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Section: The UK and international institutions

‘Life in the United Kingdom – A Guide for New Residents’ is Crown Copyright and is reproduced with the permission of Office of Public Sector Information.

The Commonwealth


The Commonwealth is an association of countries that support each other and work together towards shared goals in democracy and development. Most member states were once part of the British Empire, although a few countries which were not have also joined.

The Queen is the ceremonial head of the Commonwealth, which currently has 54 member states (see table below). Membership is voluntary. The Commonwealth has no power over its members, although it can suspend membership. The Commonwealth is based on the core values of democracy, good government and the rule of law.

Commonwealth members
































































































Antigua and Barbuda


Australia


The Bahamas


Bangladesh


Barbados


Belize


Botswana


Brunei Darussalam


Cameroon


Canada


Cyprus


Dominica


Fiji (currently suspended)


The Gambia


Ghana


Grenada


Guyana


India


Jamaica


Kenya


Kiribati


Lesotho


Malawi


Malaysia


Maldives


Malta


Mauritius


Mozambique


Namibia


Nauru


New Zealand


Nigeria


Pakistan


Papua New Guinea


Rwanda


Samoa


Seychelles


Sierra Leone


Singapore


Solomon Islands


South Africa


Sri Lanka


St Kitts and Nevis


St Lucia


St Vincent and the Grenadines


Swaziland


Tanzania


Tonga


Trinidad and Tobago


Tuvalu


Uganda


UK


Vanuatu


Zambia



The European Union


The European Union (EU), originally called the European Economic Community (EEC), was set up by six western European countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) who signed the Treaty of Rome on 25 March 1957. The UK originally decided not to join this group but it became a member in 1973. There are now 27 EU member states (see table below). Croatia will also become a member state in 2013.

EU member states



















































Austria


Belgium


Bulgaria


Cyprus


Czech Republic


Denmark


Estonia


Finland


France


Germany


Greece


Hungary


Ireland


Italy


Latvia


Lithuania


Luxembourg


Malta


Netherlands


Poland


Portugal


Romania


Slovakia


Slovenia


Spain


Sweden


UK


EU law is legally binding in the UK and all the other EU member states. European laws are called directives, regulations or framework decisions.

The Council of Europe


The Council of Europe is separate from the EU. It has 47 member countries, including the UK, and is responsible for the protection and promotion of human rights in those countries. It has no power to make laws but draws up conventions and charters, the most well-known of which is the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, usually called the European Convention on Human Rights.

The United Nations


The UK is part of the United Nations (UN), an international organisation with more than 190 countries as members. The UN was set up after the Second World War and aims to prevent war and promote international peace and security. There are 15 members on the UN Security Council, which recommends action when there are international crises and threats to peace. The UK is one of five permanent members of the Security Council.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)


The UK is also a member of NATO. NATO is a group of European and North American countries that have agreed to help each other if they come under attack. It also aims to maintain peace between all of its members.

Check that you understand


·         What the Commonwealth is and its role

·         Other international organisations of which the UK is a member



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‘Life in the United Kingdom – A Guide for New Residents’ is Crown Copyright and is reproduced with the permission of Office of Public Sector Information.