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ACM Home arrow The Commonwealth

The Commonwealth
The Commonwealth


The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-three independent member states which grew out of the British Empire.

Only two members, Mozambique and Rwanda, were not British colonies.

The member states cooperate within a framework of common values and goals including the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, the rule of law, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, multilateralism, and world peace.

 The Commonwealth is not a political union, but an intergovernmental organisation through which countries with diverse social, political, and economic backgrounds are regarded as equal in status.

The Commonwealth Secretariat is headed by the Secretary-General. Meetings of  Commonwealth Heads of Government are held every two years.

 Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of the Commonwealth and as such is a symbol of the members free association.  Her Majesty is also the monarch of 16 members of the Commonwealth which are referred to as Commonwealth realms. 



...history...


The first usage of the term ‘Commonwealth of Nations’ appears to be to have been in 1884 by Lord Rosebery when he was visiting Australia.  He described the changing the British Eempire  with some of its colonies becoming more independent as a Commonwealth of Nations.

Conferences of British and colonial prime ministers had occurred periodically since 1887, leading to the creation of the Imperial Conferences in 1911. The Commonwealth developed from the Imperial Conferences.

A specific proposal was presented by Jan Christian Smuts in 1917 when he coined the term "the British Commonwealth of Nations," and envisioned the "future constitutional relations and readjustments in the British Empire."  Smuts successfully argued that the Empire should be represented at the all-important Versailles Conference of 1919 by delegates from the dominions as well as Britain.

 In the Balfour Declaration at the 1926 Imperial Conference, Great Britain and its dominions agreed they were "equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations".

The members agreed that in future governors general should be appointed by the sovereign after consultation with and advice from the ministers of the respective Dominion.

These aspects to the relationship were eventually formalised by the Statute of Westminster in 1931. Australia, New Zealand, and Newfoundland delayed ratification of the statute.  Newfoundland never did as it joined Canada in 1948 . Australia and New Zealand did in 1942 and 1947 respectively.



...British Commonwealth becomes The Commonwealth....



After World War II, the British Empire was gradually dismantled to just 14 British overseas territories, still held by the United Kingdom today.

In April 1949, following the London Declaration, the word "British" was dropped from the title of the Commonwealth to reflect its changing nature.  

In addition, it was agreed that the overseas members should no longer be referred to as dominions, but rather as Commonwealth realms

Burma (also known as Myanmar, 1948), and Aden (1967) are the only states that were British colonies at the time of the war not to have joined the Commonwealth upon post-war independence.





...absent friends...




Among the former British colonies, protectorates and mandates  which have  never become members of the Commonwealth are the United States (1776)  Egypt (independent in 1922), Iraq (1932), Transjordan (1946), British Palestine (part of which became the state of Israel in 1948), Sudan (1956), British Somaliland (which became part of Somalia in 1960), Kuwait (1961), Bahrain (1971), Oman (1971), Qatar (1971), and the United Arab Emirates (1971).



...republics...

The issue of countries with constitutional structures not based on a shared Crown but that wanted to remain members of the Commonwealth, came to a head in 1948 with passage of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948, in which Ireland renounced the sovereignty of the Crown[ and thus left the Commonwealth. The Ireland Act 1949 passed by the Parliament of Westminster offered citizens of the Republic of Ireland a status similar to that of citizens of the Commonwealth in UK law.

In April 1949 at a Commonwealth prime ministers meeting in London, it was agreed that a realm could become a republic and if approved by the other members could remain within the Commonwealth.

 Under this London Declaration, India agreed that, when it became a republic, in January 1950, it would accept the British Sovereign as a "symbol of the free association of its independent member nations and as such the Head of the Commonwealth".


...until 2007, re-apply...
 

Until 2007, a realm wishing to become a republic still had to reapply for membership of the Commonwealth.  This would have to be approved by all members.  In 1999, ACM revealed that Australian republicans, including the Attorney-General had overlooked the requirements of the London declaration. 

Constitutional monarchists criticised the Republicans for not ascertaing this and ensuring that there would be no objection from other members to any change of status.  This would have required unanimous approval of other members. In practice approval seems to have been ssumed in the absence of an objection.  At that time Australia did not have the most friendly relations with the Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir. He had vetoed our membership of another international group.

