List of states with limited recognition

 UN member states that at least one other UN member state does not recognise
 Non-UN member states recognised by at least one UN member state
 Non-UN member states recognised only by other non-UN member states

A number of polities have declared independence and sought diplomatic recognition from the international community as sovereign states, but have not been universally recognised as such. These entities often have de facto control of their territory. A number of such entities have existed in the past.

There are two traditional theories used to indicate how a sovereign state comes into being. The declarative theory (codified in the 1933 Montevideo Convention) defines a state as a person in international law if it meets the following criteria:

  1. a defined territory
  2. a permanent population
  3. a government, and
  4. a capacity to enter into relations with other states.

According to the declarative theory, an entity's statehood is independent of its recognition by other states. By contrast, the constitutive theory defines a state as a person of international law only if it is recognised as such by other states that are already a member of the international community.

Quasi-states often reference either or both doctrines in order to legitimise their claims to statehood. There are, for example, entities which meet the declarative criteria (with de facto partial or complete control over their claimed territory, a government and a permanent population), but whose statehood is not recognised by any other states. Non-recognition is often a result of conflicts with other countries that claim those entities as integral parts of their territory. In other cases, two or more partially recognised states may claim the same territorial area, with each of them de facto in control of a portion of it (as have been the cases of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the People's Republic of China). Entities that are recognised by only a minority of the world's states usually reference the declarative doctrine to legitimise their claims.

In many situations, international non-recognition is influenced by the presence of a foreign military force in the territory of the contested entity, making the description of the country's de facto status problematic. The international community can judge this military presence too intrusive, reducing the entity to a puppet state where effective sovereignty is retained by the foreign power. Historical cases in this sense can be seen in Japanese-led Manchukuo or the German-created Slovak Republic and Independent State of Croatia before and during World War II. In the 1996 case Loizidou v. Turkey, the European Court of Human Rights judged Turkey for having exercised authority in the territory of Northern Cyprus.

There are also entities that do not have control over any territory or do not unequivocally meet the declarative criteria for statehood but have been recognised to exist as sovereign entities by at least one other state. Historically, this has happened in the case of the Holy See (1870–1929); Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (during Soviet annexation); and Palestine at the time of its declaration of independence in 1988. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is currently in this position. See list of governments in exile for unrecognised governments without control over the territory claimed.

Criteria for inclusion

State practice relating to the recognition of a country typically falls somewhere between the declarative theory and constitutive theory approaches.

The criteria for inclusion on this list is limited to polities that claim sovereignty, lack recognition from at least one UN member state, and either:

  • satisfy the declarative theory of statehood, or
  • are recognised (constitutive theory) as a state by at least one UN member state.

Background

Women in Somaliland wearing the colors of the Somaliland flag

There are 193 United Nations (UN) member states, while both the Holy See and Palestine have observer state status in the United Nations. However, some countries that fulfill the declarative criteria, are recognised by the large majority of other states and are members of the United Nations are still included in the list here because one or more other states do not recognise their statehood, due to territorial claims or other conflicts.

Some states maintain informal (officially non-diplomatic) relations with states that do not officially recognise them. Taiwan (the Republic of China) is one such state, as it maintains unofficial relations with many other states through its Economic and Cultural Offices, which allow regular consular services. This allows Taiwan to have economic relations even with states that do not formally recognise it. A total of 56 states, including Germany, Italy, the United States, and the United Kingdom, maintain some form of unofficial mission in Taiwan. Kosovo, Northern Cyprus, Abkhazia, Transnistria, the Sahrawi Republic, Somaliland, and Palestine also host informal diplomatic missions, and/or maintain special delegations or other informal missions abroad.

