Commonwealth of Nations UPSC: About, History, Member Nations, and Commonwealth Games

By Aarna Tiwari|Updated : October 21st, 2022

The Commonwealth of Nations, also known as the Commonwealth, is a political alliance comprised of 56 members, the vast majority of which were once British Empire colonies. The Commonwealth Secretariat, which concentrates on intergovernmental issues, and the Commonwealth Foundation, which concentrates on non-governmental connections among member states, are the organization's two main institutions.

The article here talks about the history of the Commonwealth of Nations, along with their member nations, and the Commonwealth Games, focussing on the relationship between India and the Commonwealth and so on. The topic here is relevant for the upcoming UPSC Exam and is covered under the International Relations section.

Table of Content

Commonwealth of Nations

The Commonwealth of Nations is a grouping of independent sovereign nations, the majority of which were once British colonies. They were created after the state declared its sovereignty over the British Empire's colonial control and eventually received self-government. It declares the freedom and equality of the Commonwealth countries. 

The Commonwealth continues to be led by the British Monarch. Charles III, King of the United Kingdom, is so designated as the Commonwealth's Head. This title has no political influence on its constituent nations.

History of the Commonwealth of Nations

The British Empire was decolonized throughout the first part of the 20th century due to growing territorial self-governance, giving rise to the Commonwealth. The Balfour Declaration, made at the Imperial Conference in 1926, established it as the British Commonwealth of Nations, and the United Kingdom formalised it with the Statute of Westminster in 1931.

The London Declaration, which modernised the organisation and declared the member states to be ‘free and equal,’ was the official act founded by the current Commonwealth of Nations.

The following is a timeline of Commonwealth history:

  • The British Empire was referred to as the Commonwealth of Nations by Lord Rosebery in 1887.
  • 1926 saw the Imperial Conference and the Balfour Declaration.
  • Westminster Statute of 1931.
  • The British Empire is dissolved after World War II.
  • India became independent in 1947. (Among the most significant colonies)
  • Ireland declared a republic in 1949 and renounced its membership in the Commonwealth.
  • The Commonwealth of Nations was formally founded with the 1950 London Declaration, in which participants agreed that the British Monarch should serve as the Commonwealth's head of state.
  • The Commonwealth Secretariat was founded in 1965. It is its key institution and the primary intergovernmental organisation.

>> Commonwealth UPSC [PDF]

Head of Commonwealth

According to the London Declaration's structure, Charles III is the head of the Commonwealth. The heir to the throne does not immediately become the new leader of the Commonwealth after the monarch's death. However, the Commonwealth leaders decided that Prince Charles should succeed his mother, Elizabeth II, as Queen after passing at their summit in April 2018. 

The role serves as a symbol for the free association of independent members, the majority of which are republics (36), and five of which have kings from various royal families (Brunei, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malaysia, and Tonga).

Commonwealth of Nations: Structure

The Commonwealth primarily serves as a forum for close, equitable interaction among nations with various economic standings.

  • The Commonwealth's main initiatives are intended to foster economic cooperation among its members and advance democracy and sound governance.
  • The Commonwealth does not permit the United Kingdom to influence the affairs of the other states and is not in any way a political union.
  • Most Commonwealth countries do not recognise the British Monarch as their head of state. However, some of these so-called Commonwealth Realms do (and theoretically still maintain some minimal political ties to London).

Commonwealth Games

The Commonwealth Games are an international multisport competition held every four years for athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations. They are sometimes known as the Friendly Games. Except for 1942 and 1946 (postponed because of World War II), the event has been staged every four years since it debuted in 1930. 

  • From 1930 to 1950, the events were known as the British Empire Games 
  • From 1954 to 1966, the British Empire and Commonwealth Games 
  • From 1970 to 1974, the British Commonwealth Games.

The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) manages the sporting programme and is in charge of organising the Games and selecting the host cities. The game's movement comprises International Sports Federations (IFs), Commonwealth Games Associations (CGAs), and organising committees for each. The raising of the Commonwealth Games flag, the Queen's Baton Relay, and the opening and closing ceremonies are a few rituals unique to the Games.

Latest News on Commonwealth Games

The 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham lasted from July 28 through August 8, 2022. With 8 Para-sports taking place, it will have the largest Para-sports programme at a Commonwealth Games to date.

  • Birmingham hosted the 22nd Commonwealth Games, held there from July 28 to August 8, 2022. 
  • The 2026 Commonwealth Games will be the first decentralised Commonwealth Games ever hosted when they take place in four venues around the Australian state of Victoria from March 17 to March 29.
  • Since Gabon and Togo will send a team to the 2026 Commonwealth Games for the first time.
  • India finished Birmingham CWG 2022 with 22 gold, 16 silver, and 23 bronze medals.
  • The 2022 Commonwealth Games were the first global multisport event to be carbon neutral.

