Commonwealth Timeline

1884: Lord Rosebery (who was later a British Prime Minister) uses the words "Commonwealth of Nations" for the first time whilst visiting Australia.

1887: First Colonial Conference for consultation between Britain and its colonies. This leads to Imperial Conferences between the UK and Prime Ministers of the self governing dominions.

1926: At an Imperial Conference, the UK and its dominions agree they are "equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations." These regular Prime Ministers meetings become the forerunners of today's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings.

1930: First Commonwealth Games held in Hamilton, Canada.

1931: Statue of Westminster gives legal status to the independance of Australia, Canada, Irish Free State, Newfoundland, New Zealand and South Africa.

1949: The beginning of the Modern Commonwealth. India decides to become a republic. London Declaration allows republics to retain membership, acknowledging the British Monarch as Head of the Commonwealth.

1953: Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II who becomes Head of the Commonwealth.

1957: Ghana becomes independent and the first majority-ruled African Commonwealth member.

1960: Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan established to help graduates study iin other member countries.

1961: South Africa withdraws from the Commonwealth, after pressure from member states against its apartheid policies.

1965: Commonwealth Secretariat and Commonwealth Foundation set up to administer Commonwealth economic and international affairs. Arnold Smith of Canada becomes the first Commonwealth Secretary-General.

1970: CYEC founded to promote and support youth development through high quality two way exchange visits for groups of young people in the UK and other Commonwealth countries.

1971: Singapore Declaration of Commonwealth Principles gives the association a set of ideals and agreed values for the first time.

1973: The Commonwealth Youth Programme was established by Commonwealth Heads of Government. It aims to " towards a society where young men and women are empowered to develop their potential, creativity and skills as productive and dynamic members of their societies and participate fully at every level of decision-making and development,both individually and collectively, promoting Commonwealth values of international co-operation."

1977: Gleneagles Agreement starts South Africa's sporting isolation, by saying that no Commonwealth nation should play against South Africa teams.

1980: Zimbabwe becomes independent. For the first time Commonwealth Observers monitor elections.

1981: Melbourne Declaration reinforces Commonwealth commitment to fairer economic deal for developing countries. The Commonwealth sets up a "Small States Office" in New York, so that very small countries can take part in UN negotiations.

1986: Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group visits Nelson Mandela in prison and sets out negotiating concepts to end apartheid in South Africa peacefully.

1987: Commonwealth of Learning set up to provide better and internationally recognised education to all its member states.

1989: Langakwi Declaration on the Environment commits the Commonwealth to an active role in the protecting natural balances and preventing environmental deterioration.

1991: Harare Commonwealth Declaration sets the Commonwealth priorities for the 1990's and beyond. Strengthened emphasis on Commonwealth contribution to democracy, human rights and equality.

1994: South Africa rejoins the Commonwealth following the end of apartheid.

1995: Commonwealth Ministerial Group (CMAG) set up by Commonwealth Heads of Government in New Zealand to deal with persistent and serious violators of the Commonwealth's shared principles.

1995: Mozambique becomes the first country with no colonial links to Britain to join the Commonwealth. Predominantly Francophone Cameroon also joins.

1997: Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting held in Edinburgh. For the first time a Commonwealth Youth Forum, made up of young people, from each nation, is held alongside.

2002: Commonwealth Chairpersons' Committee on Zimbabwe set up by CHOGM "to determine appropriate Commonwealth action on Zimbabwe" after a bad report on the Presedential elections by Commonwealth for one year with immediate effect after Committee meets on 19 March.

2003: Zimbabwe leaves the Commonwealth after its suspension is not lifted.

2006: Fiji Islands suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth pending the restoration of democracy and the rule of law after the military takeover of Fiji's democratically elected government.

2008: Kamalesh Sharma of India becomes the fith and current Commonwealth Secretary-General.

2009: Commonwealth celebrates 60 years as a modern international association.

2009. Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting takes place in Trinidad and Tobago. Rwanda becomes a member of the Commonwealth.