FIFTY-THREE NATIONS, ONE SYMBOLIC HEAD
THE COMMONWEALTH, QUEEN ELIZABETH II
Spread over every continent, with a population of 1.6 billion people which is 30 per cent of the world population. There are 53 current member countries of the Commonwealth. These are listed below. All recognise Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as the visible symbol of the free association of nations and, as such, as Head of The Commonwealth.
Among other things, Her Majesty attends the biennial Commonwealth summits, or CHOGMs, and the Commonwealth Games which are held every four years. At the Edinburgh summit in 1997, for the first time, she addressed the opening ceremony. On every Commonwealth Day a special message from The Queen is broadcast in all member countries. The Queen has visited Commonwealth countries throughout the world.
The position of Head implies no executive or constitutional power. Although The Queen has attended Commonwealth summits, and meets Heads of Government there individually, she takes no part in the working sessions of the meetings. The Queen’s dedication to the Commonwealth and her steadying influence are widely appreciated. In 2002, the celebrations of her Golden Jubilee drew messages of appreciation from Heads of Government and ordinary people alike. Some recalled her unifying influence in the Commonwealth at times of crisis, others her unfailing enthusiasm when visiting Commonwealth countries. In a Jubilee-year article, Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon said: “I wouldn’t like to speculate where the Commonwealth would be without Her Majesty’s 50 years of unstinting support and guidance”. And the former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Anyaoku added: “She has been more than a ‘visible symbol’ of a free association of nations – she has soothed its tempers, bound its wounds, encouraged its growth and, at certain times and in her own way, steeled its resolve. For her guidance and unwavering commitment, we are deeply in her debt.”
Information above from the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Royal Commonwealth Society.