Membership of the United Nations


Hoisting the flags of twenty new member states, 30 September 1960The United Nations started in 1945 with 51 founding members: the 50 countries that had attended the San Francisco conference, and Poland, 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 (photo: UNOG).


Ambassadors of countries admitted in 1955 at the 50th anniversary 2005The 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.


President of Montenegro speaking at the ceremony of hoisting the flag of Montenegro, 28 June 2006During the 1990s the newly independent states that were part of the USSR and Yugoslavia became members. Also the smaller states in Europe (Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino) and the Pacific (e.g. Nauru, Tuvalu, Marshall Islands) joined. Namibia 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

German Democratic Republic††††††††††††††††† 19 September 1973

Liechtenstein††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 4 March 1991

Niger††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 16 December 1961

Republic of Moldova†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 21 November 1992



Catalogue - membership 10th anniversary


Austria††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 25 October 1965



Catalogue - membership 11th anniversary


Bangladesh††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 14 September 1985



Catalogue - membership 25th anniversary


Bangladesh††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 13 September 1999

Benin††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 24 October 1985



Catalogue - membership 30th anniversary


Austria††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 26 June 1985

Bangladesh††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 16 September 2004









Up - Home



UNOstamps subject page 095

last revised: 15 August 2010