Member states of the Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations is a voluntary association of 53 independent and sovereign states (one of whose membership is currently suspended). Most are former British colonies or dependencies of these colonies.
No one government in the Commonwealth exercises power over the others as is the case in a political union. Rather, the relationship is one of an international organisation through which countries with diverse social, political, and economic backgrounds are regarded as equal in status and cooperate within a framework of common values and goals as outlined in the Singapore Declaration issued in 1971. Such common values and goals include the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, the rule of law, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, multilateralism, and world peace which are carried out through multilateral projects and meetings which include the Commonwealth Games held once every four years.
The symbol of this free association is Queen Elizabeth II who serves as the titular Head of the Commonwealth. This position, however, does not imbue her with any political or executive power over any Commonwealth member states; the position is purely symbolic, and it is the Commonwealth Secretary-General who is the chief executive of the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth was first officially formed in 1931 when the Statute of Westminster gave legal recognition to the sovereignty of dominions. Known as the "British Commonwealth", the original members were the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, and Newfoundland, although Australia and New Zealand did not adopt the statute until 1942 and 1947 respectively. In 1949, the London Declaration was signed and marked the birth of the modern Commonwealth and the renaming to its present name. The newest member is Rwanda, which joined on 29 November 2009. The most recent departure was The Gambia, which severed its connection with the Commonwealth on 3 October 2013.
Presently, of the states that are members of the Commonwealth of Nations, three are in Europe, twelve in North America, one in South America, eighteen in Africa, eight in Asia, and eleven in Oceania. There are seven former members, four of which no longer exist as independent entities (but form part of current member states). The members have a combined population of 2.2 billion people, almost a third of the world population, of which 1.21 billion live in India, and 95% live in Asia and Africa combined.
Currently sixteen of the member states are Commonwealth realms with the Head of the Commonwealth also as their head of state, five others are monarchies with their own separate monarchs (Brunei, Lesotho, Malaysia, Swaziland, Tonga) and the rest are republics.
- 1 Current members
- 2 Former members
- 3 Dissolved members
- 4 Prospective members
- 5 Other former British Colonies that have never been Commonwealth members
- 6 Former protectorates of the UK and other Commonwealth countries
- 7 Former British Mandates
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
All table information based on figures provided by the Commonwealth of Nations Secretariat members list, most population figures are based on 2007 estimates, unless otherwise noted.
|Antigua and Barbuda[F]||1 November 1981||North America||86,295|
|Australia[F]||11 December 1931||Oceania||23,795,300||Granted nominal independence (Dominion status) on 1 January 1901. Australia was one of the original Dominions at the time of the Statute of Westminster 1931, although the statute was not adopted in Australia until 1942 (with retroactive effect from 1939). Removed final links with the British Parliament in 1986.|
|Bahamas[F]||10 July 1973||North America||368,390|
|Bangladesh[B]||18 April 1972||Asia||158,088,000||Declared independence from Pakistan in 1971.|
|Barbados[F]||30 November 1966||North America||285,000|
|Belize[F]||21 September 1981||North America||358,899|
|Botswana||30 September 1966||Africa||2,024,904|
|Brunei||1 January 1984||Asia||393,372|
|Cameroon||13 November 1995||Africa||21,143,237||Most of the country was the formerly French mandate territory (later UN trust territory) of Cameroun and gained independence from France on 1 January 1960, uniting with the much smaller former British mandate/trust territory of Southern Cameroons on its gaining independence from the United Kingdom on 1 October 1961.|
|Canada[F]||11 December 1931||North America||35,702,707||Granted nominal independence (Dominion status) on 1 July 1867. Canada was the first among the several original Dominions at the time of the Statute of Westminster 1931. Incorporated another original Dominion, Newfoundland, on 31 March 1949. Removed final links with the British Parliament in 1982.|
|Cyprus||13 March 1961||Europe||858,000||Gained independence from the United Kingdom on 16 August 1960.|
|Dominica||3 November 1978||North America||71,293|
|Fiji[B]||10 October 1970||Oceania||859,178||Left in 1987; rejoined in 1997; suspended on 6 June 2000; suspension lifted on 20 December 2001; again suspended on 8 December 2006 because of the 2006 Fijian coup d'état.|
|Ghana||6 March 1957||Africa||27,043,093|
|Grenada[F]||7 February 1974||North America||103,328|
|Guyana||26 May 1966||South America||746,900|
