views updated Jun 08 2018


As of May 2006, the UN had 191 member states, including 51 charter members (the 50 countries that sent representatives to the San Francisco conference, plus Poland, which ratified the charter shortly afterward) and 140 states that have joined the organization since 1945, the great majority of them former colonial territories that have achieved independence. The table in this chapter shows the growth of UN membership, the roster lists the members of the UN in alphabetical order and gives the dates of their admission to the UN. The roster does not take account of the several federations or unions of states that were created or dissolved during membership.

Thus, Syria, an original member, ceased independent membership on joining with Egypt to form the United Arab Republic in 1958. On resuming its separate status in 1961, Syria also resumed separate membership, which is still officially dated from the country's original day of entry. Tanganyika and Zanzibar joined the UN as separate states in 1961 and 1963, respectively, but in 1964 merged to form the United Republic of Tanzania, with a single membership officially dated from Tanganyika's day of entry.

Similarly, The Federation of Malaya joined the United Nations on 17 September 1957. On 16 September 1963, its name was changed to Malaysia, following the admission to the new federation of Singapore, Sabah (North Borneo), and Sarawak. Singapore became an independent state on 9 August 1965 and a member of the United Nations on 21 September 1965.

The Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic were admitted to membership in the United Nations on 18 September 1973. Through accession of the German Democratic Republic to the Federal Republic of Germany, effective from 3 October 1990, the two German states have united to form one sovereign state.

The unification of the two Germanys began a process of realignment of nations that intensified as communist governments collapsed throughout Eastern Europe. In only two years 15 separate states from the former USSR were admitted to membership. As a result of this sweeping change, the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (an original member of the United Nations) became the Russian Federation. In a letter dated 24 December 1991, Boris Yeltsin, then president of the Russian Federation, informed the Secretary-General that the membership of the Soviet Union in the Security Council and all other United Nations organs was being continued by the Russian Federation with the support of the 11 member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Czechoslovakia also was an original member of the United Nations. On 10 December 1992, its Permanent Representative informed the Secretary-General that the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic would cease to exist on 31 December 1992 and that the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, as successor states, would apply for membership in the United Nations. Following the receipt of their applications, the Security Council, on 8 January 1993, recommended to the General Assembly that both the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic be admitted to United Nations membership. Both were admitted on 19 January 1993.

In 1993, the proposed admission of a part of the former Yugoslavia, which had been known as the Republic of Macedonia, formed the subject of protest from the government of Greece, which considers the name "Macedonia" to pertain to one of its internal states. Now bearing the unwieldy name of "The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia," the new country became a member on 8 April 1993.

The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was an original member of the UN until its dissolution following the establishment and subsequent admission as new members of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Croatia, the Republic of Slovenia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which was admitted on 1 November 2000; in February 2003, the country changed its name to Serbia and Montenegro.


In the words of Article 4 of the Charter, membership in the UN is open to all "peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations." The original members are the states that participated in the San Francisco Conference, or that had previously signed the Declaration by United Nations, of 1 January 1942, and subsequently signed and ratified the Charter.

The procedure of admission is as follows. A state wishing to join submits an application to the Secretary-General, in which it formally states its acceptance of the Charter obligations. The application is forwarded to the Security Council. If the Security Council, by a vote of at least nine members (formerly seven), including all the permanent members, recommends the application, membership becomes effective on the day that it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly. In other words, if any one of the Security Council's permanent members vetoes it, or if it fails to obtain a sufficient majority in the Security Council, the application does not reach the General Assembly at all.

Up to 1955 there were bitter controversies and years of stalemate in the Security Council over the applications of some countries. Usually one or more of the Big Five was on bad terms with the applying state, or it would choose to withhold consent as a bargaining point against the other big powers. Finally, on 14 December 1955, by a compromise, 16 countries were admitted together. Since then, new applications rarely caused controversy. Most of the applicants have been newly independent states that applied for membership immediately after attaining independence. In most cases they have been admitted by unanimous vote.

The outstanding exceptions were the applications of the Republic of Korea (ROK), which applied in January 1949; the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), which applied in February 1949; South Vietnam, which applied in December 1951; and North Vietnam, which applied in December 1951. The two Vietnams and the ROK sought action on their applications in 1975. The Security Council, by a narrow vote, decided not to take up the ROK's application, and the United States subsequently vetoed membership for the Vietnams, citing as a reason the Security Council's earlier refusal to consider the membership application of the ROK. In response to a General Assembly recommendation, however, the Security Council in 1977 recommended the admission of the newly established Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and that country became a member in September 1977. The DPRK and the ROK maintained observer status at the General Assembly until September 1991, when both were admitted to membership simultaneously.


