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 the Commonweatlh Heads of Government (CHOGM).
Declarations and Statements
Declaration of the Nairobi Meeting of Commonwealth National Committees on International Humanitarian Law 21 July 2005
Commonwealth Heads of Government issued the Lusaka Declaration on Racism and Racial Prejudice on 7 August 1979 at their summit in Lusaka, Zambia.
Heads of Government issued the Millbrook Commonwealth Action Plan on the Harare Declaration in New Zealand on 12 November 1995.
"Genuine democratic elections are an expression of sovereignty, which belongs to the people of a country, the free expression of whose will provides the basis for the authority and legitimacy of government. The rights of citizens to vote and to be elected at periodic, genuine democratic elections are internationally recognized human rights. Genuine democratic elections serve to resolve peacefully the competition for political power within a country and thus are central to the maintenance of peace and stability. Where governments are legitimized through genuine democratic elections, the scope for non-democratic challenges to power is reduced..."
The Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles govern issues such as the harmonious balancing of power and the interaction between parliament, the executive and the judiciary in democratic societies. They set out in detail the consensus arrived at by representatives of the three branches of government in the Commonwealth on how each of their national institutions should interrelate in the exercise of their institutional responsibility. The Principles specify restraint in the exercise of power within their respective constitutional spheres so that the legitimate discharge of constitutional functions by other institutions are not encroached on.
The Victoria Falls Declaration of Principles for the Promotion of the Human Rights of Women
The Charter expresses the commitment of member states to the development of free and democratic societies and the promotion of peace and prosperity to improve the lives of all peoples of the Commonwealth. The Charter also acknowledges the role of civil society in supporting the goals and values of the Commonwealth.
Created at the 1999 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in South Africa, the Chairperson-in-Office plays a representational role in intergovernmental organisations, during periods between Heads of Government meetings. In 2002, the role was extended to include Good Offices of the Secretary-General and contribute to strategic advocacy of Commonwealth positions in high-level international forums.
The Eminent Persons Group was established by Commonwealth Heads of Government at their summit in November 2009. The group’s goals are to sharpen the impact, strengthen the networks, and raise the profile of the Commonwealth.