|India||15 August 1947||Asia||1,269,090,000||Incorporated former French India (Chandannagar from 2 May 1950 and Puducherry, Karaikal, Yanam and Mahé from 1 November 1954), former Portuguese India (Goa, Daman and Diu from 19 December 1961 and Dadra and Nagar Haveli formally from 1961) and Sikkim (from 16 May 1975).|
|Jamaica[F]||6 August 1962||North America||2,717,991|
|Kenya||12 December 1963||Africa||46,749,000|
|Kiribati||12 July 1979||Oceania||106,461|
|Lesotho||4 October 1966||Africa||2,120,000|
|Malawi||6 July 1964||Africa||16,310,431|
|Malaysia||31 August 1957||Asia||30,538,100||Joined as the Federation of Malaya in 1957; reformed as Malaysia on 16 September 1963 with its federation with Singapore (which became a separate state on 9 August 1965), North Borneo, and Sarawak.|
|Maldives||9 July 1982||Asia||341,256||Gained independence from the United Kingdom on 26 July 1965. A special member from 9 July 1982 until 20 July 1985.|
|Malta||21 September 1964||Europe||425,384|
|Mauritius||12 March 1968||Africa||1,261,208|
|Mozambique||13 November 1995||Africa||25,727,911||Gained independence from Portugal on 26 June 1975. The first country to be admitted to the Commonwealth without any former colonial or constitutional links with the United Kingdom. However, British troops were present in the country during the World War I East Africa Campaign.|
|Namibia||21 March 1990||Africa||2,113,077||Gained independence from South Africa. Includes Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands transferred by South Africa at midnight 28 February 1994.|
|Nauru[B]||1 November 1968||Oceania||10,084||Gained independence on 31 January 1968 from joint trusteeship of Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom. A special member from 1 November 1968 until 1 May 1999, when it became a full member, before reverting to special status in January 2006. A full member again since June 2011.|
|New Zealand[F]||11 December 1931||Oceania||4,572,100||Granted nominal independence (Dominion status) on 26 September 1907. One of the original Dominions at the time of the Statute of Westminster 1931, although the Statute was not adopted in New Zealand until 1947. Removed final links with the British Parliament in 1986.|
|Nigeria||1 October 1960||Africa||183,523,000||Incorporated the former British mandate/trust territory of Northern Cameroons on 31 May 1961. Suspended in 1995, suspension lifted in 1999.|
|Pakistan||[E]14 August 1947||Asia||189,388,000||Includes the city of Gwadar, transferred from Muscat and Oman on 8 September 1958. Included Bangladesh (then known as East Pakistan) until 1971. Left Commonwealth in 1972, rejoined 1989; suspended in 1999, suspension lifted in 2004; again suspended in 2007, suspension lifted in 2008.|
|Papua New Guinea[F]||16 September 1975||Oceania||7,398,500||Gained independence from Australia.|
|Rwanda[B]||29 November 2009||Africa||10,966,891||Gained independence from Belgium on 1 July 1962. The second country (after Mozambique) to be admitted to the Commonwealth without any former colonial or constitutional links with the United Kingdom. Unlike Mozambique, has adopted English as an official language since joining.|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis[B][F]||19 September 1983||North America||55,000|
|Saint Lucia[F]||22 February 1979||North America||185,000|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines[F]||27 October 1979||North America||109,000||A special member from 27 October 1979 until 1 June 1985.|
|Samoa||28 August 1970||Oceania||187,820||Gained independence from New Zealand on 1 January 1962. Joined as Western Samoa, subsequently changing its name to Samoa on 4 July 1997.|
|Seychelles||29 June 1976||Africa||89,949|
|Sierra Leone||27 April 1961||Africa||6,319,000|
|Singapore||9 August 1966 (effective from 9 August 1965)||Asia||5,469,700||Gained independence from the United Kingdom and joined federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963. Became independent on 9 August 1965.|
|Solomon Islands[F]||7 July 1978||Oceania||581,344|
|South Africa||11 December 1931||Africa||54,002,000||Granted nominal independence (Dominion status) on 31 May 1910. One of the original Dominions at the time of the Statute of Westminster 1931. Left on 31 May 1961; rejoined 1 June 1994.|
|Sri Lanka||4 February 1948||Asia||20,675,000||Joined as the Dominion of Ceylon, subsequently changing its name in 1972. Became a republic in 1972. Removed final links with British Parliament in 1972.|
|Swaziland||6 September 1968||Africa||1,119,375|
|Tanzania||9 December 1961||Africa||47,421,786||Joined as Tanganyika and later Zanzibar, which subsequently merged to form Tanzania on 26 April 1964.|
|Tonga||4 June 1970||Oceania||103,252|
|Trinidad and Tobago||31 August 1962||North America||1,328,019|
|Tuvalu[B][F]||1 October 1978||Oceania||11,323||A special member from 1 October 1978 until 1 September 2000.|
|Uganda||9 October 1962||Africa||34,856,813|
|United Kingdom||11 December 1931||Europe||64,105,654||The Parliament of the United Kingdom enacted the Statute of Westminster 1931.|
|Vanuatu[B]||30 July 1980||Oceania||264,652||Gained independence from joint rule of France and United Kingdom.|
|Zambia||24 October 1964||Africa||15,473,905|
^ A. Unless otherwise noted, independence was gained from the United Kingdom on the date (shown in column 2) of joining the Commonwealth.
