CH. XI - Britain's Overseas Territories and the Commonwealth

CH. XI– Britain’s Overseas Territories
and the Commonwealth

88- What are
Britain’s Overseas Territories?

Overseas Territories retain their connection with Britain because it is the wish of their peoples that they do so.
They have a substantial measure of responsibility for the conduct of their own affairs. Local self-government is generally provided by an Executive Council and elected legislature. Governors or Commissioners are appointed by the Crown on the advice of the Foreign Secretary and retain responsibility for external affairs, defence and, usually, internal security and public service.

Britain’s Overseas Territories comprise
Anguilla; Bermuda; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Montserrat; Pitcairn Islands (Ducie, Henderson and Oeno); St Helena and its Dependencies (Ascension and Tristan da Cunha); and Turks and Caicos Islands.

In July 1997, the 99-year lease which
China granted Britain for 92 per cent of Hong Kong under the Second Convention of Peking in 1898 expired. Hong Kong was returned to the People’s Republic of China under the terms of the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984. Under this agreement Hong Kong is able to maintain a high degree of autonomy, including independent finances, for 50 years as a Special Administrative Region of China.

There are also territories with no indigenous population:
British Antarctic Territory; British Indian Ocean Territory; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

89- What is the Commonwealth?

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of independent states which originated in the progressive dismantling of the British Empire after 1945. It works to promote such principles as democracy, economic development and international understanding, mainly through intergovernmental consultations and the Commonwealth organisations. There are no legal or constitutional obligations involved in membership.

The modern Commonwealth was founded in 1949
, from a handful of members then. The Commonwealth has grown to its present-day 53 members, comprising countries from almost every continent in the world. One in three people in the world is a Commonwealth citizen. They are people of many races and traditions, and from very different economic backgrounds. But they have a shared heritage, based on English as a common language, and similar administrative, educational, judicial and legal systems.

The Queen is the Head of the Commonwealth
She is also head of State in 16 member countries. These are:
United Kingdom, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.

The following members of the Commonwealth are republics, with a president as head of State:
Bangladesh, Botswana, Cameroon, Cyprus, Dominica, Fiji, The Gambia, Ghana, Guyana, India, Kenya, Kiribati, Malawi, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nigeria, Pakistan, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Vanuatu, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Of the remaining members of the Commonwealth,
Brunei is a sultanate and Lesotho, Malaysia, Swaziland and Tonga have their own monarchs. Western Samoa has a constitutional monarch, appointed for life.

VIDEO: the Queen and the Commonwealth

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