While the Covenant of the League of Nations contained provisions for the legal withdrawal of members, the UN Charter deliberately omits all reference to the subject. The majority feeling at the San Francisco Conference was that provisions for withdrawal would be contrary to the principle of universality and might provide a loophole for members seeking to evade their obligations under the Charter.

Thus, when the firstand so far the onlycase of withdrawal arose, the procedure had to be improvised. On 1 January 1965, Indonesia, which then was pursuing a policy of confrontation against the newly formed Federation of Malaysia, announced that it would withdraw from the UN and its related agencies if Malaysia were to take its elected seat on the Security Council. Three weeks later, Indonesia's foreign minister officially confirmed withdrawal in a letter to the Secretary-General, who, after consultations with the Indonesian mission to the UN, merely noted the decision and expressed hope that Indonesia would in due time "resume full cooperation" with the world body. Following a coup later in 1965, Indonesia sent a telegram to the Secretary-General, just before the opening of the 1966 General Assembly session, announcing its decision to "resume full cooperation with the UN and to resume participation in its activities."

Arrangements were made to ensure that Indonesia's reentry would take place with minimum formality. Hence, it was decided that Indonesia need not make a formal reapplication via the Security Council but that the matter could be handled directly by the General Assembly. Citing the telegram as evidence that Indonesia regarded its absence from the UN as a "cessation of cooperation" rather than an actual withdrawal, the General Assembly's president recommended that the administrative procedure for reinstating Indonesia could be taken. No objections were raised, and Indonesia was immediately invited to resume its seat in the General Assembly. In short, the problems raised by the first case of withdrawal from the UN were solved by treating it as if it had not been a matter of withdrawal at all.

Although South Africa withdrew from three of the UN's related agenciesUNESCO, FAO, and the ILObecause of the anti-apartheid sentiments of their members, it did not withdraw from the UN itself, despite numerous General Assembly resolutions condemning apartheid and recommending stringent sanctions. South Africa rejoined UNESCO and the ILO in the late 1990s.


The Charter provides that a member against which the Security Council has taken preventive or enforcement action may be suspended from the exercise of the rights and privileges of membership by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. However, only the Security Council, not the General Assembly, has the power to restore these rights. Any member that "has persistently violated the Principles" of the Charter may be expelled from the UN by the same procedure. As of May 2006, no cases of suspension of rights or expulsion had been recommended by the Security Council.

Many states called for the expulsion of South Africa because of its apartheid policies, but no formal proposal to this effect was made. In 1974, the General Assembly called upon the Security Council to review the relationship between the UN and South Africa in the light of the constant violation by South Africa of the principles of the Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Security Council considered a draft resolution submitted by Cameroon, Iraq, Kenya, and Mauritania that would have recommended to the General Assembly the immediate expulsion of South Africa under Article 6 of the Charter. Owing to the negative votes of three permanent members (France, United Kingdom, United States), the draft resolution was not adopted. After the council had reported back to the General Assembly on its failure to adopt a resolution, the president of the General Assembly, Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, ruled that the delegation of South Africa should be refused participation in the work of the General Assembly. His ruling was upheld by 91 votes to 22, with 19 abstentions. Although remaining a member of the UN, South Africa was not represented at subsequent sessions of the General Assembly. Following South Africa's successful democratic elections of May 1994, after 24 years of refusing to accept the credentials of the South African delegation, the General Assembly unanimously welcomed South Africa back to full participation in the United Nations on 23 June 1994. It also deleted its agenda item on "the elimination of apartheid and the establishment of a united, democratic and nonracial South Africa."