^ B. Not a member of the Commonwealth Foundation.
^ C. The population figure is based on 2004 estimates.
^ D. The population figure is based on 2005 estimates.
^ E. Though Pakistan celebrates 14 August 1947 as its independence day, independence was officially granted at midnight, 15 August 1947. Therefore, its date of joining the Commonwealth would be 15 August 1947.
^ F. Commonwealth realms, recognising Elizabeth II as their head of state since the day of their independence, distinctly from her being the sovereign of United Kingdom.
|The Gambia||18 February 1965||Africa||3 October 2013||Withdrew on 3 October 2013 citing "neo-colonialism".|
|Ireland||11 December 1931||Europe||18 April 1949||One of the original Dominions at the time of the Statute of Westminster 1931. Withdrew after passing the Republic of Ireland Act in 1949.|
|Zimbabwe||1 October 1980||Africa||7 December 2003||Suspended on 19 March 2002. Withdrew voluntarily on 7 December 2003.|
|Former country||Joined||Continent||Dissolved||Rejoined as part of||Notes|
|Malaya||31 August 1957||Asia||31 July 1963||Malaysia||Reformed as the Federation of Malaysia with Singapore (became a separate member in 1965), Sabah, and Sarawak.|
|Newfoundland||11 December 1931||North America||31 March 1949||Canada||One of the original Dominions at the time of the Statute of Westminster 1931. Government suspended on 16 February 1934, joined Canada on 31 March 1949.|
|Tanganyika||9 December 1961||Africa||26 April 1964||Tanzania||The two countries merged to form Tanzania on 26 April 1964.|
|Zanzibar||10 December 1963|
|Somaliland||2009||Africa||3,500,000||Somaliland is an unrecognised self-declared sovereign state internationally recognised as part of Somalia. It has applied to join the Commonwealth under observer status. Its borders approximate to that of British Somaliland, which was a protectorate from 1884 to 1960.|
|South Sudan||2011||Africa||8,260,490||Gained independence from Britain as part of Sudan in 1956.|
|Sudan||Africa||37,289,406||Sudan was a condominium of the United Kingdom and Egypt known as Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, but in practice the structure of the Condominium ensured full British control over the Sudan until its independence in 1956. Sudan has expressed an interest in joining the Commonwealth.|
|Suriname||South America||560,157||English colony of Willoughbyland from 1650 to 1667 and controlled by the British from 1799 to 1816. In 2012 Suriname expressed plans to join the Commonwealth and the British government has made it a priority to provide guidance to Suriname in applying for Commonwealth membership.|
Other former British Colonies that have never been Commonwealth members
|Country||Independence granted||Continent||Current population||Notes|
|Thirteen Colonies||1783||North America||319,000,000||Founded 1607-1733, declared independence in 1776 as the United States, recognized by Great Britain in 1783 after the American Revolutionary War. Consisted of most of the contiguous USA east of the Mississippi River, except Florida. First European colony in the Americas to declare and obtain independence, and nearly 150 years before the Statute of Westminster.|
|Weihaiwei||1930||Asia||600,000||Leased from the Chinese Empire in 1898, returned to the Republic of China in 1930. Also known as Port Edward. Now part of modern Weihai, Shandong in the People's Republic of China.|
|Burma||1948||Asia||61,000,000||Lower Burma annexed by Britain 1852, Upper Burma in 1886. Administered as part of British India until 1937. Independence granted in 1948, but chose to become a republic outside the Commonwealth, unlike neighbouring India and Pakistan. Also officially known as Myanmar.|
|Colony of Aden||1967||Asia||760,000||Administered from British India 1842-1937. Became the State of Aden in 1963, which, together with the former Protectorate of Aden, formed the Federation of South Arabia. However, was immediately wracked by civil war between Marxist NLF and Pan-Arabist FLOSY. After NLF's victory, became part of the independent People's Republic of South Yemen in 1967, outside the Commonwealth. The two Yemens, North and South, merged into one nation in 1990.|
