List of states with limited recognition
A number of polities have declared independence and sought diplomatic recognition from the international community as de jure sovereign states, but have not been universally recognized 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 doctrines that provide indicia of how a de jure sovereign state comes into being. The declarative theory defines a state as a person in international law if it meets the following criteria:
- a defined territory
- a permanent population
- a government, and
- a capacity to enter into relations with other states.
According to 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.
Proto-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 entities 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 and the People's Republic of China, and North and South Korea). 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 vs. Turkey, the European Court of Human Rights judged Turkey for having exercised authority in the territory of Northern Cyprus.
There are also entities which do not have control over any territory or do not unequivocally meet the declarative criteria for statehood but have been recognised to exist de jure 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 more recently the State of 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
- satisfy the declarative theory of statehood, or
- be recognised as a state by at least one UN member state.
Some states are slow to establish relations with new states and thus do not recognise them, despite having no dispute and sometimes favorable relations. These are excluded from the list. Some countries fulfill the declarative criteria, are recognised by the large majority of other states and are members of the United Nations, but are included in the list here because one or more other states do not recognise their statehood, due to territorial claims or other conflicts. There are 193 United Nations (UN) member states. The Holy See and the State of Palestine have observer state status in the United Nations.
Some states maintain informal (officially non-diplomatic) relations with states that do not officially recognise them. The Republic of China (Taiwan) 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 the ROC 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 the ROC. Kosovo, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, the Turkish Republic of 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.
Present geopolitical entities by level of recognition
UN member states not recognised by at least one UN member state
|Name||Declared||Status||Other claimants||Further information||References|
|People's Republic of 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 the Republic of China (ROC, also known as Taiwan). The PRC does not accept diplomatic relations with states that recognise the ROC (21 UN members and the Holy See as of 2013). Most of these states do not officially recognise the PRC as a state, though some states have established relations with the ROC while stating they do not intend to stop recognising the PRC (Kiribati, Nauru). Some states which currently recognise only the PRC have attempted simultaneous recognition and relations with the ROC and the PRC in the past (Liberia, Vanuatu). According to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758, the PRC is the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations.||Republic of China claims to be the sole legitimate government over all of China under the Constitution of the Republic of China.|| Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
PRC's diplomatic relations dates of establishment
|Republic of Korea||1948||South Korea, independent since 1948, is not recognised by one UN member, North Korea.||North Korea claims to be the sole legitimate government of Korea.||Foreign relations, missions (of, to)|
|Republic of Cyprus||1960||The Republic of Cyprus, independent since 1960, is not recognised by one UN member (Turkey) and one UN non-member (Northern Cyprus), due to the ongoing civil dispute over the island.||Northern Cyprus claims part of the island of Cyprus.||Foreign relations, missions (of, to)|
|Republic of Armenia||1991||Armenia, independent since 1991, is not recognised by one UN member, Pakistan, as Pakistan has a position of supporting Azerbaijan since the Nagorno-Karabakh War.||None||Foreign relations, missions (of, to)|
|Democratic People's Republic of Korea||1948||North Korea, independent since 1948, is not recognised by four UN members: Estonia, France, Japan and South Korea.||South Korea claims to be the sole legitimate government of Korea.||Foreign relations, missions (of, to)|
|State of Israel||1948||Israel, founded in 1948, is not recognised by 31 UN members.|| Syria claims Golan Heights.
Lebanon claims Shebaa farms.
Palestine claims areas controlled by Israel. Subject to the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian peace process and broader Arab-Israeli peace process.
| Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
Non-UN member states recognised by at least one UN member state
|Name||Declared||Status||Other claimants||Further information||References|
|State of Palestine||1988||The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) declared the State of Palestine in 1988. At the time the Israeli Armed Forces had control of most of the proclaimed territory. It is recognised by 136 UN member states and the Holy See, as well as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Today the PLC (Palestine Legislative Council) executes the government functions in all Palestinian territories outside of Israeli military-controlled zones. Prior to the Council's administration, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) was established in 1994 according to the Oslo Accords and the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement. Palestine participates in the United Nations as an observer state, and has membership in the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and UNESCO. It was accorded non-member observer state status at the United Nations by United Nations General Assembly resolution 67/19.||Israel does not recognise the state of Palestine and controls areas claimed by Palestine. Subject to the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian peace process.|| Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
International recognition, Political status, Proposals for a Palestinian state
|Republic of Kosovo||2008||Kosovo declared its independence in 2008. It is recognised by 110 UN members and Taiwan, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the Cook Islands, and Niue. 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. It is a member of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, 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
|Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic||1976||Both the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and Morocco claim sovereignty over the territory of Western Sahara. The SADR, which declared its independence in 1976, has been recognised by 84 UN member states and South Ossetia. 37 states, however, have since retracted or suspended recognition, pending the outcome of a referendum on self-determination. Western Sahara is not recognised as part of Morocco by any state, but some states support the Moroccan autonomy plan. Moroccan "territorial integrity" is favoured by the Arab League. 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.||Morocco claims Western Sahara as part of its sovereign territory.|| Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
International recognition; Political status
