Membership Criteria

All member states, except for Mozambique (which joined in 1995) and now Rwanda (which joined in 2009), have experienced direct or indirect British rule or have been administratively linked to another Commonwealth country. At the 1997 summit in Edinburgh, Heads of Government considered the criteria for Commonwealth membership and agreed that in order to become a member of the Commonwealth, an applicant country should, as a rule, have had a constitutional association with an existing Commonwealth member state; that it should comply with Commonwealth values, principles and priorities as set out in the Harare Commonwealth Declaration of 1991; and that it should accept Commonwealth norms and conventions.

At the 2005 summit in Malta, aware of a growing interest in the Commonwealth from many countries, including outstanding applications to join, Heads of Government mandated a Committee on Commonwealth Membership that would prepare a report on the various issues of membership for the next CHOGM in Kampala, Uganda, in 2007. The committee -chaired by P J Patterson, former prime minister of Jamaica – met twice (in December 2006 and May 2007) prior to submitting its report to Commonwealth leaders for their consideration. Heads of Government subsequently set out their agreed ‘core criteria’ for membership in the Kampala Communiqué.

The application of the Republic of Rwanda for membership of the Commonwealth was considered by Heads of Government in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, in November 2009. This was done in accordance with the criteria and procedures agreed at their meeting in Kampala in 2007. At the end of their deliberations, they warmly welcomed Rwanda into the Commonwealth family as the then 54th member.