The Commonwealth is one of the world's oldest political association of states. Its roots go back to the British Empire when some countries were ruled directly or indirectly by Britain. Some of these countries became self-governing while retaining Britain's monarch as Head of State. They formed the British Commonwealth of Nations. In 1949 the association we know today - The Commonwealth - came into being. Since then, independent countries from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Pacific have joined The Commonwealth.
Membership today is based on free and equal voluntary co-operation and there are currently 53 independent countries. The last two countries to join The Commonwealth - Rwanda and Mozambique - have no historical ties to the British Empire.
The Commonwealth includes some of the world's largest, smallest, richest and poorest countries, spanning five regions. Thirty-one of its members are small states, many of them island nations. It is home to 2.2 billion citizens and over 60% of these are under the age of 30. Member states have no legal obligation to one another. Instead, they are united by language, history, culture, and their shared values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. The Commonwealth's guiding principles are in its Charter: www.thecommonwealth.org/our-charter.
The Commonwealth's policies are shaped by its member countries, who have an equal say on decisions affecting them. The Commonwealth organisations put these decisions and plans into action. The Commonwealth organisations are involved in diverse activities, from helping countries with trade negotiations to encouraging women's leadership, building the small business sector, supporting youth participation at all levels of society and providing experts to write laws.
You will find more information about The Commonwealth at www.thecommonwealth.org.