Hot and cold, rich and poor, wet and dry, island and land-locked, the Commonwealth countries look like a list of opposites. Just what do they all have in common?

Magazine - The Commonwealth


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The Commonwealth

March 11th is Commonwealth Day, but what exactly is the Commonwealth?

Where is the Commonwealth, and who lives there?

The Commonwealth is a group of 54 countries, spread all over the globe, north to south, east to west. The countries range in size from the tiny island of Nauru in the Pacific ocean (which is so small that it doesn't have a capital), to Canada, the largest territory in the world. Both rich and poor countries are members - the GDP of Singapore is about 200 times that of Sierra Leone. Over one and a half billion people (a quarter of the world's population) live in the Commonwealth, and between them represent nearly every religion, race and political system on the planet.

What is the Commonwealth?

Hot and cold, rich and poor, wet and dry, island and land-locked, the list of opposites used to describe the countries which make up the Commonwealth seems endless. Just what do they all have in common?

The member states all use English as a common working language, and have similar legal and education systems. The countries support each other in their aims to reduce poverty, prejudice, ignorance and disease, and to promote human rights and social development.

Historically, the modern Commonwealth is a product of the British Empire, and began in the late 1940s, after India and Pakistan gained independence. As more and more countries took charge of their own affairs in the 1950s and 1960s, many were attracted to the aims and values of the Commonwealth, resulting in the family of nations seen today.

Activities and events

The Commonwealth is active in a huge number of areas, including ecology, health and economics, providing and sharing information, training and expertise to further the aims of the organisation. The Heads of Government Meeting is held every two years, where the leaders of the member states get together to discuss current issues. Commonwealth Day is held in the second week of March every year, where Commonwealth citizens, particularly children, have a chance to celebrate their friendship.

The Commonwealth also hosts sporting and arts events. There is an annual writers prize, which has been won in previous years by famous authors such as Peter Carey and Louis de Bernieres, and a yearly arts and crafts competition. Perhaps the most well-known event sponsored by the organisation is the Commonwealth Games, which is held every four years in one of the member countries. The games have gained the nickname 'the Friendly Games' because of their reputation for good-natured competitiveness.





I suppose there is a mistake in the topic. There is said that Canada is the largest country in the world, what is  obviously wrong. Russia has largest territory.

Hello Oxys,
You are absolutely correct, of course!  The five largest countries by area in the world are:
The United States
As you can see, the text here is about the Commonwealth, and the text should describe Canada as the largest country in the Commonwealth, not the world.
Well spotted! We will pass this on to our editors.
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

very interesting ,thanks

This article helped me a lot as a citizen of a french speaking country to understand in detail what is the commonwealth. Thank you very much for the article

This article is so interesting .I get some useful information about commonwealth.Because world is like a global every country can solve his problem with the help of mutual relationship.

i liked this article. there was enough preliminary information and ideals the countries share. but countries need to vigorously pursue programs agreed upon so that all can improve.

Latin America and Spain Relationships
I've always thought that England has been a country with a great vision throughout the times.
It's interesting the fact that countries where England established its Empire (which always means a hated subordination, slavery, exploitation of wealth by the metropolis in order to become most powerful, etc.) enjoy a particular friendship with England. In Latin America, for instance, we've never achieved a sort of “Community of Nations” with our former colonizer, Spain, for many reasons, although there have been attempts.

First, Latin American nations, since they gained independence they tried to break the links with Spain in foreign policy to avoid Spanish influence could overthrow the new states. England, France and later, the U.S., were the most favoured. Although in fact this first reason is paradoxical because the heads of government and the ruling class in Latin America in the first years of independence, i.e. the first half of the nineteenth century, where Creoles, i.e. descendants of Spaniards born in America, so they had their families in Spain where even some of their members were nobles.

Second, Latin American countries have blamed Spain for their underdevelopment and their problems with democratization*. Spanish influence in some Latin American countries just as Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua, is kept away. One peculiar fact that has encouraged this enmity in these years, has been the famous phrase uttered by Juan Carlos I of Spain to President of Venezuela Chavez: "Why don't you shut up?"

Third, the lack of a real foreign policy towards Latin America by Spain that lets to integrate its former colonies, has also contributed to keep away both “worlds”.

Forth, the lack of tolerance, respect and solidarity of Spaniards towards Latin Americans. A professor in my University told me some months ago that when he studied a master degree in Spain, Latin Americans were maltreated intolerantly; even professors there in their own classes insulted them with comments related with xenophobia, prostitution, drugs, etc. Can you imagine that dear reader? And of course, he studied in one of the most prestigious Universities in Spain.

So, “communities of nations” between colonies and their former metropolis are an instrument of development for the countries, but both their creation and efficient working depend largely in the will of forgetting the past, the tolerance between its members and of course, in the will to work together for the benefit of the poorest members, something that between Latin America and Spain is quite difficult nowadays.
Carlos Andrés Pérez Garzón


A great analysis my friend,i believe relations between nations should be based on respect and mutual benefit,not on fake policies,this commonwealth is a pretense for the poor members are still suffering the same poverty and ignorance,we simply cannot forget the past

Thank you!

Very interesting Article, but I am not sure if They are reaching exactly the goals of the Organization because anyone can see Commonwealth members from the 60's that are still in extreme poverty.