Edited by James Sperling
Chapter 31: Commonwealth
The Commonwealth Secretariat was set up in London in 1965. This marked the emergence of the Commonwealth as an international organization of states formed from territories which had been parts of the British Empire, initially the newly independent African states, and India, independent since 1947 (Mayall 2010b; Slinn 2010; Taylor 2010). Two states which had not been British territories were later admitted, Mozambique and Rwanda, though members insisted these were special cases. In 2012 there were 54 members; one, Fiji, had been fully suspended from participation in the main committees on 1 September 2009 because of a military coup in that state. There were members on all the world’s continents. They ranged from some of the richest countries in the world, such as Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and increasingly India, to some of the poorest such as Rwanda. But they all shared a link with Britain, regarding each other as distant cousins. They used the English language, had inherited, more or less, British customs with regard to legal and education systems, and many of their military officers had a residual link with Britain as they were graduates of British training schools such as Sandhurst. They also shared a set of norms, which were frequently stated, though not always upheld, such as support for parliamentary systems of government, anti-racialism and support for human rights, the whole paraphernalia of liberal governance with a British twist.
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