Now,  change to a republic can be effected without reapplication provided the member is observing all of the Commonwealth criteria for membership. The judgement on this is made by the other members acting unanimously.  Thus it could be argued that the 2007 decision could still raise the issue of a veto following a change of status .

Following India's precedent, other nations became republics, or constitutional monarchies with their own monarchs, while some countries retained the same monarch as the United Kingdom, but their monarchies developed differently and soon became fully independent of the British monarchy. The monarch of each Commonwealth realm, whilst the same person, is regarded as a separate legal personality for each realm.  In 1999 th 

Gaddafi suspended from UN Human Rights Council - compare the Commonwealth Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 01 March 2011
   
 
 
The UN General Assembly has suspended Libya from the UN Human Rights Council over leader Muammar Gaddafi's brutal crackdown on opposition protests.

Some readers may be surprised that Gaddafi’s people were on the UN Human rights Council. Was this a joke?

The Australian (2/3) reports that the 192-member assembly passed a suspension resolution on Tuesday by consensus, without a vote, after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the body to "act decisively" against Gaddafi.

Image
[ Colonel Gaddafi]


The UN should be embarrassed by the fact that Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya ever had a seat on the Human Rights Council or its predecessor. At one stage Libya assumed the presidency.

It is not only the Gaddafi regime. Governments with appalling human rights records are there and even deign to sit in judgement on countries like Australia.




...Gaddafi and Mugabwe still in the UN, but not the Commonwealth...





Gaddafi may be suspended from the Human Rights Council. Libya is a full member of the UN.
 
Compare that with our Commonwealth. If a member is guilty of human rights violations it gets its marching orders as Zimbabwe did. But Mugabwe is still in the United Nations.

Image

 

 
[ President Mugabe]


Libya was under British administration after our victory over the Nazis in North Africa, albeit briefly. Power was handed over to the anti-Nazi king Idress, subsequently overthrown by republican Colonel Gadaffi. But the link is probably sufficient for Libya to apply for membership of the Commonwealth. And before the republican movement ridicules this , there is a queue trying to get in.

One reason may be is that our Commonwealth  is one international organization with standards.





... republican movement's disdain for Commonwealth...




 

[Continued below]

 

The UN General Assembly has suspended Libya from the UN Human Rights Council over leader Muammar Gaddafi's brutal
Yet with breathtaking ignorance of the rules, Australia’s republicans in 1999 jeopoardised our membership. Caught out they claimed the rules were not as ACM said.  But the Secretary-General confirmed in writing that we were absolutely correct.

And this was confirmed when the Commonwealth changed the rules. ( I suspect not sufficiently to relieve a lazy republican movement from exercising due diligence).

In the meantime the republican movement recently  gratuitously slammed the Commonwealth of Nations as a “diminished organisation”, one unlikely to be anything other than a ”second order player”. 

Responding to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary William Hague’s plans to return the Commonwealth to the forefront of the debate on global issues, republican spokesman Professor John Warhurst said the Commonwealth had been overtaken by the emphasis on bilateral relations and much newer, more relevant economic and security groupings.” (John Kerin, The Australian Financial Review, 21 January, 2011)

Ones which open their doors to the likes of Gaddafi and Mugabwe, we suppose.     


 
Republicans slam Commonwealth. Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Sunday, 23 January 2011

 

The republican movement has quite gratuitously slammed the Commonwealth of Nations as a “diminished organisation”, one unlikely to be anything other than a ”second order player”.

Responding to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary William Hague’s plans to return the Commonwealth to the forefront of the debate on global issues, republican spokesman Professor John Warhurst said the Commonwealth had been overtaken by the emphasis on bilateral relations and much newer, more relevant economic and security groupings.” (John Kerin, The Australian Financial Review, 21 January, 2011)

 

 Image


...Commonwealth important...


ACM National Convenor Professor David Flint “Without British leadership, any attempt to reinvigorate the Commonwealth would b every difficult...though no doubt it would be stronger if Britain had not joined the European Union.”

Image
[ Meeting in 1949; Inida continues ]


He told the newspaper that in many respects the Commonwealth performed at a higher level than  other international organisations, and without the cost associated with them “

“ The Commonwealth maintains it standards. Take for example the case of Zimbabwe, which was suspended from the Commonwealth and then withdrew. Zimbabwe, notwithstanding the appalling record of the government remains a full member of the United Nations.  States with highly dubious human rights records can not only remain members; there are too may instances where they are actually appointed to bodies charged with investigating human right sviolations.”“

 

Countries are lining up to join the Commonwealth. It would be a mistake to think of the commonwealth in terms of CHOGM and the Commonwealth Games only, important as they are.  The Commonwealth is a continuing network of like minded countries with a common language and common traditions and values.