|Hong Kong||1997||Asia||7,000,000||Hong Kong island annexed from China during the Opium Wars in 1842, Kowloon in 1860, and New Territories on Chinese Mainland leased for 99 years from 1898. Transferred back to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, becoming the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.|
Former protectorates of the UK and other Commonwealth countries
A protectorate differs from a "protected state". A protected state is a territory under a ruler which enjoys Her Britannic Majesty's protection, over whose foreign affairs she exercises control, but in respect of whose internal affairs she does not exercise jurisdiction.
When the British took over Cephalonia in 1809, they proclaimed, "We present ourselves to you, Inhabitants of Cephalonia, not as invaders, with views of conquest, but as allies who hold forth to you the advantages of British protection." When the British continued to occupy the Ionian Islands after the Napoleonic wars, they did not formally annex the islands, but described them as a protectorate. The islands were constituted by the Treaty of Paris in 1815 as the independent United States of the Ionian Islands under British protection. Similarly, Malta was a British protectorate between the capitulation of the French in 1800 and the Treaty of Paris of 1814.
Other British protectorates followed. In 1894, Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone's government officially announced that Uganda was to become a British Protectorate, where Muslim and Christian strife had attracted international attention. The British administration installed carefully selected local kings under a programme of indirect rule through the local oligarchy, creating a network of British-controlled civil service. Most British protectorates were overseen by a Commissioner or a High Commissioner, rather than a Governor.
British law makes a distinction between a protectorate and protected state. Constitutionally the two are of similar status where Britain provides controlled defence and external relations. However, a protectorate has an internal government established, while a protected state establishes a form of local internal self-government based on the already existing one.
Persons connected with former British protectorates, protected states, mandated or trust territories may remain British Protected Persons if they did not acquire the nationality of the country at independence.
Other cases include the following:
- Barbados (1627–1652) (as a proprietary colony under both William Courteen, followed by James Hay I.)
- Mosquito Coast (1655–1860) (over Central America's Miskito Indian nation)
- Aden Protectorate in Yemen (1873–1967)
- Sultanate of Egypt (1914–1922)
- Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (1899–1956; condominium with Egypt)
- Persian Gulf Residency (1822–1971)
- British Somaliland (1887–1960)
South and South East Asia
- Bhutan (1910–1947)
- British North Borneo (1888–1946)
- Brunei (1888–1984)
- Federation of Malaya (1948–1957)
- Federated Malay States (1895–1946)
- Unfederated Malay States (1904/09-1946)
- Indian Princely States (to 1947)
- Maldives (1887–1965)
- Sikkim (1910–1975)
- Kingdom of Sarawak (1888–1946)
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Asterisks denote protectorates which were governed from a colony of the same name.
- Basutoland (1884-1966)
- Bechuanaland Protectorate (1884–1966)
- British East Africa Protectorate (1895–1920)
- Gambia Protectorate* (1894–1965)
- Kenya Protectorate* (1920–1963)
- Barotseland Protectorate (1900-1964)
- Northern Rhodesia (1924–1964)
- Northern Territories of the Gold Coast (1902–1957)
- Nyasaland Protectorate (1893–1964) - known as British Central Africa until 1907
- Northern Nigeria Protectorate
- Eastern Nigeria Protectorate
- Western Nigeria Protectorate
- Sierra Leone Protectorate* (1896–1961)
- Swaziland (1902–1968)
- Uganda Protectorate (1894–1962)
- Walvis Bay protectorate (1878–1884)
- Zanzibar (1890–1963)
- British Solomon Islands (1893–1978)
- Cook Islands (1888–1901)
- Gilbert and Ellice Islands (1892–1916)
- Niue (1900–1901)
- Tokelau (1877–1916)
- Tonga (1900–1970)
Former British Mandates
Class A League of Nations mandates
The first group, or Class A mandates, were territories formerly controlled by the Ottoman Empire that were deemed to "... have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory."
