The Common Wealth of Nations is a voluntary association of the independent Countries that were formerly British Colonies. It is made up of Britain and Countries that were at one point in time or the other British colonies. The United States of America, though a former British colony, is not a member. The British monarch (the queen) is the head of the commonwealth.
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HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF COMMONWEALTH
The origin of the Commonwealth started with the British desire to conquer the greater part of the world as its empire. All the territories acquired by Britain formed the British Empire. Countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa who were formerly Brother colonies were granted responsible and representative governments in the 19th century.
With that status, these countries were granted the freedom to elect their own legislature, manage their own internal affairs but they were still linked with Britain and their governors were still representing the queen of England. The queen of England could still make laws for these semi-independent countries. From 1907, these countries with, representative governments started regular meetings known as “imperial conference” in London.
From 1920, these semi-independent countries were granted full autonomy and Britain stooped managing their affairs. Then a new name was given to these territories called “Dominions” and was no longer called colonies.
In 1931, a law was made granting full independence to the dominion whereby, they were not bound to depend on laws passed by the British parliament. The name Commonwealth of Nations was adopted in 1951 as a result of the wide criticism that faced the word “dominions”.
The dominions did not want to be addressed as dominions because they believed that it was synonymous with colonialism. However, Ireland ceased to be a member in 1949, South Africa was expelled in 1961 because of her apartheid racial policies. Commonwealth has its headquarters at mar borough house, London presently Commonwealth of Nations has 49 member-nations.
MEMBERSHIP OF COMMON WEALTH
Membership in the Commonwealth of Nations is based on certain criteria and principles. While the organization has evolved over time, the general eligibility requirements for membership include:
1. Former British Territory or Colony: The prospective country must have had historical ties to the British Empire. Typically, Commonwealth members are countries that were previously territories or colonies of Britain.
2. Political Independence: The prospective country must have achieved full political independence. This means that it has attained sovereignty and is recognized as a separate and self-governing nation.
3. Recognition of the British Monarch: The prospective member country must be willing to accept or recognize the British Monarch as the symbolic Head of the Commonwealth. This role is separate from any constitutional or political authority within the member country.
4. Commitment to Equality and Non-Discrimination: The prospective member country must be prepared to accept other member states as equals. This principle emphasizes equality, mutual respect, and non-discrimination based on race, religion, gender, or any other factors.
It’s important to note that these criteria are not exhaustive, and the admission process is ultimately determined by the existing Commonwealth member states. The decision to accept a new member is made by consensus among the current member countries, typically during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
Over time, the Commonwealth has expanded its membership beyond the original criteria, and it now includes countries that were not former British territories or colonies. For instance, Mozambique became the first member without historical ties to the British Empire when it joined in 1995. This reflects the organization’s commitment to inclusivity and its focus on shared values rather than solely historical connections.
The Commonwealth continues to welcome new member countries based on their adherence to the organization’s values and principles. The decision to admit a new member is a reflection of the willingness of both the prospective country and existing member states to collaborate and contribute to the goals of the Commonwealth.
FEATURES OF COMMON-WEALTH MEMBER NATION
- In all the Commonwealth member-nations, English is the common official language spoken.
- The British Monarch (Queen of English) is the Head of the Commonwealth
- Most of the member –nations adopts the British style of parliamentary government
- Member-nations modeled their system of education on British type
- Participation in the Common-wealth games and sports by member-nation
- There is general co-operation among member-nations in the areas of international affairs, trade, finance, defense, law, medicine, agriculture etc.
- Member state adopt the English Common law
- Frequent signing of defense pact between some member-nations.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF COMMON WEALTH
- Solution to problems: To cooperate and find solutions to problems confronting its member nations in the areas of education, trade, finance, medicine, agriculture, science, sports etc.
- Common Understanding: One of the aims and objectives of common wealth is to facilitate common understanding among the members.
- Territorial Integrity: It was formed so as to respect and protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of member nations.
- Promotion of Sporting Activities: Promotion of sports among member states so that it will enhance the spirit of friendship and cooperation. This is held every four years.
- Common wealth was established in order to bring about economic development of member-states through the offering of financial, material, manpower and technical aids.
- To discuss the common language, English and speak with one voice in matters of international affairs.
GENERAL EVALUATION/ REVISION QUESTIONS
- What is indirect rule? Why did the British adopt the system of indirect rule?
- What factors led to the failure of indirect rule in Eastern Nigeria?
- Explain the weaknesses of indirect rule system.
- Briefly describe the origin of commonwealth.
- What are the qualifications for membership of commonwealth?