The Commonwealth has a secretariat to oversee its business, but no formal constitution or international laws. The member states co-operate following common values and goals, including the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, and world peace.
Most of the countries in the Commonwealth were once ruled by Britain. This is why English is the common language. In 1931, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa (which had once been ruled by Britain, but were now independent) decided to join Britain in a club called the Commonwealth of Nations.
In 1947, India and Pakistan became independent after a long struggle against Britain. Two years later India decided that it also wanted to stay in the Commonwealth as a republic and agreed to accept the British king or queen as a symbol. The Commonwealth became ‘a free association of independent nations.’ The modern multi-racial Commonwealth was born.
In 1961, South Africa left the Commonwealth because of its racist policies of apartheid. In 1971, Commonwealth leaders agreed to work for racial justice and supported the struggle of South Africans against white minority rule. The Commonwealth strongly opposes racism.
In 1994, South Africa returned to the Commonwealth as a multi-racial democracy under the leadership of Nelson Mandela. He famously said: “The Commonwealth makes the world safe for diversity.” This means that the Commonwealth is a good example of how different people from different countries can work together for good things.