The members of the UN are nations, not governments. Whereas the UN may concern itself with the character of a government at the time that a nation applies for admission and may occasionally defer admission on these grounds (Spain under the Franco government, for example, applied for membership in 194546 but was not admitted until 1955), once a nation becomes a member, any governmental changes thereafter do not affect continuance of membershipprovided, of course, that the nation continues to fulfill its Charter obligations. Nor, under the Charter, is the admission of a new nation dependent upon whether other nations individually recognize and have diplomatic relations with the government concerned. Though the relations of individual members with a nation applying for membership will affect the voting in the Security Council and the General Assembly, strictly speaking, the only consideration enjoined by the Charter is the judgment by

1945Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Belarus (formerly Byelorussia), Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czechoslovakia (readmitted in 1993 as two separate states, the Czech and Slovak Republics), Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Liberia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, the Russian Federation (formerly the USSR), Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yugoslavia1966Barbados, Botswana, Guyana, Lesotho
1967People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (since 1990, merged with Yemen)
1968Equatorial Guinea, Mauritius, Swaziland
1971Bahrain, Bhutan, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates
1973Bahamas, Germany (formerly the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany)
1974Bangladesh, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau
1975Cape Verde, Comoros, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe, Suriname
1976Angola, Samoa, Seychelles
1946Afghanistan, Iceland, Sweden, Thailand1977Djibouti, Vietnam
1947Pakistan, Yemen (formerly Yemen Arab Republic)1978Dominica, Solomon Islands
1948Myanmar (formerly Burma)1979St. Lucia
1949Israel1980St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Zimbabwe
1950Indonesia1981Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Vanuatu
1955Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Cambodia (formerly Kampuchea), Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Lao People's Democratic Republic (formerly Laos), Libya, Nepal, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sri Lanka1983St. Kitts and Nevis
1984Brunei Darussalam
1990Liechtenstein, Namibia,
1991Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Latvia, Lithuania, Marshall Islands, Republic of Korea
1956Japan, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia
1957Ghana, Malaysia
1958Guinea1992Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Krgyz Republic, Republic of Moldova, San Marino, Slovenia
1960Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Cyprus, Gabon, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Togo, Zaire
1993Andorra, Czech Republic, Eritrea, Monaco, Slovak Republic, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
1961Mauritania, Mongolia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania
1962Algeria, Burundi, Jamaica, Rwanda, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda1994Palau
1999Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga
1963Kenya, Kuwait2000Tuvalu, Serbia and Montenegro
1964Malawi, Malta, Zambia2002Switzerland, Timor-Leste
1965Gambia, Maldives, Singapore

the members that the applying nation as represented by its government is "willing and able" to carry out its UN obligations. As a result, there are several nations in the UN that do not recognize or have diplomatic relations with each other.

Nations have to be represented at UN proceedings by delegations that are specifically authorized by their governments to speak on their behalf. Thus, when a new ambassador appears, or when a new session of a UN organ convenes, it is necessary to examine the credentials of persons claiming to represent member states. The nine-member Credentials Committee, appointed by the General Assembly at the beginning of each session, must be satisfied that the person was duly appointed by his or her government and that that government is the official government of the respective member nation. The matter can become controversial at the UN if, for example, two rival governments both claim to be the only legitimate government of a member state and each demands that its own representative be seated.

A case in point was China. The long unresolved issue of its representation in the UN had been one of the most important and controversial items on the General Assembly's agenda. In 1971, however, the General Assembly decided "to restore all its rights to the People's Republic of China and to recognize the representatives of its government as the only legitimate representatives of China to the United Nations, and to expel forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek from the place which they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all the organizations related to it."

