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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.

Sixth Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) Image of Commonwealth Secretary-General Shridath Ramphal addressing Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting in Melbourne, Australia in 1981

30 September 1981

Melbourne, Australia

Singapore Declaration of Commonwealth Principles

22 January 1971

Commonwealth Heads of Government issued the Singapore Declaration of Commonwealth Principles at their summit in Singapore in 1971

Declaration on Strengthening Co-operation In International Humanitarian Law

2 February 2005

Declaration of the Nairobi Meeting of Commonwealth National Committees on International Humanitarian Law 21 July 2005

Lusaka Declaration on Racism and Racial Prejudice Image of document

7 August 1979

Commonwealth Heads of Government issued the Lusaka Declaration on Racism and Racial Prejudice on 7 August 1979 at their summit in Lusaka, Zambia.

Perth Declaration on Food Security Principles

3 March 2011

Commonwealth Heads of Government issued the 'Perth Declaration on Food Security Principles' at their Summit in Perth, Australia in 2011.

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