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Our history

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. The last two countries to join The Commonwealth - Rwanda and Mozambique - have no historical ties to the British Empire.

First meeting of Commonwealth Youth Ministers

29 January 1973

29 January 1973, Lusaka, Zambia. Minister met to consider the creation of a Commonwealth Youth Programme. Commending them for their endorsement of the Programme Secretary-General Arnold Smith stated that "I believe that it will stand as a monument to the delegates' realistic appreciation that in mutual assistance and support across the frontiers of geography, race and persuasion lies the best hope for the future of mankind."

Commonwealth Ministers' Forum on Public Sector Development

26 October 2006

26 - 27 October 2006, Sydney, Australia. The aim of the Forum was to advance public sector development in the Commonwealth. Its focus was on modernising governance for integrated service delivery; renewing human resources for leadership development and on bridging the digital divide for networked government.

First Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting

24 July 2002

24 July 2002, Manchester, United Kingdom. Government ministers responsible for sport in the Commonwealth met on 24 July 2002 in Manchester on the eve of the XVIIth Commonwealth Games. Participants affirmed their commitment to the development of sport and sporting co-operation in three key areas: Anti-doping, social cohesion and women in sport.

First Commonwealth Foreign Ministers Meeting

14 September 2002

14 September 2002, New York, Unites States of America. Meeting at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Secretary-General Don McKinnon stated that "with more than half of the Commonwealth's membership made up of small states, there was concern among foreign ministers about the increasing vulnerabilities of these countries and their ability to compete in the globalised world. The meeting provided a welcome opportunity to have these concerns heard and debated"

First Commonwealth Consultative Group of the Environment meeting

22 June 1993

22 June 1993, New York, Unites States of America. Following the first Earth Summit in Rio 1992, the Secretary-General convened the meeting of Environmental officials at Ministerial level to strengthen Commonwealth dialogue and cooperation on sustainable development and thereby contribute to effective follow up on the Summit recommendations.

First Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting

13 July 1985

13 July 1985, Nairobi, Kenya. Ministers considered means to empower national machineries and the bodies responsible for ensuring government policies and programmes addressed the needs of women, examined programme initiatives through the Commonwealth Secretariats Women's and Development Programme. In addressing Commonwealth Strategies to the Year 2000 they focused on Women and Credit, Violence Against Women and the importance of Women's Employment and Equal Opportunities to Development.

First Commonwealth Employment / Labour Ministers Meeting

1 June 1982

1 June 1982, Geneva, Switzerland. Meeting in Geneva in the wings of the International Labour Conference ministers discussed the effect of the world recession on employment, particularly its impact on young people and women who were disproportionately affected.