Commonwealth: Seven things you might not know

Latest news

    The Queen in India in 1997Image copyright PA

    Commonwealth leaders are meeting in London. Here are seven things about this club of nations that you might not know.

    1) It’s home to almost one-third of the world’s population

    About 2.4 billion people – out of 7.4 billion globally – live in the Commonwealth’s 53 countries. And most of them are under the age of 30.

    The biggest country by population is India, which accounts for about half of the total. But 31 Commonwealth members have a population of 1.5 million people or fewer.

    2) Some members were never part of the British Empire

    Image copyright Reuters
    Image caption Rwanda was colonised by Germany and Belgium, not the UK

    Rwanda and Mozambique became members in 2009 and 1995 respectively, and neither has a British colonial past or constitutional link.

    The club has lost members in the past. Robert Mugabe took Zimbabwe out in 2003 after its membership was suspended amid reports of election rigging.

    Pakistan was suspended after a military coup in 1999 and was re-admitted four-and-a-half years later. And South Africa withdrew in 1961 after it was criticised by Commonwealth members for its apartheid policies. It became a member again in 1994.

    The last country to leave was the Maldives in 2016.

    3) The Queen is head of state in only 16 of the countries

    Most of the Commonwealth states are republics and six – Lesotho, Swaziland, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Samoa and Tonga – have their own monarch.

    Image copyright Reuters
    Image caption Tonga has its own King – Tupou VI (centre)

    4) It’s rather big

    The Commonwealth makes up a quarter of the world’s land mass.

    The giant of the group is Canada, the world’s second largest country. India and Australia are huge too. But many of the states are small – like the Pacific island nations of Nauru, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, and Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean.

    Image copyright Reuters
    Image caption Canada’s massive…
    Image copyright Getty Images
    Image caption Nauru less so

    5) It changed its name

    Image copyright Getty Images
    Image caption The Commonwealth heads of government also met in London in 1969

    The modern Commonwealth was formed in 1949, after “British” was dropped from the name and allegiance to the Crown was removed from its statute. Only two people have been head of the organisation – King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II. But it’s not a hereditary role, although the Prince of Wales is widely expected to take it up when he becomes king.

    The founding Commonwealth members were Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom, who formed a “free association” of independent countries.

    The Commonwealth had no constitution until it adopted its Charter in 2012, which committed members to 16 values of democracy, gender equality, sustainable development and international peace and security.

    The Commonwealth has been criticised for being a post-colonial club and for having little influence. The Gambia announced its withdrawal in 2013 describing it as a “neo-colonial institution”.

    Supporters say the benefits which membership brings include developmental support and co-operation on international goals.

    Secretary-general Lady Scotland, said: “Our member countries have committed to nurture and protect democracy, development and respect for diversity.”

    6) The UK still has the biggest Commonwealth economy… just

    India could claim number one spot soon – possibly as early as this year.

    The combined GDP of the 53 countries is $10tn (£7tn). That’s nearly as big as China’s ($11tn, £7.7tn)) but some way behind that of the United States, on $19tn (£13.4tn).

    UK exports to Commonwealth countries in 2016 were roughly the same as those to Germany, accounting for about 8.9% of all UK exports. Imports from the Commonwealth represented about 7.8% of the UK’s total – equivalent to the value of those from China.

    7) There’s more than one commonwealth

    Image copyright EPA
    Image caption The Commonwealth of Independent States met recently in Minsk, Belarus

    Don’t forget the International Organisation of La Francophonie – a group of French-speaking countries. And there’s the Commonwealth of Independent States, which was set up in 1991 by former members of the Soviet Union.

    Read more from Reality Check

    Follow us on Twitter

    View the original article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43715079

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43715079

    In the same category are

    Trump-Putin summit: US president under fire over poll meddling comments Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionThe ways Trump and Putin see eye to eyeThere has been a barrage of criticism in the US aft...
    Usain Bolt may play football trial in Australia Image copyright EPA Image caption Usain Bolt has played in a number of exhibition matches this year Eight-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt is in t...
    Millions to face hosepipe ban in north-west England Image caption Carlisle and north Eden Valley are exempt from the forthcoming ban England's first hosepipe ban this summer has been announced by Un...
    ‘How we made Now That’s What I Call Music 100’ Image copyright BBC / Now Music Image caption The Now series has sold more than 120m copies in the UK since it launched in 1983 The 100th edition ...
    UK heatwave: Hidden landscapes the heatwave is revealing As the summer sun continues to beat down on the British Isles, ghosts are appearing in the yellowing fields.Normally kept hidden by lush grasses and...
    The perilous search for ‘Himalayan viagra’ More valuable than gold, Yarsagumba fungus is only found in the Himalayan mountains above 3,000 metres (10,000 feet). Every spring people come from mi...

    Leave a comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.