ISO 3166-1 is part of the ISO 3166 standard published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and defines codes for the names of countries, dependent territories, and special areas of geographical interest. The official name of the standard is Codes for the representation of names of countries and their subdivisions – Part 1: Country codes. It defines three sets of country codes:
- ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 – two-letter country codes which are the most widely used of the three, and used most prominently for the Internet's country code top-level domains (with a few exceptions).
- ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 – three-letter country codes which allow a better visual association between the codes and the country names than the alpha-2 codes.
- ISO 3166-1 numeric – three-digit country codes which are identical to those developed and maintained by the United Nations Statistics Division, with the advantage of script (writing system) independence, and hence useful for people or systems using non-Latin scripts.
The alphabetic country codes were first included in ISO 3166 in 1974, and the numeric country codes were first included in 1981. The country codes have been published as ISO 3166-1 since 1997, when ISO 3166 was expanded into three parts, with ISO 3166-2 defining codes for subdivisions and ISO 3166-3 defining codes for former countries.
As a widely used international standard, ISO 3166-1 is implemented in other standards and used by international organizations to allow facilitation of the exchange of goods and information. However, it is not the only standard for country codes. Other country codes used by many international organizations are partly or totally incompatible with ISO 3166-1, although some of them closely correspond to ISO 3166-1 codes.
Criteria for inclusion
Currently 249 countries, territories, or areas of geographical interest are assigned official codes in ISO 3166-1. According to the ISO 3166 Maintenance Agency (ISO 3166/MA), the only way to enter a new country name into ISO 3166-1 is to have it registered in one of the following two sources:
- United Nations Terminology Bulletin Country Names, or
- Country and Region Codes for Statistical Use of the UN Statistics Division.
To be listed in the bulletin Country Names, a country must be at least one of the following:
- A member state of the United Nations
- A member of one of its specialized agencies
- A party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice
The list of names in Country and Region Codes for Statistical Use of the UN Statistics Division is based on the bulletin Country Names and other UN sources.
Once a country name or territory name appears in either of these two sources, it will be added to ISO 3166-1 by default.
The ISO 3166/MA may reserve code elements for other entities that do not qualify for inclusion based on the above criteria. For example, because the European Union is not a country, it is not formally included in ISO 3166-1, but for practical reasons, the ISO 3166/MA has "reserved the two-letter combination EU for the purpose of identifying the European Union within the framework of ISO 3166-1".
Naming and code construction
The country names used in ISO 3166-1 are taken from the two UN sources mentioned above. Some country names used by the UN, and accordingly by ISO, are subject to dispute:
- The Republic of Macedonia is listed as "Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of" because of the Macedonia naming dispute, following the provisional reference used by the United Nations.
- Taiwan is listed as non-independent "Taiwan, Province of China" or "Taiwan (Province of China)" as the lower-case short name, with "Taiwan" as the local short name acknowledged, because of its political status within the United Nations. In 2007, the Republic of China filed a lawsuit before a Swiss civil court against the ISO, arguing that the ISO's use of the UN name rather than "Republic of China (Taiwan)" violates Taiwan's name rights. On 9 September 2010, a panel of the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland decided, by three votes to two, to dismiss the suit as presenting a political question not subject to Swiss civil jurisdiction.
- Following the recognition of Palestine as a non-member UN state in 2012, the official designation used in ISO 3166-1 was changed from "Palestinian Territory, Occupied" to "Palestine, State of", with a remark noting conventional names but still not considered an independent sovereign state in ISO 3166.
The codes are chosen, according to the ISO 3166/MA, "to reflect the significant, unique component of the country name in order to allow a visual association between country name and country code". For this reason, common components of country names like "Republic", "Kingdom", "United", "Federal" or "Democratic" are normally not used for deriving the code elements. As a consequence, for example, the United Kingdom is officially assigned the alpha-2 code GB rather than UK, based on its official name "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" (although UK is reserved on the request of the United Kingdom). Some codes are chosen based on the native names of the countries. For example, Germany is assigned the alpha-2 code DE, based on its native name "Deutschland".
- Country Name – English (or French) short name (all upper-case)
- English (or French) short name (upper/lower case)
- English (or French) full name
- Alpha-2 code
- Alpha-3 code
- Numeric code
- Independent (# denotes the country is considered a sovereign state)
- Additional information: Administrative language(s) alpha-2 code element(s)
- Additional information: Administrative language(s) alpha-3 code element(s)
- Additional information: Local short name(s)
Officially assigned code elements
The following is a complete ISO 3166-1 encoding list of the countries which are assigned official codes. It is listed in alphabetical order by the English short country name (upper/lower case) used by the ISO 3166/MA.
