I was seeing some of the countries which aren't part of the United Nations, and I noticed most of them either have dubious international recognition as countries (Taiwan, Palestine, Kosovo, etc.) or are countries that I hadn't even heard of. Which made me think, are those countries not part of the United Nations just because they didn't want to be, or is it just because the UN didn't recognize them?

Has a country ever by its own volition refused to join the United Nations? Or for those which haven't joined, is it because they aren't recognized as such by the UN?

3 Answers 3


Switzerland kept out of the UN for half a century. They finally joined in 2002. This was a deliberate decision based on their view of neutrality.


To some degree the question is circular because UN recognition is frequently what gives countries status of countries as opposed to disputed territories.

If you consider Vatican city to be an independent sovereign country then they are an independent nation that on principle chooses not to apply for membership in the United Nations.

Whether the reason is because the Pope prefers not to directly affect international policy or because if they were to apply, issues might arise regarding whether it was able to meet the U.N.'s definition of a country is a matter of debate but they certainly do not apply on principle.

  • 11
    Do note, however, that the Holy See is a permanent observer in the United Nations.
    – Heinzi
    Commented Jun 9 at 13:01
  • But United Nations is relatively new, and countries recognized each other centuries before UN existed, so, how did it become a requisite?
    – Pablo
    Commented Jun 9 at 18:12
  • Or may be millenia before United Nations existed quora.com/….
    – Pablo
    Commented Jun 9 at 18:14
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    @Pablo, recognition by the UN isn't required, but being recognized by the UN is a quick way for a country to get recognized by most of the world.
    – Mark
    Commented Jun 9 at 20:53
  • 4
    "the Pope prefers not to directly affect international policy" I laughed! Thanks
    – Stef
    Commented Jun 10 at 19:05

I agree with the answer by @Schmerel, that the membership in the UN is often the main distinction between a country/state and not a country/state. So the question would need to be supplied by a definition of a state, which would not depend on the UN membership.

Islamic State could be cited as one recent example, of an entity that considered itself a state, but didn't wish to join the UN - mostly because that would mean playing by western rules, which this movement rejected. This could be applied to other movements based on the rejection of western values - e.g., Houthis in Yemen.

Various separatist regions often do not seek UN membership, simply because they are not likely to be taken seriously - likely the case of Transnistria, South Ossetia, Northern Cyprus, perhaps some states declared by Kurds.

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    Plenty of countries that do not remotely play by western rules are part of the UN.
    – Schmerel
    Commented Jun 10 at 20:46
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    @Schmerel they accept these rules to the extent that the UN incarnates them, or at least pretend to accept. "Rebels" like Che Guevara and Arafat found it more comfortable to denounce imperialism in New York, and after accepting the security council resolutions.
    – Morisco
    Commented Jun 11 at 5:08

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