It is surprising that after the republicans’ serious error in not preparing members of the Commonwealth for the change in 1999 that they have not since bothered to try to understand what an important organisation is it and the great potential it has for Australia.



...Republicans totally unprepared about  Commonwealth membership in 1999....


 

During the 1999 referendum campaign, the republican Attorney General announce dthta change toa republic could not affect our membership of the commonwealth and no action was necessary in this regeard.ACM informed a surprised republican movement that the rules of the Commonwealth meant that should Australia become a republic it would  have to reapplying for membership.  Any other member would have had a veto.

(CHOGM agreed that this was the rule in 2007 and amended  it; I suspect the change is ineffective to stop a veto.)

We were surprised that no preparations whatsoever had been undertaken for this, for example, ensuring that all  governments were supportive.|



...republicans claim no Commonwealth rule exists – but the no-existent rule was  amended in 2007....



Image

[ Continued below] 

   
Read more...
 
Special Report from the Caribbean: Crown and Commonwealth Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Thursday, 13 January 2011

Through the generosity of a leading Caribbean publication, ACM is able to bring to our readers this truly magnificent production celebrating the Commonwealth and the Realms.

This is the work of a talented young Jamaican, Peter Williams. (To see the article, click here or on the image below)

Image

Peter Williams was born in the Caribbean island of Jamaica with a career spanning banking, diplomacy and philanthropy.

His contributed articles to JAMAQUE  - a leading Caribbean lifestyle magazine, showcases the beauty of the Caribbean and highlights the positive impact its people are making in transforming cultural and lifestyle trends in some of the most fashionable cities across the globe.


 

When asked about his work to prepare the article 'Celebrating the Commonwealth and the Realms', Peter said:

 

The response to this article showed me just how much love the citizenry of the Commonwealth hold for Queen Elizabeth II.

From Governor Generals who represent her in the 15 Realms, to men and women in the most humble positions in society.

There was so much interest in the article that it was the most read and commented on piece in JAMAQUE's Winter 2010 edition.

There is truly something very special about Her Majesty, and the Realms will have the honour in 2012 to celebrate Her Majesty's 60th year on the Throne as our shared Monarch.

Coincidentally 2012 will also be the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's independence - so that year we here in Jamaica will have two good reasons to celebrate with much fanfare, and I am very much looking forward to the events, receptions and festivals that will be put on."



Image
[From the Caribbean to the Pacific: Peter Williams filming in New Caledonia]

 
Special Report from the Caribbean : Crown and Commonwealth Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Through the generosity of a leading Caribbean publication, ACM is able to bring to our readers this truly magnificent production celebrating the Commonwealth and the Realms.

This is the work of a talented young Jamaican, Peter Williams. (To see the article, click here or on the image below)


Peter Williams was born in the Caribbean island of Jamaica with a career spanning banking, diplomacy and philanthropy.

His contributed articles to JAMAQUE  - a leading Caribbean lifestyle magazine, showcases the beauty of the Caribbean and highlights the positive impact its people are making in transforming cultural and lifestyle trends in some of the most fashionable cities across the globe.


 

When asked about his work to prepare the article 'Celebrating the Commonwealth and the Realms', Peter said:

 

The response to this article showed me just how much love the citizenry of the Commonwealth hold for Queen Elizabeth II.

From Governor Generals who represent her in the 15 Realms, to men and women in the most humble positions in society.

There was so much interest in the article that it was the most read and commented on piece in JAMAQUE's Winter 2010 edition.

There is truly something very special about Her Majesty, and the Realms will have the honour in 2012 to celebrate Her Majesty's 60th year on the Throne as our shared Monarch.

Coincidentally 2012 will also be the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's independence - so that year we here in Jamaica will have two good reasons to celebrate with much fanfare, and I am very much looking forward to the events, receptions and festivals that will be put on."

 


[From the Caribbean to the Pacific: Peter Williams filming in New Caledonia]
 
Wikileaks and the Crown Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Sunday, 12 December 2010
   
   
 
The Wikileaks affair would of course eventually unearth some document, from somewhere, which queries the continuation of some aspect of the monarchy. This one relates to the position of the Head of the Commonwealth; it discloses nothing new.   

