Timeline

1884: Lord Rosebery (later British PM) calls Empire a ' Commonwealth of Nations ' whilst visitingAustralia .

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: Imperial Conference: 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."

Regular Prime Ministers meetings become the forerunners of today's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings.

1930: First Commonwealth Games held in Hamilton, Canada.

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

1949: Beginning of the Modern Commonwealth.India decides to become a republic. LondonDeclaration 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 helps graduates study in other member countries.

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

1965: Commonwealth Secretariat set up to administer Commonwealth economic and international affairs.
Commonwealth Foundation set up .

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

Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation(CFTC) added to Secretariat, to put skills of member countries at each others disposal

1972: Pakistan withdraws from the Commonwealth over impending recognition of Bangladesh.

1975: Commonwealth begins to train 10,000 Namibian exiles in much-needed skills.

1977: Gleneagles Agreement starts apartheid South Africa's sporting isolation.

1979 : Lusaka Accord, the Commonwealth blueprint which lays out the path for Zimbabwe 's independence, agreed by heads of Government.

1980 : Zimbabwe becomes independent after Lancaster House agreement; first time Commonwealth Observers monitor elections.

1981: Melbourne Declaration reinforces Commonwealth commitment to fairer economic deal for developing countries.

Commonwealth sets up a 'Small States Office' inNew York , so that very small countries can take part in UN negotiations.

Commonwealth Action Group on Cyprus set up to assist UN security council efforts to resolve Cyprusproblem.

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

1987: Fiji's membership of the Commonwealth lapses after it declares itself a republic following a military coup.

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

1989: Pakistan rejoins the Commonwealth after an absence of 17 years.

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

1991: Harare Commonwealth Declaration sets the associations priorities for the 1990s 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 Action 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.

Military ruled Nigeria suspended from the Commonwealth after a 'serious violation of the principles set out in the Harare Declaration' (including the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa).

Mozambiqué becomes the first country with no colonial links to Britain to join the Commonwealth.

Predominantly Francophone Cameroon also joins.

1997: Fiji rejoins the Commonwealth after it adopts new constitution.

1999 : Commonwealth celebrates 50 years as a modern international association.

Nigeria's suspension from membership of the Commonwealth lifted.

Pakistan suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth after the unconstitutional overthrow of the democratically elected Government.

2000 : Following the overthrow of the elected government Fiji Islands suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth pending the restoration of democracy and the rule of law.

2001: Fiji suspension from Commonwealth councils lifted after Meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group 20 December.

2002: Commonwealth Chairpersons' Committee on Zimbabwe set up by CHOGM "to determine appropriate Commonwealth action on Zimbabwe" after a highly adverse report on the Presidential elections by Commonwealth observers.

Zimbabwe suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth for one year with immediate effect after Committee meets on 19 March.

2003: Zimbabwe 's suspension extended to December 2003.

Zimbabwe 's leaves the Commonwealth after its suspension is not lifted.

2004: Pakistans' suspension from Commonwealth councils lifted .