Future of the Commonwealth
- 19 Sep 2022
- 7 min read
Why in News?
The death of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, marks not only the end of an era for the British monarchy but also a turning point for the 14 Commonwealth realms of which she was the Head of State.
What is the Background?
- There has been a significant transformation of the socio-economic environment in the 14 realms countries since the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
- Several countries out of these 14 called to establish a republic and break free of historical ties to the British monarchy.
- A republic is a form of government in which "supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives".
- Thus, it is likely that during the reign of the incumbent King Charles III, the Queen’s successor, more nations will follow in the footsteps of Barbados.
- In 2021, Barbados became the 18th country to remove the British monarch from the role of head of state and substitute them with a national government functionary.
What is the Commonwealth?
- The Commonwealth of Nations is a group of 56 countries composed mostly of former British colonies.
- It was established by the London Declaration in 1949.
- While members of the Commonwealth are predominantly located in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific, with many of them emerging economies, the three European members of the group are Cyprus, Malta, and the U.K.
- The developed nations of the Commonwealth are Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
- Republics and Realms:
- The Commonwealth consists of both Republics and Realms.
- The British monarch is the Head of State for the realms, whereas the republics are ruled by elected governments except in the case of five countries — Brunei Darussalam, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malaysia, and Tonga — each a self-governed monarchy.
- The realms are Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.
What is the Commonwealth's Relevance in Today's World?
- Although the Commonwealth may seem like an outdated forum after the death of the queen, yet it retains a suitable relevance which has sustained it over time even after the decolonization of the British Empire.
- In the age of multilateral diplomacy, where states want a forum to express their views, advance their interests and shape global norms, the Commonwealth provides precisely such a forum.
- The monarch is only the symbolic head, the leaders of the free world make the Commonwealth work.
- Throughout her reign, Queen Elizabeth played a critical role in championing the organisation and maintaining the group’s relevance, regularly travelling to meet with leaders of Commonwealth nations across the world.
What is the Future of Commonwealth?
- Australia, Newzealand, and the Bahamas are likely to become Republics in future.
- Governments in five other Caribbean nations — Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica and Saint Kitts and Nevis — have signalled their intention to act similarly.
- Thus, it is not beyond imagination that following the death of Queen Elizabeth, the Commonwealth realms might fade into being a relic of the past, and nations that suffered a history of colonialism — along with its attendant violence and resource extraction — will move forward to establish themselves as republics.