The Class A mandates were as follows:
- Palestine (United Kingdom), from 29 September 1923 – 15 May 1948. In April 1921, Transjordan provisionally became an autonomous area for 6 months but then continued to be part of the Mandate until independence. It eventually became the independent Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan (later Jordan) on 25 May 1946. A plan for peacefully dividing the remainder of the Mandate failed. The Mandate terminated at midnight between 14 and 15 May 1948. On the evening of 14 May, the Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine had declared the establishment of the State of Israel. Arab states attacked the following day, marking the start of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Following the war, 75% of the area west of the Jordan River was controlled by the new State of Israel. Other parts, until 1967, formed the West Bank of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip. Small slivers of territory east and south of the Sea of Galilee were held by Syria.
- Mesopotamia (United Kingdom), not enacted and replaced by the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty
Class B League of Nations mandates
The second group of mandates, or Class B mandates, were all former Schutzgebiete (German territories) in West and Central Africa which were deemed to require a greater level of control by the mandatory power: "...the Mandatory must be responsible for the administration of the territory under conditions which will guarantee freedom of conscience and religion." The mandatory power was forbidden to construct military or naval bases within the mandates.
The Class B mandates were as follows:
- Tanganyika (United Kingdom), from 20 July 1922 to 11 December 1946. It became a United Nations Trust Territory on 11 December 1946, and was granted internal self-rule on 1 May 1961. On 9 December 1961, it became an independent Commonwealth realm, transforming into a republic on the same day the next year. On 26 April 1964, Tanganyika merged with the neighbouring island of Zanzibar to become the modern nation of Tanzania.
- Kamerun was split on 20 July 1922 into British Cameroons (under a Resident) and French Cameroun (under a Commissioner until 27 August 1940, then under a Governor), on 13 December 1946 transformed into United Nations Trust Territories, again a British (successively under senior district officers officiating as Resident, a Special Resident and Commissioners) and a French Trust (under a Haut Commissaire)
- Togoland was split into British Togoland (under an Administrator, a post filled by the colonial Governor of the British Gold Coast (present Ghana) except 30 September 1920–11 October 1923 Francis Walter Fillon Jackson) and French Togoland (under a Commissioner) (United Kingdom and France), 20 July 1922 separate Mandates, transformed on 13 December 1946 into United Nations trust territories, French Togo Associated Territory (under a Commissioner till 30 August 1956, then under a High Commissioner as Autonomous Republic of Togo) and British Togoland (as before; on 13 December 1956 it ceased to exist as it became part of Ghana)
Class C League of Nations mandates
A final group, the Class C mandates, including South-West Africa and certain of the South Pacific Islands, were considered to be "best administered under the laws of the Mandatory as integral portions of its territory".
The Class C mandates were former German possessions as follows:
- former German New Guinea became the Territory of New Guinea (Australia/United Kingdom) from 17 December 1920 under a (at first Military) Administrator; after (wartime) Japanese/U.S. military commands from 8 December 1946 under UN mandate as North East New Guinea (under Australia, as administrative unit), until it became part of present Papua New Guinea at independence in 1975
- Nauru, formerly part of German New Guinea (Australia in effective control, formally together with United Kingdom and New Zealand) from 17 December 1920, 1 November 1947 made into a United Nations trust territory (same three powers) until its 31 January 1968 independence as a Republic - all that time under an Administrator
- former German Samoa (New Zealand/United Kingdom) 17 December 1920 a League of Nations mandate, renamed Western Samoa (as opposed to American Samoa), from 25 January 1947 a United Nations trust territory until its 1 January 1962 independence
- South-West Africa (South Africa/United Kingdom)
United Nations mandates
British mandates acquired after 1945 (formation of the United Nations):
- Eritrea - under British administration 1941 to 1951, transferred to Ethiopia. Became an independent state in 1993.
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- List of countries where English is an official language
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