Coming from all faiths and ethnicities the Commonwealth is a powerful cross section of the peoples of our planet. Its future is represented by its citizens – over half them are 25 or under. A voluntary association of 54 countries who support each other and work together towards shared goals in democracy and development – that is Our Commonwealth of Nations.
• Freedom, democracy and equality of opportunity govern the outlooks of Commonwealth members, regardless of their circumstances. Political diversity is the watchword, with 16 parliamentary monarchies headed by Queen Elizabeth II, 5 other national monarchies and 33 republics.
• Commonwealth countries have a strong feeling of kinship. They use English and enjoy a common heritage. They warmly accept Queen Elizabeth II, the symbol of their free association, as the Head of the Family.
• All member states have experienced direct or indirect British rule or have been linked administratively to another Commonwealth country. The exception is Mozambique – the first country with no connection to the Commonwealth, to join.
• It has no formal constitutional structure. It works through inter-governmental consultation. Policy is set by the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Govt. Meeting with a very wide ranging brief; Communications and Public Affairs, Finance, Economic Affairs, Governance and Institutional Development, Human Rights, Legal & Constitutional Affairs, Political Affairs.
• The Commonwealth Secretariat based in London enacts the decisions of the Heads of Govt Meeting. It is led by the Secretary General (currently His Excellency Mr Kamalesh Sharma). Staff are drawn from most of the 54 member countries.
• The Commonwealth Foundation supports around 130 professional, youth, cultural and welfare non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in promoting international co-operation.
• Many of the events and groups that the Commonwealth has fostered are amongst its finest achievements – including the Commonwealth Games, and of course, the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth.
• The RASC is the only agricultural NGO spanning the association—a major responsibility —and a big challenge!