The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 53 independent and equal countries. Its roots go back to the British Empire, but membership of the modern Commonwealth does not depend on formerly being part of the British Empire.
At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Uganda in November 2007, Heads of Government reviewed the recommendations of the Committee on Commonwealth Membership and agreed on the following core criteria for Membership:
Heads of Government also agreed that, where an existing member changes its formal constitutional status, it should not have to reapply for Commonwealth membership provided that it continues to meet all the criteria for membership.
Heads endorsed the other recommendations of the Committee, including a four-step process for considering applications for membership; new members being required to augment the existing budget of the Secretariat; and countries in accumulated arrears being renamed ‘Members in Arrears’. They also agreed with the Committee’s recommendations on Overseas Territories, Special Guests and strategic partnerships.
For eligible countries, there is a membership process which has to be followed once the formal expression of interest to join is triggered. This entails the following:
The procedure also sets out that the application would thereafter be considered by Heads of Government at the next CHOGM and, if they reach consensus on accepting it, that country would then join the Commonwealth and be invited to attend subsequent meetings.
A Commonwealth member state that has withdrawn or was expelled from the Commonwealth would need to reapply for membership. Although Commonwealth Heads have not set out any re-joining criteria, it is expected that a country would demonstrate that it continues to uphold the principles and values of the Commonwealth that it espoused when it first joined.
Commonwealth member countries benefit from being part of a mutually supportive community of independent and sovereign states, aided by more than 80 Commonwealth organisations.
The Commonwealth Secretariat, established in 1965, supports Commonwealth member countries to achieve development, democracy and peace. We are a voice for small and vulnerable states and a champion for young people.
We help to strengthen governance, build inclusive institutions and promote justice and human rights. Our work helps to grow economies and boost trade, empower young people, and address threats such as climate change, debt and inequality.
We provide training and technical assistance and support decision-makers to draw up legislation and deliver policies. We deploy experts and observers who offer impartial advice and solutions to national problems. We also provide systems, software and research for managing resources.
At Commonwealth summits, we bring together government leaders whose decisions will have an enduring impact on all citizens. By uniting our member countries in this way, we help to amplify their voices and achieve collective action on global challenges.
Our work supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.