Note: Each country's alpha-2 code is linked to more information about the assignment of its code elements.
Reserved and user-assigned code elements
Besides the officially assigned codes, code elements may be expanded by using either reserved codes or user-assigned codes.
Reserved code elements are codes which have become obsolete, or are required in order to enable a particular user application of the standard but do not qualify for inclusion in ISO 3166-1. To avoid transitional application problems and to aid users who require specific additional code elements for the functioning of their coding systems, the ISO 3166/MA, when justified, reserves these codes which it undertakes not to use for other than specified purposes during a limited or indeterminate period of time. Codes are usually reserved for former countries, overseas territories, international organizations, and special nationality status. The reserved alpha-2 and alpha-3 codes can be divided into the following four categories (click on the links for the reserved codes of each category):
- Alpha-2: exceptional reservations, transitional reservations, indeterminate reservations, and codes currently agreed not to use
- Alpha-3: exceptional reservations, transitional reservations, indeterminate reservations, and codes currently agreed not to use
- Numeric: no reserved codes
User-assigned code elements are codes at the disposal of users who need to add further names of countries, territories, or other geographical entities to their in-house application of ISO 3166-1, and the ISO 3166/MA will never use these codes in the updating process of the standard. The following codes can be user-assigned:
- Alpha-2: AA, QM to QZ, XA to XZ, and ZZ
- Alpha-3: AAA to AAZ, QMA to QZZ, XAA to XZZ, and ZZA to ZZZ
- Numeric: 900 to 999
The ISO 3166/MA updates ISO 3166-1 when necessary. A country is usually assigned new ISO 3166-1 codes if it changes its name or its territorial boundaries. In general, new alphabetic codes are assigned if a country changes a significant part of its name, while a new numeric code is assigned if a country changes its territorial boundaries. Codes for formerly used country names that were deleted from ISO 3166-1 are published in ISO 3166-3.
ISO used to announce changes in newsletters which updated the currently valid standard, and releasing new editions which comprise a consolidation of newsletter changes. As of July 2013, changes are published in the online catalogue of ISO only and no newsletters are published anymore. Past newsletters remain available on the ISO website.
|ISO 3166:1974||1974||First edition of ISO 3166|
|ISO 3166:1981||1981||Second edition of ISO 3166|
|ISO 3166:1988||1988-08-15||Third edition of ISO 3166|
|ISO 3166:1994||1994-02-10||Fourth edition of ISO 3166|
|ISO 3166-1:1997||1997-09-25||First edition of ISO 3166-1 (ISO 3166 expanded into three parts)|
|Newsletter V-1||1998-02-05||Change of official name (Samoa)|
|Newsletter V-2||1999-10-01||Inclusion of new country name and code elements (Palestinian Territory, Occupied)|
|Newsletter V-3||2002-02-01||Change of alpha-3 Code Element (Romania)|
|Newsletter V-4||2002-05-20||Name changes (Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Fiji, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Macao, Niue, Somalia, Venezuela)|
|Newsletter V-5||2002-05-20||Change of names and alphabetical code elements of East Timor|
|Newsletter V-6||2002-11-15||Change of names of East Timor|
|Newsletter V-7||2003-01-14||Change of official name of Comoros|
|Newsletter V-8||2003-07-23||Deletion of "Yugoslavia"; inclusion of "Serbia and Montenegro" with new alphabetical code elements|
|Newsletter V-9||2004-02-13||Inclusion of an entry for Åland Islands|
|Newsletter V-10||2004-04-26||Name changes (Afghanistan, Åland Islands)|
|Newsletter V-11||2006-03-29||Inclusion of an entry for Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man. Change of remark for the United Kingdom|
|Newsletter V-12||2006-09-26||Inclusion of the new entries for "Serbia" and "Montenegro" (replacing Serbia and Montenegro)|
|ISO 3166-1:2006||2006-11-20||Second edition of ISO 3166-1|
| ISO 3166-1:2006/
|2007-07-15||First Technical Corrigendum to ISO 3166-1:2006|
|Newsletter VI-1||2007-09-21||Assignment of code elements for Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin and update of France and other French Territories (French Polynesia, French Southern Territories, Guadeloupe, Réunion)|
|Newsletter VI-2||2008-03-31||Name changes for Moldova, Montenegro and other minor corrections (Madagascar, Palestinian Territory, Occupied, Saint Barthélemy)|
