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The Commonwealth: International body born out of colonial past

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The Commonwealth is staging its two-day, biennial summit in London, which closes on Friday.

Here is a factbox on the group, which comprises around a third of the world’s population and a fifth of its landmass and is made up mainly of former British colonies.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II listens during speeches in the Picture Gallery for The Queen’s Dinner during The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), at Buckingham Palace in London on April 19, 2018.

– Overview –

Full name: Commonwealth of Nations

Member states: 53

Head of the Commonwealth: Queen Elizabeth II (1952-)

Secretary-General: Patricia Scotland (2016-)

Population: 2.4 billion

Area: 30 million square kilometres

Foundation of modern Commonwealth: 1949

Headquarters: Marlborough House, London

Focus: Development, democracy, climate change

– Key moments –

1926: Balfour Declaration. Declares the UK and the dominions as equal in status as members of “the British Commonwealth of Nations”.

1931: Statute of Westminster. Established legislative independence for the dominions and set the basis for the relationship between Commonwealth realms and the crown.

1949: London Declaration. Birth of the modern Commonwealth. Allowed republics as members, to allow independent India’s continued membership. “British” dropped from title.

1971: First Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Singapore.

1991: Harare Declaration. Sets out Commonwealth’s core values.

– Population, area, GDP –

Drawn from: Africa (19), Caribbean and Americas (13), Pacific (11), Asia (7), Europe (3).

Biggest country by population: India (1.25 billion)

Smallest country by population: Tuvalu (10,000)

Biggest country by area: Canada (9,984,670 square kilometres)

Smallest country by area: Nauru (21 sq km)

Biggest GDP: UK, India, Canada, Australia, Nigeria.

Smallest GDP: Tuvalu, Kiribati, Tonga, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

– Membership –

Criteria: Historic association with existing member; compliance with Commonwealth principles; commitment to democracy, rule of law and good governance.

Members in 1949: Australia, Canada, Ceylon, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, United Kingdom.

Latest first-time members: Rwanda (2009), Mozambique (1995) Cameroon (1995), Namibia (1990), Brunei (1984).

Countries which left and rejoined: South Africa (1961-1994), Pakistan (1972-1989), Fiji (1987-1997), The Gambia (2013-2018).

Countries which left and never returned: Ireland (1949), Zimbabwe (2003) and the Maldives (2016).

– Main Commonwealth events –

Summit: The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, CHOGM, is held every two years.

Commonwealth Games: The Olympics-style multi-sport event is held every four years.

– Commonwealth in 2018 –

CHOGM held in London, April 19-20. Main agenda points: ocean governance charter, trade and investment agenda, tackling cyber crime.

Commonwealth Games held in Gold Coast, Australia, April 4-15. Australia topped the medals table ahead of England, India, Canada and New Zealand.

. The Commonwealth: International body born out of colonial past . Vanguard News.

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