Commonwealth Nations: History, Member Nations, Structure and CW Games

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The Commonwealth of Nations, also known as the Commonwealth, is a political alliance of 56 members, the vast majority of which were once British colonies. The Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Foundation are the organization’s two main institutions. The Commonwealth of Nations was by constituted the London Declaration of 1949

The article here talks about the history of the Commonwealth of Nations, along with their member nations, the Commonwealth Games, and the future the political alliance holds after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Commonwealth of Nations

The Commonwealth of Nations is a grouping of 56 independent sovereign nations, the majority of which were once British colonies. The 1949 London Declaration established it. The Commonwealth of Nations was created after the state declared its sovereignty over the British Empire’s colonial control and eventually received self-government. The foundation of the membership for the Commonwealth is open, equitable voluntary cooperation.

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

Commonwealth of Nations: History

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 formalized it with the Statute of Westminster in 1931.

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

The Commonwealth Secretariat was founded in 1965. It is its key institution and the primary intergovernmental organization. The following is a timeline of the Commonwealth of Nation’s 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.
  • The United Kingdom formalized the Commonwealth of Nations with the Westminster Statute of 1931.
  • The British Empire is dissolved after World War II, and India gains independence in 1947.
  • 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.

Commonwealth of Nations UPSC Notes

Head of Commonwealth

According to the London Declaration’s structure, the British Monarch is the head of the Commonwealth of Nations. As of 2023, Charles III is the head of the Commonwealth Nations. The heir to the throne does not immediately become the new leader of the Commonwealth Nations after the monarch’s death.

The head of the Commonwealth of Nations 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 of Nations 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 recognize 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 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.

Republics and Realms are both part of the Commonwealth Nations. Except for five nations- Eswatini, Lesotho, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, and Tonga, each of which is a self-governing monarchy, the realms are headed by the British monarch, while the republics are controlled by elected governments.

In 2022, Gabon and Togo, two African nations, were inducted as the Commonwealth of Nations’ 55th and 56th members, respectively.

List of Commonwealth Nations

The Commonwealth of Nations is headquartered in London and comprises of 56 member nations. The list of the Commonwealth of Nations members is given below:

Commonwealth of Nations

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.

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 program and is in charge of organizing the Commonwealth Games and selecting the host cities. The game’s movement comprises International Sports Federations (IFs), Commonwealth Games Associations (CGAs), and organizing 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 Commonwealth Games.

Latest News on Commonwealth Games

The 2026 Commonwealth Games will be the first decentralized Commonwealth Games ever hosted when they take place in four venues around the Australian state of Victoria from March 17 to March 29, 2026.

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

India and the Commonwealth of Nations

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.

  • India joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1947 and was the first country with a predominance of non-European citizens.
  • 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 section on international relations is quite dynamic and is important for the papers in the Prelims and Mains.

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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