- Commonwealth initiatives
Governments in the Commonwealth
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of nations united towards common values. This unique arrangement engenders a bank of goodwill that is unique among international organisations and provides a fluidity and sense of purpose which is shared across the governments of which it is composed.
Queen Elizabeth II is Head of the Commonwealth and in this position she enhances the sense of family and vitality amongst the Commonwealth through her consistent stewardship. The Commonwealth Secretariat undertakes the day-to-day operations of the Commonwealth and is headed by the Secretary General who provides it with management and executive direction.
There are 53 member governments of the Commonwealth, which display a range of different compositions: 32 of these members are republics, 5 are national monarchies, and the rest, 16, are realms in which the Queen’s sovereign power is vested in Governors General. The London Declaration freely affirmed the commitment of these countries to the recognition of the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth whilst also respecting the differing nature of their governments. This diversity of character between governments and the longevity of the Commonwealth are evidence of the fluid, open nature of the institution.
The strong goodwill and character of the Commonwealth is seen in the various meetings and summits, such as the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). CHOGM follows an informal yet frank style along the lines of a family discussion, designed to foster familiarity and instinctively breed consensus. Similarly, all governments are equally represented – small and large, rich and poor – all have equal status and are able to share expertise on a level playing field. Examples of these linkages are in the intergovernmental organisations such as the Commonwealth Secretariat, Commonwealth Foundation and Commonwealth of Learning, as well as the meetings of the ministers of health, women’s affairs, sports and finance.
Ultimately, the governments of the Commonwealth have a shared set of values: a commitment to democracy, the rule of law, and development. This is enshrined in the Harare Declaration and enforced via the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).
As a result of these facets the Commonwealth is attracting new members and becoming ever more relevant, in contrast to other multilateral organisations that are struggling to meet their purpose in a complex international arena.