|Newsletter VI-3||2008-09-09||Name change for Nepal and other minor corrections (Greenland, Guernsey, Moldova, Nigeria)|
|Newsletter VI-4||2009-01-07||Name change for the Republic of Moldova and other minor corrections (Central African Republic, Comoros)|
|Newsletter VI-5||2009-03-03||Name change for Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and other minor corrections (Kiribati, Tuvalu)|
|Newsletter VI-6||2009-05-08||Name change for Plurinational State of Bolivia|
|Newsletter VI-7||2010-02-22||Name change for Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha|
|Newsletter VI-8||2010-12-15||Code elements for Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten (Dutch part), update of other territories (Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles) and minor corrections (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia)|
|Newsletter VI-9|| 2011-06-12
|Name changes for Fiji and Myanmar as well as other minor corrections (Åland Islands, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Niue)|
|Newsletter VI-10||2011-08-09||Code elements for South Sudan (and new numeric code for Sudan)|
|Newsletter VI-11||2011-11-08||Name change for Libya|
|Newsletter VI-12||2012-02-15||Name change for Hungary and other minor corrections (Bangladesh, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Germany)|
|Newsletter VI-13||2012-08-02||Name change for Eritrea and other minor corrections (Germany, Sri Lanka)|
|Newsletter VI-14||2013-02-06||Name change for State of Palestine and other minor corrections (Bulgaria, Bouvet Island, Jersey, Saint Martin (French part), Seychelles, Sint Maarten (Dutch part), Viet Nam)|
|Newsletter VI-15||2013-05-10||Name change for Papua New Guinea|
|Newsletter VI-16||2013-07-11||Name change for Somalia|
|ISO 3166-1:2013||2013-11-19||Third edition of ISO 3166-1 (changes are published in the online catalogue of ISO only and no newsletters are published anymore)|
- ISO 639 – Codes for the representation of names of languages
- "ISO 3166 – FAQs – General questions". International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
- "Development of ISO 3166". ISO.
- "Implementation of ISO 3166-1". ISO.
- "You and ISO 3166". ISO.
- "Links". ISO.
- "ISO 3166-1 and ccTLDs". ISO.
- "Qualifying top-level domain strings: Eligible categories of top-level domains". Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
- "ISO 3166 – FAQs – General Questions". ISO. Archived from the original on 2007-03-06.
- "ISO 3166 – FAQs – Specific". ISO. Archived from the original on 2012-06-16.
- "ISO 3166 information for TW". International Organization for Standardization. Retrieved February 25, 2014.
- "Taiwan sues ISO over incorrect reference". Taipei Representative Office in the UK.
- Felber, René (10 September 2010). "Umweg über Zivilrichter unzulässig: Taiwans Kampf um seinen Namen". Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in German). p. 14.
- "Urteil vom 9. September 2010 (5A_329/2009)" [Decision of 9 September 2010 (5A_329/2009)] (PDF) (in German). Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland.
- "Arrêt du 9 septembre 2010 (5A_329/2009)" [Decision of 9 September 2010 (5A_329/2009)] (PDF) (in French). Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland.
- "Countries or areas, codes and abbreviations". United Nations Statistics Division.
- "ISO 3166 information for PS". International Organization for Standardization. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
- "Country names and code elements". ISO. – Note: The source actually shows only the "Country Name" element, in all upper-case. The table here has been upper/lower-cased per Wikipedia standards, but should closely resemble the upper/lower-case elements that are not freely available from the ISO.
- "Customizing ISO 3166-1". ISO.
- "ISO 3166 – FAQs – General Questions". ISO. Archived from the original on 2007-03-06.
- "Updates on ISO 3166". ISO.
- ISO 3166 Maintenance Agency, International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
- Country names and code elements — list of alpha-2 codes
- Standard Country or Area Codes for Statistical Use, United Nations Statistics Division
- Countries or areas, codes and abbreviations — list of alpha-3 and numeric codes (a few territories officially assigned codes in ISO 3166-1 are not included in this list)
- The World Factbook (public domain), Central Intelligence Agency
- Appendix D – Cross-Reference List of Country Data Codes — comparison of FIPS 10, ISO 3166, and STANAG 1059 country codes
- Administrative Divisions of Countries ("Statoids"), Statoids.com
- Country codes — comparison of ISO 3166-1 country codes with other country codes
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