Community (EC), an economic and political confederation of European nations, and other organizations (with the same member nations)
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) in 1973. Periodically there are meetings of Commonwealth heads of government, but no collective decision made at these meetings is considered binding. In 1965 a Commonwealth secretariat was established, with headquarters in London.

See also British EmpireBritish Empire,
overseas territories linked to Great Britain in a variety of constitutional relationships, established over a period of three centuries. The establishment of the empire resulted primarily from commercial and political motives and emigration movements (see
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.

Bibliography

See J. D. B. Miller, The Commonwealth in the World (3d ed. 1965); N. Mansergh, The Commonwealth Experience (1969); W. R. Louis, The British Empire in the Middle East (1986); The Commonwealth Office Yearbook (annual, from 1987); R. J. Moore, Making the New Commonwealth (1987).

Commonwealth of Nations

 

(formerly the British Commonwealth of Nations), an association made up of Great Britain and its former colonies that have gained independence.

Legally established by the Statute of Westminster (1931), the Commonwealth of Nations originally consisted of Great Britain and its dominions—Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Newfoundland, and Ireland. All members were equal in legal status and united by “a common allegiance to the crown.” The Commonwealth was founded because the British bourgeoisie wanted to counterpose a “free association of sovereign nations” to the British Empire, which included colonies, protectorates, and vassal states.

The Commonwealth of Nations was originally a personal union—that is, the head of state of every dominion was the British sovereign, represented by his appointed governor-general. After World War II (1939–45) the Commonwealth changed considerably, losing its monarchical character in 1949, when India proclaimed itself a republic but expressed its intention of remaining in the Commonwealth. Later, several countries left the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth now includes not only the former British dominions, each of which recognizes the British monarch as head of state, but also countries with different forms of government and their own heads of state (for instance, Ghana, Kenya, and Sri Lanka). The semblance of common interests among Commonwealth members is maintained through periodic, purely consultative conferences of prime ministers and finance ministers and through several standing committees. Commonwealth members maintain diplomatic relations with each other through government-appointed high commissioners with ambassadorial rank, but diplomatic relations with other states are conducted in the usual manner.

The Commonwealth does not act as a unit in international affairs. The ties between its members are mainly symbolic. The unconditional right of each member to leave the association unilaterally has been exercised by Burma (1948), the Republic of Ireland (1949), and the Union of South Africa (1961). Great Britain’s special status in the Commonwealth is not defined by legal norms but derives from its economic, financial, and political relations with the other Commonwealth nations.

REFERENCES

Velikobritaniia. Moscow, 1972.
Speranskii, A. “Sodruzhestvo na sovremennom etape: dal’neishee usilenie tsentrobezhnykh tendentsii (k itogam Ottavskoi konferentsii 1973 g.).” In Mezhdunarodnyi ezhegodnik: Polilika iekonomika. Moscow, 1974.
References in periodicals archive ?
These provide a good basis for the study's third and longest part--a succinct account of how the British Commonwealth emerged, evolved and eventually was eclipsed by a Commonwealth that had as its basis a very different vision.
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5 trillion continue to pay a PS13billion a year fee just to trade with the EU when they would have to trade with us anyway while our membership of the British Commonwealth costs us less than PS50m a year and is growing far faster than the European Union?
Which British Commonwealth and European athletics champion also won the Highland Games Championship a record six times?
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He tells of the program, begun in 1960, by which governments of countries within the British Commonwealth offered scholarships to students and fellowships to mid-career scholars from other Commonwealth countries.
Egmont Press' Fiction publisher Leah Thaxton has struck a deal with the Flat Stanley estate for UK and British Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, for seven new Flat Stanley titles by the late Jeff Brown, who died in 2003.
The British Commonwealth Nurses' War Memorial Fund scholarship has been brought to life again; it was last awarded in 2002.
As we look forward to next year, when we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, surely while Mozambique, once a colony of Portugal, is in the British Commonwealth of Nations, and other countries, namely Algeria, Rwanda and Yemen, nothing to do with Great Britain, clamour to join, consideration should be given to the Kingdom of Nepal, home of the Gurkhas.
One of Canada's most important contributions to the Allied effort during the Second World War was the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP).
Take England's cricket team who all received Empire medals from the head of the British Commonwealth for narrowly winning a Test series.

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