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England and the Commonwealth

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Objectifs
  • Découvrir un aspect de la notion d'étude territoire et mémoire
  • Approfondir ses connaissances sur l'organisation du Commonwealth
Points clés
  • Lord Rosebery est le premier à employer le terme Commonwealth pour désigner l'Empire britannique, en 1884.
  • Même si les pays qui le composaient ont pris leur indépendance, le Commonwealth existe encore en tant qu'organisation de 54 pays, presque tous d'anciennes colonies.
  • Le but qu'ils poursuivent en s'associant est de maintenir la paix et d'encourager la liberté et le progrès.
  • Actuellement, ils œuvrent pour l'égalité des sexes, la lutte contre le réchauffement climatique, la recherche médicale sur le coronavirus.
1. Introduction

The term “Commonwealth” was first used by Liberal politician Lord Rosebery in Adelaide, Australia, in 1884 when he referred to the British Empire as “a Commonwealth of Nations”. Since its creation, the situation has changed a lot between Britain and its colonies. Indeed, as the years went by, more and more countries emancipated from England and though they continued to owe allegiance to the King or Queen, the United Kingdom did not rule over them anymore. Later, other countries refused to owe allegiance to the British monarch but agreed to stay members of the Commonwealth.

We can consider that modern Commonwealth started in 1949. But what are the relationships that England and the Commonwealth members maintain today?

2. Modern Commonwealth

Modern Commonwealth was born in 1949 when India became a republic but though they were now independent from England they wanted to remain a member of the association. Their request was accepted and it was no longer compulsory to owe allegiance to the British Crown.

The Commonwealth is now a voluntary association of 54 independent countries that you can find in Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific. Almost all of them were formerly British colonies, but not necessarily. For example, the last 2 countries to join - Rwanda and Mozambique - have no historical ties with England. The association is based on democratic principles and each country, big or small, has the same weight. Consequently, Lesotho’s voice is as important as Canada’s or Australia’s.

According to leaders, Commonwealth members are "free and equal members of the Commonwealth of Nations, freely co-operating in the pursuit of peace, liberty and progress".
3. Its Role

The Commonwealth is an organisation which aims at maintaining international co-operation and trade links between people all over the world. Agreements are signed between the members and the role of the Commonwealth is to:

  • protect the environment and ensure that its members make a sustainable use of natural resources
  • develop trade and economic relationships
  • see that democracy is respected
  • help the old and the young, fight gender inequality and develop education, health and sport
  • support the smallest states and solve the problems they face

The members meet every two years and discuss important issues (as seen above) so as to find solutions if something goes wrong or affects a member. In 2020 the Commonwealth:

  • supported Zambia and Belize to enhance climate action
  • helped Tonga receive adaptation planning grant
  • helped Mauritian farmers adapt to climate changes
  • helped countries fight crime together
  • developed technological methods to tackle coronavirus
  • ...

The Commonwealth is thus a very important organization whose role must not be belittled because it helps millions of people in the world.

4. Conclusion

Since 1949 and the signing of the London Declaration, the Commonwealth has seen the number of its members grow from 8 to 54! Its impact on the population is enormous and the leaders are committed to ensuring achievement, progress and prosperity to their members, what they manage to do as effectively as possible. Their association demonstrates that unity makes strength in a world where, economically and socially, isolation is more and more difficult.

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