Which Three UNESCO Member States Are Not UN Members?

The UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.
The UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

Currently, there are 193 member states of UNESCO, and similarly, there are 193 member states of the United Nations. However, not all UNESCO member states are UN member states and vice versa. Interestingly, there are three member states of UNESCO that are not members of the UN, and similarly, there are three states which are members of the United Nations, but they are not members of UNESCO, and they include the US, Israel, and Lichtenstein. The three member states of UNESCO which are not members of the UN include Niue, the Cook Islands, and Palestine. As of 2012, Palestine has been a non-member observer at the UN General Assembly.

UN membership

For countries wishing to join the United Nations as members, they have to satisfy four key attributes stipulated in Article 4 of the UN Charter. The country making the application should meet the requirement of a state as defined in the customary international law of having a permanent population, having a defined territory, and having some form government with the capacity to carry out foreign relations with other countries. A country must be a peace-loving nation, and it must have a history to demonstrate it and must be willing to carry out all the obligations of the UN Charter.

The Cook Islands and Niue

Both the Cook Islands and Niue are self-governing island nations in the Pacific which are in free association with New Zealand. New Zealand is responsible for carrying out most of the diplomatic relations and foreign affairs on behalf of the two island nations as well as the defense. New Zealand exercises these roles in consultation with the two countries. In the recent past, the Cook Islands has adopted an independent approach to foreign policies. The citizens of both the Cooks Island and Niue are citizens of New Zealand although they remain nationals of their respective island nations. However, New Zealand citizens are not nationals of either the Cook Islands or Niue. It is for this reason that the Cook Islands and Niue are not members of the UN because they do not meet the criteria of carrying out foreign relations independently without consultation with New Zealand. However, the two nations are members of other UN specialized agencies like UNESCO, WHO, and others.

Observer Status in the UN

The General Assembly of the United Nations has the discretion of granting entities the status of an observer. There are several international agencies that have the status of an observer in the UN as well as other entities and other non-member states. Observers can participate in the UN General Assembly, but they cannot participate in voting for or against a resolution. Non-member state observers are sovereign states, and they are free to join as full members once they submit a petition on their own volition. The only observer states currently in the UN are Palestine and Holy See, which exercises sovereignty over the Vatican City. The sovereign military order of Malta has been granted observer status in the UN as an entity but not as a state.

The Headquarters of the UN

The United Nations headquarters is located in Manhattan, New York City. The UN also has other field offices in the Hague, Vienna, Nairobi, and Geneva. Presently, the UN is the world’s most powerful, most internationally represented, the most familiar, and the largest intergovernmental organization. It is financed by the contribution of the member states, and some of its objectives include protecting human rights, maintaining international peace, upholding international law, and promoting sustainable development.


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