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Our history

The Commonwealth is one of the world’s oldest political association of states. Its roots go back to the British Empire when some countries were ruled directly or indirectly by Britain. Some of these countries became self-governing while retaining Britain’s monarch as Head of State. They formed the British Commonwealth of Nations.

In 1949 the association we know today – The Commonwealth – came into being. Since then, independent countries from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Pacific have joined The Commonwealth.

Membership today is based on free and equal voluntary co-operation. The last two countries to join The Commonwealth - Rwanda and Mozambique - have no historical ties to the British Empire.

First meeting of Commonwealth Finance Ministers

21 July 1949

London, United Kingdom, 21 July 1949.
Ministers reviewed the economic position of the sterling area, in light of the recent fall in the level of gold and dollar reserves.

Regular meeting of Commonwealth Youth Ministers begin

10 May 1992

Male, Maldives, 10 -12 May 1992.
The discussions explored ways in which Ministries of Youth could be strengthened and the effectiveness of youth literacy and community service schemes improved.
Ministers had previously met in 1973 to consider the establishment of a Commonwealth Youth Programme.

Fiji's suspension from membership of the Commonwealth lifted

25 September 2014

Fiji was reinstated as a full member of the Commonwealth following a decision by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) at their 44th meeting in New York.

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Abuja, Nigeria, 5-8 December, 2003 HM Queen Elizabeth II with Commonwealth Heads of Government, Abuja 2003

5 December 2003

Theme: Development & Democracy: Partnership for Peace & Prosperity

Declarations and Statements

  • The Aso Rock Commonwealth Declaration – Development and Democracy: Partnership for Peace and Prosperity
  • The Aso Rock Statement on Multilateral Trade
  • The Abuja Communiqué
  • CHOGM Statement on Zimbabwe
  • Functional Co-operation: Report of the Committee of the Whole
  • Ministerial Group on Small States:  Chairperson’s Report to CHOGM

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Valletta, Malta, 25-27 November, 2005

25 November 2005

Theme: Networking the Commonwealth for Development

Declarations and Statements

  • Valletta Statement on Multilateral Trade
  • Malta Declaration on Networking the Commonwealth
  • for Development
  • Gozo Statement on Vulnerable Small States
  • The Malta Communiqué

Marlborough House becomes Commonwealth centre Image of Marlborough House, its garden and Commonwealth flags. Copyright: Commonwealth Secretariat

1 September 1959

Head of the Commonwealth HM Queen Elizabeth II places Marlborough House in London, UK, at the disposal of the British Government as a Commonwealth centre.