The Commonwealth Secretariat is a voluntary association of 54 countries that support each other and work together towards shared goals in democracy and development.
The world’s largest and smallest, richest and poorest countries make up the Commonwealth and are home to two billion citizens of all faiths and ethnicities – over half of whom are 25 or under. Member countries span six continents and oceans from Africa (19) to Asia (8), the Americas (3), the Caribbean (10), Europe (3) and the South Pacific (11).
The Commonwealth, with roots as far back as the 1870s, believes that the best democracies are achieved through partnerships – of governments, business, and civil society. This unique association was reconstituted in 1949 when Commonwealth Prime Ministers met and adopted what has become known as the ‘London Declaration’ where it was agreed all member countries would be “freely and equally associated.”
Since then membership has continued to grow. The most recent members are Rwanda – which was admitted at the 2009 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Cameroon and Mozambique, which was the first country to join with no historical or administrative association with another Commonwealth country.
Beyond the ties of history, language and institutions, it is the association’s values which unite its members: democracy, freedom, peace, the rule of law and opportunity for all. These values were agreed and set down by all Commonwealth Heads of Government at two of their biennial meetings (known as CHOGMs) in Singapore in 1971 and reaffirmed twenty years later in Harare.
There are three intergovernmental organisations in the association: the Commonwealth Secretariat (which executes plans agreed by Commonwealth Heads of Government through technical assistance, advice and policy development); the Commonwealth Foundation (which helps civil society organisations promote democracy, development and cultural understanding) and the Commonwealth of Learning (which encourages the development and sharing of open learning and distance education). Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is Head of the Commonwealth and Kamalesh Sharma, current Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, is the principal global advocate for the Commonwealth and Chief Executive of the Secretariat.