States that are state parties within the United Nations System

UN member states not recognised by at least one UN member state
Name Declared Status Other claimants Further information
 Armenia 1991 Armenia, independent since 1991, is not recognised by one UN member, Pakistan, which has a position of supporting Azerbaijan since the First Nagorno-Karabakh War. None Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
 China 1949 The People's Republic of China (PRC), proclaimed in 1949, is the more widely recognised of the two claimant governments of China, the other being Taiwan (the Republic of China). The United Nations recognised the ROC as the sole representative of China until 1971, when it decided to give this recognition to the PRC instead (see United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758). The PRC and the ROC do not recognise each other's statehood, and each enforces its own version of the One China policy meaning that no state can recognise both of them at the same time. The states that recognise the ROC (11 UN members and the Holy See as of 15 January 2024) regard it as the sole legitimate government of China and therefore do not recognise the PRC.  Taiwan (the Republic of China) considers itself to be the sole legitimate government of all of China, and therefore claims exclusive sovereignty over all territory controlled by the PRC. See also: One China. Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
PRC's diplomatic relations dates of establishment
 Cyprus 1960 The Republic of Cyprus, independent since 1960, is not recognised by one UN member (Turkey) and one non-UN member (Northern Cyprus), due to the ongoing civil dispute over the island. Turkey does not accept the Republic's rule over the whole island and refers to it as the "Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus".  Northern Cyprus claims the northeastern portion of the island of Cyprus. Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
 Israel 1948 Israel, founded in 1948, is not recognised by 28 UN members. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which enjoys majority international recognition as sole representative of the Palestinian people, recognised Israel in 1993. In January 2018 and October 2018, the Palestinian Central Council voted to suspend recognition of Israel, but this position has yet to be acted upon by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.  Palestine considers itself to be the legitimate government of the West Bank, which is under Israeli occupation, and the Gaza Strip.
 Syria considers itself to be the legitimate government of the Golan Heights, a territory which Israel controls and claims with limited recognition.
Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
International recognition
 North Korea 1948 North Korea (officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea), independent since 1948, is not recognised by one UN member, South Korea.  South Korea considers itself to be the sole legitimate government of Korea, and claims all territory controlled by North Korea. Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
UN General Assembly observer states not recognised by at least one UN member state
Name Declared Status Other claimants Further information
 Palestine 1988 Israel gained control of the Palestinian territories as a result of the Six-Day War in 1967, but has never formally annexed them. The State of Palestine (commonly known as Palestine) was declared in 1988 by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which is recognised by a majority of UN member states and the UN itself as the sole representative of the Palestinian people. Since the end of the first Palestinian Intifada against Israel the Israeli government has gradually moved its armed forces and settlers out of certain parts of Palestine's claimed territory, while still maintaining varying degrees of control over most of it. The Palestinian National Authority (PNA), which performs limited internal government functions over certain areas of Palestine, was established in 1994. The 2007 split between the Fatah and Hamas political parties resulted in competing governments claiming to represent the PNA and Palestine, with Fatah exercising authority exclusively over the West Bank and enjoying majority recognition from UN member states, and a separate Hamas leadership exercising authority exclusively over the Gaza area (except for a short period from 2014 to 2016). Palestine is currently officially recognised as a state by 139 UN member states, the Holy See, and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. The remaining UN member states, including Israel, do not recognise the State of Palestine. The United Nations designates the claimed Palestinian territories as "occupied" by Israel, and accorded Palestine non-member observer state status in 2012 (see United Nations General Assembly resolution 67/19). Palestine also has membership in the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and UNESCO.  Israel regards the area claimed by Palestine as "disputed" territory (that is, territory not legally belonging to any state). Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
International recognition, Israeli–Palestinian peace process, Proposals for a Palestinian state
UN specialized agency member states not recognised by at least one UN member state
Name Declared Status Other claimants Further information
 Cook Islands 1965 The Cook Islands became a state in free association with New Zealand in 1965. Although the Cook Islands are fully self-governing and behave as a sovereign state in international law, their constitutional status is different from that of a fully independent state, considering that all Cook Islands nationals are New Zealand citizens, and the country's head of state is the Monarch of New Zealand. As of 2015, the Cook Islands had established diplomatic relations with 43 states, while the number as of April 2023 is at least 53 UN member states, as well as the Holy See, Kosovo, Niue and the European Union. Some countries establishing diplomatic relations such as the United States have recognized the Cook Islands as a fully sovereign state, while some such as France have not. The Cook Islands are a member of nine United Nations specialized agencies, and the United Nations currently classifies the Cook Islands as a "non-member state", a category unique only to it and Niue. State in free association with  New Zealand, recognized by some as having no sovereignty. Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
Political status
 Kosovo 2008 Kosovo declared its independence in 2008. It is currently recognised by 104 UN members, Taiwan, the Cook Islands and Niue. 10 other UN members have recognised Kosovo and subsequently withdrawn recognition. The United Nations, as stipulated in Security Council Resolution 1244, has administered the territory since 1999 through the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, with cooperation from the European Union since 2008. Kosovo is a member of two United Nations specialized agencies (the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group), as well as the Venice Commission, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the International Olympic Committee, among others.  Serbia claims Kosovo as part of its sovereign territory. Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
International recognition; Political status
 Niue 1974 Niue became a state in free association with New Zealand in 1974 after a constitutional referendum. Although Niue is fully self-governing and behaves as a sovereign state in international law, its constitutional status is different from that of a fully independent state, considering that all Niue nationals are New Zealand citizens, and the country's head of state is the Monarch of New Zealand. As of April 2023, Niue has established diplomatic relations with at least 26 UN member states, as well as the Cook Islands and the European Union. Niue is a member of eight United Nations specialized agencies, and the United Nations currently classifies Niue as a "non-member state", a category unique only to it and the Cook Islands. State in free association with  New Zealand, considered by some as having no sovereignty. Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
Political status