There is of course no formal rule in place governing the succession to this office. There never has been.

The fact is it is inconceivable that the future  Kings and Queens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and other Realms will not also be the Head of the Commonwealth.  

Image



...Wikileaks...





As we explained here four months ago in The Constitution and National Security (5/8), the Wikileaks affair has arisen because the American government has been careless in allowing access to secret information, and is also paralysed with fear over the meaning of the Pentagon Papers case.

That comes from a constitution which encourages an excess of judicial activism.  In any event the President and the Congress has had months to act, but seem to have become impotent.

In the latest round some journalists and others blithely repeat the mantra that Mr. Assange – who is not a whistleblower but is engaged on an agenda aginst the United States and the West - has committed no offence.

But if the reports are true that, for example,  Western informers in Afghanistan have been exposed by the leaks,  they are terribly endangered and this gives comfort to American enemies.

That and the revelation of US defence secrets would appear to be the most heinous of offences.  The dicta of most judges – unbelievably not all- in the Pentagon Papers case would have allowed a remedy for the threat of publishing such material.




...succession...



So  now we have some cable  which states what everybody who knows anything about the Commonwealth knows.  There is no formal rule concerning succession to the title Head of the Commonwealth.  

This cable has understandably been the subject of a report by Barclay Crawford in The Sunday Telegraph on 12 December 12, 2010. The subeditor whose job it is is to attract readers, has given this the headline , “Uncertain future for Royals


In August 2009 I was invited by Alex Try of The Royal Commonwealth Society in London to comment on the subject in their Commonwealth Conversation, “
Is the Commonwealth inconceivable without a monarch?

This is what I wrote. It remains true.



….Crown essential…




Just as the Crown was essential to the evolution of the world’s most successful system of governance, the Westminster model, so it has been at the very centre of the long evolution of the Commonwealth.No one has put The Queen’s personal contribution as Head of the Commonwealth more clearly than did the thirteen year old Australian youth ambassador, Harry White at the opening of the Melbourne Commonwealth Games:

“Your Majesty, during the past 54 years of your reign you have been the glue that has held us all together in the great Commonwealth of Nations in good times and bad times. The love and great affection that we all hold for you is spread across one third of the world’s population in our Commonwealth.

”Most citizens of the Commonwealth have known no other Head. Only the elderly remember her father the dutiful King George VI, and the immense feeling of sadness that descended on the Commonwealth on his untimely demise.It is hard to imagine the end of this present reign, but when it comes there will be again great sadness but recognition, not only in the Commonwealth, but across the world, for her lifetime of impeccable service. Indeed it is probable she will give her name to the long post war era.Attention will inevitably then turn to the Coronation of the King, and incidentally, to the new Prince of Wales.

It is inconceivable that at this momentous time, the Heads of Government would even entertain a suggestion that the central and indeed crucial office of the Head of the Commonwealth should rotate among themselves.

This would not only be unworkable, it would be unacceptable. Such a Head of the Commonwealth could never be seen to transcend politics and division as the new Sovereign will immediately demonstrate as the constitutional monarch of not one but sixteen diverse countries.



That the Heads of Government will not immediately accept King Charles III is unrealistic. It is as unrealistic as expecting that when the Archbishop invites the Coronation congregation in Westminster Abbey to do homage and service to him, they would actually refuse.

Admittedly there has been a disgraceful and mischievous campaign against him by rogue elements in the British media, two of whom were convicted for their criminal activities.



...increasing international respect...


 

This campaign has centred on the sort of caricature journalism used against his father, and appallingly, even his young sons. But the fact is Prince Charles commands increasing considerable international respect.

At the recent Group of 20 meeting in London he called – and chaired – a crucial and very effective meeting at the highest levels to preserve the world’s rainforests.

Participants included the Indonesian President, the World Bank President, the German Chancellor, the Japanese, Italian, Australian, Guyanese, and Norwegian Prime Ministers, the President of the European Union Commission, Hilary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, the British Foreign Secretary and the Brazilian Foreign Minister.

At a time when most are thinking of retirement, he works to fund a whole suite of worthy charities, raising close to a quarter of billion dollars annually.

There can be no doubt that as Head of the Commonwealth he will attract increased international standing for this organisation which by its attachment to principle and enforcement of standards is attracting greater international respect.









 
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