How relevant is the Commonwealth? | The Stream


This month the United Kingdom will host a gathering of some 53 heads of government representing about a third of the world’s population, all of them members of the Commonwealth of Nations. But what exactly is the Commonwealth and does being a member really matter?

The Commonwealth was formed in 1949, in part, as a way to give former British colonies the ability to establish their own government. Over the years it’s grown to include nations with no ties to the United Kingdom. However to join, a nation must have a historical constitutional association with another Commonwealth country. Joining nations must also agree to the broad principles of the Commonwealth – development, democracy, human rights and peace.

Some so-called Brexiters, those in favour of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, believe the Commonwealth could take the place of the EU. That’s an idea journalist Ishaan Tharoor disagrees with. Tharoor, a foreign affairs correspondent for The Washington Post, believes it’s far-fetched to assume that the Commonwealth will take the place of other global partnerships.

So does the Commonwealth have a purpose? We’ll discuss that on this episode of The Stream.


Ishaan Tharoor @ishaantharoor
Foreign Affairs Reporter, The Washington Post

Hon. Patricia Scotland @PScotlandCSG
Commonwealth Secretary-General

Ibtisam Ahmed @Ibzor
Doctoral Researcher, University of Nottingham

Timothy M. Shaw
Former Director, Institute of Commonwealth Studies

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