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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.

Lesotho joins the Commonwealth Flag of Lesotho

4 October 1966

4 October 1966

Lesotho becomes the 26th country to join the Commonwealth.

Guyana joins the Commonwealth Flag of Guyana

26 May 1966

26 May 1966

Guyana becomes the 24th country to join the Commonwealth.

Botswana joins the Commonwealth Flag of Botswana

30 September 1966

30 September 1966

Botswana becomes the 25th country to join the Commonwealth.

Belize joins the Commonwealth Flag of Belize

21 September 1981

21 September 1981

Belize becomes the 47th country to join the Commonwealth.

The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC becomes the sixth Commonwealth Secretary-General The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC standing next to a Commonwealth flag

1 April 2016

In a breakthrough for gender equality in the Commonwealth, The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC of Dominica was selected new Secretary-General - the first woman to hold the post. On 27 November 2015, in Malta, the Commonwealth Heads of Government appointed her the sixth Commonwealth Secretary-General. She assumed office on 1 April, 2016. Read more

Commonwealth Day, 2016 - An Inclusive Commonwealth Commonwealth Day 2016 theme, An Inclusive Commonwealth

14 March 2016

14 March 2016 In his Commonwelath Day message Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said that "taking strength from its diversity, the Commonwealth succeeds in creating common ground on which to stand together in answering the challenges of our times."

Commonwealth Day, 2017 - A Peace-building Commonwealth Commonwealth Day 2017 theme, A Peace-building Commonwealth

13 March 2017

13 March 2017 "Deep-rooted and resilient, Commonwealth solidarity bears us up individually and collectively. It helps us in troubled and troubling times to make the world a safer place. That is why this year we are celebrating ‘A Peace-building Commonwealth". stated Secretary-General Patricia Scotland in her Commonwealth Day message.


First meeting of Commonwealth Youth Ministers

29 January 1973

29 January 1973, Lusaka, Zambia. Minister met to consider the creation of a Commonwealth Youth Programme. Commending them for their endorsement of the Programme Secretary-General Arnold Smith stated that "I believe that it will stand as a monument to the delegates' realistic appreciation that in mutual assistance and support across the frontiers of geography, race and persuasion lies the best hope for the future of mankind."

Commonwealth Ministers' Forum on Public Sector Development

26 October 2006

26 - 27 October 2006, Sydney, Australia. The aim of the Forum was to advance public sector development in the Commonwealth. Its focus was on modernising governance for integrated service delivery; renewing human resources for leadership development and on bridging the digital divide for networked government.

First Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting

24 July 2002

24 July 2002, Manchester, United Kingdom. Government ministers responsible for sport in the Commonwealth met on 24 July 2002 in Manchester on the eve of the XVIIth Commonwealth Games. Participants affirmed their commitment to the development of sport and sporting co-operation in three key areas: Anti-doping, social cohesion and women in sport.