States that are not state parties within the United Nations System

Non-UN member states recognised by at least one UN member state
Name Declared Status Other claimants Further information
 Abkhazia 1999 Abkhazia declared its independence in 1999. It is currently recognised by 5 UN member states (Russia, Syria, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Nauru), and two non-UN member states (South Ossetia and Transnistria). Two additional UN member states (Tuvalu and Vanuatu) had recognised Abkhazia, but subsequently withdrew their recognition.  Georgia claims Abkhazia as part of its sovereign territory. Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
International recognition
 Northern Cyprus 1983 Northern Cyprus declared its independence in 1983 with its official name being the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" (TRNC). It is recognised by one UN member, Turkey. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Economic Cooperation Organization have granted Northern Cyprus observer status under the name "Turkish Cypriot State". United Nations Security Council Resolution 541 defines the declaration of independence of Northern Cyprus as legally invalid. The International Court of Justice stated in its advisory opinion on Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2010 that "the Security Council in an exceptional character attached illegality to the DOI of TRNC because it was, or would have been connected with the unlawful use of force".  Cyprus claims the TRNC as part of its sovereign territory. Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
Cyprus dispute
 Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic 1976 Morocco invaded and annexed most of Western Sahara, forcing Spain to withdraw from the territory in 1975. In 1976, the Polisario Front declared the independence of Western Sahara as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). The SADR is largely a government in exile located in Algeria, which claims the entire territory of Western Sahara, but controls only a small fraction of it. The SADR is recognised by 46 UN member states and South Ossetia. 38 other UN member states have recognised the SADR but subsequently retracted or suspended recognition, pending the outcome of a referendum on self-determination. The remaining UN member states, including Morocco, have never recognised the SADR. The SADR is a member of the African Union. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 34/37 recognised the right of the Western Sahara people to self-determination and recognised also the Polisario Front as the representative of the Western Sahara people. Western Sahara is listed on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories. Other than Morocco and the United States, no state officially recognises Morocco's annexation of Western Sahara, but some states support the Moroccan autonomy plan. The Arab League supports Morocco's claim over the entire territory of Western Sahara.  Morocco claims Western Sahara (including the area controlled by the SADR) as part of its sovereign territory. Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
International recognition; Political status
 South Ossetia 1992 South Ossetia declared its independence in 1992. It is currently recognised by 5 UN member states (Russia, Syria, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Nauru), and three non-UN member states (Abkhazia, Transnistria and Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic). One additional UN member state (Tuvalu) had recognised South Ossetia, but subsequently withdrew its recognition.  Georgia claims South Ossetia as part of its sovereign territory. Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
International recognition
 Taiwan 1912/1949 Taiwan (formally known as the Republic of China), enjoyed majority recognition as the sole government of China until roughly the late 1950s/1960s, when a majority of UN member states started to gradually switch recognition to the People's Republic of China (PRC). The United Nations itself recognised the ROC as the sole representative of China until 1971, when it decided to give this recognition to the PRC instead (see United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758). The ROC and PRC do not recognise each other's statehood, and each enforces its own version of the One China policy meaning that no state can recognise both of them at the same time. The ROC is currently recognised by 11 UN members and the Holy See. All remaining UN member states, as well as the Cook Islands and Niue, recognise the PRC instead of the ROC and either accept the PRC's territorial claim over Taiwan or take a non-committal position on Taiwan's status. A significant number of PRC-recognising UN member states, as well as the Republic of Somaliland, nonetheless conduct officially non-diplomatic relations with the ROC, designating it as either "Taipei" or "Taiwan". Since the early 1990s, the ROC has sought separate United Nations membership under a variety of names, including "Taiwan". The  People's Republic of China considers itself to be the sole legitimate government of all of China, and therefore claims exclusive sovereignty over all territory controlled by Taiwan. See also: One China. Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
Political status
Non-UN member states recognised only by other non-UN member states
Name Declared Status Other claimants Further information
 Somaliland 1991 Somaliland declared its independence in 1991. It claims to be the legal successor to the State of Somaliland, a short lived sovereign state that existed from 26 June 1960 (when the British Somaliland Protectorate gained full independence from the United Kingdom) to 1 July 1960 (when the State of Somaliland united with Somalia to form the Somali Republic). It is recognized by Taiwan (the Republic of China), whose Ministry of Foreign Affairs refers to Somaliland as a country as of 2023. Taiwan and Somaliland have mutual representative offices in each other's countries, similarly to how Taiwan conducts relations with other countries that do not recognize it. Somaliland is not officially recognised by any UN member state, though it maintains unofficial relations with a limited number of them. On 1 January 2024, Ethiopia and Somaliland signed a memorandum of understanding giving Ethiopia access to the Red Sea via the port of Berbera in return for a potential recognition.  Somalia claims Somaliland as part of its sovereign territory. Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
 Transnistria 1990 Transnistria (officially the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic) declared its independence in 1990. It is recognised by two non-UN members: Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Moldova claims Transnistria as part of its sovereign territory. Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
International recognition, Political status