Afghanistan19 November 1946Guinea-Bissau17 September 1974
Albania14 December 1955Guyana20 September 1966
Algeria8 October 1962Haiti24 October 1945
Andorra28 July 1993Honduras17 December 1945
Angola1 December 1976Hungary14 December 1955
Antigua and Barbuda11 November 1981Iceland19 November 1946
Argentina24 October 1945India30 October 1945
Armenia2 March 1992Indonesia28 September 1950
Australia1 November 1945Iran24 October 1945
Austria14 December 1955Iraq21 December 1945
Azerbaijan2 March 1992Ireland14 December 1955
Bahamas18 September 1973Israel11 May 1949
Bahrain21 September 1971Italy14 December 1955
Bangladesh17 September 1974Jamaica18 September 1962
Barbados9 December 1966Japan18 December 1956
Belarus24 October 1945Jordan14 December 1955
Belgium27 December 1945Kazakhstan2 March 1992
Belize25 September 1981Kenya16 December 1963
Benin20 September 1960Kiribati14 December 1999
Bhutan21 September 1971Korea, Democratic People's Republic of17 September 1991
Bolivia14 November 1945Korea, Republic of17 September 1991
Bosnia and Herzegovina22 May 1992Kuwait14 May 1963
Botswana17 October 1966Kyrgyzstan2 March 1992
Brazil24 October 1945Lao People's Democratic Republic14 December 1955
Brunei Darussalam21 September 1984Latvia17 September 1991
Bulgaria14 December 1955Lebanon24 October 1945
Burkina Faso20 September 1960Lesotho17 October 1966
Burundi18 September 1962Liberia2 November 1945
Cambodia14 December 1955Libya14 December 1955
Cameroon20 September 1960Liechtenstein18 September 1990
Canada9 November 1945Lithuania17 September 1991
Cape Verde16 September 1975Luxembourg24 October 1945
Central African Republic20 September 1960Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of8 April 1993
Chad20 September 1960Madagascar20 September 1960
Chile24 October 1945Malawi1 December 1964
China24 October 1945Malaysia17 September 1957
Colombia5 November 1945Maldives21 September 1965
Comoros12 November 1975Mali28 September 1960
Congo, Democratic Republic of the20 September 1960Malta1 December 1964
Congo, Republic of the20 September 1960Marshall Islands17 September 1991
Costa Rica2 November 1945Mauritania27 October 1961
Côte d'Ivoire20 September 1960Mauritius24 April 1968
Croatia22 May 1992Mexico7 November 1945
Cuba24 October 1945Micronesia, Federated States of17 September 1991
Cyprus20 September 1960Moldova, Republic of2 March 1992
Czech Republic19 January 1993Monaco28 May 1993
Denmark24 October 1945Mongolia27 October 1961
Djibouti20 September 1977Montenegro28 June 2006
Dominica18 December 1978Morocco12 November 1956
Dominican Republic24 October 1945Mozambique16 September 1975
Ecuador21 December 1945Myanmar19 April 1948
Egypt24 October 1945Namibia23 April 1990
El Salvador24 October 1945Nauru14 September 1999
Equatorial Guinea12 November 1968Nepal14 December 1955
Eritrea28 May 1993Netherlands10 December 1945
Estonia17 September 1991New Zealand24 October 1945
Ethiopia13 November 1945Nicaragua24 October 1945
Fiji13 October 1970Niger20 September 1960
Finland14 December 1955Nigeria7 October 1960
France24 October 1945Norway27 November 1945
Gabon20 September 1960Oman7 October 1971
Gambia21 September 1965Pakistan30 September 1947
Georgia31 July 1992Palau15 December 1994
Germany18 September 1973Panama13 November 1945
Ghana8 March 1957Papua New Guinea10 October 1975
Greece25 October 1945Paraguay24 October 1945
Grenada17 September 1974Peru31 October 1945
Guatemala21 November 1945Philippines24 October 1945
Guinea12 December 1958Poland24 October 1945
Portugal14 December 1955Sweden19 November 1946
Qatar21 September 1971Switzerland10 September 2002
Romania14 December 1955Syria24 October 1945
Russian Federation24 October 1945Tajikistan2 March 1992
Rwanda18 September 1962Tanzania14 December 1961
St. Kitts and Nevis23 September 1983Thailand16 December 1946
St. Lucia18 September 1979Timor-Leste27 September 2002
St. Vincent and the Grenadines16 September 1980Togo20 September 1960
Samoa15 December 1976Tonga14 September 1999
San Marino2 March 1992Trinidad and Tobago18 September 1962
São Tomé and Príncipe16 September 1975Tunisia12 November 1956
Saudi Arabia24 October 1945Turkey24 October 1945
Senegal28 September 1960Turkmenistan2 March 1992
Serbia1 November 2000Tuvalu5 September 2000
Seychelles21 September 1976Uganda25 October 1962
Sierra Leone27 September 1961Ukraine24 October 1945
Singapore21 September 1965United Arab Emirates9 December 1971
Slovakia19 January 1993United Kingdom24 October 1945
Slovenia22 May 1992United States of America24 October 1945
Solomon Islands19 September 1978Uruguay18 December 1945
Somalia20 September 1960Uzbekistan2 March 1992
South Africa7 November 1945Vanuatu15 September 1981
Spain14 December 1955Venezuela15 November 1945
Sri Lanka14 December 1955Vietnam20 September 1977
Sudan12 November 1956Yemen30 September 1947
Suriname4 December 1975Zambia1 December 1964
Swaziland24 September 1968Zimbabwe25 August 1980


views updated May 21 2018

mem·ber·ship / ˈmembərˌship/ • n. the fact of being a member of a group: Taiwan has applied for membership in the World Trade Organization | [as adj.] a membership card. ∎  [in sing.] the number or body of members in a group: our membership has grown by 600,000 in the past 18 months.