Commonwealth Nations

The Commonwealth comprises 56 nations from Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe, and the Pacific. The nations that make up the Commonwealth are diverse; they include some of the world's biggest, smallest, richest, and poorest nations. Rwanda became the last nation to join the Commonwealth in 2009.

The Member Nations of the Commonwealth are:

Africa

  • South Africa
  • Cameroon
  • Kenya
  • The Gambia
  • Ghana
  • United Republic of Tanzania
  • Namibia
  • Mauritius
  • Seychelles
  • Mozambique
  • Botswana
  • Rwanda
  • Kingdom of eSwatini
  • Sierra Leone
  • Malawi
  • Uganda
  • Lesotho
  • Nigeria
  • Zambia

Asia

  • Bangladesh
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • India
  • Sri Lanka
  • Pakistan
  • Singapore

Europe

  • Cyprus
  • United Kingdom
  • Malta

Pacific

  • New Zealand
  • Vanuatu
  • Australia
  • Samoa
  • Tonga
  • Nauru
  • Fiji
  • Solomon Islands
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Tuvalu
  • Kiribati

Caribbean and Americas

  • Dominica
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • The Bahamas
  • Jamaica
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • Canada
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Saint Lucia
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Belize
  • Antigua and Barbuda

Republics and Realms of Commonwealth

Republics and Realms are both parts of the Commonwealth.

Except for five nations- Lesotho, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Eswatini, and Tonga, each a self-governing monarchy, the realms are headed by the British monarch, while elected governments control the republics.

Australia, the Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Tuvalu are among the realms.

India and Commonwealth

India is one of the Commonwealth's leading funding providers, experts, and training and has participated in every significant aspect of its network of institutions. Additionally, it makes up a sizable portion of intra-member state commerce. India was the third-largest sponsor of the Commonwealth's joint office at the United Nations in New York and the fourth-largest contributor to the budget of the Commonwealth during the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

  • India joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1947 and was the first country with a predominance of non-European citizens. 
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi's attendance at the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London in 2018, the first time an Indian prime minister had attended a Commonwealth Summit in nearly ten years, is evidence of India's renewed political interest in the Commonwealth.
  • The Commonwealth presents an opportunity for India to connect with the tiny states that make up about 60% of the Commonwealth's members. India lacks diplomatic representation in some of these states. Thus, building relationships with them could help India win important votes in the UN or global elections in which it is competing.
  • The Commonwealth of Nations is still an astonishing demonstration of the power of a peaceful coalition on a global scale. Additionally, it gives India a great chance to develop a model of international cooperation and collaboration that is different from China's.

Commonwealth of Nations UPSC

The Commonwealth of Nations is an important topic under the International organizations and groupings part of the GS Paper 2 Syllabus. The topic is significant for the upcoming UPSC Exam, and aspirants must refer to the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers to understand the pattern well.

Commonwealth Nations UPSC Questions

Question: Who is the symbolic head of the Commonwealth of Nations?

  1. British Prime Minister
  2. Alternatively, British and French Prime Ministers
  3. King Charles III
  4. None of them

Answer: Option C

Question: Who is the founder of the Commonwealth Games?

  1. Pierre De Coubertin
  2. Melville Marks Robinson
  3. Astley Cooper
  4. None of the Above

Answer: Option B

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Commonwealth of Nations FAQs

  • The Commonwealth of Nations is a group of 56 nations committed to advancing prosperity, democracy, and world peace. A network of more than 80 organisations supports the Commonwealth Secretariat, an international organisation that coordinates and manages much of the Commonwealth's activity.

  • Charles III, King of the United Kingdom, is so designated as the head of the Commonwealth of Nations. 

  • The Commonwealth Nations truly believe that the three principles necessary for everyone's advancement and prosperity are international peace and security, sustainable economic growth and development, and the rule of law.

  • 22 gold medals were won by Indian athletes in the just-completed Commonwealth Games 2022. With 61 total medals, Team India came in fourth place overall behind Australia (178 medals), England (176 medals), and Canada (92 medals).

  • The first Indian woman to win a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games in 2022 was Mirabai Chanu, while the first Indian man to place first at the Birmingham Olympics was Jeremy Lalrinnunga.

  • Following agreement from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda, Togo joined the Commonwealth as its 56th member on June 25, 2022.

  • The Commonwealth of Nations is a grouping of independent sovereign nations, the majority of which were once British colonies. Download the Commonwealth Of Nations UPSC Notes from here.

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