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 itโ€™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. Thatโ€™s an idea journalist Ishaan Tharoor disagrees with. Tharoor, a foreign affairs correspondent for The Washington Post, believes itโ€™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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