Membership of the United Nations
The United Nations started
in 1945 with 51 founding members: the 50 countries that had attended the San Francisco conference,
which was not at the conference but signed the charter later.
New members are admitted to the UN on the
recommendation of the Security Council, if approved by a two-thirds vote of the
General Assembly. Membership is open to any country that supports the UNís
mission and is willing to follow the rules and responsibilities specified in
the charter. When a country is formally admitted the flag is hoisted in a
special ceremony in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York
(photo: UN/DPI/M. Bordy, 67728, 30 September 1960).
In its early years, few countries were admitted to the
UN. The cold war prevented both the United States and the Soviet Union to grant membership to countries that
supported "the other side". Only the 'safe' countries Afghanistan,
Iceland, Sweden, Thailand, Pakistan, Yemen, Burma, Israel and Indonesia were
admitted. In 1955 a deal was struck to allow a number of countries to join and
so 16 countries joined on 14
December 1955. The 50th anniversary of this event was celebrated in
Geneva in 2005
The balance of power began to change in the 1950s and 1960s, as colonies
in Asia and Africa
gained independence and became members of the UN. The UNís membership more than
doubled during that time and the new members had different concerns than did
the once-dominant Western industrial nations. Many of the new members believed
the United States
was too powerful and the UN too often gave in to American interests. As newly
independent developing nations began to predominate, they affected voting
patterns in the UN. The United
States found itself in the minority on many
issues. By the end of the 1970s, the United States had become the primary user of the veto.
Another change in UN membership involved
representation for China.
In 1945 China
joined the United Nations as a founding member and was represented by the
Nationalist government in Nanjing.
In 1949 the Nationalists lost the Chinese civil war against the Communists and
retreated to the island
of Taiwan. Backed by the United States
and other Western nations, the Nationalist government on Taiwan claimed
to be the legitimate government of all China and continued to hold the China seat in
the UN until 1971. That year the General Assembly took the seat away from Taiwan and gave
it to the Communist government in Beijing,
on the mainland. This action left Taiwan without representation in
the UN. Taiwan
would like to be a member and has tried to win a separate seat. But China regards Taiwan as a
province and has opposed independence for the island, despite the fact that Taiwan
functions like an independent nation in many international matters. China has
vehemently objected to UN membership for Taiwan because leaders there
believe if the UN recognizes Taiwan with a seat it would help that governmentís
bid for independence.
During the 1990s the newly independent states that were part of the USSR and Yugoslavia
became members. Also the smaller states in Europe
and the Pacific (e.g. Nauru,
and East Timor became independent and in 2002
the people of Switzerland
approved the Swiss membership. The latest country to join was Montenegro on 28 June 2006 (photo: UN
Photo/Eskinder Debebe, nr. 120996).
This leaves only a few countries and territories that
are not a member: Vatican City,
Kosovo, Western Sahara, Taiwan, Palestine territories and a number of
territories considered by the UN as 'not independent' (e.g. Tokelau, Pitcairn Islands, Gibraltar).
Numerous countries have issued special stamps to
commemorate their admission to the United Nations or to celebrate the
anniversary of their membership.
List of UN
Member States with dates of admission.
The growth in United Nations Membership
from 1945 to 2006.
Article 'Seven states join UN; membership now 166'
from UN Chronicle, December 1991.
Catalogue - admission to the United Nations
Austria††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 20 February 1956
Bangladesh††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 25 September 1974
Republic††††††††††††††††† 19 September 1973
Liechtenstein††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 4 March 1991
Niger††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 16 December 1961
Republic of Moldova†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 21 November 1992
- membership 10th anniversary
Austria††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 25 October 1965
Catalogue - membership 11th anniversary
Bangladesh††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 14 September 1985
- membership 25th anniversary
Bangladesh††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 13 September 1999
Benin††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 24 October 1985
- membership 30th anniversary
Austria††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 26 June 1985
Bangladesh††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 16 September 2004
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last revised: 15 August 2010