Other entities with limited recognition of sovereignty

Political entities recognised as sovereign by at least one UN member state
Name Declared Status Other claimants Further information
 Sovereign Military Order of Malta 1113 The Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM) is considered a sovereign non-state entity, as it claims neither statehood nor territory. First recognized as sovereign by Pope Paschal II in 1113, it has established full diplomatic relations with 111 UN member states as a sovereign subject of international law, and also maintains diplomatic relations with the European Union, the Holy See, and the State of Palestine. Additionally, it participates in the United Nations as an observer entity. Some states, such as San Marino, recognize SMOM as a sovereign state, rather than a sovereign subject of international law. Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation decreed on 6 June 1974 that SMOM "constitutes a sovereign international subject, in all terms equal, even if without territory, to a foreign state with which Italy has normal diplomatic relations". As Italy recognizes, in addition to extraterritoriality, SMOM sovereignty within its headquarters in Italy, Italian and SMOM sovereignty uniquely coexist without overlapping. None Foreign relations, missions (of, to)

Excluded entities

  • Subnational entities and regions that function as de facto independent states, with the central government exercising little or no control over their territory, but that do not explicitly claim to be independent. Examples include Puntland in Somalia, the Gaza Strip in Palestine, the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, Rojava in Syria and the Wa State in Myanmar.
  • Rebel groups that have declared independence and exert some control over territory, but that reliable sources do not describe as meeting the threshold of a sovereign state under international law. Examples include Ambazonia, the Houthi movement and the Southern Movement; see list of rebel groups that control territory for a more complete list of such groups.
  • Those areas undergoing current civil wars and other situations with problems over government succession, regardless of temporary alignment with the inclusion criteria (e.g. by receiving recognition as state or legitimate government), where the conflict is still in its active phase, the situation is too rapidly changing and no relatively stable quasi-states have emerged yet.
  • Those of the current irredentist movements and governments in exile that do not satisfy the inclusion criteria by simultaneously not satisfying the declarative theory and not having been recognised as a state or legitimate government by any other state.
  • Entities considered to be micronations, even if they are recognised by another micronation. Even though micronations generally claim to be sovereign and independent, it is often debatable whether a micronation truly controls its claimed territory. For this reason, micronations are usually not considered of geopolitical relevance. For a list of micronations, see list of micronations.
  • Uncontacted peoples who either live in societies that cannot be defined as states or whose statuses as such are not definitively known.
  • Some states can be slow to establish relations with new UN member states and thus do not explicitly recognise them, despite having no dispute and sometimes favorable relations. These are excluded from the list. Examples include Croatia and Montenegro.

See also


This page was last updated at 2024-02-23 04:28 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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