Explained | Will the future of the Commonwealth change?

Source: The post is based on the article “Explained | Will the future of the Commonwealth change?” published in The Hindu on 20th September 2022.

What is the 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 Commonwealth?

The Commonwealth of Nations is a group of 56 member countries, the vast majority of which are former British colonies. It was established by the London Declaration in 1949.

The member countries are mostly from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the Pacific. Three European nations are part of the Commonwealth: Cyprus, Malta and UK.

The developed nations of the Commonwealth are Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. India is also part of the Commonwealth.

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. 

What is the relevance of the Commonwealth 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Although the Commonwealth may seem like an outdated forum after the death of the queen, yet it retains a suitable relevance which has sustained it over time even after the decolonization of the British Empire.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 this regard, Queen Elizabeth played a critical role in championing the organization and maintaining the group’s relevance.

Has any country left the commonwealth?

In the 1970s, a host of countries chose to leave the Commonwealth realm including Dominica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, effectively removing the Queen as their head of state. 

In 2021, Barbados left the realm arguing that the time has come fully to leave our colonial past behind.

Which countries are moving towards ending formal ties with monarchs?

Australia, New Zealand, and the Bahamas are likely to remove King Charles from the role of official Head of State and become republics.

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.

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