The Commonwealth of Nations, also simply called the Commonwealth, is a 54 member political association. Almost all the member-states are former colonial territories of the erstwhile British Empire. Commonwealth of Nations was instituted in 1931 and its headquarters is situated in London. The objectives of Commonwealth were outlined for the first time in the Singapore Declaration in 1971. It mentioned that the Commonwealth is committed to establishing world peace, promoting individual liberty and representative democracy, pushing for equality and opposing racism, encouraging free trade and battle poverty, ignorance, and disease.
The main institutions of the Commonwealth are the Secretariat, which concentrates on intergovernmental facets, and the Commonwealth Foundation, which concentrates on non-governmental relations among the member nations. The member-states have no legal responsibilities to one another, but are associated through their historical ties and use of English language. Their shared values of rule of law, democracy and human rights are included in the Commonwealth Charter and are furthered through the Commonwealth Games.
Voluntary acceptance of the status of the Queen of Britain as the symbolic head of Commonwealth of Nations by independent member states that
were once part of the erstwhile British Empire is the main precondition for membership. However, a number of countries like Egypt, Sudan, Iraq,
etc. did not join the Commonwealth though they were once part of British Empire.
Further, in the summit that was held in Harare in 1991, the declaration prescribed adherence to some basic principles like promotion of democracy, judicial independence, human rights, good governance, etc. as the binding condition for getting membership into the Commonwealth.
Mozambique and Rwanda are the only two countries which became members of Commonwealth of Nations, though they were not part of British Empire previously. Countries like that of India and Sri Lanka, who have got elected Presidents as their Heads of the State (being Republics), recognize the Queen of England as only the Head of the Commonwealth.
Some countries like New Zealand, Australia and Canada, however, recognize the Queen as the titular head of their countries and they have their own Governors-General appointed by the British Queen on the recommendation of the Cabinet. The diplomatic officers between any two Commonwealth countries are called as High Commissioners as against Ambassadors representing non-Commonwealth countries.
The uniqueness of Commonwealth of Nations is the fact that it consists of countries both from developing and developed categories and with a wide range of political and economic development. Except in case of the United Nations, no other international group has such heterogeneous nature. Commonwealth of Nations has the observer status in the UN General Assembly.
The Heads of Governments of different Commonwealth countries hold biennial meeting known as Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
The Commonwealth of Nations does not have any formal constitution, treaty or charter as the basis of its functioning.
It is only the CHOGMs that provide the basic guidelines for the Commonwealth. CHOGM takes its decisions based on consensus, rather than on voting method.