|Republic of China||1912||The Republic of China (ROC, usually called Taiwan), constitutionally formed in 1912, is recognised as the government of the state of China by 21 UN members and the Holy See as of 2013. All other UN member states do not officially recognise the ROC as a state; some of them regard its controlled territory as de jure part of the People's Republic of China (PRC) while some others have used careful diplomatic language to avoid taking a position as to whether the territory of the ROC is part of the PRC. Throughout the years, the ROC has adopted differing positions towards simultaneous recognition of the ROC and the PRC by other countries.||People's Republic of China claims to be the successor of the former Republic of China and claims all of the territory under ROC jurisdiction as part of its sovereign territory.|| Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
|Republic of Abkhazia||1999||Abkhazia declared its independence in 1999. It has been recognised by six UN member states (Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru, with Tuvalu and Vanuatu recognizing but subsequently withdrawing their recognition), and three UN non-member states (South Ossetia, Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh).||Georgia claims both Abkhazia and South Ossetia as part of its sovereign territory.|| Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
|Republic of South Ossetia||1991||South Ossetia declared its independence in 1991. It has been recognised by five UN member states (Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru, with Tuvalu recognizing but subsequently withdrawing their recognition), and four UN non-member states (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria).||Georgia claims both Abkhazia and South Ossetia as part of its sovereign territory.|| Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
|Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus||1983||Northern Cyprus declared its independence in 1983. 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" and "general international law contains no applicable prohibition of declarations of independence".||Cyprus claims Northern Cyprus as part of its sovereign territory.|| Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
Non-UN member states recognised only by non-UN member states
|Name||Declared||Status||Other claimants||Further information||References|
|Nagorno-Karabakh Republic||1991||Nagorno-Karabakh declared its independence in 1991 (roughly at the same time as Azerbaijan itself when the Soviet Union fell). It is recognised by three UN non-members: Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria.||Azerbaijan claims Nagorno-Karabakh as part of its sovereign territory.|| Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
International recognition, Political status
|Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic||1990||The Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (also known as Transnistria) declared its independence in 1990. It is recognised by three UN non-members: Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia, none of which enjoys wide recognition.||Moldova claims Transnistria as part of its sovereign territory.|| Foreign relations, missions (of, to)
International recognition, Political status
Non-UN member state not recognised by any state
|Name||Declared||Status||Other claimants||Further information||References|
|Somaliland||1991||Somaliland declared its independence from Somalia in 1991. It claims to be the 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). Somaliland is internationally recognised as an autonomous region of Somalia.||Somalia claims Somaliland as part of its sovereign territory.||Foreign relations, missions (of, to)|
- The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is a non-state sovereign entity and is not included, as it claims neither statehood nor territory. It has established full diplomatic relations with 105 sovereign states as a sovereign subject of international law and participates in the United Nations as an observer entity. Although it is not recognised as a subject of international law by France, the order maintains official, but not diplomatic, relations with France and also with five other states: Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Canada. Five more states maintain neither and do not recognise its passports: Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Greece.
- Uncontacted peoples who either live in societies that cannot be defined as states or whose statuses as such are not definitively known.
- Entities considered to be micronations are not included. Even though micronations generally claim to be sovereign and independent, it is often up to debate 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.
- 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 rump states have emerged yet.
- Rebel groups which have declared independence and exert some control over territory, but which reliable sources do not describe as meeting the threshold of a sovereign state under international law. Examples include Donetsk People's Republic, Luhansk People's Republic, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
- 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 state or legitimate government by any other state.
- Diplomatic recognition
- Exclusive mandate
- Flags of unrecognized and partially recognized states
- Government in exile
- List of active autonomist and secessionist movements
- List of civil wars
- List of historical unrecognized states
- List of micronations
- List of rebel groups that control territory
- List of sovereign states
- List of territorial disputes
- List of rump states
- Nation state
- Territorial integrity
- Unilateral declaration of independence
- Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization
- Both the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China claim sovereignty over the whole of China, stating China is de jure a single sovereign entity encompassing both the area controlled by the PRC and the area controlled by the ROC. The position of individual states on this matter varies. Several states fully accept the PRC's position that there is only one China and that the PRC is the sole legitimate representative of China. Other states merely acknowledge this position, while recognising only the PRC as a state. Some states recognise only the ROC as a state, but have expressed an interest in recognition and relations with both the ROC and the PRC.
- Date of constitutional formation.
- Micronations are not included even if they are recognised by another micronation.
- It is far from certain that micronations, which are generally of minuscule size, have sovereign control over their claimed territories, contrasted with the mere disregard and indifference toward micronations’ assertions by the states from which they allege to have seceded. By not deeming such declarations (and other acts of the micronation) important enough to react in any way, these states generally consider micronations to be private property and their claims as unofficial private announcements of individuals, who remain subject to the laws of the states in which their properties are located.
- Thomas D. Grant, The recognition of states: law and practice in debate and evolution (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1999), chapter 1.
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...there are three other territories that have unilaterally declared independence and are generally regarded as having met the Montevideo criteria for statehood but have not been recognized by any states: Transnistria, Nagorny Karabakh, and Somaliland.
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